That moment, that very moment, when you wish you could do something over again. The plan didn't work out just like you thought it would (does it ever?); oh, good grief, I can't believe I said (or didn't say) that; wow, I hope no one posted the photos on Facebook.
The valuable do-over, the rewind, the if I only knew then what I know now.
Jonah gets a do-over. God calls him to go to Nineveh, and he hops the nearest ship and travels in the exact opposite direction. God is still there, calling him. Jonah offers to throw himself in the sea to escape God. God sends a big fish. Fish vomits Jonah out (surprise!) on the shores of Nineveh and repeats God's request.
Jonah, get up, and go to Nineveh.
Jonah gets a do-over. And this time he goes. He's not much happier the second time around, either, but read the book, imagining Monty Python interpreting the book of Jonah, because that's exactly how it should be read.
Jonah gets a second chance.
We all do, actually. Life seems to be about second and third and four-hundredth chances, opportunities to quit shoving our shoulders out of socket as we push against a door clearly marked, "Pull." The names, places, and facts may change, but the patterns remain the same. God hopes, I suspect, that we will recognize the do-over. Maybe we do; maybe we don't. God still loves us.
In my last months in my last diocese, we ordained a bishop. For me, the event was not a joyous occasion. All that had and would still happen to me in the church in that place weighed on my broken and beaten heart and soul. Being in a diocese where women clergy were not particularly appreciated and where the presence of the Presiding Bishop was fuel for the everything-that's-wrong-with-the-church-we-can-blame-on-women-and-gays contingent cast a pall over the event. Remembering how the diocese had treated the immediate past bishop (and quite a few others) made the invitation to communion to sound less than genuine. I slipped out of the cathedral and walked around the neighborhood at the peace; being among the sounds of a city seemed more authentically spiritual than the gathering within the walls of the church at that moment for me. The highlight of that day for me was knowing that my present in that place would not be my future. The reality is I knew my experience would get worse before it began to improve. I was right on both counts.
So when my current diocese elected a bishop and started planning his ordination, I remembered how unjoyous and dangerous the last event felt. I remember how many of us, mainly women clergy, were summarily pushed to the margins and told to stay. I remember feeling so sad that the church I loved had broken my heart. I remembered the feeling, as I slipped out the side door, that no one would miss me from this particular incarnation of the church.
I worried as the date of this ordination approached that all of that darkness would swallow me whole again, that the hope and love I felt in this new place was fleeting.
The great fish of dark memories vomited me up on the shores of the cathedral yesterday, where I was working on the entire event with an amazing group of clergy and laity, many of them women. We paced out communion ideas and reviewed where people would stand and sit and how many clergy can fit in a pew. Where would we put the new vestments? Maybe draped over the front rail? I suggested our bishop-elect could pet them during the sermon to freak out the preacher. Another priest did a dead-on impression of Gollum saying, "My Precious." And in the midst of small details, we laughed at ourselves and each other.
I heard the laughter and felt the joy bounce off the walls of an old cathedral. I heard the soon-to-be-bishop practice the invitation to receive communion.
And realized this was one of God's precious do-overs.
On Saturday, I will be fully part of a magical ordination. This week is filled with joy and chaos. God seems to love that blend. Rehearsals, dinners, gatherings where we talk about mission and not the impact of chromosomes have regarding ordination, and finally an ordination.
Then a nap.
And I will be there, ready to hear the newly-ordained bishop say, "The gifts of God for the people of God."
My heart will leap, and I will hold out my hands to receive communion. Then I will go out into the city.
And give thanks for the beauty of holy do-overs.