This morning I changed my photo on Facebook and Twitter, marking the beginning of pride month, it is a happy photo, I am tanned and fit and wearing a rainbow collar. It was taken 3 years ago. A lot has changed. We have all been through a pandemic, and it is rumbling on, the world has changed, as JRR Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the ring;
The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.
The world is changed, I guess the world is always changing, the words written Tolkien are spoken by Galadriel who is expressing a deep longing, I suspect it is a longing that lives somewhere deep within every human heart and soul as we try to make our way through the world we live in, yet with a hunger for something more something deeper. We all express that hunger in different ways, when I look back at my life I have expressed that hunger by a deep desire to fit in, and that has lead to me being a people pleaser who lives with letting people down, because you can’t please everyone, and to trying to soothe the ache, its amazing what a hole food, stuff and other unhealthy substitutes will fill in, though it never lasts!
Others have tried to create a world in their own image, leading to holocausts and genocides, and we see the other-isisng and demonising of those who we declare unacceptable in some way shape or form. This of course has led to campaigns for equality, from the anti- apartheid movement in South Africa, to the Black-Lives Matter demonstrations and movement of recent days, from campaigners and activists like Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dali Lama, to Gretta Thunberg, Malala Yousef and more, I am sure we could write a substantial list as we go on, going back to the anti-slavery campaigners, to those who fight for women’s rights, such as the Suffragettes to people like Jayne Ozanne who has campaigned tirelessly for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in the church, and groups like Stonewall, One Body One Faith, and Dignity and worth. Almost everywhere we look there are those who will campaign for fair treatment for the young, the old, the disabled, for those with learning disabilities, mental health challenges, groups who work to alleviate poverty and more.
This week the Methodist Church has been shading #MyJusticeJourney on Twitter, and there have been so many tweets, and so many inspiring stories to follow! So many in fact that one or two have posted comments like this: so many inspiring stories. Also now struggling with paralysis from feeling I should do something about everything. I know, I do know, that I have to make choices and accept that I can only make a small contribution. Just needed to say it.
We can of course only make the contributions we can make, and it never feels like enough, we talk about drops in the ocean, as if our one, two or three drops will never be sufficient, and it takes a lot to change that feeling! It can even be annoying to be told that without our one drop the ocean would be depleted, especially when we look at what seem like enormous contributions from others. My drops over the last few years have been to fight for justice for the poor, vulnerable and homeless, to speak up where I can, at one time it led me into a meeting with Iain Duncan Smith, when he was the Secretary of State for Works and Pensions. I think I was the only non-Tory voter in the room, I did what I could. It was a drop! I have also been a supporter of the LGBTQIA community, but my own work circumstances have made that very difficult at times, I found myself working in a homophobic team which was actually quite threatening. I was also on a journey of self discovery, even in my mid 50’s!
I guess we are all on a journey of self-discovery in one way or another! So this quote really resonated with me:
I think I might even edit it to say the most Godly thing that anyone can do is to love themselves enough to believe that they can be loved by God and by others. I think that is where the power of shame comes in. When you have spent what feels like a lifetime fitting in and trying to please people, I think this is something many women struggle with, others also, but there I have said it, for many of us were brought up to smile, to acquiesce, to smooth things over, to agree even if it cuts against the grain and to become separated from our true selves. I know many who share this journey!
I wonder if my bravest step in my justice journey recently was to own and even begin the journey of loving myself, and to believe that God could love even me. I have had years of shame and hiding to sift through, not only because of my sexuality, but for many other things, being too tall, being too opinionated, muddling love and sex for one another, hiding behind piles of books, breaking promises I deeply wanted to keep but couldn’t because I was over stretched. There have been lost dreams and broken relationships, none were intended but they are there, and deep under all of that is a small girl who only wants to be loved and accepted. I guess that is where my deep longing lies, denying it has led to self-denial and depression, and when I say denying “it” I am not talking about sexuality, but about acceptability, I am sure there is a lot in my background that has led to this, frequent moves, divorced parents, my own divorce and more, but what I am not looking to do is to play a blame game. I am where I am, and who I am, I am both the little girl longing for love, and the grown woman who is finally coming to accept herself, 60 years later.
To do justice and love mercy, I need to love myself, in loving myself I begin to rediscover that call within for the things that have been lost, to hear God call me good, to accept that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, the little girl longing for who knows what, the tall teenager who was obsessed with being overweight but never was, the lost teenager who tried to find love in sex and was confused by it, the too young single mum, who then struggled through marriage and life never feeling good enough, always hiding something, all of those are fearfully and wonderfully made. Why oh why has it taken me 60 years to begin to become comfortable with myself , and I am only beginning!
I wonder if this journey is a journey we all need to make to a greater of lesser extent, we need to to push past the fears that tell us we are not enough, not good enough and inappropriate, we need to to break down the barriers that separate us from accepting ourselves and therefore accepting we are loved by anyone, let alone God! For nothing, not the colour of our skin, who we love, what language we speak, how much we have in our bank account, what gender we are, whether we are fit or unfit, tall, short, fat skinny… nothing can separate us from God’s love, what does is a false construct, societal and cultural pressures, our own deeply ingrained inner monologue that keeps us awake at night.
I wonder too where we might find the peace of Christ within, the peace that is deeper than anything we can find anywhere elsewhere when we begin the journey of loving ourselves, and therefore be freed to truly work for justice in a deep and meaningful way, even if it is only one drop!
All included, chalk pastel drawing- mine