Today was the second annual "wear-pants-to-church day."
I was not brave enough last year. I figured I was enough of a spectacle even attending church at all, that I didn't want more attention. Also, with all of the media on the topic, I figured people would be curious as to whether I would participate, rebelling against the norm in yet another way.
But this year it felt right. I've been attending church regularly. Also, I participated in the "ordain women" movement, supporting my feminist friends by standing in line with my daughter and asking to get into the priesthood session of conference. I didn't expect to get in, but I was touched by those women to whom this means so much. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the session on the radio in my car on the way home, and then at home on my TV--the first time the session has been publicly broadcast for all to hear.
So wearing pants to church seemed like something I could do, and I was excited.
But I was amazed at how uncomfortable I felt. We arrived at church late, and though as I walked past one of my friends she pointed to my legs and gave me a thumbs up, and though no one else said anything, good or bad, I felt like I had a large scarlet S hanging around my neck.
It got worse in Relief Society when I was asked to say the closing prayer and then immediately asked to fill in for the chorister. I accepted, of course, but me--in pants--standing in front of everyone. I smiled and sang and gave it my all, the whole time thinking that everyone was starring at me and wondering what in the world I was wearing.
Toward the end of the lesson, I was on Facebook, reading things that my friends were posting about wearing pants to church. One particular article touched me--right before I was supposed get up for the closing music and prayer.
It wasn't about making a statement. It wasn't about rebellion. It was about empathy, about understanding more fully how out-of-place some individuals feel at church and within our ward families. My heart was touched for those who suffer in silence, for those who feel like they stick out like a sore thumb for being different, even when they actually don't or when no one actually cares or actually judges them for how they are different. But somehow we've created a culture within Mormonism that makes many--if not all of us--feel that way in some way or another.
My heart was full as I lead the closing hymn and reverently spoke the closing prayer. I had walked in someone else's shoes, had felt how they might feel.
What a great, uncomfortable experience.