My cat Trixie is teaching me a lot about boundaries. Namely, that she doesn’t have any. At night she wants to sleep right next to my leg or on my shoulder. In the daytime she likes to visit me on top of my desk. In between night and workday, she pushes open the door beyond which I am in the shower and pops her head in to say hey.
She enjoys changing the sheets on the bed and jumps up to assist even as she lengthens the task at hand. She is fascinated by the use of the sticky roller I use to remove pet hair, and she is on the scene to interfere with progress whenever the roller is in action.
Trixie is teaching me a lot about what it means to ignore any hint of a sign that says, “You don’t belong here,” and instead ask, “What’s this?”
You may have been on the outside of a room before and wondered what the inside was like. I have. You might have thought the sign outside said, “This room is only for certain people.”
Maybe it does say that; some rooms do only allow authorized access. But many don’t. So all I’m saying is, if you’re reading a sign that says, “You don’t belong here,” be careful that it’s not a sign you wrote for yourself.
A long, long time ago, I was on the outside of a church. I must have wondered what it would be like inside, but I did not know how to enter. In that instance, which happens to be my current church, I found a way to enter through the choir room. Becoming part of a choir gave me a place to sit and a process to participate.
More recently, I’ve entered that same church through the kitchen by volunteering on Wednesday evenings or through the preschool department by setting out juice, crackers and puzzles on Sundays. These activities have helped give me a sense of belonging; something of a purpose for being there.
Over the last six months, I’ve had a chance to enter some other rooms in some other places.
Back when I was a student at Huntingdon College, I sometimes visited First United Methodist Church on special occasions – for baccalaureate or a sorority church day or some such. Over the last decade or two, I’ve gone to other services at the church that friends were involved in. Still, my attendance there has always been a special occasion thing. I wouldn’t have known how to enter that particular church from a sense of belonging.
Last August, however, I joined the Montgomery Chorale. Though I’m ill-equipped for this higher musical plane, I’m getting by. Rehearsals are at First Methodist, and I go there on Tuesdays to learn this music that is above my head.
The Chorale’s first concert last fall was actually at First Baptist – in that first sanctuary I entered through the choir loft many years ago. At Christmas, we were part of a Hallelujah Chorus singalong at the Church of the Ascension. I always liked that church – so pretty – though I can’t say that I’d ever entered from a place of belonging.
Sunday before last, our concert was at First Methodist. During dress rehearsal, I squeezed tightly into the crowded choir loft – on the end of the back row next to the organ. When I took my seat, I had a moment of claustrophobic panic. The space seemed very tight with no perceptible entrance or exit. As my panic rose, I started to wonder if I would have to leave the loft, if I weren’t going to be able to follow through on the concert.
Then in this state of claustrophobic panic, for some reason, I thought about Trixie and her complete lack of boundaries. Where I saw no perceptible entrance or exit, I knew that Trixie would have seen there were many ways in and out of that choir loft. Whether up and over, or down and under, she could have made her way from that spot to wherever she needed to go. I smiled as I pictured Trixie’s fortitude, and I began to relax and appreciate my location next to the organ and underneath the wood carving of Bartholomew. And how nice it was that I had a card with my name on it that said this is my place.
Trixie would probably offer you similar counsel about rooms you might want to enter. Unless there truly is a sign that says “Authorized Personnel Only,” the doorways and pathways may be a lot more accessible than you realize. And once you starting going in, you’ll find out soon enough that you actually belong where you have arrived.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, an interesting thing happened. It was the Tuesday rehearsal before the March 4 Chorale concert, and I arrived late to the First Methodist fellowship hall. I’m not usually late, and many seats were taken. Four altos were in chairs toward the end of the first row where I usually sit, so it looked as if I would be headed to the open spot in the middle of the row. I could do that.
But then this was the notable part. When they saw me, the four altos stood up and moved down one chair so I could have the chair on the end. Because they seemed pretty sure that I wouldn’t want to sit in the middle – that that would not be the spot where I would be comfortable. So when I entered the room, they got up and moved down one chair.
And that’s what it’s like to start going into a room and begin to settle in where you have arrived. That’s what a sense of belonging feels like.
As you go out today, take notice when things like that happen for you. It may be that the other side of the door is more welcoming than you realized.
Enjoy your magnificent journey.
– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 10