skip to Main Content

AfterWords | Soul Care Sunday (April 28, 2024)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

  • To be notified via email whenever new content like this is added to The Parish blog, .

A 3-Minute Read
by Katherine Carrier

I pull a tea bag envelope from the drawer, tap the contents to the bottom of the envelope and then carefully tear off the top. I lift the tea bag and free the bag from the tag and the bag spins from what I’m not sure, the draft of air in the room? The motion of being loosed? Tension on the string? The tethering to the tag? My own heartbeat? As soon as I drop it into the cup and it hits the solid surface of the baked earth vessel, it stills. I cover it with boiling water and let it steep. In the hot water, it seeps its essence, spearmint, ashwagandha and hemp seed oil, my favorite blend these days, packaged together by Pukka tea and labeled Peace, with a tagline of Balanced Tranquility. It’s something I seek in the present age, balanced tranquility.

Soul Care Sundays have become something The Parish does that I enter, without knowing it’s a Soul Care Sunday, and then leave feeling like I was administered a rite I wasn’t aware I needed.

I don’t always steep well in a corporate setting. I’m busy seeing people. Oh—there’s Christion! I want to make sure I talk to her. There’s Steph. I want to tell her I loved the story of her rescuing the Communion tablecloth and giving it to the Carratinis for their house church. If there’s a baby nearby, I’m checking out the stroller and marveling at the advancement in technology. If mom or dad picks up the baby, forget it. I’m steeping in a universe of soft skin, tiny coos and micro stretches and little fat folds and dimples. I spin untethered.

I steep better in my car’s heated seat, listening to Crowder’s poetry as I drive:

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree

These lyrics Sunday, the music beautifully sung and played, brought me back to the task at hand, soul care. What are they telling us? Jesus loves us. This I know. Intellectually, I know Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so. It’s pre-elemental. This is three-year-old me, being told this, singing this, getting into my first argument with a cousin over the correct words. So why am I being reminded of this today? Is it the spinning? The toiling? Am I not trusting?

I become aware of the draft in the room in worship and find myself swishing around, gathering myself close in, wishing I had brought a sweater. I’m distracted by the air moving through air handlers and again I’m not steeping in the moment. This is not Kalen’s fault. It’s mine. I take cold plunges and do cold therapy. I stand in cold grass grounding and resent going inside. What is it with this flesh? Can I not watch and pray?

Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy

My mind travels to reading about Elijah earlier in the week, when I didn’t go there to seek the Spirit of God, but to read about the spirit of Jezebel, because I’ve been steeping in Twitter, uh sorry, X comment threads, tethering myself to shocking attitudes wondering if the statements are bots or actual people. This also comes the week after I’ve read two books, one about Western society’s dopamine addiction and one about somatic movement and therapy to miraculously unlock muscles that have been too long tensed unnecessarily. Why am I on X? I put down my phone, physically roll back my shoulders and aim the crown of my head back and hear the upper spine, pop, pop, pop. I keep my head back, looking skyward and remember God calling the Israelites a stiff-necked people.

But back to the threads, Jezebel’s actions, if discussed rightly on X, should include a sordid forerunner of imminent domain, where Jezebel used forgery, deception, defamation, collusion, a kangaroo court and murder. In the end, Jezebel’s efforts got her man the plot of land he was pouting about. Ahab got Naboth’s garden and also a visit from Elijah. I encourage everyone to read the entire section of 1 Kings describing Ahab’s times. X would blow up today with the actual saga. But here I am, again tethered to minutia of attitudes and actions of a society not seeking the Spirit of God. And I’m tethered, too. These threads!

When all of the sudden
I am unaware of these
Afflictions eclipsed by glory

I travel back a couple of chapters to Elijah, near the mouth of a cave, having fled in fear of Ahab and Jezebel—even after being part of an incredible show of God’s dominion on Mount Carmel! Elijah, afraid, in hiding, has the Lord visit him there. There is tension on the string. Elijah is scared. All the other prophets have been killed and Elijah has been told (by Jezebel’s messenger) that he’s the next to go. This is Elijah, the prophet, Elijah so long and deeply steeped in God, now cowering away, yet about to be one of the few people to date to have the Presence of God so very close.

I have to pause here. I know this is what I long for, the Presence of God, and yet why am I scrolling X, getting stressed and frustrated and heading off to find some dopamine somewhere and some semblance of control? These lesser gods stand for me in the ready. How does this make me any different from Ahab, from Jezebel or the trolls on X? Just like Ahab, I have seen gardens so splendid that I also went home and curled up on the couch because I didn’t have that land, those plantings. But I ponder what Elijah had, the Presence of God, and there—there is transcendence, there is the Other to which a garden is a mere Polaroid. This Other, this Presence of God, this I know my heart seeks.

And I realize just how beautiful
You are
And how great Your affections are for me

So after a week of the dopamine book and the trolls of X, a week where I actually told my husband it felt like I was walking through the ectoplasm of hungry ghosts who refused to move as I passed, I come into Soul Care Sunday at The Parish. My soul listens as David sings

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us all

And even though I chose to not steep in the Spirit of God all week, God brought me here. My spinning calms and the water pours over me. I find myself in the ocean of the grace of God, where Crowder’s song says, we’re all sinking.

I’m still flesh that wants what flesh wants, that looks around to see what everyone is thinking, voicing, doing. I’ll get afraid for my flesh again—will it be cold? Hungry? Killed? Offended? I know I will spin wanting to jab some X troll, but will decide to backspace out. But I’m also apart somehow, and freshened since Sunday, eyes skyward, heart longing to beat to a different rhythm, to find in myself some essence of peace, balanced tranquility that can be steeped and imparted.

Parish Text Updates