June 24, 2018. I went to bed earlier than usual last night, knowing that I needed a good night’s sleep before standing up to speak this morning. But good intentions aside, it’s 4:45am and here I am sitting at our dining room table, trying to give free reign to some of the thoughts swirling around in my head in hopes that their release will allow me to get back to sleep again, if only for another hour or so.
I followed through on our Board’s request that I share my heart for our church and try to wrap up this season of uncertainty before the summer kicks in. The past couple of weeks have been almost exclusively dedicated to thinking and praying through how I can put my thoughts into words, searching for a way to inspire as many people as possible to commit to this next leg of our journey. This morning, I’m definitely feeling the heaviness of it all—feeling it deep inside my chest.
(Note: This post is part of an ongoing series called The View From Here. Please follow this link and start reading at the oldest post, Fear and Trembling.)
Last week, I met with a member of our Board and her husband to discuss the depths of their struggle with the direction things are heading. It was a sombre reminder that people I care deeply about will not be willing to stay in the situation I’ll be inviting people into just a few short hours from now. They reminded me that there will be others as well, perhaps some that I’m not expecting to leave. They said this in a spirit of love; it was a healthy and honest conversation, and it was helpful for me as I continued to craft my sermon throughout the week, trying to find a way to speak to everyone in our community in a way that would honour their diverse struggles with this hotly contested issue.
I know there are a number of people in our community who have been holding their breath on this, hoping against hope that I will ‘see the light’ and snap out of whatever it is they think I need to snap out of. Maybe I need to snap out of my blindness to the injustice of excluding same-sex attracted people, or maybe it’s my blindness to the danger of stepping outside of the bounds of orthodoxy. Whatever it is, I know that people can only hold their breath for so long, and so this morning will be the time when some of them will finally breathe again. I just don’t know what’s going to happen when the air actually fills up their lungs.
Yes, this morning will mark the end of the road for some members of our community. This is just heartbreaking for me to admit and the heaviness is something I can feel almost physically as I sit here typing in the early morning darkness. Will I be able to stand up there this morning with the same confidence I had when I read my sermon over on Friday morning? Will I find a way to speak from a place of genuine vulnerability and with the kind of integrity my congregation needs and deserves from me?
Last week, I was driving with my son to one of his baseball games and he asked me, “Dad, why are you so quiet today?”
How do you answer that question? How do you explain to a thirteen-year-old that you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders because you are about to cause so much pain for people, and that you’re filled with so much self-doubt that it takes everything in you to put on a happy face and move around in the world? What words could I have used to express the significance of this moment for me, to articulate how aware I am that everything changes on the other side of this decision? How do I tell my child that I am equally confident and doubtful about what I’m doing, and even about who I am? Does that even make sense to a thirteen-year-old? Does it even make sense to me?
I’ve always said that I try my very best to live life without regrets. I don’t mean in a thrill-seeking, throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of way, but in a way where I give myself permission to make mistakes. Even though I’m only forty-one, I’ve lived long enough already to know that it doesn’t matter how clearly you see something in a given moment, because it’s time that is the ultimate judge of our actions. But living with a fear of making mistakes is no way to live, so I’ve always tried to extend grace to myself when reflecting back at my missteps. Even heading into this morning’s sermon and the direction that I’ll steer our community in, I’m well aware that one day I will look back on this and will find a way to forgive myself for whatever mistakes I’m making. I can do this because I know that it’s the same thing that God offers me on the other side of every mistake I make—grace, mercy, and forgiveness in response to every one of a thousand different ways that I miss the mark in my walk of faith.
Right now, I feel like God is offering me understanding, empathy, and presence. We’re in this together, after all, God and I; God and all of us. Maybe that reminder will be enough to get me back to sleep for a little while...
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