Three years ago today, my world changed forever. Three years ago today, I got the message telling me Nanny had been in a car accident. And unbeknownst to me, three years ago today would be the last day she lived. I didn't know it then, and that is probably the best thing that could have happened.
I think about God resting God's hand on those parts of my body that I hate. I imagine the look on God's face while touching me, and I envision God having this sweet, subtle smile, one that says, "I am yours and you are mine. You bring me pleasure, and I love you just as you are." God sees the tears that come into my eyes as I let this message sink in. It may not be solidified. God might have to say it several dozen times more before I wholeheartedly believe it. But in that instant, it is the only truth I need.
...it's easy to say that I love my neighbor, my enemy, or anyone in my life I might consider "other," but actually making that love manifest is beyond difficult. I can't keep simply talking about emptiness and selflessness and justice unless the way I live my life starts showing signs of these things. Quite frankly, from my own glance in the proverbial mirror, I have a ways to go.
Teach me to go to this country beyond words and beyond names. Teach me to pray on the side of the frontier, here were these woods are. I need to be led by you. I need my heart to be moved by you. I need my soul to be made clean by your prayer. I need my will to be made strong by you. I need the world to be saved and changed by you. I need you for all those who suffer, who are in prison, in danger, in sorrow. I need you for all the crazy people. I need your healing hand to work always in my life. I need you to make me, as you made your Son, healer, a comforter, a Savior. I need you to name the dead. I need you to help the dying cross their particular rivers. I need you for myself whether I live or die. It is necessary. Amen.
One professor, one I trust as a friend and mentor, noticed this and decided that I needed something different. I needed space: space in which to experience respite from fighting against something. He felt that, in all my efforts of fighting against, I'd been afforded little time to discover what it was I've been fighting for, or more importantly, what I've been standing on.
The fact is that to know yourself and to let your self be known by others is a gut-wrenching, vulnerable, nerve-wracking process. It often includes tension, drama, and conflict (all three of which I despise greatly). But rarely does this conflict come up, I think, because we inherently dislike or detest someone else. It surfaces because we see something in them that makes us feel something about ourselves. Yet when we refuse to be vulnerable, to "risk engagement," we put ourselves at risk for emotional atrophying and decay.
I hate leaving. I hate feeling as if I'm losing a relationship, as if someone I love dearly is abandoning me. This is what transition can feel like for many people. This reality makes it necessary for the transition process to be handled with care, offering space for both grief and celebration. Without room for all the emotions that become tangled up in transitions, the shifts that individuals and communities face can lead to excessive pain, bitterness, resentment, and much more.
I love talking theology, but over the years as my own theology has been transformed and become broader in scope, I've been hesitant to engage those whom I believe to be more conservative than myself, fearing rejection or ostracism. However, these new friends were nothing short of kind and loving, even as I made statements and theological claims that most "evangelicals" would consider staunchly blasphemous. One of the group members asked me about the tagline on this site, the whole "thoughts and ramblings of a self-avowed, practicing heretic." I told him that, as I understand it, heretics are not necessarily wrong in their beliefs. They simply came out on the losing side of a theological debate. They are the minority, the marginalized, and as such, I'd prefer to align myself with them than with the doctrinal majority, even if we disagreed. That is why I identify the way that I do. It's about empathy. It's about solidarity.
Maybe you heard it first at age nine from the front row pew. Your pastor said it in ten seconds, and it felt like hell and shame hurling down on you. Maybe you heard it in the car with James Dobson declaring to the nation, to your family, that perverts like you don’t get to have God. Maybe you heard it everywhere.
Maybe you opened the Book and saw six or so verses with their crushing words and you felt your soul crack wide open. Maybe you read them with a lump in your throat and tears down your face and trembling hands. Maybe a part of you died.