The Picnic Table Cathedral

After visiting an old friend’s blog tonight, I find myself nostalgic. Maybe it’s just on account of the first truly glorious night here in Tennessee this year, but it reminds me of home. Cool air that refreshes and invigorates, supplemented by a gentle breeze whispering thoughts into your ear. The smell of damp earth and the particularly eager plants beginning to bloom… Nights like these are perfect for driving.

Windows down and music loud. Down dark country roads, the stars glittering over head. I think the thing I appreciate most about my old friends is that they knew me so well. Left on my own, I’d never leave the house. They knew that, and they’d show up and bang on my windows or assault my cell phone until I relented and stepped from my world into theirs. David loved to drive; more than most. I enjoy it from time to time, but for him… I think maybe he was having a one man worship service every time he got into the driver’s seat.

I’d step out of my stuffy house and meet my friends. Bathed in amber street lights, we’d drive past all the roads that I had grown up on. I knew where everything was in the city… but David wasn’t interested in the noise and bright lights. He loved the country. Together we’d travel down the old highways I never had a reason to get on. We’d turn down roads I never noticed, and eventually, we’d arrive.

At a park. By a pond. In a field. Under a pavilion. Always places that were so isolated and alone, it was like they were there just for us. He knew the places where nature sang its tune; loud and unrelenting. He knew the spots that were untouched by city lights and wailing sirens. Our lungs would fill with the cool air, and we’d talk. Every sentence dared one of us to take our faith just a little further. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that more than any official institution, nights like these became Church.

Each of us had a slightly different perspective on God. The things we had always believed would be examined, and we’d either enunciate why we believe it or we’d rethink things. Together we forged an unofficial doctrine of questions without answers and a faith that was largely made up of loaded “What If?” questions. I like to think that God was there during those talks. Sitting on top of the picnic table, taking in the conversation. From time to time he’d lean down and whisper something into one of our ears and the conversation dwindling conversation would begin again with renewed vigor.

I haven’t lived in Mt. Vernon in nearly seven years now, and honestly, I think this is the first time I’ve really felt… this. Nostalgia? Something akin to homesickness? I’m not sure. The window in our bedroom is open and I can hear the trees rustle and smell the same damp earth that I smelled back home, and it’s there, calling to me… But I don’t know what it’s saying. I’m not sure what it’s asking for.

If my friends were here, they’d know where to go. They would have already staked out the spots in Knoxville that sit just a little closer to heaven than everywhere else. At this point, I feel silly for never having looked for them myself. Right now, there’s a struggle being waged inside of me to go out and hop in my car and just drive, but… things aren’t quite so fancy free these days. I have a wife I want to talk to before we fall asleep. I have a job I have to get up early for in the morning. I have responsibilities and a house, and a wife and a cat, and these things are all really good. The best that I could have ever hoped or asked for.

If I’m going to be completely honest with you, here is what’s going to happen: I’m going to stop typing, take off my shoes, get into bed, talk about life, the universe, and everything with my wife, and as I fall asleep… I’m going to hope that whatever this feeling is, whatever it is I hear calling me… Will keep doing it. Just a little longer. Just until I can decode its message and do whatever it’s telling me to.

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