Rector's Blog: Following Love, Finding Transformation
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I have been married for almost 14 years. I didn’t get married because I wanted to change. I didn’t get married because I wanted to become a different kind of person. I got married because I loved this woman named Krista and I wanted to be around her as much as possible. That, and I come from a tradition that says when you find someone you want to be around as much as possible, you probably should marry them. So I got married. It will not surprise you to hear that marriage has changed me a lot in the intervening years. It doesn’t matter that that was not my goal. My goal was to follow love. Transformation happened.
Sometime in my 20’s I became religious again. I didn’t do that because I wanted to change. I became religious because I realized I believed in Jesus and I wanted to understand what that meant. I figured I couldn’t do that all by myself. I was going to have to share my faith with some kind of community for it to make sense. I wasn’t trying to become a better person or anything. I became religious out of a desire to follow love. Transformation happened.
This week marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Lent is usually used as a time to take stock of where we are as Christians, to be honest about where we fall short of the love for which we were made, and to recognize God’s faithfulness to us even when we aren’t willing or able to return the favor.
At the Church of the Redeemer, we are entering into our fourth year of an initiative called Becoming Beloved Community. Becoming Beloved Community is the Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial justice, healing, and reconciliation. We at Church of the Redeemer joined in on this commitment during Lent 4 years ago. While we seek to hold to this commitment all year long, we give it special focus during Lent. Honestly, it still feels very new. Four years in, and we are still right at the beginning of this work as a church.
And that makes sense. Redeemer is over 110 years old and we have been composed mostly of White people for the entirety of our existence. It’s going to take us some time to process that, to understand how that came to be, and to get a clear picture of what it looks like for us as a church composed mostly of White people to work for racial justice, healing, and reconciliation. We can still feel ourselves get defensive when we hear the terms White supremacy, systemic racism, or White privilege. How did your body feel when you read those words? How does your body feel when it seems as if you’re being connected to those words whether you want to be or not? This is what we’re still working on. We still have no idea what this work will do to our church, to our neighborhood, to each of us individually, to our hearts and souls in the long run.
This is big work and it can get overwhelming. I have no words that can change that. But I offer this up: If I had entered into my marriage thinking of only how marriage would change me, it would have been incredibly overwhelming. Same for becoming religious. Come to think of it, of all of the things I’ve done that really changed me, it wasn’t the promise of change that nudged me out the door and into a new reality: Every single time it was the pursuit of love. Loving Krista, loving God, loving my family, loving my vocation, loving myself and my dreams – I was not trying to be a better person. I was trying to follow love, and transformation happened. Unless it’s a diet or a gym membership, we don’t usually go into something hoping we will have to change. We commit to things that will transform us when we are drawn towards them despite the work involved: when we feel a sense of love and excitement.
So it goes for the Church, I think. We exist for Love. It’s why we are here. If we think only of how we’re going to need to change, Becoming Beloved Community may seem an overwhelming, exhausting, even impossible venture. But what if we follow the love? What if I were to tell you that you haven’t even met all the people you’re going to love yet? That you haven’t even met all the people who are going to love you. The Whiteness of our experience of Christianity up to this point has actually limited us, keeping us from entering into relationships of love and care with people who are different from us. And the commitment to Becoming Beloved Community is a commitment to open our hearts in practical ways, such that we get to love and be loved by people who were once strangers and others, and will soon be our siblings. This is what God has in store for us, for me, for you.
Will it change us? Will it require something of us? Well, when has Love ever just left us alone?
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