A Whole Bunch of Thoughts That Took 5 Minutes to Think
The Rev. Matt Handi, St. Luke’s, South Glastonbury
It’s 4 am. Too soon to be awake, too late to fall back asleep; I keep fading in and out. I went to bed with tomorrow on my mind and now tomorrow is today, first day jitters. Finally, at around 6 am I rise and head to the shower, my imagined leap out of bed is measured by a lack of sleep and the anxiousness I feel about starting a new call, my first call, a new priest in a new church.
I drive the half hour from home to Glastonbury, the morning light brightens the edges of a thin cloud with a wonderful array of oranges and yellows, a welcomed display as I head northeast on 84.
I arrive at the church. I place the key in the lock.
It doesn’t work.
I try shaking it and pushing my shoulder to the door and shaking the handle while turning the key just so and! Nothing.
First day. I’m stuck outside the church and it’s early yet and the key just won’t budge. This is frustrating.
While fiddling with the lock, my mind wanders. Frustrated thoughts mix with a rehash of the years, an appreciation of time past.
Today is the dream fulfilled. A faint call that grew louder over time, over years; I thought the act of walking into a small parish church after many years away was me answering that call. But the urge for more persisted, the urge to do more lingered. I joined the vestry, I became the Treasurer, I taught kids in J2A, I even started working for the church and still the call persisted. Impossible.
I try bracing my hip against the door, relieving any pressure on the lock that might be holding it back. One more time into the breach, I try to turn the key and! Nothing.
While fiddling some more, I realize I am standing on the shoulders of giants. Commission folks who gave me their time, their help, sat with me in conference room conversations and library chats, their calm touch and their listening ears provided support. Committee folks who gave up Saturdays to listen to my nervous rationalizations around my call to be a priest. Bishop folks who were so dedicated to guiding me through, whose words and letters and lunches were a gift of reassurance and correction.
So, I’m thinking if I press my knee against the door and my hand just above the handle while pushing on the door at the same time, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to turn the key. I do so and! Nothing.
Frustration grumbles. It’s my first day and I can’t even get into the door. I’m not even sure I belong here. What about those others? Those giants? The ones who walk into the room and you think, wow! That woman is a priest! And she carries herself with such confidence and owns the room with knowledge and care, the collar is optional. How do I measure up? And doubt, well. Let’s put away doubt.
I am out of ideas. Until. Well, I’ve been standing outside this locked door for not too long now, there are other doors. The undercroft! I can get in through the basement! And so, I head around the corner.
I look once more towards the sky; the darker indigos of early dawn are giving way to the brighter blues of daylight. The colors though, remind me of a different sky in a different place.
The sky recalls my childhood yesterdays and the brook that flowed at the bottom of my street. I would build dams down there, ingenious constructions of the 10-year-old kind. Kid things that paused the flow but stopped nothing, those dams lasted no longer than Thomas doubted.
Hearing my mother’s voice calling into the dusk it was time to head back. I walked my bike up the hill from the brook. I saw home. Bright yellow lamplight shown through the bay window of our tiny raised ranch, white with black shutters and a red door. Walking up the driveway, I dropped the bike near the shed. I walked inside.
“Hey Mom”, I said. “I’m home. I heard you calling.”
I reach the undercroft door; the key turns and the door opens.
I step inside.
There are thresholds to be crossed.
7 thoughts on “A Whole Bunch of Thoughts That Took 5 Minutes to Think”
Beautiful Matt, and so realistic. So many of us can relate. Thank you so much for this lovely piece.
Five minutes … and a whole lifetime. This is beautiful, Matt, and it speaks deeply to me. I’ve saved it so I can read it again. Thank you.
I love this story, Matt. Thank you for writing and sharing it. Although I haven’t been in this exact situation, I sure can identify with your thoughts and emotions!
This is wonderful Matt. Thought provoking with just the right amount of humor. I heard some of your earlier sermons at St. Paul’s in Southington and wanted to send blessings. I’m happy to know you are right where God wants you to be. My husband served as rector of St. James from 1986 to 2001. Just up the road from you. May blessings abound.
Your shared first-day experience was a wonderful inspiration for my ministry as a member of the Commission on Ministry.
Thanks for sharing.
what a powerful story! Thank you for writing with such joy and candor
…and another new day begins…😊