Every once in a while, when I’m doing something I do regularly, I’ll have this moment where I realize how strange and odd it is that I am doing it. This morning it happened in yoga class. I go there every week. I’ve practiced yoga for years. But today, for whatever reason, I was sitting there exhaling (you know, when you make the noise that shows you are exhaling properly and it sounds a little like ghosts screaming at a low pitch), in a group of forty people I don’t know, wearing minimalist clothing, and I thought, “This is absolutely the craziest thing.” And yet, that is what makes yoga class worthwhile. I might do sun salutations at home by myself, but no home exercise routine will ever match the one I have when I sweat alongside strangers for ninety minutes once a week. There is something categorically different in the way I practice just by choosing to do this very weird thing of practicing in front of mirrors with other people.
Sometimes, my husband will be sitting on the couch in the evening and he will look at my dog and then look at me and say, “Seriously- we have a small furry animal who lives in our house.” That has nothing to do with yoga, or church. But isn’t it true? Who thought of such a thing?! And yet, we love having strange animals creeping around our house. We think nothing of it. You may let your pet sleep in your bed- your BED! Furry animal who used to live in the wild long ago- snuggled up against you and shedding their furry hair onto your sheets. And you don’t even bat an eye.
I feel this weirdness sometimes while singing at Journey on Sunday nights. Think about it- you are sitting in a room with people singing songs about faith and God and other important things about life. Together. Out loud. Even if you have a bad voice. And nobody thinks it’s weird. People don’t normally sing together like that from day to day. Aside from concerts or the occasional flash mob, we don’t find it normal for people to just start singing aloud together en masse.
And when do we ever go around reciting the same words together like we do when we pray together? (Maybe taking the Pledge of Allegiance as a child? Or that oath of sportsmanship my son says before he plays soccer?) At any rate, these are weird things people do in groups- things that otherwise would be noticeably strange, but have become routine and ordinary for our communal life together.
I have friends who believe these things are strange enough as to not be worth their time any longer. One time a friend said to me, “I don’t need to sing with people I don’t know to follow God.” I can see her point. But I can also see the point of doing weird things in groups. Whatever dynamic it creates is powerful enough to pull me to yoga class and our community gatherings every Sunday. Being together changes the way I practice my yoga as well as my faith. Something happens when I join the chorus of ghost-hums with strangers around me while in a pose. I get stronger, I can hold the pose longer, I can push a little more. Something happens when we cobble our voices together into the air on Sunday nights and dip our little bits of bread into the same cup and place our hands on people while closing our eyes and talking out loud to a God we can’t see. Something happens when we all grab hands (weird!) and stick our chins up in the air and hear words that send us out to be bearers of love in the world. We are breathing together, pulling our lives together with the lives of the people around us, gazing in the same direction, even if just for a brief moment. I get stronger, and a little more hopeful, and I feel this embodied sense of support as I try to walk the way of life. I enjoy looking around the room and knowing that, for this moment, we are all holding each other together, even though we will spend much of the week apart.
I’m sure I’ll still have moments when I find it weird (because it is)- but I hope they are followed by moments where I remember it is also mysteriously wonderful. Like having a small furry creature wandering the halls of our house.