I didn’t want to go to an affirming church.
I hated the idea of it. The Bride of Christ being chopped up, segregated, set to Safe and Not, Black and White, Lutheran and Episcopalian- all of it. I hated the idea that there are places where my friends and my family feel most welcome, but I, on the other hand, am most certainly not.
And even though my caring circle had told me of this church and that church and the whole color wheel of churches waiting with arms ready to hug me out of the cold- I stayed squarely put, strong in my stubbornness. Willing to stay as long as it took for them to love me like Jesus does.
And there are craters now, deep ones, along my strip of church life and they are there because I stayed. They’re real and they’re significant, but like any wound, I believed that in time they would heal and scar over and make me stronger. So stubbornly, again, I stuck to my ground and waited for that spiritual wave to lift me up like it was doing for everyone else in the pews. I waited for my bitterness to break and disintegrate into joy.
But what I didn’t know was that church wounds, like old aches and pains, can flare up. They can, for example, come strutting to the front your mind and stretch the hour long sermon into one big warped picture pressed against your eyes, one in which every flaw and hint of offense can be traced by a fingertip’s touch. They can divide you, distract you, infuriate you to the point where you are clutching to the pew lest you launch into the air like a heat seeking missile.
Warped or not, there is truth inside that distorted perception. My craters, after all, have fingerprints.
I’ve been falling in and out of the craters for many years and if you saw me now, you might call me jaded and I might say you’re right. I might say the whole thing has soured me to the point where I run at the faint aroma of fundamentalism. Yet, at the very bottom of my heart, there’s a longing that looks past the grudges and hurt. A longing to hear God again.
Because I can’t hear Him when I feel alien, alone, uninvited to the party. I can’t hear Him because I was wounded too many times and now, all I see are misplaced motives and suspect eyes. I can’t hear him when the walk of faith ahead is full of barricade after barricade thwarting my every step.
I had two moments of epiphany within the same week. The first was an about-face to my long-held belief that I didn’t actually need church because my faith is organic and good and my own. Which is easy to say until you try to remember the last time you prayed with friends. Until you try to remember the last time you prayed at all. That’s when I saw my own spiritual dilapidated state.
The second came on the drive home of that godawful sermon on Mother’s Day morning, which I won’t dwell on, but I will say that in that runaway car I realized I had been trying to cure something that wasn’t going to take. The conservative Christian community is not friendly to me right now and I can’t keep pretending that it’s only my own broken perception.
And in the end, my jadedness and bitterness and longing organized themselves into a crystal clear option. If I wanted to follow Christ, if I wanted a boundless and beautiful love affair with my creator and redeemer… I had to leave the Non-Affirming Church.
And so I did.
At Revolution Minneapolis, the theatre is a small room inside a big flashy bar and when the entry door opens, the music and clanking glass blares in loud like a gust of wind. Jay sits beneath a line of lights and talks about inclusion, talks about Peter’s embrace of Cornelius, and talks about how it is time for our Church to love our lesbian gay bisexual and transgender Jesus-loving brothers and sisters. And for a split second, I swear my heart sprang forward a little.
And maybe this is when a choice becomes the best choice. When I find that affirming does not mean reserved judgment, but swaddled up and squeezed. When even as the music and bar howling opens fire through the door, I feel more at peace. I feel myself center. I find I can pray fluidly and recklessly and dotingly. I can look up at my path and see it open, clear, inviting me to fling myself forward in a blitz.
There’s something to this Affirmation. Something sacred and so much more than being a sexual minority. It is naturally unconditional with it’s fierce love. Where your skepticism was once deemed deviant, here it is remarked as inspiring because too many out there aren’t wrestling with God. And when you come in dragging bitter drenched boots, there’s a server with a glass of PBR and a penny for your thoughts and a good pastor ready to talk after the hour’s up.
And it’s like the way Jesus is- how there is nothing that is too much, nothing too outcast, no jadedness too lost to make anyone love you any less. To make anyone use the word heretic or radical or godless. To make anyone shove you out.
It’s a medium. It’s a blitz into the deep blue. It’s some peace and quiet and finally feeling yourself pressed into the neck of God.
And more than anything, it is long overdue.