On my way I noticed that the traffic was scanty,and it dawned on me that i had miscalculated the time.
I stepped in and only saw a handful of women huddled together at the front,just beside the choir stand,reciting the rosary in a tongue I still haven't been able to follow well.
Was there going to be a Mass today? Was I too early? What happened to me that I lost count of time and presented myself here this early?
Well I knew I hadn't been feeling well since the previous day's outing to the lake; just a minor mood swing subconsciously instilled by things not going the way you expected.
So I pulled myself with all that was in my heart-my moodiness,my sins,hurts,fears,desires,doubts ,hopes and hunger( I didn't eat the night before because I didn't cook)into that His ancient house,but doubting if He was present.I knew He was.
I calmly and customarily installed myself on the end of the very last pew in the row so that I could rest my back against the wall as the pews here have no back rests,said my prayers and tried to concentrate while waiting for the Mass to commence- I had come an hour earlier,unknowingly.
Then from behind, the man walked up and sat beside me.We greeted and smiled.I often wondered why others would also want to stay at the last pew in church when you've got plenty of space up front!
what about me??...Lol
The bad breath odour I immediately began to perceive didn't bother me much because its common in churches and other public places everywhere in the world......I almost subconsciously filtered and blocked it off.
Just as we were singing the "Gloria",she slid in from my side and snugly plugged herself between me and the other man.She was barefooted and carried a sack that contained what i didn't know.
The smell that immediately began to ooze as if in spurts, made me aware of the lady beside me.
I took a quick look at her and noticed that apart from being barefooted,she seemed to have had a resolved partial stroke;though there was no limitation or distortion of movement but her facial symmetry was mildly deviated from normal.
A small lady,obviously advancing in age as revealed by grey hairs, and shrinking skin already obvious.
Her feet were as if she lifted them off some sand dust sprinkles and I immediately knew she must have also trudged a long distance to reach this church. The whiff I immediately began to perceive was also indicative that those Ankara wrapper and old T-shirt she had on her hadn't seen soap and water in ages.The smell would peak and descend at intervals....Lol
Her mannerisms was also ,somehow indicative that she wasn't 100% mentally around,and I wondered if she even had someone looking after her at home.I wondered what she had in that white sack and where she was going after Mass.
She picked her nose and always had her fingers on her lips,so my thoughts got mischievous!
My thoughts went like this:
Would I be shaking hands with this lady when the priests told us that we should ," Offer one another the sign of peace"?
I tried to concentrate and not allow her actions and my reactions distract me from the worship but I somehow decided within me that when the time came,I'd give her a side hug instead of shaking those dirty hands.
She had a sweet voice as she sang and danced.....lol
I recalled how Jesus touched the leper and several 'untouchables' according to the Gospels I recalled how the super-rich prince, St Francis of Assisi gave a leper his coat and afterwards,having gone a distance not still satisfied with that gesture alone went back and KISSED that leprous man!
What would Jesus or St Francis do if they were sitting next to this lady- and I knew they were there.?
I was in His presence,still struggling about showing a sign of love and seeing beyond the physical.I was juggling human logic and spiritual/heavenly principles. And I wanted to be like Jesus like this,even when some simple kingdom action was becoming a 'big deal' for me?
What finally happened?
The time came for everyone to shake hands or hug- whichever was most appropriate.My decision was flexible though.
But then instead of standing up like everyone else at that time, so I could have the chance of the side hug,she was sitting down and by the time I turned to her,I could only look and not do anything.
However my heart threw up a lot of questions about me ,my relationship with Jesus and profession of my faith.Was I not fake? Was I not hypocritical and just another hardhearted Pharisee in church there acting ?
Everything looked alright and no one would ever know that I had already done something wrong but,Jesus before whom nothing is hidden,knew that my heart wasn't right at that moment.
I know that someone reading this now may not also see the crux of what I'm saying but then it depends on ones relationship with God,when you have moved away from the level of "Dos and Don'ts",when that law of love is now your mode of operation,then you'd know that its the spirit and not letters of the law that should guide us.
I couldn't leave that church without doing what I was supposed to do and I prayed that she'd not simply slip out of the church before I could do anything.I decided that I" MUST lovingly" hold that hand I had shunned all the while.
And so at the declaration of ,"go in peace of Christ,the Mass in ended",I waited for some people to pass.She rearranged her Ankara wrapper and shifted her sack closer in readiness to step out. Before she did,I held her hand and looked into her face; she looked at mine and smiled.
I smiled too and for a couple of seconds it lasted.She wanted to talk but I don't know what made her keep quiet.I couldn't even have understood her language.
We smiled again,I patted her on the back signifying "thank you,I understand" and I made way for her to go out.She passed.
When I came out,I couldn't see her anymore.She had disappeared into the crowd but, her smile didn't disappear.Her figure had vanished but that smile on her face didn't vanish;it stuck,I haven't forgotten it yet.I still see that face and the smile that danced on it.
And so even though my final action seemed awkward,as I allowed it to be,love never comes late.It never grows old and everyone understands the language once it is spoken.I was happy that I had that chance just for those few seconds to attempt showing it.