Thursday, March 6, 2008

Letting go

My friend Peg introduced me to the music of Peter Mayer, a local singer/songwriter, last winter. I bought his Midwinter CD so that I could learn and sing one of the songs with her at our church during Advent worship. Every track is well-crafted, and they represent many different moods and ideas. Plus the music is creative and really well done. With a nod to Art Linkletter, who said something similar on the cover of my childhood Life game, I Heartily Endorse This CD. More on that in a bit.

I've been pondering a question in recent weeks (well, years really, but the wheel has turned again and this is back at the top). The question has to do with the souls who find themselves standing at the intersection of Faithful Dogma Avenue and Fresh Justice Road. In truth, as a partnered lesbian who remains in the Church, I've made a home at that intersection. Besides which, many people I care about a great deal seem to spend the majority of their time on one or the other of those streets, and they keep crashing into one another...and sometimes, into me.

I wonder if it's possible that we might learn to live together without so many of those painful collisions.

It's my experience (at least where GLBT issues are concerned) that most of the power seems to rest in the hands of the residents of Faithful Dogma Avenue, and most of the yearning seems to live on Fresh Justice Road. Because of that (as well as my personal location as both object and observer of some of the crashing), I will confess up front that my sympathies lie mostly with the Justice crowd. I can give lots of Biblical and theological justification for that position, but that's not my purpose today...besides which, neither group is free from prejudice and bad behavior toward the other.

What interests me today is whether or not all of us can learn to loosen our grip our own personal mythologies enough to reach out to one another in faith. We cling to our respective dogmas and desires so tightly that we often miss the opportunity to connect with one another. From an ELCA Lutheran lesbian's perspective, I'm a bit weary of being considered an Issue To Be Studied. But I do understand and appreciate the need to bring the Issue to a more dispassionate, reflective place for everyone's sake. And real connection across the divide is worth whatever road we must travel to get there. Those moments of connection are so full of grace that they take my breath away. And it's possible to remember, in those moments, that we are one Body of Christ; many parts, but one Body.


I'd like to offer a simple framework by which life at the Intersection may be approached by all people of good will. I think that this is a time for all of us to step out in faith:
  • faith that God is with us always, even to the end of the age
  • faith that we don't have to be right in order to deserve the love of God or one another
  • faith that we as individuals don't have to (and usually can't) really understand the work of God, and
  • faith in one another as fellow children of God, without the need to change each other's minds or to score points off of each other...just to allow each other space and time to grow as we (and God) will; in fact, to insist upon that space and time for one another.
I understand that this is more easily said than done, BELIEVE me, but what's our alternative? If the "Dogma" gang could trust that the "Justice" gang doesn't want to dismantle the Church, the Family or their personal theologies, perhaps they could relax a bit, open a window and let the Holy Spirit into the room. Likewise, if the "Justice" crowd could recognize that there is real fear involved on the "other" side as well as our own, maybe we could keep from becoming strident.

We could all stop labeling one another.
We could all admit that disparate, equally faithful Biblical interpretations are possible.
We could all quit singing about how the Sharks or the Jets are going to have their way tonight.

If you ask me, both sides could use a healthy dose of patient humility so that power can be shared, fear quieted and the Gospel advanced. What would happen if we all stopped shouting and tried to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves?

I'm just sayin'.

What if we could learn to trust and let go of that which is non-essential, in order to return to the Gospel center of our faith? Peter Mayer must have experienced it at some point; he sings it into existence for me every time I hear "God Is a River."

In the ever-shifting water of the river of this life
I was swimming, seeking comfort; I was wrestling waves to find
a boulder I could cling to, a stone to hold me fast
where I might let the fretful water of this river 'round me pass...

and so I found an anchor, a blessed resting place
a trusty rock I called my savior, for there I would be safe
from the river and its dangers, and I proclaimed my rock divine
and I prayed to it "protect me" and the rock replied:

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids and a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage and a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer, so let go.

Still I clung to my rock tightly with conviction in my arms,
never looking at the stream to keep my mind from thoughts of harm
but the river kept on coming, kept on tugging at my legs,
'til at last my fingers faltered and I was swept away...

so I'm going with the flow now, these relentless twists and bends,
acclimating to the motion and a sense of being led
and this river's like my body now; it carries me along
through the ever-changing scenes and by the rocks that sing this song:

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids and a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage and a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer, so let go.

God is the river, swimmer.
So let go.

Peace, friends.


Namasday said...

Hi sista- I need this album! Thanks for the wonderful insights. I am blessed once again by visiting your blog. Anyway, I just wanted to make a slight alteration to your framework #2 - that we don't ever deserve the love... but we get it even though we don't deserve it. That is gospel big time for me! - Sara

Choralgirl said...

True, Sara, true--we never deserve it, but there it is. :-) What wondrous love is that?