I recognize the symbolism. That this place, my place of comfort and openness, of worship and faith, is just outside the doors of the church.
I’m not a religious person. In fact, I never stepped inside the holy hall. No prayers were voiced, no sins confessed. At least not inside. But in that parking lot, man, that parking lot was there for everything.
It began when we got our licenses. We were sixteen years old in stereotypical suburbia, young and bored.
The parents were home and the stars were beckoning us outside, urging us to spill our secrets. It didn’t take long, driving around looking for a place we’d never been. The parking lot was set back, on the far side of the small church. It wasn’t large, occupied only by a few streetlights, fireflies, and a fox making his way into the trees on the far edge. It was perfect for spilling secrets, contemplating the future, and staring up at the ever-changing night sky. We parked.
An eternity later and I sit in the parking lot staring at the flickering lights. The stars above have disappeared behind the clouds. There’s a pile of snow in the corner, the cold weather keeping the fox from his exploration. I am alone. A sigh catches in my throat as I scan the empty spaces around me. Ghosts of cars, people, and conversations fill up the lot.
I see us at sixteen, two girls, discussing the first broken heart. She had brought him here, shown him our sanctuary. And here we were again, after it was over. We paced, we begged the universe for answers. Then, for healing.
I see three girls on a red minivan. They lay on the roof, seniors in high school, wondering where life was taking them. The three of them going to three different states, miles apart. Would this change things? Would their lives take them too far to ever bring them back? The man in the moon smiled far above them, winking and suggesting with his ever so ominous smirk, Things would be ok.
Two years and countless life changes later, the three girls are back. They haven’t seen eachother in some time, but they knew this was necessary. One of the girls was sobbing. The year had destroyed her. The other two didn’t know about the anxiety. The depression. The break up. They shared a spoon and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and they cried. The parking lot was patient.
It’s seen me through the best days of my life and through the worst. It’s been the start and end of various adventures. Great plans have been worked out among those spaces. Under the streetlights, decisions have been made, arguments resolved, the universe contemplated.
Church Parking Lot. 9.
All it takes, and my friends are there. Just inside the doors, so many people pray. They wish and whisper. They fear and recover and open their hearts. We do that too. But all we need is the parking lot.