54/366 - First day of Lent
I lived in a fairly progressive city for 20-some years and now we've lived in tiny town for six years. The difference between the city and tiny town is measured in only a few miles, but socially they are world's apart. I was thinking about this the other day when I met a friend for breakfast at a cafe near downtown and we were seated next to a table of gay couples. The people next to us didn't do anything to draw attention to themselves, just sat eating breakfast like any other group of friends, but I have been a long time now in tiny town and I'd almost forgotten that there are places in the world where people live their lives openly and without concern.
It was something of an epiphany for me, that simple moment of sharing the same space, because I'd been thinking through ideas on sexuality and the Church, reading and wondering, wrestling through Scriptures and really trying to shake off old paradigms without losing myself completely outside of orthodoxy. These kinds of things twist me up, you know. Other people's answers never satisfy. I am a protest-ant in my very DNA and I'm sorry, I'm truly sorry, but 2000 years of Church tradition is not enough for me...I still have to ask the questions.
Tucked away in tiny town, where gay people - and black people and hispanics and PETA members, for that matter - are nearly invisible, I'd allowed myself to get locked in a world of ideas, forgetting that the questions have faces, names and souls, the same as me.
Last week at home we were discussing a line from Dante's Purgatory. (Canto IX) Dante and Virgil are speaking with the Angel who guards the gate to Purgatory. The Angel holds the gate's keys in his hands and says:
"From Peter I have them; and he bade me err
Rather in opening than in keeping shut,
If people but fall down before my feet."
He bade me err rather in opening than in keeping shut...
Coming home from my restaurant encounter, I had to ask myself if I haven't been approaching this all wrong, thinking with my inadequate head, lost in Greek words and cultural context and queries about potential damage to a society already reeking from corruption. Because regardless of where I live, there are no people - not the gay ones or the religious ones or the adulterous ones or the broken ones - who are invisible to Jesus. None of us are simply a question to be answered with a yes or no. None of us an issue to be solved. And thank GOD, He doesn't make us clean up or change our clothes or our identities before He welcomes us into His arms. Knowing that God welcomes first, is enough to keep my tiny brain busy for the rest of eternity. It makes me wonder what would happen if I started acting more like a door-greeter to the Kingdom of God (Welcome! Come on in!) and less like the security guard.
Lent has arrived in a whip of winter wind and rain. I'll read through the Gospels again over the next weeks, watching how Love responded when He was here among us. I'll fast from the questions of who should be allowed in and how they should be cleaned up and focus my attention on the Love that pursues. And I'm going to fast from fretting over it all. And if in the end, I find that I have erred? I've already decided: it's going to be on the side of mercy over judgement.