August 28, 2008


I have been guilty of letting fear stop me from moving forward. Again. And I didn’t know it until this week.

I have just returned this afternoon from a three-day retreat for our church staff, in which we learned more about ourselves and each other. We came together knowing what each other did; we left knowing better who each person was.

For all that I learned this week, one thing struck me the moment I heard it, so much so that I stopped my colleague in the parking lot and asked him to tell me the story again. He had recounted it as an example in a discussion we were having about purpose.

A man visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta to help for a few months in her mission. He was there to learn more about his purpose in life. When he sat with the nun on his first day, he asked her to pray for him. When she asked what he wished for, he said, “Clarity.”

She responded, “No. I will not do that. Clarity is the last thing you cling to when you need to let go.” He told her that he wanted the clarity she had and she laughed. “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

That story would not leave my head. A desire for clarity is what has prevented me from moving faster in acting on God’s call in my life. Those highly-educated colleagues of mine whose lives seem so purposeful have no greater clarity than I. They simply work hard at trying to discern their purpose as best they can and act on faith that they are doing what they should.

I must have faith that my purpose will unfold for me and that I must act accordingly even when fear raises its ugly head. When the leader put out the question to the staff on the first day, I knew I had to answer. “What do you hope for in our church and in our congregation?” I had thought it was far too soon to speak up in a group setting about LGBT acceptance. But I would never really know for sure. And here sat the entire pastoral and program staff of the church. So, deep breath. Twenty-four pairs of eyes looked at me when I raised my hand.

“My heart is heavy with the knowledge that our church should welcome a group of people who are considered outcasts. My brother was gay and would not come out to us, his family, for fear of being rejected. I learned from his friends when he was dying that he was especially afraid of me because I am a Christian. That is untenable. My faith should be a magnet. I want the church that I love to offer a loving, grace-filled welcome to the gay and lesbian community.”

After several chimed in with support, I told the group that I believed our congregation was, for the most part, ready to learn how to be open and affirming. Another pastor told of his gay brother's rejection of organized religion. Four people approached me on the next break to high-five and shake my hand. Discussion over the next two days included comments about LGBT-related support. If there was dissension, it was never voiced in the group setting. The ice has been broken.

I think David instinctively saw the conflict I was having and said so in his comment here. That’s why I need you all, to be held accountable. Challenge me, push me, teach me, and don’t let me get away with anything. I need you.

Rainbow eye graphic courtesy of Noodlez.


Roxrocks said...

Because I'm not a very religious person, I always feel at a loss to comment when you talk about the church. That being said, I'm glad there are people like you in this world who have faith and believe in your church and are trying to make a difference. The reason I turned away from religion is the judgment, and I'm not gay, nor do I play one on TV. :o) It wasn't the religion so much as the people practicing it and being judgmental that I had a problem. I despise hypocrisy. I mean, be judgmental all you want, just don't hide behind religion. (And by "you" I mean the judgy ones, not you.)

I think you're trying to make your church the best it can be by opening dialog and trying to inspire change. Keep it up!

Okay, I'm going to wake up some more. It's too early to have deep conversation...

Patricia said...

Clarity is the last thing you cling to when you need to let go.

Interesting. I think I'd agree on some levels. When I seek clarity for too long, it is because I am on some level waiting for all of the pieces to show up before I begin wrestling with the puzzle. Sometimes some of the pieces are hidden. Or I have to get out a jiz saw and cut fresh ones, myself. Or someone else has been holding a piece for me, and I don't even know it until I begin it myself.

Analogies aside, I'm thrilled for you that you received support and open hearts when presenting your thoughts and ideas. May they continue to be welcomed so that you can do the work you want to do.

Java said...

Yipee!!! I'm clapping loud and long for you, honey!! You did it! You came out to your church's staff. I'm so proud of you.

And I'm very pleased and somewhat surprised at the welcoming response you got. Is it a condemnation of my faith that I am surprised? Or is it a condemnation of the church ("the church") that I expected worse? Or both?

Anyway, I'm as pleased as I can be for everyone involved. Congratulations!

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Very brave of you Birdie and I deeply thank you for taking that step. This little lamb has strayed far from the flock now however and is not sure if he can find his way back. It is very interesting also what Java said, I also expected the worse, I expected people to roll their eyes at you and make faces, shake their heads etc. I really think the gay community would be a lot more stable if church welcomed them as a lot of gay people are very spiritual. It is an odd thing to say but 'church' has made me fall away from God.

Greg said...

Oh, Birdie...congratulations to you on this big step...and such a warm response to your bravery. I love that.

As for this, "Clarity is the last thing you cling to when you need to let go.”, it may have been exactly what I needed to read this morning.

Many blessings to you, and love.

Patrick said...

What a rich, wonderful entry this is, my dear. The story about clarity is giving me much to think about; clarity is something I regularly seek and meditate on, and the fact is I rarely feel like I have received/found it... this story may explain why. Your decision to act, and the encouragement you got for doing so, is inspiring. You're a brave bird, my friend.

David said...

OK, I got a little weepy reading this. I'm floored that my comment had the impact it did. Just as you do, I have to remind myself that I can and do make a difference, even when I don't even realize it.

That said, major props to you for opening yourself up to be an agent of change. You are so powerful, it amazes me. You are the butterfly whose wings stir up the hurricane. But, like, a nice hurricane that makes rainbows and washes people's cars for them.

Keep being that change. I am rooting for you.

Dantallion said...

Brilliant, that - I'm proud of you.

That desire for clarity has sometimes been my Achilles heel in the past - instead of acting, I wanted to satisfy a "need" for clear understanding first. It prevented me from moving forward with certain opportunities.

This realisation of yours this week is huge. Kudos.