Oh how subtle is the distinction between God’s love and God’s law. Yes the law rules. But that ruling law is a law of love. Making the mature and holistic transition from les rex to caritas rex is critical and foundational to both Judaism and Christianity. In the Jesus Way these are not separate concepts. Les rex is caritas rex because the law is love. The person who does not make this transition does not understand the simple and liberating focus of those words that were at the front of our church. “A Christian church which is short on rules but long on relationships. Love God, love others, love yourself…
I turned the radio off this morning, I usually listen to Saturday live on Radio 4, and I do enjoy it, but today it hit me, no more Richard Coles, don’t get me wrong other presenters are great, but Richard brought something unique to what is an everyday programme in many ways- and for me it isn’t his popstar past, nor his being a vicar, but his queerness- and I acknowledge that queerness may not be a word he likes, as let me put it another way, it is his non-apologetic homosexual presence! Through it he makes room for people like me. Even sitting on my own in my conservatory sipping coffee and listening I felt seen.
Yesterday I led a funeral, nothing unusual in that as a Methodist Minister, but yesterday one of the young congregation members turned up out and proud in her suit and her rainbow laced DMs. As she walked by me on her way in I simply said, love the boots, on the way out she nodded and said you see me, I see you. We made a space for one another.
I think I have spent a huge amount of my life trying not to be seen, being apologetic for who I am, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. A few years ago I went to stay with friends, a group of us went to the beach for the day, we shared food and swam and caught up, and chatted. There was a bit of discussion about how many gays there were on TV these days ( seriously there aren’t- perhaps proportionately the balance is being redressed), it was also noted that we don’t need to see two men or two women kissing, somehow glossing over the numerous straight sex scenes that fill our screens everyday. I squirmed but stayed silent. I stayed safe because I am not sure this was the time to come out to these friends- though they follow me on Facebook, so I suspect they’ve worked it out now.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a parade in my honour, but I will be joining the Pride Parade in Durham at the end of this month just before Pride month begins, and I still note that Pride is a protest even with its carnival atmosphere. It is a day for claiming space and a place in a still often hostile environment. I know that there are people in my churches who believe that I live a sinful lifestyle just by getting up in the morning and being myself, there are others who are accepting of course, and still others who are affirming and do make room for my queerness, and yet every time I go somewhere new I scan the room to see if I am safe. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot not be out, but that for me being out simply means being authentic and making room for myself by loving myself, I have hidden and hated myself for too long, like many I have struggled with internalised homophobia and felt unworthy of love, and even of life.
Thankfully this afternoon I will join a group of friends for a mental health chat, we will share and probably laugh together, and there will be room to simply be. Richard Rohr’s’ meditation yesterday included these words:
We once thought the mission of religion was to expel sin and evil. Through Jesus, we learn that sin lies in the very act of expelling. There is no place to expel it to. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us. We either carry and transform the evil of human history as our own problem, or we only increase its efficiency and power by hating and punishing it “over there.”
Rohr in other places has said that religion too often focuses on what it names as bodily sin and particularly with sexual sin, naming and shaming has been its business. Instead he suggests that any attempt to exclude anyone from the possibility of love, forgiveness and restoration is the greater sin, especially when conducted by those who consider themselves righteous and beyond reproach. Thankfully I am aware that I am neither, and I have to ask myself if perhaps my greatest sin lies in lack of self love, followed by all of the coping mechanisms that has brought forth…
And now the Jehovah’s Witnesses are at my door, standing on my door step and praying, maybe I should stick in my rainbow earrings and go to greet them, but I am still in my PJ’s and it is a sunny Saturday, so I think I will go for a shower and head to the beach instead.
I’ve been looking at old posts, including those saved in drafts, when I came across this interesting little number:
I tried to conform
But I can’t,
I tried to fit in,
tried to win,
play the game....
but I can’t…
There are a lot of cant’s in there, and I have no idea how I had arrived at “fuck it” , but I can feel the frustration, and I wonder as I read it if my frustrations were more with myself than anything else… another draft post contains these thoughts:
I am pondering a quote shared by a friend, from John O’ Donahue’s amazing book Eternal Echoes:
Give yourself time to make a prayer that will become the prayer of your soul. Listen to the voices of longing in your soul. Listen to your hungers. Give attention to the unexpected that lives around the rim of your life. Listen to your memory and to the inrush of your future, to the voices of those near you and those you have lost. Out of all of that attention to your soul, make a prayer that is big enough for your wild soul, yet tender enough for your shy and awkward vulnerability; that has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty. Write a prayer that is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called.
The sub-title to Eternal Echoes is: -“exploring our hunger to belong”, in many ways echoing the often shared quote from St Augustine:
You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our heat is restless until it finds its rest in you.
I wonder looking back at these two posts if my frustration was an expectation, entirely unreasonably that I would hit the ground running, know what I was doing and even be doing something. Odd because I know that I am someone who needs time to adjust and to reflect and to re-orientate, and as Brueggemann so helpfully reminds us in his work Psalms of Life and Faith, re-orientation needs time, including time to grieve, and of course that the need to re-orientate flows from being disorientated in the first place! Amazon helpfully reminds me I have purchased this book 3 times, I only have one copy now so must have thought it worth giving away, which means it made an impact on me!
So, I am looking back at the things that have disorientated me, and moving home is certainly one, and while my children have been away from home for a long time now, 15 years at the last count, a whirlwind of other changes have meant that empty nest syndrome has taken a while to catch up with me! Again, the loss of my mum, moving, and moving again, divorce, coming out and more have all had impacts, resulted in grieving ( some of which is not finished, and may never be) . So maybe I did need to shout “fuck it” at something, a venting of feelings and thoughts bottled up, and a verbal equivalent of throwing rocks into the sea, something I find very therapeutic, and a joy that being by the sea offers!
I wonder too what I thought I needed to conform to, I know the desire to fit in and to blend into the background is as much a part of my nature as dying my hair pink and wearing bright colours, both of which are masks of a sort, though masks that are becoming more authentically me as I learn to live from the core of who I am rather than trying to be what others want.
Queer Eye has just released a new season, and I binged it, it is therapy too, the central message of the programme, is you are enough, it is okay to be you, and you should be celebrated. You have a unique and God-given gift, claim it live it!
Slowly, slowly I am finding that possible, but also noting when it is too challenging and allowing myself to have downtime, days when I stay home and read a book, days when re-orientating involves doing the laundry or a bit of housework, or days, when like today I take time to take stock, regroup and recharge! Tomorrow I will be back out there, but this I know wherever I am I am held in the love that will not let me go, and wants me to grow!
As for winning, in the piece at the top, I reckon it is overrated!
“GOD, OF YOUR GOODNESS, GIVE ME YOURSELF; YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR ME, AND ANYTHING LESS THAT I COULD ASK FOR WOULD NOT DO YOU FULL HONOUR. AND IF I ASK ANYTHING THAT IS LESS, I SHALL ALWAYS LACK SOMETHING, BUT IN YOU ALONE I HAVE EVERYTHING.”- Mother Julian of Norwich