In the Headlights

Have you ever heard the phrase, like a deer in the headlights? Poor deer. It’s late at night. She’s minding her own business. She just needs to cross this one road, when… BLAM. A car with those creepy bright halogen headlights comes out of nowhere and blinds her. There she is in the middle of the road, wide-eyed and stunned motionless. Got that picture in your mind? Good. Now set that to the side while you picture a nice lady, such as myself, sitting in church minding her own business.

Services are about to start. I just need to find today’s scripture, when… BLAM. My pastor is standing in front of me. No, he doesn’t carry around halogen headlights, but he does seem to surprisingly come out of nowhere. He says, “Would you assist me with communion today?” I can’t move. My eyes are so wide, I could swear there are toothpicks propping them open. (Retrieve your picture of the deer in the headlights that you set aside earlier. Take note of the strong resemblance.)

I mutter, “I guess so.” Not a rousing display of commitment, but when a minister is searching for help right before services start, any port in a storm will do. I immediately felt my stomach turn, my heart race, and no fewer than 10,000 beads of sweat simultaneously pop out over my entire body. I had 45 minutes before it was time for communion, and I was already stressed. Why did I agree to this?

I’d like to say that I spent the next 45 minutes listening attentively and practicing mindfulness. What I did instead was spend a good 15 minutes worrying and fretting over the motions of communion before I was struck by this question: Why am I so anxious about this? That seems like an obvious question, but until that moment I’d been so wrapped up in my anxiety that I didn’t have the mental resources to question it. But that question occurred to me and wouldn’t leave. Why was I so anxious? Being in front of people doesn’t bother me. I read scripture during services all the time. Why was I so anxious about communion?

The answer came to me as swiftly and unexpectedly as the question:  I didn’t feel worthy.

My entire body physically sank into the pew. That’s exactly why I didn’t want to assist with communion. I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel worthy enough to tear off each piece of bread. The body of Christ, broken for you. I didn’t believe I was good enough to offer the cup to others. The blood of Christ, shed for you. Dear God, how long had I been taking communion while feeling completely unworthy of it? How long had I forgotten that the only reason I can approach you at all is because of your mercy? I suddenly felt very small, and yet… Accepted. Loved. Worthy.

I assisted with communion that morning, placing the bread in the hands of all who came to the altar, and I thanked God each time for his merciful grace and forgiveness, especially at those times when we stand before him like a deer in the headlights, feeling overwhelmed and unworthy of his love.

Father, help me to always remember your welcoming acceptance of me, all of me, and the opportunities I have to approach and worship you. Bless each one of us and help us feel your love and forgiveness as we show you our praise, reminding us that we are indeed worthy. Amen.