Have you ever owned an article of clothing that you just can’t part with, no matter that it doesn’t fit and is way out of style? Do you hope to lose weight to be able to wear it again? Are you hoping the fashion trend will cycle back? Are you holding on to your youth? Does it enable you to relive a certain memory? Is it deeply connected to a person or time you’d like to bring back?
Like most women, I’m not willing to trash my wedding gown though it is damaged. Among other items, I can’t throw out a pair of my baby socks, even though I never put them on my own kids. And there is this Emmaus teaming shirt that I can’t bear to part with. While the walk to Emmaus was a wonderful experience at a time in my life that it was needed, the teaming experience was not near so pleasant. (And this shirt is a connection to the teaming process.)
The walk to Emmaus is basically designed to equip people with the tools needed to take back to one’s own church and serve. One can not just attend Emmaus. It is by invitation only. The entire weekend is focused on one’s personal relationship with God. It’s all about love and acceptance. Most people get caught up in the energy of a crowd, whether it be a convention or a revival. It is contagious. I was no different. I must insert here that I’ve been known to watch high school pep rallies and get teary-eyed and arms covered in goose bumps. Yes, I am an emotional being who is easily caught up in the moment around me.
At any rate, I walked away from this event ready to take on the world. My friend asked me to team an Emmaus Walk with her. I thought there couldn’t be anything more wonderful than returning the love and acceptance that was showered upon me. I had never given much consideration to the fact that it was considered a somewhat secretive community as it was by invitation only, and one was not allowed to speak of it’s events to outsiders. There were several weeks of training to prepare for the big weekend event. The people teaming on the event are given shirts that are artistically altered by other members with images that reflect the owner of the shirt and other religious symbols and references. My shirt was painted with the artist’s vision of Noah’s Ark, my favorite bible story and included my favorite bible scripture. This work is secretly passed along to other members to add their flair upon it. The artist of the original work on the back as well as the little bits and pieces is not supposed to be revealed. This revelation takes the focus off of God and puts it on one another. However, let’s just say I was told (not that I even remember now!) who painted my shirt.
The teaming process to me stemmed from a clique. Do I need to tell you what a distaste I have for cliques? (In fact, I suppose the whole community can be considered a clique to a degree.) All decisions were supposed to be prayed over…decisions like who would hold what positions, give talks, etc… I found it strange that the people who were in charge of all these positions were the very ones who prayed over the decisions. I didn’t not find teaming to be a welcoming experience. I did the job I was called to do, and left the community. I know the saying that God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. At least, I think that is the saying. My name is not Moses. Nor Noah. Or even Jonah, for that matter. I think I failed at my mission. As soon as I got involved in the politics around me, I lost my heart. I realize that my feelings are my responsibility. I did not feel like I was a part of the community nor did I feel I carried out my responsibilities with the authenticity that was required. My connection had been severed. Anyway, I left that weekend with a sense of loss. I questioned the hearts of others. This is my problem not theirs. And this was just the beginning of my disillusion of organized religion.
So why, oh why, do I insist on hanging on to this shirt? I don’t have the answer. Maybe, it’s because it is pretty with the my favorite scripture and story attached with love and grace. Maybe, I want to push myself back to the time that I walked it not served it. Maybe, I want to remember the zest I had at that time. Maybe, I need to remember what it feels like to be left out to show compassion to include others. Maybe, I need this as a reminder that I can be a spiritual student without being in the confines of those set by man. Maybe, this tells me that my religion/spirituality is between me and God and it goes much deeper than the clothes I wear.