Worldly: Concerned with material desires or everyday life rather than spiritual things.

In the darkly lit bar, it takes a few moments to recognize each other, to call up the memories associated with faces. Sometimes, it takes a surreptitious peek at the name tag.

Ten years after graduation, we still look mostly like ourselves. As a group, we average an extra twenty pounds or so since then. We’re starting to get a few lines around our eyes. There lots of tall boots in the room; the men, as a whole, have less hair.

I am buoyed by the glass of white table wine that I had at a good friend’s apartment beforehand, by the brisk walk in the late November rain from her place to the bar. My husband is nearby with his beer and easy smile. He is a tether to my real life; he is keeping me from floating back in time.

I say “Hello,” to the first person I see, and it’s so simple. Just conversation. Just talking, listening, nodding, laughing.

I am surprised how easy it is to speak to these people who so intimidated me all those years ago, when I was a Jesus Freak. I am surprised that when I say, “It’s so nice to see you!” I’m not pretending.

We are well-rehearsed, all of us, our lives condensed to sound-bytes, tweets, status updates. Job. Relationships. Locale. Where did you go to school again? And if with a date, So, how did you guys meet?

But every once in a while, there is a gap, and something else slips through. Like when that guy I once went to Homecoming with says, of his bachelor life, “My longest relationship ever has been three months, and that’s how I like it,” but his eyes say that he doesn’t really like it that much at all.

Or when the girl I sat near in choir says, “I don’t get why people think it’s okay to ask if you’re in a relationship.” She stops, takes a sip of her drink, looks around. “I mean…what am I supposed to say to that?”

The line between “worldly” and “spiritual” is thin as thread, barely holding. Or maybe not a line at all, not that divider that I saw back in high school as separating me from them, them from me, all of us from each other. (They are “worldly” who party, drink, smoke pot in the parking lot during study hall.)

Maybe “worldly” is a layer, a threadbare jacket that I am clutching at too. I’m saying things like “I stay home with the kids, write on the side,” when what I really mean to say is, I’m sorry I was so afraid. I am asking things like, “So, where do you work?” instead of looking people square in the eye, asking, How are you doing?

The night wears on. DJ Dirty Darren starts up with the techno music, and it is so loud we can no longer hear each other’s voices. We try shouting in each other’s ears, but it’s no use.

We’ve lost our hold on the bar, and the college girls start trickling in with their tight dresses and tall wedge shoes. One of them shoves a couple of renegade balloons in the top of her dress and dances large drunken circles in the middle of the room.

It is “worldly” behavior, some would say. She will regret it in the morning. But look closer. There is more than this.

She is spirit; she is glimmering; she has never been more precious to God than she is at this moment.

9 thoughts on “Worldly

  1. As the “valedictorian” of my class at my itsy bitsy Christian high school, I’ve got to organize one of these soon. Most of us are in touch, and I don’t think anybody really wound up being the kind of person that the school wanted to create. It’s shocking, really, the variety of types that come out of that environment.

  2. Do we realize how much 20th century, North American, bapto-cultural, practical theology Addie has confronted in this final statement?
    “She is spirit; she is glimmering; she has never been more precious to God than she is at this moment.”
    Even more, do we appreciate how dangerously close she has hovered to the truly amazing nature of grace…

  3. I enjoyed this post, Addie. The ending is killer. I projected it on a screen in the classroom and read it to my Autobiographical Writing students on Friday (it fit into something we had talked about the class before). Very cool–some of them heard you read last winter. Interesting that you were in one of the first Auto Bio classes…

    1. Thank you, Judy. This was deeply encouraging to me.

      Yes, without that auto-bio class, I would not have fallen in love with memoir and creative nonfiction. You’ve created a monster!

  4. And I was in that auto-bio class when she read it and fell in love with this post. The end especially – such a beautiful point. Rooting for you Addie! Can’t wait to read your book when it’s published.

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