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.