“My insides are turned inside out;
specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
I shudder from head to foot.
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
“wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.
This isn’t the neighborhood bully
mocking me—I could take that.
This isn’t a foreign devil spitting
invective—I could tune that out.
It’s you! We grew up together!
You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.
And this, my best friend, betrayed his best friends;
his life betrayed his word.
All my life I’ve been charmed by his speech,
never dreaming he’d turn on me.
His words, which were music to my ears,
turned to daggers in my heart.
Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
topple into ruin.”
– Psalm 55: 4-8, 12-14, 20-21, 22-23, MSG
He opens the service with something he has to say. I just read the bulletin and I’m a little disappointed, because it’s Mother’s Day and I wish we would be celebrating grandmothers, mothers, women who long for children and women who don’t. Women who mother as teachers or as police officers. Women who mother churches. Celebrating those kind of saints.
Instead he starts off the service with a word on the same-sex marriage bill that passed the house last week.
And I drop my head because it sounds like an incoming train and I feel like I’m stuck to the tracks. From my chest to my throat to my eyes, I am busted up. I am entering into an anxiety attack and I know it. I know what’s coming. I hear him start with the disclaimer- that I matter to God… but then it is like I don’t matter to God. Like I hate truth. Like I don’t belong here.
I’m alarmed when the crowd claps at the punchline and suddenly this megachurch compresses to a closet. I look over at my mom. She is fidgeting. Her head is tilted forward and her eyes are brimming with tears. I lean over and whisper, “I have to go.” I slip down the row and blow past the greeter. I throw open the doors until I am almost outside where there is Air. And it’s then that I hear my sister chasing me. She’s throwing her arms around me, holding me up because I can’t hold myself anymore. I’m still short of breath. I still feel that knife twisting in my gut. And then I see my mom marching out behind us.
“Let’s just go.”
We spin fast out of the lot and we turn the music up loud. We let ourselves cry and we let ourselves vent. We throw down the windows, feeling the warm sunlight and highway breeze on our arms. We let ourselves run. We let ourselves flee.
But a part of us dies too. A part of us remembers that even in the arms of our brothers and sisters in Christ we are not guaranteed goodness. We are not guaranteed love. Protection. Comfort. Christ doesn’t always speak from the pulpit.
Later on that night, my brother’s girlfriend told me a story she heard from Beth Moore.
Beth went camping in an RV with her husband. One night, she couldn’t sleep very well and it was because the RV was rocking side to side. The next day they discovered that the reason for the rocking was because a BEAR was beneath their RV. So, naturally, Beth was beside herself.
At a picnic table, she sat traumatized when her husband approached her and pointed toward the hummingbirds flying in and out of nearby trees. He told her to look because she loves hummingbirds. Look at them and fall in love all over again.
“I am… a friend to the birds,” she replied.
And in that beautiful bliss of a moment, the hummingbirds attacked her. They pecked at her face and her blouse, which was apparently Rosy red, like the flower.
Anyhow, Beth went on to say that she expected to be attacked by the bear, not the birds. The same way she expects the world to hurt her, but not Christians. Yet, in both instances, expectations did not align with reality.
I think on Sunday afternoon, I could’ve written this psalm.
Later that evening, I left the house because I knew just how close I was to leaving this faith altogether. My relationship to it had started to feel like an abusive one, one that left me battered and broken and I had enough.
I left my house because there was this new church starting their first Sunday in Uptown. It’s led by Jay Bakker, one of my favorite Christian leaders ever. He talked about people like me, how we are welcome there, how we are loved there, how we are celebrated there, and it wasn’t in spite of our sexuality, but because of it. And it wasn’t in spite of the Bible, but because of it. Because of that agape love. Because of that Jesus guy.
He held up the communion bread and it was dyed in a rainbow. He said this is in remembrance of Jesus and, because of the changing winds in our state, this is in remembrance of every LGBTQ person that had taken their life because they believed everyone else hated them. For those that never knew how crazy Jesus is about them.
And I started thinking about how my sister and my mom walked out of that church with me. And how my brother called me when I was crying and praying beside the lake. And how his girlfriend told me Beth’s story and then leaned in close, smiling when she said, “tomorrow, with that vote, everything will change.” And how I went to that church and I told Jay Bakker that I have never felt so loved and accepted inside a Christian community as I had that night.
Yes, like David feeling the weight of his betrayal, I felt the weight of mine on Sunday morning. Running out of that church was like fleeing from a swarm of bees. All the clapping. All the indifference. All the faux love.
But, sometimes, God delivers us out so we can sprint smack dab into Him. His followers have hurt me, yes, but the God who is good, the God who saves me, the God who says- Father is too informal, call me your Abba, pulls me in close and fills up all those empty places with his deep, day-and-night, everlasting love.
And it’s more than enough.
God is good, guys.
God is so good.
~ ~ ~
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