Psalm 55- Betrayed

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) feeding on the nectar of a Desert Figwort (Scrophularia desertorum), New Mexico

“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.

 

RR

 

~ ~ ~

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  • j&j

    Beautiful…we love youRR!

    J&J

    • registeredrunaway

      I love you too guys. 🙂

  • 10,000 laker

    I kinda want to smack the preacher that speaks policital-ness in the pulpit, glad you left the service.

    You are deeply loved, RR.

    -another 10,000 laker

    • registeredrunaway

      Thank you very much. AND happy to have another 10,000 laker here!

  • Ford1968

    I’m always astounded when church people say “we accept gay people unconditionally as children of God” and then add “unless they live their lives authentically and decide their relationships are equal…those people need to make themselves right with God”. And I really love it when they tack on “I’m just speaking the truth in love”. Terrific. Thanks for setting me straight.

    • registeredrunaway

      Oh, and I forgot to add, that he cited Jesus in this line and he said that THIS was how you speak the TRUTH in love. He said while his church follows the truth other “churches” have abandoned the truth. Yep, just like that.

  • What a beautiful and gracious post! (I love the hummingbird story.)

    I had a similar experience lately, and I blogged about it, too. A pastor from my old Southern Baptist church (the church I grew up in) was preaching through Mark; he was at Mark 16:17, and he took some time out during the message to condemn same-sex marriage. I looked down at my Bible, saw nothing about marriage, to say nothing of same-sex marriage, and sat there stunned that this issue came up, seemingly out of nowhere.

    When pastors preach an agenda instead of what is actually in the Word, I don’t take that so well. I’m glad that God is above and better than that.

    • registeredrunaway

      some folks can’t resist throwing out the red meat. It’s too easy and it works well to get the troops fired up and the plates filled to the brim. Ugh.

      ALSO- Big round of applause coming to you from me for meeting with your pastor! Amazing step of grace, something I still don’t know if I could do. Bravo! I’d love to hear how it went.

      • Well since you asked :^) We had a 50-minute talk, so I’ll sum it up.

        I began by informing him that I’ve been good at keeping secrets most of my life, but I have no intention whatsoever of doing so anymore. I intend to be respectful but truthful. I told my pastor-friend that I had converted to Anglicanism, which was kind of a big deal for me, given his Southern Baptist upbringing (mine as well). I was really nervous to tell him that, but he really didn’t seem to care. Funny how I worried over that.

        I then let him know how my fear and shame of being gay led to my acting out badly last year (for which I got into some trouble — long story — it’s on my site if anyone cares to dig deeper). I told him I reject reparative drive therapy (or gay conversion therapy), and am troubled by ministries like Focus on the Family who promote it; and then came the biggie.

        I told him that preaching “homosexuality is an abomination” from the pulpit is not helpful whatsoever to the LGBTQ community. The Holy Spirit reaches people through the grace of the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17), not condemning “abomination” sermons. If a pastor is going to preach that homosexuality is a sin, from his perspective, then he needs to follow up that message with the grace and redemption that is found solely in Christ.

        To my astonishment he agreed — he actually agreed with every point I brought up, and admitted that he himself needs to alter his language concerning homosexuality (I could actually detect a “light bulb” coming on above him as we spoke on this very subject). He agreed about the Spirit of God using the gospel, not condemnation; that conversion therapy is bunk; and that gay people do not need the extra burden of fear and shame, leading to cognitive distortions, ill feelings, and misbehavior. I was dumbfounded. Thank God. For all the horror stories out there, I at least have one good story to tell.

        Be blessed.

        • registeredrunaway

          William- See this is what makes someone’s day.

          Had you not taken that step of courage and spoken with your pastor that little light bulb that went off, may never have. In other words, you’re a kingdom builder. So proud of you for your honesty, humility and grace in meeting with someone who had hurt you. Seriously. That is incredible and something to totally praise God over because he planted that on your soul.

          Thank you for making all of our roads a little bit smoother. 🙂

          God bless you friend!

  • BTW, I have a meeting with that pastor this morning. I’m going to see if things have the potential for change.

  • “God delivers us out so we can sprint smack dab into Him.” So glad you had that experience! God is good, and He works, in spite of Christians sometimes. (Maybe many times?) There is a powerful connection between your experiences, your words, and the Psalm this week. Thank you for sharing your hurts and your perspective on this one. It adds a great richness to the discussion to hear from someone who relates.

  • survivorgirl007@gmail.com

    RR,

    This makes me want to hug you. God bless your sister – AND your mom. Those two are authentic Christ-followers who reached out to heal the “wolf bite” you received in church.

    Two days ago I began reading “When God’s People Let You Down” by Jeff VanVonderen because of my own struggles to want to stay in organized religion after suffering clergy abuse. He writes that, while each of us is ‘a letter of Christ’ (2 Cor. 3:2), for many people, relationships with other Christians have been the LEAST accepting, MOST performance-based, MOST damaging relationships in their lives. He goes on to write that “real unity includes mutual respect, mutual support, mutual encouragement in growth, mutual tolerance and mutual help in weakness.” Yet, as we’ve experienced, the Body of Christ is way, way, way off the mark.

