Confession time, bless me Father for I have sinned, again. There are times when I don’t know if it would be more appropriate to laugh at myself or cry over the mistakes I still make. Maybe this disclosure is part both.
Sometimes when I hike, I listen to podcasts and one of my favorites when I need a God-pick-me-up is Joyce Meyer. Her plain talk is easy to relate to and I can so identify with her admission of her own flaws, sins and failures. I listened to one a few weeks back as she related a story about her clumsy, mistake-making pre-teen daughter. She had broken some things carelessly and then lost a prescription medicine. Money was tight, Joyce was irritated and made an off-handed comment, “I’ll make you pay for this.” Next morning, Joyce awoke to a simple note and $12 on the counter. The daughter had paid for her mistakes with her small money stash. And what was Joyce teaching on that very day? Grace, of course.
Early Monday morning, I released my blog site with the story about the interaction with Scott Lively In a week long e mail exchange of over 10,000 words, I had managed to maintain a respectful attitude towards one of the most known anti-gay activists in the world. Good on me, yeah, good on me. That very day, in an online interaction with someone, I broke several of my own rules of engagement. I know how to stay calm and talk about difficult topics. Hey, I had teenagers! I do know how to listen respectfully, ask questions, repeat back what I hear, validate what someone is expressing, try to assess quickly their history with the subject and make them feel heard. Most of the time.
A friend, Randy, has posted on Facebook a video showing some of my views and story that had just been released by Craig Spinks on his website “Recycling Your Faith”. A person posted a pretty nasty comment about gays, “gay Christians are an oxymoron”, go back in the closet we’d be better of without you input. I broke just about all my own rules and got snarky, but in a nice snarky way. I assumed he was believer and actually do hold believers to higher standards than others. Well . . . he was not. His next post passed my in space (because I was busy letting he see how much smarter than him I am and that took time) and he announced he was not a Christian.
And did I back up right then and try to find out why he disliked gays so intently? Oh. No. I told him that he may not be comfortable on this planet with my GLBT friends, but they would be in heaven and he would not. Okay, are you cringing with me yet? Now, in a natural sense, he deserved my comments and more. He was had the classic “real man” “the world would be better off without you” approach. But, I am supposed to be the Jesus-example. The one who can love the unlovely. The one who calls others to love the “unlovely” that I love. I failed.
His brother, and my friend, Randy, sent me a note titled “what the heck?” Oops. He told me a piece of the back story that I never bothered to get or even wait for and also let me know he expected me to apologize. Which I did. I did it in more than three words; I did the whole correct process and took full responsibility and promised that if he cared to engage me ever again, “I would leave my knives and guns at home and bring cupcakes.”
And then I went for a hike (yes, I do a lot of that) and felt awful for potentially giving a person yet another reason of assurance that we Christians are asses. I did to him precisely what I do not want others to do to people I love or even me. Don’t judge me; don’t impose your story on them/me; do at least a modicum of relationship before you give people a list of ought-tos. I let God know that indeed, and yet again, I did see the irony. Here, I had engaged “the devil himself” in Scott Lively and remained the model communicator and took a nose dive on just another detractor. A person that God happens to love, Jesus died for and I was to treat with value. I got it. In this very difficult place of engaging the church hot button topic, I need to be aware in every engagement that this is God’s beloved and I am a reflection of Him. Big weight and doable when I remember, that is is never me that is to do this. It is Him in me. When I do me in me, I fail.
Part way up the trail that evening, I laid it down off to the side of the path and kept moving forward. I wanted to tell someone besides God that I messed up. Someone that would understand, not let me off the hook so quickly and also encourage me. The phone rang and it was sweet Bill, the soul connection in Texas. He was calling to say goodnight. Bill did just what I did need. He gets this tough journey. He has lead an outreach to the homeless in Austin, Texas for over 8 years. He deals with people who call the people he loves bums, outcasts, worthless and losers. He also faces people who do not express gratitude for the amazing grace and gifts he extends. He gets pushed too and he too, for the most part, reflects back Jesus. Actually, he does it better than I do.
The next day, I was talking to my friend and fellow straight advocate, Mark Tidd of Highlands Community Church, Denver, CO. I was telling him about engaging Scott Lively and then “just a guy” and losing it. He sent me this piece from a church newsletter he had just written about reacting to criticism:
But on this particular day when I was told this particular concern, I was less than brilliant. If there are 6 steps to hearing concerns or criticism in the right way, I did them all wrong and got some ugly on me. I was a textbook reactionary. Instead of 1) actively listening, 2) asking questions, 3) seeking understanding, 4) clarifying assumptions, 5) discerning what parts of a corrective comment may be right and helpful and 6) being grateful for the chance to grow since “iron sharpens iron.”, I just reacted.
Reacting is a lot faster than remembering all those steps and being concerned about what the other person is saying. By reacting, I was able to quickly assess that 1) the person was wrong, 2) they haven’t been listening to what I’ve been saying week in and out, 3) they ought to just be profoundly grateful there even is a church like Highlands 4) who made them the boss of me 5) I have more important things to be thinking about so they should just get over it and if not 6) don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. Reacting is not unlike the sick pleasure of feeling sorry for yourself, which, as I pointed out in a message a couple months ago is like wetting your pants in the winter; it’s a very warm feeling for a very short amount of time. I apologized to our wonderful staff and I apologize now to whomever the person is who cares enough about our church to say something. And I thank God that through the forgiveness of our sins which we receive through Christ alone, all our ugly can be washed away.
See why I like Mark Tidd? By the way, if you need a good church home in Denver that is open and affirming, check out Highlands Church.
So, I am not there, wherever there is. I get better all the time because I follow the right leader and I keep myself accountable to good people. I was born in New York City and have an underlying ability to sass. It gets embedded at NYers at birth. But, over twenty five years ago, something else got embedded in me and I am trying to let Him come out more and more. Off to hike again and listen. The dogs and I benefit from these feet-on-path sessions.