When Your Spiritual Home No Longer Feels Safe

I was raised in what remains one of the most conservative and problematic denominations in the United States…the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). If you didn’t already know, the SBC formed when some (mostly southern) baptist churches wanted to uphold the practice of slavery and other (predominantly northern) baptist churches didn’t. Specifically, the southern churches thought slaveholders could serve as missionaries and the northern churches did not. The denomination literally was founded on the basis of racism and the SBC didn’t renounce or apologize for their views on slavery and segregation until 1995. That wasn’t a typo. 1995.

During my own college years, not all that long ago, when I was on staff at a Southern Baptist church hoping to be a force for good, another staff member sat in a meeting and told a room full of people that our church “wasn’t ready for black people”. Everyone mostly nodded in agreement. Not a single person challenged the idea. I am so ashamed. I had already started to unravel at that point, having stood witness to many instances of sexism, racism, and homophobia. The faith I had grown up in, the place where all my closest relationships had been formed, where I met my husband….it felt like a house of cards falling in on itself. It felt so unsafe, especially for the people I loved dearly who were not white heterosexual and cis gender. There’s a saying about sausage that I find myself often sharing in relation to organized religion. If you like sausage, don’t learn how it’s made. If you like church, don’t learn how it’s made. Once you see behind the curtain, once you are forced to confront your beloved denomination’s ugliest parts, it is impossible to unsee it. I could no longer reconcile what I knew of Jesus and what my church proclaimed to be with their actions. It’s an unraveling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, an unraveling that honestly more than a decade later I am still wrestling with.

With the news coming down about the United Methodist Church maintaining its ban on same-sex marriage and refusing to ordain LGBTQIA+ clergy, my heart aches for those who are entering their own season of reckoning. The process of realizing that you can no longer affiliate yourself with an organization that claims love, but acts with hate is a grief that weighs heavy on your soul. Rarely is it an easy decision. I bet your church is full of people you love dearly, even if you disagree about some things. Your church probably holds some of your dearest memories. If you’ve been lucky enough to forge a community, your church is likely central to your identity and your social life. You may suddenly feel like maybe you don’t know your church at all. You’ll likely find yourself questioning everything….if this one thing is not what it seems, what else is astray? It’s possible you’ll start pulling that thread of doubt and the whole thing will unravel. You’ve probably long held out hope about what your church could be and suddenly it seems like maybe it will never be that thing. It’s all so ridiculously hard.

I realize that leaving isn’t the only choice or always the right choice. Staying and fighting for better is valid and good and hard in its own way. For the people who stay and fight, I am so grateful. For the people who need to walk away or take a break in the name of emotional safety, I understand your grief and hold you in the light. And I will always hold out hope for a day when denominations, including the one that I held dear for so many years, recognize their failure to love people well and then do everything in their power to make it right.

We can do better. We must do better.

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Choosing to See Miracles: Faith in the Face of Uncertainty

I'm not sure that I believe in the traditional idea of God. It's tough for me to imagine a God in the sky, willing to send his precious children to hell when they fail to accept His gift of grace. I'm not exactly sure what I believe these days. It's hard to put into words and ever-evolving. There are principles and teachings from many faiths that ring true to me, and many traditions that I am "unlearning", but there is one thing that keeps me coming back to the traditional Christian understanding of God and that's the sense that almost everything is a miracle. We rarely take the time to slow down and recognize this truth, but it's one that speaks deeply to me.

The first and most basic miracle that trips me out every time I think about it is the fact that I am alive. Do you know how many things have to go right for a baby to be born? There are so many systems that have to be working just right for an egg to even be fertilized. And then to carry a baby to term is a miracle all it's own. At least 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and that's probably a gross underestimate because many pregnancies end long before a woman even knows she's pregnant. And then there's the birth process. What a mess and how many things can go wrong in those harrowing hours of bringing a child into the world. And now as a mom myself, I think of all the potential accidents that can happen throughout a childhood. I've managed to stay alive for thirty years. The systems in my body keep doing their job every day. I've somehow avoided a fatal accident. So many things have had to go right for me to wake up this morning...things far beyond what I can explain. 

The other miracle I think about often is the miracle of my marriage. Literally generations of people had to make certain precise decisions for Dustin and I to end up together. Who they married, where they moved, jobs they took, children they had...it all led to me finding him. We don't often think about how the seemingly small decisions we make today will impact the generations following us, but they do. My parents each individually decided to enlist in the Marine Corps and the universe aligned for them to be stationed in the same place, in the same platoon. They decided to fall in love and get married. They decided to raise me in Louisiana near my dad's family. They chose to raise me in a certain faith tradition and church and Dustin's parents decided to move to our church in a pivotal moment in their children's lives. And all of those decisions, and thousands of others before that, had to happen for us to ever cross paths. What if they had made different choices? On that spring break when I came home from Boston, Dustin decided to come hang out at my house with mutual friends. What if I had decided to go somewhere else for spring break? What if he had decided to stay home that night? What if I had never decided to move back to Louisiana? I just can't explain how all these things aligned for us to end up together, but they did and there's no doubt in my mind that we were meant to be. It is bigger than a choice we made, it was destined. 

And the list really goes on and on. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying "There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle" and I find that there are miracles happening all around me every single day- some big and many impossibly small. My life is not perfect, but all around me there is magic that I can't explain, that science can't explain, that I have a hard time believing is just random chance. So I choose to see miracles and that gives me hope that there is a God working in mysterious ways, a God worth praising and seeking, a God worth coming back to over and over again despite my doubts, questions, and disbelief. 

 

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A Liturgy for the Sacred Mundane

For the morning sun that peeks through the window, 
And the smell of freshly ground coffee. 
For the sleepy faces of children as we wake them and for partners who tell us that we are loved, 
For the mornings without alarms, 
but also for the mornings we are rushing to ensure that everyone gets out the door fully clothed,
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the smell of fresh cut grass and the colors of spring, 
But also for the restorative rains and the cool breeze of autumn. 
For the feeling of a knowing look, 
For friends who intuit just how to take care of us when life is hard,
But also for that brief moment at the end of a hard season where you feel like you can really breathe again, 
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the sound of a loved one’s keys in the front door after time apart, 
For the smell of cookies baking in the oven, 
And chips and salsa on a patio. 
For the way dogs greet us as if this moment is the best thing that’s ever happened to them, 
But also for still, quiet, purring cats.
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks.

For toilet paper and air conditioning and for the bounty after a grocery run, 
For dark chocolate and hot baths, 
For fresh sheets and the smell of lavender, 
For evenings by the fire with a good glass of wine, 
But also for evenings with cheap beer and belly laughs,
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

For the sting of the cold night air, 
And the immensity of the universe, 
For our brief moments of being, 
And for the simple beauty we stand witness to every single day, 
For all these sacred mundane things, we give thanks. 

 

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