Back Into The Wilderness

Last week was spring break. I, per the usual had a huge list of things I was hoping to get done. Mostly, all I did was nap. I slept for hours every day, getting very little done and being too exhausted to care. I wondered to my therapist and my friends if it was depression. I don’t think it is depression. I think it is grief. And not just grief but a familiar one.

My friend asks me how spring break was and I tell her I did little more than sleep. She tells me she is glad. She tells me that sleep is how the brain processes trauma. I am reminded how hard the last few weeks have been, and how I am working through a thing I have worked through before. In some ways this is good. I have done this thing, this kind of grieving so I know I can do it again. In some ways this is awful. I did not think this was a thing I would ever have to face again.

My husband was given a book once “They like Jesus but not the church.” I don’t know if we still have it. I do know we haven’t spoken to the book giver in years. Sometimes I wish I could be like the person in the title. I love Jesus, and I love the church. I think I always have, but sometimes I don’t much like the latter. Even when it is hard and painful and messy, even when we are busy disappointing each other, I still love the church. I don’t know how to do life without the church.

If you go back through my archives (please don’t, practice may not make perfect but it does make me a better writer) you can watch as I slowly back away, and then finally turn and run from an evangelical church that it was time to go from. I remember telling God I did not have the energy for church shopping, and God had BETTER give me a sign. That week Eastside Church put out their sign, Creative, Historic, Inclusive. That was all I needed. We were welcomed with open arms, I was affirmed in my gifts repeatedly, invited to preach, and then called from that church into the one I pastor now.

I know that most people in my generation do it, but I can’t imagine my life without a church. Even if I am all too familiar with the church breaking your heart. I left evangelicalism because as I grew and changed there wasn’t space for me anymore. Wasn’t space for a woman called to preach or a person convinced her LGBTQ friends weren’t sinning just for being whole. I was broken hearted by a church excited by my gifts but asking me to tuck parts of myself away as to not be so divisive And then, it happened again. The UMC voted (however closely) to exclude LGBTQ clergy and punish those of us who are affirming. The logical part of me knows that those who are telling me to wait for the judicial council, for the 2020 General Conference are the cooler heads that should prevail. But I am just. so. sad.

I showed up into the big tent called Methodism because it seemed like there was so much room. Room for my more conservative family who I still deeply respect in religious matters, my own growing liberal leanings, and my LGBTQ friends. I discovered that there was not enough room. I was faced with the reality that I yet again built a home in a place that my not want to welcome all of me, that there are those looking to make this tent much smaller.

I don’t know what is going to happen with the UMC. I am still faithfully pursuing ordination because I believe it is what I am called to do. But I am back in the wilderness again, the space where I am seeking and crying out. The space where I am depending on God for water, and manna, and my next right step. I only can go a little bit at a time and it all looks unfamiliar, and familiar simultaneously. It is the wilderness, yes. But I have been here before.

Last week I preached on the temptation of Jesus. I noticed, for the first time, that the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. I think sometimes the Holy Spirit leads us into the wilderness too. Not because we are bad, or wrong or need corrected, not because we have strayed from God, but simply because it is time. It is time for us to go into the wilderness once again.

After all, in the wilderness we re-discover God.