It seems sometimes like the world is full of people who want us to think we’re doing it wrong. Whether IT is being a spouse, a parent, a friend, a faithful person. How we manage our money (or don’t), whether or not we order school pictures or make Pintrest creations in school lunches. Are we handling our battle with fertility in just the right way? Are we too accepting of people?
A recent Facebook
war conversation has brought this home to me, has taken me back to being about seventeen. I didn’t feel like I could ask questions, I didn’t feel like there was any room to grow other than girth-wise as headed off to get my MRS degree.
So this is why I left: (warning, not for the faint of heart)
I left because even way back then I felt like the dignity of people needed to be respected. And my own was not.
I left because it felt more like a cult or an obligation.
I left because I was forced out, because I did not fit into a very narrow box that had all this old newsprint glued to the wall in place of actual wall paper. It was like a small wooden birdhouse, built to shelter a little bird, delicate and with a trilling song. The newsprint told me who I should be.
I should be meek.
I should be quiet.
I should not presume to teach men, even my husband.
I should not pick up the gifts I had been given and do something with them.
I should be virginal.
I should only consider a man from my own church background.
I should not ask questions or visit other churches.
Even now, this old world tells me how I should be: helicopter parenting my children instead of letting them figure it out, skinnier, prettier, healthier. I could probably be a better wife, one less prone to shrewery and demands. I know I could be better in my own journey into the heart of God, I could take less smoke breaks, discuss less what other people think and what they are doing, how they are doing it; and just get on with my own work.
In this long Facebook thread it was mentioned, not by me, that at least people were watching this all go down, maybe one of them would be moved to something new. All I could think of was the people I know who are so vehemently anti-church, and how this whole thread just drove home exactly why they didn’t want anything to do with us.
It was alleged that I had just tossed aside members of my family, that I was saying I was more godly than, smarter than, anyone else.
I am not very smart. I am really good at a handful of things. And I am really good at knowing who to call when I don’t know the answer to a question.
Theological question? Call Jared.
Who sang a song and when? Casey.
What’s happening in the sports world? Dad.
Politics? My father in law.
What key is this song written in and can I sing it? John.
I am learning to be good at the bible, but only in small way. Picture me, sitting in the half light of a fall evening, wrapped in my piecework cloak, looking out over the sherbet colors of the lake permeating even my mood, making me softer, more pastel. I am reading and reading, learning about apocalyptic books, learning about wisdom books, learning about Iron Ages and Hellinistic and Roman Periods. Learning that Christianity seems to be more of an offshoot of ancient Judaism.
I am carefully cutting scriptures from my study bible and sewing them, mindful of their delicate paper, into my cloak.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night a vigil is to be kept to the Lord by all Israelites throughout the generations.
I think a lot of us left because we couldn’t stand to be stifled any longer, because we had questions that we could not ask.
I think a lot of us left because we didn’t have a choice.
I wrote about the big red door, how it beckoned to me, changed me, challenged me.
I’d invite you in.
Not specifically to the Episcopal church, but to a place where you are able to ask questions, a place where you are able to feel loved and respected. A place where you will be challenged to offer those same things to every.single.person. you encounter. Every one.
I can’t understand really, and I can see how it could be strange for some people, still being in this tradition where the Bible is divinely inspired and not a set of books chosen by a council of Catholic bishops. Learning about the history behind these books has changed them for me, made me smarter about the choices I make, the things I choose to believe or reject.
I am refilling a drawer I emptied almost a year ago.
And I am frustrated that I do not have the magical ability to make people see things my way all of the time.
And I am glad that I left when I did.
I am grateful for the very very hard growing up that I did, and for the person that I became.
I was talking to my brother, and he said usually when he was questioning theology he was still in the main stream of things.
I was not mainstream. I was fierce and sometimes wrong and sometimes naughty but always sure.
My brother had to write a letter to our Bishop recommending me to the diaconate, and he said, “When asked at which place she finds herself most drawn in the church, it is definitely more to the door than the altar. She has an acute understanding of what it means to stand outside the church, how it feels to experience God’s grace in that location and to wonder why the church won’t see you.”
I wish for that magical ability. I wish to be able to show people, in a simple Facebook message, how far I have come, like putting one’s head into a Pensieve and seeing things that one never knew existed.
I wish that the people who are on the outside will continue to see that I stand in solidarity with them, having been on the outside myself.
I will continue to hope for grace, for stained glass glory light.
To you, I wish that I could say I wish you well, but I think I’ll be waiting until I’m honestly able. … Now I’m negotiating with the fear, something’s wrong with the daylight here, and I can’t fix it.