Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Green Handprints

For the first Sunday of the New Year, my Church decided to do one of those services that have a bunch of Activity Stations things. A whole slew of them, you’re not expected to hit them all, just whatever ones call to you. Which to me means, do the ones you don’t want to do and you’ll learn more about yourself than you thought you would.

These things are always a riot to me, because yes, it’s symbolic, and yes, the memory you’ll take away with you will probably stick more than being preached at for another Sunday, but I always get the strangest giggle thoughts just from the mechanics of the stations. Everyone else is solemn, and deep in thought, and deep in prayer, and I’m off on a meta level, thinking how silly this must look to anyone who picked today to visit this particular church. Wow. You guys do this stuff, like all the time? Do you have the dancing chicks in the white robes too?

So first I go over to the Influence Station, where you dip your hand into a pan of paint, and then put your handprint on the wall and pray for God’s influence in you when you make your mark, or something like that. The guy running the thing assures us that the paint’ll come right off, and there’s a disinfectant bottle, and paper towels, and the like.

I’m in the line with other folks, and I’m supposed to be focusing on connecting with God, and praying that if I do have any influence with my talent, with my abilities, if I happen to be influencing anyone else (and God help them if THAT’S true) to please let Him be somehow wiggling His influence in there instead of mine. But instead I’m eyeing the pans of paint, and wondering if I can wait until I get the red pan instead the blue pan. I’m wearing a green sweater, and I think red would be nicer compliment than blue.

But no, you deal with the pan you get, and my pan is green, so I’ll be matching my sweater anyway. Yay! Thanks, God! I gingerly dip my hand in the paint, trying to get the least amount of paint on my hand and yet still able to make the boldest handprint on the butcher paper on the wall. Squish. I make a somewhat respectable mark on the wall, and say a quick prayer that goes something along the lines of Dear God, if I happen to inadvertently influence anybody this year, please come through instead of me, since I don’t really know what I’m doing anyway. And then step over to the table to wipe off the paint. The paint leaves a bigger residue than the guy running the thing had led us to believe, and now my hand is a lovely shade of faint green. And I wipe and wipe and wipe, and the giggle thoughts start to hit You’re trying to wipe off the Influence of GOD! SHAME ON YOU! Be proud of your green hand and show it off to the WORLD! So I head off to the next station, pretty sure it can’t get any messier than that.

The next station is the Finance Station, where you take a piece of fake paper money and write on it In God I Trust. You’re then supposed to keep the fake money with you through the year, and it’s symbolic that you’re trusting God with your money. So I look on the table and grab a $100 bill. Wow, that’s a lot of fake money. I look for a smaller bill, since, I dunno, I think I’m worthier of like, a $1 bill, or a $5 bill. But I can’t find any. Maybe everyone else went here first when I was wasting time wiping off the Influence Of God. There is a $1,000 bill, and suddenly the Bible verse From Everyone Who Has Been Given Much, Much Will Be Demanded flits through my head. ACK! Where’s that $1 bill! I want a $1 bill!

Alas, the smaller denomination is my $100 bill, so I stick with that and write In God I Trust on it. Then I write Honestly. Truly. I’m sure God knows I mean it, but I felt like I should add some sort of personal touch. I should’ve gone with a smiley face.

The next station is the World Station (it was probably called something else), where there’s a globe, and you can pray for the world in general, or pick a specific country, or you can pick a name from the basket of the mission team members going to India in a few weeks, and pray for them for the rest of the month. I’m looking at the world, and trying to pray Deep Thoughts, and what I’m coming up with is a general The World Is Sick. Like, all over. You can take that sentence anyway you want to – culturally, politically, economically, weather-wise, whatever – and be right. So a quick prayer here – Lord, please heal the world. And then off to pick my mission team member to pray for this month. I make sure to grab one from the very bottom of the pile, because you know THAT person is gonna get shafted, since everyone else picks from the top.

