Sandy and I went to The Rec this morning, for a discussion on Radical Orthodoxy. We are very slowly exploring this local gathering. It’s more institution than we’d like for a church community, but they seem an authentically vibrant and active bunch. Some of them stand on a nearby street corner every Friday during evening rush hour holding handmade signs that protest against war. We wave and honk and smile every time we see them. Perhaps some Friday we’ll join them!
Today, we decided to check out their adult ed class. (Sunday school for adults!) The title, Radical Orthodoxy, intrigued us. Almost 40 people had taken seats in a double circle by the time things started. I listened intently to the gentleman leading the class as he laid the groundwork for the topic.
But then a roach appeared on the floor in the middle of that heady circle. Sandy pointed it out to me about 20 minutes into the hour. It seemed confused, taking a few rocking steps in one direction, stopping for a while, and then continuing for a few creaky steps in another. I don’t know anything about roach vision, but it seemed to me as though it was looking for a way to pass through all the shoe’d legs to safety.
From that moment on, my attention was split between the talk on theology and that roach. Of course I was watching its bumbling, stop-and-start journey closely to be sure it didn’t come within striking distance of my feet. (Thank goodness I chose to wear my hiking boots, surely reinforced against the assault of even the most despicable insect!) But I was also struck by the irony of a roach encircled by our little group.
We were not a menacing group. No, the energy struck me as gentle, curious, welcoming. No one moved to kill the thing. I didn’t even see concern on any faces about it.
The center of a circle often feels like sacred space. I’ve seen some spiritual support groups place an empty chair in the middle of the circle of chairs, perhaps to symbolize God’s presence (or perhaps to indicate that there’s always a chair available to anyone who seeks one). Today, as we talked earnestly about theology and reason, in that place of honor (or generosity), there was a roach!
I doubt I have the capacity to learn to love roaches. But the lift in my heart and the tilt of my head as I pondered the puzzle of a roach in sacred space was most welcome to me.