Today’s guest post is brought to you by Sally Evans. Sally is currently on a journey of reconciliation in Louisville, Kentucky where she works in prevention education at the University of Louisville. She also dabbles in voice over work, writing, music, and calligraphy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sally finds the natural world a continual source of inspiration and grace, and here she shares reflections on how Lent and Easter can be helpful reflections on reconciliation, as we turn towards Holy Week.
While at Natural Bridge State Park recently, I paused at the base of the stone bridge where tall slabs of rock closed in on both sides of the trail, leaving only a slender path. I stood there, with immovable rock rising on either side, and thought about what it was like to move through the world flanked with the identities of gay and Christian.
Many of us can relate to the ongoing shimmy between conflicting dualities, bracing ourselves between God and church, partner and family, Republican and Democrat, true self and Facebook self. This agonizing schism began for me several years ago when, as a spunky youth pastor in a small congregation, I wrestled with this confusing ‘connection’ with the same sex, resulting in a life altering realization that gay and Christian could not coexist. This led to years of jumping from one “side” to the other, the tension between these worlds intimidating. For a long time I ran from exploring this tension out of fear, settling in on one wall or the other. Either I was tucked away at a Bible College in my knee length skirt surrounded by ‘answers’ or I was immersed in the local LGBT Center coming out group of acceptance and unflinching tolerance. Either I was in an ex-gay community or I was the ‘out’ hall director at the state college. Either I was white-knuckling no contact with my girlfriend or we were living together. Author Sue Monk Kidd describes the result of this pattern in When The Heart Waits, saying,
“Before long we have an entire hidden orphanage inside of us—a group of lost and alienated parts that we’ve banished.”
How long can we ignore these voices? These parts of ourselves that ache to be reconciled? Eventually a perilous and often cynical gap can grow between our faith and sexuality. In addition to our personal discord, the divisive nature of this issue in the world around us is inescapable. Almost daily the media informs us of protests between Christian groups and the gay community, policies passed then appealed, victories for one side that are losses for the other. Depending on the news source we may hear of the same bill described as anti-gay or as a religious freedom bill, and friends post passionate links to reinforce their position.
And there we stand, voices rising on either side of the path.
The season of Lent is traditionally a time for repentance and reflection on matters such as these, for embracing the dissonance between who we are and who we are called to be, what to let go of and what to grow into, even the natural world is in a seasonal limbo between winter and spring. It is another divine invitation to go beyond where we are. What if this holy dark was an essential part of growth? What if this cocoon could transform these broken places into freedom and beauty? If we let it, I believe this suffering can work to ‘easter’ in us a new experience of expanded life and love.
And isn’t Easter all about reconciling opposite worlds? The act of Christ’s death was designed to bring together God and humankind, heaven and earth, Jew and Gentile, sinful self with our true image of God. God’s desire is for us is to move toward wholeness and healing, ultimately uniting those parts of us that live in this tension. Ephesians 2: 14-17 (NRSV) reminds us,
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”
I believe all this, yet it is so hard to sit with the questions. Sometimes I cannot see much change. I am not sure what exactly to hope for. It still feels like the middle of winter.
As you continue on this journey of Lent, I challenge you to wait in the darkness where these tensions live, try to reconnect with those lost parts or yourself, and be open to the life and reconciliation that only a resurrected God can give. As spring unfolds around you this season, take heart in the transformation of earth and trees, even if all you can manage is a broken hallelujah at the moment. Jesus too was closed in by immovable rock, a waiting room of darkness. I take heart that he did not stay in that place. I take heart that his transformation was not due to his own tireless efforts. I take heart that he emerged.
And so will we.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~WHAT ABOUT YOU?~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What increases your hope in the ‘between a rock and a hard place’ moments?
*This post is co-published at the Heidi’s Patheos blog, Questianity.