A couple of weeks ago--perhaps inspired by the pile of journals I unearthed--I decided to share the two stories of my teen years that brought me, first, to the Episcopal church, and second, to a faith in Christ. Now, I usually avoid (like the plague) anything that makes me feel vulnerable. So, I truly did not enjoy preaching on this particular Sunday. But, given the Gospel for the day in which the leper telling of the story of his healing to the community figures prominently, I wanted to get across my belief that one of the important rituals of our community is the telling of our own stories. In my preoccupation with my own fear of telling my stories I'm not sure that this came across all that articulately--but I think I'm glad I did it. So, here are the moments that make up my own peculiar "come to Jesus"...
When I was fifteen I came out to the school counselor (who also happened to be an Episcopal priest). Her acceptance, almost blase in nature, led me to church. At church, one which my family did not attend, I felt like I could be completely myself. So, I came to the Episcopal Church when I needed a shelter from the sheer craziness and anxiety of balancing my teenage desire for fitting in and acceptance with the reality of coming out and trying to relate to my peers despite my rather socially awkward self. Then, when I was seventeen, my dad died very suddenly. With his death I found myself articulating two choices--one, that life is pointless because at death all meaning and existence is completely extinguished; two, that death does not win and that in our death we continue to exist within the love of God and those we've left behind.
I chose option two. And, now it is Ash Wednesday. In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, which we read today, he writes "we are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything". I love that my faith allows me to stand up to my fears, knowing that those fears are not the final word. Rather, the WORD, that is Jesus both opens and closes are lives in the here and the now. I am reminded that, in Christ, God know us for who we are and who God intended us to be from the very foundation of creation. We are true and known, we are alive and rejoicing, we are rich in our faith, and in possession of the love that liberates us from all fears. Now, this is not to say that I do not fear--I do--but rather that behind the fear is the truth that God will not forsake me even in the worst of times.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I pulled a box up from the basement last week. The box is full of journals and photos written and taken between the ages of 15 and 25. About 2x3 feet, the contents have traveled from Maui to MA, from MA to OH, from OH to ME and back to OH. I have added to the contents from time to time but have largely have left them undisturbed. There are hundreds of pages of detailing my internal processing from times in my life when I felt as if I had few to speak with and fewer still to trust. From early crushes to first kisses. From the betrayal of my mother reading my journal and discovering I am a lesbian to the death of my father--it's all there. There are letters to and from ex-girlfriends and letters from friends and family when I went to college. I was laughably earnest...really, "womyn" and "heterosexist assumption" peppered the pages! And, looking back, I wonder what I might have said to that 16 year old girl? What words would have made a difference, what words would I have heard? As my friend Byl would say, "I was an unholy mess of a girl"--but in the "messiness" of it all, I learned what I needed to learn in order to step out into the world and stand firmly by the belief that I am indeed wonderfully and fearfully made. I love because, at times in my life when I couldn't love myself, there were people who loved me and convinced me that God loved me. Going through those old journals induced an odd melancholy--at the same time tho' it made me more acutely aware of the debt of gratitude I have to the adults in my life who truly shepherded me through those difficult years. Thank you--I'm not entirely sure I would have made it without you.