The worst station is coming up. The one I absolutely do not want to do, and therefore it means I have to do it. The Mirror Station. They’ve set up a few mirrors along the wall, and you’re supposed to sit in front of it, look at yourself, and try to see yourself as God sees you. Man, I don’t want to do that. I hate mirrors. I hate mirrors so much that when the one mirror in my room broke a few months ago, I danced and danced. No mirrors mean I never have to confront what I look like currently, or how much older I’m getting, and what do you mean, you’re this old and not as far as you should be for a comparable person of your age who lives in Middle America. What’s wrong with you? So no, I’m not digging the idea of The Mirror Station. So I decide to sit on the steps to the stage and pray about it. Just for kicks.

It’s not as though I’m sitting on the steps to the stage and everyone is staring at me. It’s more of an informal mob milling here, there, and everywhere. Some people are sitting, more people are at the stations against the wall, some people are in the lobby discovering just how hard it is to wipe off The Influence Of God. But when I sit on the steps and close my eyes, for a few seconds there, it feels like I’m the only person there. Is this it? Is this me and you, God? And then the tears start to come. Which would be embarrassing, except I did note that the guy sitting on the steps a ways away from me was also crying with his face in his hands, so I am officially declaring this spot as The Crying Station.

Anyhow, I try to reason where exactly the tears are coming from. I think it’s got something to do with the fact that I really really really DON’T want to look at myself at the Mirror Station. I can’t bear looking at myself and trying to see what God sees. Because I see a mess, I always see a mess. I see a grouchy, grumpy, cellulite-on-my-ass- that’s-never-gonna-go-away-even-though-I-work-out-five-days-a-week, misanthropic gal who needs to up her screenwriting skills if she thinks she’s ever gonna sell a script. It’s impossible that God could look at me and see anything else. But of course He does. He sees me as something wonderful, something special, a child of His. And I’ve often thought Well, can’t we just say He thinks I’m wonderful so I don’t have to? It’s the great struggle of my life, really.

At any rate, I tell myself that if we can get through The Mirror Station, we can reward ourselves by going to the Unconfessed Sin Station, where you get to light things on FIRE, and won’t that be cool!? Let’s go!

So off I wobble to The Mirror Station, and take a seat in front of one, and immediately put my head down. I’m praying! Leave me alone! I try very hard to stop the tears. I try to focus, to concentrate, to connect with the Great Unknown In Which God Is Supposed To Be Hanging Around. See yourself as God sees you. God likes me so I don’t have to. What am I gonna see? Wouldn’t it be awesome cool if I looked up and saw someone that actually wasn’t so bad? What would that look like anyway?

Okay fine, get it over with. I take a deep breath and look at…me. In the mirror. Shiny wet eyes and red nose that indicate I’ve been crying. Trying to breathe through the snot in my nose. See yourself as God sees you. It’s me. There’s not a brand new face on me. There’s not a brand new person. It’s just me, same as ever. Whatcha seeing, God? Do you see the mess I see? Do you see why I see the mess I see? I wish I could say inspiration struck, and my head was flooded with insight, and I had a huge breakthrough and suddenly loved myself, but no. No, no, nothing like that. I was pretty stoked there weren’t any green Influence Of God marks on my face. And my hair didn’t look that bad, actually. But other than that, it’s the same old Amy. With shiny hair. How anticlimactic. What in the world was I crying for in the first place? Sigh.

On my scrap of trick paper at the Unconfessed Sin Station I write down a whole mess of stuff. Self loathing. Self Hatred. Self-Bitterness. Self Inflicted Pain. These aren’t technically unconfessed sins, I’m pretty good at the Confessing Sin in the day to day of things. God, look what I DID! What’s WRONG with me! Pride, write down Pride. I take it over to the candle and light it. FOOOOOOMP! It goes up in a nifty little flame thing that doesn’t leave any ash. It just kinda…disappears into thin air. If only it really was that easy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Ames.

I love your blog. I really love it. Something "cosmic" (for lack of a better word and because, as you love 40's names, I love 70's slang) is going on here. I get so much out of sweetie's blog and have gotten so much out of your few entries....I hope you will continue.