    I’m so sorry for your pain. 🙁

    • registeredrunaway

      Survivor Girl I have missed your comments, so glad to see you here today!

      I put that book on my Nook “wish list” (e-reader slang, but basically setting it aside to read sometime soon.) I am so sorry to hear that you have suffered clergy abuse. That is so wrong.

      It can be so off the mark. It can be like a fire that burns you slow, which is another way to put what Sunday morning felt like. But then when I went to that new church, it’s like God drew me there. He hadn’t forgotten me. I needed to know that. And I felt it in my bones.

      Thank you, as always, for your love and support SG! I want to hug you too!

  • RR- oh my goodness. I can’t imagine how painful that is. I cringe whenever someone in my church brings up anything LGBT-related (especially the term “the definition of marriage”)… there have been times in Sunday School I wanted to say, “okay, before you say anything about gay people, let’s pretend I’m gay- and I’m afraid to tell people here at church- and I’m listening to this discussion… because our church is big, probability says there are some gay people in this church. So let’s just imagine I’m gay and I love God and that’s why I come to church, just like you- and whatever you say about LGBT issues is going to tell me whether I’m really welcome at this church or not. Okay, go ahead and say what you were going to say.”

    • registeredrunaway

      perfectnumber628- This is why we need you! After I read your reflection today, I think I became one of your biggest fans. You sort of summed up so many of my own feelings, but coming from a different walk of life. Reaching that religious disillusionment is tough, but finding God makes it worth it.

      You truly truly truly understand what it means to stand up for others. I am so thankful that people like you exist!

  • Carmen

    You and your writing are beautiful. So glad to have found your site.

    • registeredrunaway

      Thank you Carmen!

  • Estes Sharp

    Omg… This means so much!! I’m baffled right now. I can’t believe how this explained every detail of that dooming feeling of hearing a preacher beat you up inside and out and never know the damage he’s done. This fits that feeling to a T. I’m so scared of the lives that feeling ruines. I’m so afraid to even mention God around some LGBT for this very reason. So scared to say the word, “church”. There’s only one way to fix this. We need to preach Gods Love without words. Sometimes I wish I was straight so I could be that “outsider” pulling people in completely unbiast. Just to show them it can be done. I love this… Definitely going to share!

    • registeredrunaway

      Thank you so much Estes! You said it perfectly, showing Gods Love without words- through hugs, handshakes, through big grand gestures because, after all, the God we love doesn’t say he loves us in a whisper. He sacrifices himself on our behalf. Thank you again!

  • Scott

    I have a question, could you attend a church that has the stance that homosexuality is a sin? I realize there are churches with that stance that are not loving at all but I would also contend that there are churches with that stance that are as loving as any.

    • registeredrunaway

      Yes, absolutely. My brother is a pastor at that kind of church. They hold the traditional view but promote dialogue with those that hold a different one. I’ve had many wonderful experiences there.

      Having said that, with the season I’m in right now, I’ve realized that I need a church where I can be confident that I won’t leave hurt and isolated. If i dont have that, then i cant concentrate, im held back by my involuntary inner defense. More than anything it just gets in the way of my relationship with God.

      Good question! Thank you.

  • Wow. Love this. The Beth Moore story is such a powerful image. Sometimes hurt can come from the places we least expect it to. But when it comes down to it, Jesus is all about love, and THAT is something we can find peace in, when the rest are turning their backs.

    • registeredrunaway

      I know! The Beth Moore story I thought perfectly reminded us that even those that run in our circles can turn on us, make us feel less than. But Jesus doesn’t. He shows up like he did that night and in all the conversations I’ve had since. Thank you for stopping by here again Abby!!

  • arthur ramsey

    I’m not sure why Mark 10:6 is ignored or overlooked. This verse and this verse alone is what has molded the way I feel about the issue of marriage.

    I can’t and won’t speak to whether homosexuality is or was a sin, though it doesn’t seem to be held in very high regard in any portion of the Bible.

    If someone lives their life a certain way and can still maintain a closeness with God, a relationship with God; who am I to say different? I only know that when I justified my own sin, I felt completely shut out by God and His presence.

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  • I am very straight but have never understood biases against homosexuality. God is Love. How can Love be wrong?

    The idea of the rainbow Communion bread made me cry. That’s so perfect–and it’s so tragic that anyone feels so horribly unloved, let alone thousands of people, let alone feeling unloved BECAUSE YOU LOVE the “wrong” kind of person.

    I just found your blog through Faith Permeating Life, and I am so glad to read your story. Your pastor was very unChristian to you and to your mom, but you’ve got the strength to move on and a great family supporting you!

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