I am falling in love.
I did not intend for this to happen. If I’m honest, I did not think it was possible.
When I said I was going to play the field, it was grudgingly and because it seemed like a requirement, not because it was really what I wanted to do. I honestly felt like it was hopeless.
I know it's only been a couple of months, so I'm constantly reminding myself not to be overly optimistic. I know the happy, fluttery feelings go away after a while and you start to see the flaws and the shortcomings. That's how the falling-in-love thing goes: After the initial starry-eyed euphoria, you're left trying to figure out if the good outweighs the less-than-perfect reality and if there is enough substance to sustain the relationship after the infatuation fades.
Only… falling in love with a church isn’t exactly like falling in love with a person.
It wasn’t as though there was any flirtation or wooing that took place before I gave it a shot. I just showed up that first day, unannounced and without any kind of advance notice that would allow the dirty laundry to be hidden before I arrived. The imperfections I've noticed to this point seem insignificant in light of the love and acceptance I've been experiencing.
Even now, after a couple of months, I feel more welcome each week. No one is rude when I'm fumbling with the Prayer Book to find The Collect of the Day because I forgot to mark the page after the Opening Sentences. No one gives me a weird look for needing to read along as we say the Nicene Creed or the Prayer of Confession, even though they all know these things by heart from years of hearing them. People I've met in the previous weeks go out of their way to hug me when it's time for The Peace, even if I'm not sitting directly near them.
I had no expectations. I wasn't even entirely sure of what I was looking for. I was not planning on this happening and yet I don't think I could stop it if I wanted to.
In attempt to reign in my enthusiasm, I've given myself six months. I will not say out loud to anyone that I want to become a member of St. Patrick's Episcopal Church. I will not allow myself to be impulsive, but it is so, so difficult. I want to throw caution to the wind and commit. I can hardly explain how unlike me all of this is.
I am not that person. I am the eternal realist. I am not the kind who turns a blind eye to any potential risks and runs headlong into the unknown. I am not the person who assumes it is all going to turn out okay. I am the person who is rarely surprised by disappointment because I'm usually anticipating it. I know that many things never work out. No one would ever seriously describe me as romantic or optimistic or perky.
Only… I can't stop thinking about St. Patrick's Episcopal Church. I find that I am bummed if I have to miss a single Sunday, even if it is because I am out of town doing something fun. I find myself thinking about the sermon for days. I find myself fondly remembering conversations I had with people while I was there.
I grew up in church. I've spent months of Sundays in a sanctuary, dutifully participating in worship services, but I was never in love The Church. I never "got it" when people said they couldn't wait till Sunday. I never understood why anyone would look forward to the end of the weekend.
Now I get it.
I guess falling in love with a church is a little like falling in love with a person.
Falling in love with a church has helped me see that, even when so many other “little c” churches were a large part of what made me so cynical about the whole church thing, that doesn't mean there is nothing for me in The Church. Finding St. Patrick's has helped me realize that it's not that there wasn't a church out there for me, it's just that I wasn't looking in the right places for where I fit in.
Come September, I expect I will be a member of a church for the first time ever. Come September, I expect I'll be officially part of a church that is beautifully flawed and wonderfully perfect for me -- a place that I've already fallen in love with and is, already, unofficially, my home.
I honestly never thought this would happen.