“Is that discernment or is that fear?” This has been my life-long battle of attempting to follow Christ, to know God’s heart. My fear of rejection, my desperate grasping and striving to earn approval, only to then circle back to the fear of losing it once I think I have it- this gets all enmeshed in my understanding of God and my pursuit of Jesus. Over the past six years, this fear has been exposed, sifted through, and soothed through God’s mercy. That sounds awfully abstract and fluffy, but this has been my life- one big encounter with the mercy of God. Over and over, I come to life etching myself in with pencil drawings of boundaries and boxes, longing to define rules and expectations, trying to earn what is already mine- identity, belonging, and significance. And God follows me, using a giant pink eraser to release me from the mirages of safety that I create.
“Freedom, Molly, freedom.”
My internal battle with people pleasing and my obsession with “truth” are both endeavors to make god or play god. Ultimately, I want someone to do what God has already done- declare me whole, good, loved, worthy, and valuable. If others won’t do it for me, I will do it myself. And God gets out the pink eraser again and again. No judgment. God is in it with me for the long haul. God is not surprised or disappointed by my journey to wholeness. God is not afraid of it, nor is God unwilling to do the slow, steady work of shalom in my soul.
God is love. God is patience.
My need to find truth is all wrapped up in how I view sin. Sin was this thing I had to figure out so I could barricade myself from it, because “sin separates us from God.” Holy crap! So you can lose your belonging and identity?! Sure you can be forgiven, but what about the window of time between sin and confession? That life, living in fear of sinning, is terrifying. Even though Christ has “set me free for freedom,” I spent a lot of energy developing a list of should’s and should not’s in order to protect myself (and my family) from losing their beloved-ness because of that awful phenomenon- sin. I had to know the wrong things so I could keep myself from losing the good things. This resulted in a bucket load of fear, and fear is a prison.
My fear of falling out with God and the Church led me to read my Bible very literally, picking apart every inch of it. As I mentioned in my last post, I used to ascribe to the literal interpretations of verses found in 1 Timothy 2, 1 Peter 3, and Ephesians 5, which taught women to be silent and submissive. For a decade, I believed in the philosophy of women being second-class, but I failed at it miserably. It’s hard to stay silent when God made you to be a leader, a teacher, and a pastor. I wrestled for years with what I thought the Bible was saying and what was just plain true about who I am. I lived in guilt and conflict trying to reconcile these two divergent realities. But let me tell you, when I settled in to what the Spirit was saying to my soul (“Molly, you are a pastor- be you”), a peace that cannot be explained flooded my mind and my heart. There was a greater truth than these literal texts, and that greater truth was: I am loved, I belong, I was made on purpose, just this way, for a purpose.
As I was working through this struggle, our eldest came out to our family as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Another “should not” box was now sitting across from me in my very own living room, in the form of my child whom I love more than my own life. These two journeys happened simultaneously, and I do not think that was an accident. You see, I have a strong tendency to love truth, and this glorious child has the most astounding gift of mercy. So, as I sat across from my child pounding them with doubt and “clarifying” questions, which I am sure felt like anger and rejection, this child sat patiently and mercifully waiting. For years. Like five years! Sitting through another round of mom’s questions trying to figure out the theology, trying to figure out if this was a real deal, or if this whole LGBTQ+ thing was a deception. Five years. Never a word that was unkind. Never a raised voice. Never stopped coming back home, and never cut me out of their life.
Then, this Fall the lights came on. The Whisper said, “Who here looks like Jesus?” The angry, fearful, got-to-get-this-right mama or the patient, kind, loving child? I was rocked. This child, who was “living in sin” according to a few texts in the Bible, was radiantly and steadfastly living Christ right in front of my eyes.
God, forgive me.
I wish I had been the mom that embraced my child just as they are, embraced their God-image expressed in a God-loved, God-designed, LGBTQ+ body, and raised my PRIDE flag high, but I wasn’t. I chose fear over greater truths like: love wins, God’s mercy is bigger than I can understand, and mystery is more like faith than duality and well-defined rigidity. This will be one of the greatest, if not the greatest regrets of my life. What harm I have caused. What grief. What wasted years.
This leads me to today and June 11, which is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Think of every painting of Jesus on the cross or of Jesus with his heart aflame; think about his arms. They are wide open. “Accept others as I have accepted you.” Our LGBTQ+ family are God’s beloved children, and I believe God always gets it right. God’s PRIDE flag is flying high. God’s love is for us, never against us. God sees the heart. God never gets lost in the weeds of should’s and should not’s. God is all about love. God goes to wherever the marginalized are and makes a dwelling there. And God sits across from the stubborn, stuck, and fear-driven who want to judge, to shame, and to make sure the “sinners” are not welcome- and God loves us, too. God takes the heart of stone out of the self-righteous and afraid, and with love and mercy, God replaces it with a new heart- the sacred heart of Jesus.
This is what God is doing in me. I am beyond-words grateful to my eldest who hung in there with me, and didn’t give up on the work that God was doing in me.
To my child- I love you so.