The pastor watched his children playing Yahtzee! and when one of the dice dropped off the table, they debated a bit before agreeing on a do-over. "Now I ask you, wouldn't it be nice -- as adults -- to have a do-over, every now and then? Who wants to be free of lies and hypocrisy, and be reborn, and begin again today?"
Sean hates gift-giving because it implies that some days are more special than others; that on some days I love you just a little bit more than I did yesterday or will tomorrow; that the dates for these moments of pure love are invented by and large by the same corporations that are killing us all. And the truth is like that: Every day is a do-over. Every day is a chance to be free of lies and hypocrisy and be reborn and begin again.
But Sean too is wrong, because to acknowledge that every moment is a choice is a handy way of making no choices at all. Moments look too much alike from day to day; you must have a marker, something dramatic or a reminder or a tradition to let you know that this moment in particular, in the house of God, in the arms of your brothers and sisters, is worth mentioning in particular. That habits like truth and grace and honesty are formed not for your ongoing perfection but for your worst day, and that requires sacrifice and it definitely requires the definition of a change, the mental alchemy of change, the separation of one moment, one day, from the next:
Valentine's Day isn't about loving you more, it's about loving you more loudly. Hoping you'll remember it next time, when I'm weak and angry and afraid.
"Pray for me," says one woman, rising, "That I may be patient and accept my son for who he is." They applaud; she weeps with relief, for having said it. "Pray for me. I called bingo last week even though I didn't have it, because I knew nobody was coming to check the cards." They do, they do. Anything. Anything you've done. Cathy stands, in a big blue hat. They stare, they gasp; Andrea stares.
"Pray for me?" she begs, into the rumpled silence. "I've lied. A lot. I just... I keep on lying, and I'm sitting on a huge pile of lies right now. And I've cheated on my husband. I've had an affair."
The war goes out of Andrea. It's not about loving her more, it's about loving her more loudly.
"And it's hurt people I didn't expect it to hurt. I did not want to hurt you. I like you. I am really sorry. You are important to me. You are not just another student. You... You make my life better. And my life is very complicated right now. There's... There's some stuff that I can control, and then there's... There's this other stuff that's..."
Like touching a bruise. Not like a slap at all. She retreats. It would only hurt Andrea, she thinks. And this is about Andrea. It's a lie, but it's a small one and a good one because it got her ass to church and it got her out of the pew and it got the confession spilling over the dam and out of her mouth and it changed the world, it made it brighter.
"It's killing me," she laughs to herself, a tiny snorting chuckle. They get worried; she's sobbing now. Andrea sees light in her, now, suddenly. Sees her. Hears her. "So... Pray for me. Oh, help me, God! If there is a God." The words have started coming, she realizes, and they show no signs of ceasing. And this is where her prayer begins. It is a song.