Going with a sung poem tonight (what some folks call a “song”): “Forgiveness,” by one of my favorite Texas artists, Patty Griffin. I’ve included both the lyrics and a video, so you can hear her singing.
It’s been an interesting week. I’ll hope to write more in-depth soon (and want to keep “Poem Sunday” primarily focused on the poems), but I’ve been reminded this week of how important forgiveness is – not the cosmic notion of forgiveness (which I’ll address at some point later, I’m sure), but the kind of forgiveness that happens between people who have acted out of their hurt and have inflicted pain on others. I’ll call it “on the ground” forgiveness (which I do believe is possible because of the Holy Spirit, so in that sense it is cosmic; but, I’ll hope you get what I’m talking about).
Just yesterday, 75% of the church that raised me voted to leave the PC(USA), in response to the denomination changing its ordination standards, and opening the door for the ordination of LGBT people. For those who may be reading this and who are not Presbyterian, I won’t get into all of the specifics, but I will say that it didn’t obligate people to ordain (or back the ordination) of LGBT people, but it did make it possible for queer folks to get ordained. The place where I learned that I was loved unconditionally, where I began to learn about what “church” is, does not see my sense of call as valid. It has been an ugly fight (as things like this always are), and lots of people have been deeply wounded by things that have been said. It’s been easier for me to deal with because I’m a couple thousand miles away. It is the most frustrating when I think about my mom, and my in-laws, who had to look some of their closest friends in the eye as those friends said all of the things one expects to be said in debates of this nature. It burns me up on some level, to be honest; on another, it just makes me sad to think about the ways we allow our theology to come out sideways on other people. As frustrating as it may be, I realize that I cannot let myself get lost in that frustration – it’s just too heavy. I think about my ethics professor talking about the ways hatred kills not only the hated, but also the hater. Love is at times so much harder than hate, but I am more and more convinced every day that it is also stronger.
My path also crossed this week with someone I knew a long time ago – a friend from a time when we were both younger, much more frightened versions of ourselves. We were nominally friends, and spent a lot of time together; but we were not very kind to one another. A lot of this unkindness stemmed from the fact that both of us were terrified of who we were at the time, of being gay and living in a place where neither our theology nor our geography allowed us to live fully into ourselves. Anyway, after our initial re-connection e-mail, we exchanged a couple of more in-depth messages, trying to get re-aquainted in a way. I was taken particularly with one thing she said – about how much better we could have been for one another if we’d not been working so hard just to get out of bed every day. I started thinking about how much more energy we’d had to give out and receive kindness if we’d felt safe enough to be ourselves. As I was mid-way through writing my second e-mail to my friend, I stopped and realized that, before anything else, I needed to know that we had forgiven one another. There was simply too much hurt in our history to try and keep carrying it around. The weight that was lifted in both receiving and giving that forgiveness was profound enough that it has allowed the possibility for trust to come in. I’m grateful for that reminder today.