10
Sep
09

reconciliation road home

My partner, Big Dawg and I experienced the pain and agony of being the center of our (former) church’s effort to accept us as a same gender, covenanted couple into membership. In parallel time, a frightened minority formed to block this effort, and in the end we were rejected.  It was a rocky, and finally brutalizing, experience that had required mature/experienced leadership. It was earnest, but not mature or experienced. And it too, became fearful as the months wore on.

We are now in a different congregation and conference—very Open and very Welcoming. Despite our growing affinity for this little church that could,  the pain of our past trials have not disappeared from memory. Repeated rejection is not an easy pill to swallow for most people. For those on the margins rather than in the mainstream, it is a familiar experience. By the time one reaches a certain age, those rejections have piled up, although not normally visible in the forefront of  daily life. This past year was different for us: forefront was the order of the day. I, for one, cried through most of the winter and spring of 2009. Having lost my sister from a cancer similar to mine did not help matters. Not a very auspicious beginning to my 3rd year of cancer remission.

Fifty weeks ago we moved house and home to be close to this church body we loved, and with whom we expected to live in covenant into older, old age. Two nights ago, BD (my partner), AD (adopted daughter) and I participated in an exit meeting with two conference level  pastors  of our denomination. They were not directly part of the devastating events at our former church, and we barely knew them. The meeting had not been at our initiation, but turned out to be the beginning of what we hope will be eventual healing for us and those loveed ones we left behind.

The word reconciliation took center stage that evening and I became aware that the word itself has many meanings. My understanding had been along the lines of the restoration of harmony—as in agreement, cordiality,  friendliness, friendship, harmonization, reconcilement, reunion, softening ( i.e.,  “kiss and make up”).  But the concept proffered was more about agreement, concurrence and balance. In fact the illustration used to explain this use of the word was balancing one’s checkbook! There were five of us gathered in this meeting. All but I found the checkbook analogy quite serviceable. It was too mechanical for where I was. So the next day I researched the term reconciliation, and found many nuanced uses. Of course, the most obvious use is in the current field of conflict resolution. I hadn’t even thought of that. I was drowning in painful memories of having been dragged along the rocky path of LGBT inclusion/exclusion prevalent in all the denominations to one degree or another. I was unprepared.

During this meeting it became clear that the public apology that I yearned to hear from the apex of that church’s leadership for having invited us to membership, could not come without (leadership’s) acceptance of culpability/accountability. There are many ways in which any of us can be blind to our own shadows, but this blindness was truly hurting so many of us. One of the pastors present in this impromptu meeting spoke eloquently of her own experience of abuse and pain in the church. Although the memory remained,  accepting an apology from someone significantly standing in the perpetrator’s stead gave her much emotional/spiritual freedom. She asked if we could accept such an apology from her in this same way…for the whole denomination as well as for the culpable leadership person. This was a challenging add-on (for me) to the new understanding of reconciliation, still reverberating in my heart’s brain. I knew the theological wholeness of it…that it would bring freedom, but I wasn’t ready to commit. I slept very little and woke with acute sleep deprivation. The day was a visceral faith walk and I wanted to throw up from time to time (I didn’t). I thought a lot about reconciliation and came upon this passage from the New Testament book of John. In terms of my personal faith and formation, it  seemed to be a doorway, a threshold:

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”  Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? John 20:19-23 (The Message)

Indeed…what am I going to do with another’s transgression if I don’t let go of it? It will keep me captive and closer to that person than I wish to be. More importantly, it will block my way home to peace and loving new relationships. I am not a young woman with my life ahead of me. In addition I have asked many times to be strengthened in faith.  So now I embark on another difficult journey knowing that difficult climbing brings spiritual transformation, which in turn, more and more fully allows the light of Christ to flow through us. And that is my desire.

For when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13: 11-13

Recently a friend shared this prayer for difficult times with me:  “I seem unable to find grace in my heart….. Lord, please be the forgiveness in me so that I may be healed and in healing find compassion…” That is the walking stick for the journey one needs at these times. It is the one I will use. In the end I want to know as fully as my sister did in her dying days: God is beneath me, in front of me, behind me, within me.                        (Prayer of St. Patrick)

It is the, within me, that I work on.    Poppy .5x.536-72


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