I have done some difficult things since becoming a pastor. I told someone I could not be their pastor, I let some people go who could not support me being a pastor due to my gender, I buried people I cared deeply for, I spoke unpopular truths.
The hardest things have come recently. I said goodbye and then have had to wait to say hello. As I sit here, in a beautiful guesthouse, away from everything, I am grateful to my bones for the provision. And I am also anxious. My heart wanted nothing more than to be called to remain and settle. But God said, “not yet.” I would not have gone through the pain of another good-bye were I not called forward- and yet, I sit.
It feels hard to just sit. Recently, my dad, Ole, and I were sharing the feelings of being “do-ers” in a world where we our value is based on ability to “do.” Both of us have so many “projects” waiting for us. He is sidelined by chemo, I am sidelined by contracts waiting to be signed. Neither of us want to be sitting still when there is so much we could be accomplishing.
He brought up the pandemic and wondered about the Israelites being left to “sit” in the desert for a time (40 years) in order to learn something and he wondered what we might learn globally in this pandemic time. Together, we wondered what we are each to learn in our personal time of stillness.
I was reminded of when I was turning 9; I refused. I was angry and sullen for days. Finally, breaking down and crying, I told my mom why: “I have wasted my life and had nothing to show for it, how could I possibly turn 9 and not have done anything to make the world a better place yet?”
This last week a prophet in my life (@polyglotevangel on twitter) called out the need to soul search, to confess sin, and seek forgiveness and mercy from God. Francisco named the level of willingness of many white people to betray a person of color when it came down to it; a sin where we will sell out the “other” for our own security.
The same day, I began reading Mary Magdalene Revealed (about the lost gospel of Mary Magdalene). Author Meggan Watterson wrote this:
“Sin in Mary’s gospel is not about a long list of moral or religious laws, it’s not about wrong action. Sin is simply forgetting the truth and reality of the soul- and then acting from that forgetful state. The body then, the human body, isn’t innately sinful. “Sin” is when we believe we are only this body, these insatiable needs, these desires and fears the ego conjures.”
Suddenly, I felt my time of waiting had purpose. My memories of turning 9 and conversation with my dad all coalesced into understanding. Francisco’s truth and pain and Mary Magdalene’s grasp of sin as a cutting off of the soul all made sense.
I have time and space to look in my soul and see myself for who I am, to see my value, my belovedness and that is has nothing to do with what I “do” or how much I have done. My sin against my siblings begins with my inability to see myself as precious and worthy even when, or especially when I simply sit and take space.
My sin is in failing to see my own soul, and thus theirs.
My forgiveness begins with seeing and knowing the truth of humanity as beautiful, precious humans who need first to be seen. How can I see them if I am caught up in hiding from myself?
Remember the Israelites? They didn’t want to see themselves either. They just wanted to get where they were going so they could “do” and prove their worth again. Being valued by what we do and provide to the world is a colonized and privileged concept. The truth of being valued- just plain valued- is a God-system. When we free ourselves from worldly value systems, we might be able to finally overcome the greatest sins of our time.
It starts with undoing our corsets and bindings- to look at ourselves honestly and see our soul and the then remembering that first truth: We are God created. Then, choosing to see and value the same in others.
We will never do that when we are busy “doing.” We have to stop or be stopped to be still enough to let the bindings fall.
Seminary was a time of great undoing for me. I pray this time is another great un-doing for me- that I will see who my soul is, and know the truth of who I am created in the image of again. And I pray, that out of that, I will see you all the more clearly.