I was asked the other day to think about the things that matter to me the most, the things I am passionate about, and those things that bring me joy. I am at a crossroads and seeking how to hear God in new ways and to uncover where he is leading me next. My mind went from what I do and what brings me joy to what really gets under my skin that I have been ignoring out of a fear that I will once again be rejected for what God is putting on my heart. So here I go with phase one of my journey of discovering where God and I will be walking next.
What Gets My Goat
– or those issues I see around me in a church setting, in religious discussion, and inflicted upon people I love and care about. They break down into four key issues of imparity or inequality. Race/immigration, age, gender, and marital status. Places where I have seen, and in some cases experienced, discrimination against someone because they are from outside my culture, older or younger, male, female, part of the LGBTQ community, and unmarried persons–be that never married, widowed, or especially divorced. I have walked through all of these areas as a senior citizen, a mother and friend, and as someone married, divorced, and widowed. I have sat with people living through the pain inflicted upon them by people at work, so-called well-intentioned friends, and religious communities. Unfortunately, their stories are painful and seldom filled with the love and joy that Jesus wished for us and commanded us to offer. The “church” can do better – we can love better, we can stand stronger as allies, we can follow Jesus and enter into places that seem so unholy and care better.
I can do better.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 20
We say we love all people equally regardless of their skin color, country of origin, religious belief or non-belief, marital status, gender, economic status, or educational background. Yet we look at skin tones and cultural backgrounds and assume their inferiority because of our own backgrounds; sometimes referred to as “privilege.” We pre-judge without taking the time to know the people and their stories. We belittle people in the service industry; the one pushing the broom, working the register, or serving our meals, without considering how hard they are working and the sacrifice they may be making. We yell at people when their accent is strong and hard to understand, never knowing if in their home country they were a lawyer or a doctor, now without a career.
We speak of our superior enlightenment because of where we worship and ridicule those who don’t act out their faith as we think they should. We post the latest social injustice phrase or like them on social media, but our actions don’t always match the words and sometime the empty words are daggers into the hearts of those we claim to want to love….want to love?
These days we talk a great deal about protecting the elderly or infirm while we also complain about safety measures we should take to do just that. We are outraged by the lack of proper care in nursing homes or senior living quarters as we post mimes and pictures that make fun of the elderly and their physical difficulties. We herald the young and their innovative imaginations and disregard the wisdom and experiences of older persons among us. We say we want to hear from them and then complain about the annoyance of their phone calls or their lack of understanding that things have changed, without helping them understand modern advances or the reason for the change. We belittle their lack of tech savvy and become frustrated or laugh at them when they actually want to learn so they can continue to contribute. We pray for their health while secretly wishing they would just get out of the way so that the younger, hipper, smarter new generation can get on with things. We turn the other cheek as we shake our head at the next upcoming generation full of desire for change and a peaceful coexistence, forgetting that we too marched to end the war, for civil rights, and women’s rights with just as much passion. They too will make a difference in the end.
We have told young women to be like men to get ahead and have told young men to be softer more emotional like women. And then we wonder why some have come to realize that they feel more comfortable living their lives as the gender of their hearts and not the biology of their bodies. We say we love all people and surely all are welcome because after all we “hate the sin and love the sinner.” We put them right in their place – greater are your sins than mine. It’s just one excuse for why we can ignore LGBTQ persons when they do show up as we roll our eyes in disgust and talk about them later. We shake our heads and pretend to pray for their deliverance, thinking how they have abandoned God and thereby God must surely have abandoned them. Be in our midst just don’t try to actually participate in the church or feel that you truly belong. There are places for people like you – but if you will change, then we will put you in front of the church and make a symbol out of what a great job we have done for you.
We purse up our lips at the older single (past 40 is it today?) woman as we evaluate her worth as having long-since expired. We smile nicely while inwardly fearing she is going to steal our husbands or make our lives seem drab. We hug her and say she is “just like family” and then forget to invite her into family. We smile and nod at the confirmed bachelor as a man married to his job, his ministry, or just settled into an open life of living alone. We invite him along with us, always looking for that perfect match—never too old is he. We bring the unmarried, divorced, and widowed into community and then plan most social events for couples and families. We treat them as second class citizens – good enough to help but not to lead without a partner. We all know that two are better than one. That is unless no one else has time or has volunteered because, well you know – they have family obligations and singles have open schedules.
It’s a lot. I know. I have to sort through it all myself. I have to ask where is God in all of this and now that he has made me notice all this imparity – what does he want me to do? How do I take this lament and turn it into something purposeful and life-giving? What new water will I be treading in the months ahead?
I know I want to love better. I know I don’t want to judge people. I know I want to get to know people who are unlike me better and to encourage people who feel the same way about these issues. I want to do whatever it is God is asking me to do, even if it means I won’t be where I am today, that friends may turn against me, or I find myself walking a pathway I never imagined before. God has a way of doing that with me – he heals me, he enlightens me, and then he moves me into something that was so far off the radar that I never saw it coming.
I’m ready for wherever God is taking me.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
The story continues here.