Last night I got slapped in the face. Out of the blue, totally unexpected, and slapped hard! Figuratively speaking of course…..
To give you a little history, I normally don't attend many church functions or services, as I have found over my 9 years here, that it helps to a) set boundaries (or I would be consumed with church goings-on 24/7 and would burn out), and b) I am able to remain more unbiased in matters of the church (the one or two times I’ve tried to attend over the years, I find myself becoming more invested in details that make me a great parishioner, but not a great Parish Administrator- meaning, I would find myself allowing my personal opinions to impact by Parish Administrator feedback- I needed to stop coming both times to quell my internal battle). Anyway, I felt called to attend Fr. Dick’s Lenten series talk last night, truly, for some unknown reason.
We were about 5 minutes into Dick’s presentation when I knew why. It took all I had to maintain my composure throughout his talk, then I went home and cried myself to sleep, and found myself in Dick’s office this morning, sharing my own story. I don’t need to get too deep into that because this isn’t about my story, per se, but about my experience. My brief story summary is that the last time I saw my biological father, I was 6, and then again at 16 when I attended his funeral. I wasn’t “allowed” to see him, or grandparents, or aunts/uncles, etc. I grew up thinking that Warren didn’t love me enough because he never succeeded his few attempts in rehab (I now have an incredible relationship with my aunts/uncles/cousins, and many of you have seen my relationship with them bloom, via Facebook, when I go to Minneapolis or San Francisco). In forming my relationships with my newfound family, I learned that Warren did, in fact, attempt rehab 23 times within 4 years!! He did love me! As Dick said, it would have been nice to know this as I was growing up, forming my opinions of my own worthiness. I will add I had an incredible stepfather, the man I call Dad…I am fortunate in that regard.
I think that what hit me is that I feel like I’ve worked through many of my painful issues, but realistically, perhaps I haven’t. When I have dealt with things, it’s been on my own terms, with my own timing. Dick and the good Lord, shook that up last night. It clearly wasn’t anything I was thinking I’d hear from Dick, and my guard was down. I guess this is a perfect example of “God’s timing,” and echoes my belief that we are all connected in this life (and not just as humans, but with all of God’s creatures, and nature).
I began thinking, I wonder how many of us are walking around, in a really good place (we think), feeling as though we’ve mastered our emotions or our issues, when in fact we have not. Or, maybe we are not supposed to master them and have it all together, but rather we are to be a perfect mess through our lives. We have ups and downs, and when we have misconceptions that we have it all together, this is when God “smacks us” in the face and reminds us who is in control.
Would any of us have had any idea about Dick’s upbringing, had he not shared it with us last night? What are we missing when we are sitting in the pews, or standing in the grocery store line, or gathered at a meeting, or just simply “with” our friends, loved ones, and community members? We have no idea the depths of what any single one of us may have experienced in this life. Maybe the reason so-and-so does such-and-such or acts this-and-that way is because of these unknowns. Without knowing these things, do we find ourselves placing judgment on their exterior presentation of themselves? Yet, at the base of all our dysfunction or negative emotion is either shame or fear, when it is stripped of everything else. Is it here, at it’s root, that we all have a story to tell and can meet on common ground?
I also loved Dick’s bit about saying one can be a great Episcopalian, but not a very good Christian. Also resonating with me was his statement about all of us searching for our authentic selves. I have been on this quest for a couple of years now, and I have really enjoyed it (and sometimes it’s been hard)! It is not easy being true to ourselves because of our fears about how others will perceive us.
Within scripture, I have been drawn to Romans 12 since I saw a verse on the Bergs wall in Rwanda, and I had to learn more! I was consumed by it initially. Our Romans 12 Women’s group has been about trying to exemplify Romans 12 (in the best way we know how). I do hope you will read Romans 12, below, and to remember to practice Grace and Love for yourselves, and for all of us, as we all have our own “backstory.”
Note: The Circle-Cross pictured with his blog is of my father’s tombstone, also what I had made into a tattoo last summer in Minneapolis.
A Living Sacrifice
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Humble Service in the Body of Christ
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.