I hated wearing dresses with tights, but we were Baptists and our church required the attire.
I sat in the pew picking at my tights with my finger nails. They were, to me, an offense against childhood. I glanced at my brother who was making train noises over the sound of the choir singing “How Great Thou Art” and equally resenting his tie. We both squirmed on either side of our mother as the ushers began to pass the plates for communion.
The sanctuary was stunning and modern. Larger than life purple flags trimmed in gold hung on the walls. Each flag displayed a different name of God in sparkling letters. Abba. I Am. Prince of Peace. Messiah. They were gorgeous and distant. They reminded me of the palace in the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. I began to imagine the sanctuary was my palace, the adults were my subjects, and the old man sleeping at the end of our pew was under a magic spell.
My brother started drawing with blue crayon on the pew bench.
I pulled on my mom’s blouse, Mom, I’m hungry.
Mom. When are they going to pass the crackers? I’m staaarving.
My mom smiled at the turned heads of the people in the pew in front of us. She removed the crayon out of my brother’s hands and lifted me into her lap.
Communion isn’t to fill our bellies, she said kindly and with a measure of patience I wouldn’t appreciate for two decades more. Communion is to fill our hearts. It is a symbol of how close God is to us. He is closer than our skin. He is within us.
Do you understand?
An inner voice echoed somewhere between my ears and down through my chest—
Do you understand, my daughter?
I nodded. I didn’t understand—but I sort of did. I understood that there were times I couldn’t get close enough to my mother. I would run into her bedroom at night and tap her on the shoulders until she opened her covers and tucked me against her warm body. Perhaps God needed to be tucked into me… in the form of a cracker.
I put the cracker on my tongue and savored the saltiness of the flavor, letting it dissolve—trying to make the tiny “snack” last. My mom handed me a doll’s cup of juice and I spread the sweetness out across my tongue. My brother lifted his cup up with his teeth and juice spilled down the front of his shirt and tie.
There there, baby Jesus. I whispered. I’ve tucked you in and now you will always be inside of me. You will never leave.
And that small inner voice responded, I will never forsake you.
That need for closeness seemed to drift away as I grew older. It disappeared somewhere with my imagination. But that inner voice has been constant—after all these years, it remains.