Jacob and I finally got out to the London temple on Saturday. I knew it was important for me to be there as soon as I got changed and was bumbling around the restroom, anxiously trying to cover up my black bra straps that were blatantly making themselves known through my white dress, and generally being confused and anxious. A lady in street clothes hurried up to me and said, "I thought you should know..." and I, of course, panicked. Not only were my bra straps black, but the bra itself was zebra print. And as a very new temple attender I already felt pretty infantile in my understanding of proceedings. Must I go bra-less and have no idea what I was doing and sound so stupidly American?
I felt really dumb.
But what she continued to say was, "...you are an inspiration to me. You young people come here with such busy and hard lives and you're worthy to be here. It is so beautiful to me and gives me hope!" Her sincerity leveled me and my zebra bra right into the depths of humility. I wanted to say, "Oh lady, if you only knew me!" But she hugged me long and tight and said, "God bless you, my love. God bless you!"
But that wasn't the end of it.
All through the day I was hugged, kissed, doted on, and winked at. Honestly, I have never felt less alone in my entire life, and I was thousands of miles away from home and usually out of the reassuring reach of my dear Jacob. I felt so surrounded by friends that day, and not only because of the sweet, mostly elderly people present.
After receiving the name I would be acting in proxy for (Christina Ohlsen, born in Liverpool around 1890), the officiator-- a darling matron with a sturdy brogue-- gently took my arm, looked deep into my eyes, and said, "you and Christina have a lovely time together."
And we did.
I talked to Christina (in my mind, of course) throughout the session and had a deeply meaningful experience. I can't explain how beautiful it was, partly because the goings-on of the temple are sacred enough to be kept, by necessity, within its walls. But partly, too, because I can't really explain it.
But I did see, and will never forget, a sweet Indian family of five all in white (complete with a white teddy bear) who were joined together for forever. I saw and spoke with so many people, all with long stories of hard lives, bearing the marks of them all over their bodies. But in the temple, whatever the state of their wasted, tattooed skin, thin hair, and bent frames, they were radiant with peace, joy, and love. Everyone spoke gently and hushed, sparkling in their clean white clothes. They called me "sister," "love," or "dear." None of them knew me, but they knew my heart, I think. And I feel like I knew theirs.
When I was getting ready to leave, I went to shake the hands of the adorably giggly group of matrons who were doing their sacred duties with their particularly adorable old British lady flair, and the last one refused to shake my hand, instead pulling me violently in to plant a hearty, wet kiss square on my lips and cheek. She asked me to come back. This sweet, toothless stranger with outrageously yellow-orange hair was my sister. And I have rarely felt so loved.
Here is my point: I love my church. I love the temple. I love the way it inspires people to treat each other. I love that it functions purely on service, devotion, and a love of God and of his children. I want everyone I love to be able to experience the precious, precious communion we can all feel when we align our lives in order to facilitate a visit to the temple. The awesome part is that we're all invited, and the invitation is always open.
Something silly is that, by the time we got back home, I was already immersed in the quagmire of "I have so much to do"-- the beginning of the path that always leads me to inconsolable world-weariness. By late evening I was feeling inexplicably down and couldn't seem to shake it. And even though I only made some vague, off-handed comment to Jacob, and he to only one other person, it appears that the other students were much better at remembering the Temple's lessons than I was. Throughout the evening, we kept receiving knocks on our door. Almost constantly! Visitors, doorbell-ditched notes and treats, even a much-appreciated (though much more unexpected) carton of soy milk! These darling girls showered me with completely unsolicited love.
Simply for being depressed and admittedly very unappreciative, I was bombarded with charity, thoughtfulness, and many morsels of chocolate, appreciation, support, and so much love.
I am a lucky creature, and I am inspired.
My recent worries of the dismal fate of an apathetic world is completely unfounded.
People are good. People care. And God is love.