In first grade, I loved story time.
All the students gathered around Mrs. Thompson on a large rug in the corner of the classroom. In that special part of the room, there were shelves of books, a few cushions, and a lightly padded, colorful rug.
After those early elementary years, there was no longer a special part of each classroom reserved for reading. But recently, I found myself seated on a colorful rug once again. I was on the seventh floor of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
After visiting a few of the other exhibits, my friend and I got on the museum elevator and pushed the "7" button. We had no expectations and little awareness of what awaited us. We stepped off of the elevator and followed the sound of music. The room had high ceilings and no windows. In the center was a large, colorful rug about 30 feet across.
The woven rug was made of all sorts of fabrics. There were a variety of plants and wooden platforms sitting on it, too. On one end of the room were shelves holding dried plants and canned goods. A bearded man sat reading a book about herbs. On the other side of the room was a huge map of the Minneapolis/St. Paul region.
I paused to read the description on the wall. It mentioned that artist-in-residence Fritz Haeg was the creator of the space. The traveling series examines gardens, landscapes, community, and the home, and it has made stops around the country.
After my friend and I had looked around the room a bit, a woman with an official-looking name badge said, "You are welcome to sit on the rug if you take off your shoes." She was knitting something with orange yarn.
I was nervous, but my friend wasn't. He took his shoes right off and stepped onto the rug. I sat on the bench observing. Another man and woman took off their shoes and stepped onto the rug. Everyone seemed content and peaceful.
It was unfamiliar territory for me. I felt uncertain and awkward. Perhaps it was something about taking off my shoes in a public space. I felt exposed.
But in an effort to increase my bravery and boldness, I decided to go for it. I unlaced my beige and pink sneakers, and set them to the side.
With slow, careful steps, I moved from the bench to the rug. It was softer than I expected. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland, transported to somewhere new and different. It was still unfamiliar, but it wasn't intimidating anymore.
I sat down. Listening the catchy tunes coming from the record player, I was overwhelmed by a sense of belonging. This space was safe. All were welcome. No questions were asked. It was just a giant rug in the middle of a room filled with peace.
There were five people on the rug at that point. All of us silently savored the moments.
The Holy Spirit was present. In the people. In the rug. In the artistic space all around.
I wondered, "What if the whole world is like a giant, multicolored rug? And God invites us all to take a deep breath, remove our shoes, and step on with an attitude of acceptance, love, and appreciation."
In that room, I felt a deep sense of connection. And somehow, the seventh floor of a museum I'd never visited before felt like home.
The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: theladypastor.com.