Friday, December 13, 2013

When You're Not My Enemy

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about the healing and recovery process she's been in (the same one most of us have been on at one time or another, where we recover from whatever garbage-y messages we were saddled with as younger and more vulnerable versions of ourselves). My friend was saying what a significant thing it was to have accomplished a certain achievement--something she'd always dreamed about--but something that put her so out there, so her-own-person, living a life that is now in obvious and loud contradiction to everything she was ever told she couldn't or wouldn't or wasn't allowed to be. An achievement that asserted, Yes, I really am who I am, and who I am is not as shabby as I once believed. I'm a powerful person.

Have you ever been there? These are the moments in which the things we think and believe about ourselves in the world can rearrange themselves, where the truth we are living can get louder than the messages we cowered under for so long. (Oh, it doesn't always, but it can.) And those achievements or breakthroughs or "ah ha moments" are sometimes a little like pinnacles after long and exhausting climbs over and around all the obstacles on the path--the boulders, scraggly weeds, the heat, the altitude.

I've been In Process as a daughter, mother, writer, minister, a female minister. There were years when I spent a lot of emotional energy trying to convince myself that I was meant to do or be all those things and responding to the people who spoke against me or simply had different opinions about who I was or what my life should look like. Sometimes those people seemed like boulders, entanglements on the path. I wasn't on a mission to dislike them or fight against them, but they became like enemies simply by definition.

They were powerful and seemed scary + I felt weak and afraid = ENEMIES.

I spent a lot of time having interior dialogues with imaginary versions of my enemies--defending myself, explaining how they got my political views all wrong, my gender views upside down, and my basic constitution turned inside out. They didn't understand what I'd said over Thanksgiving dinner; they took a comment out of context; they misinterpreted a facial expression. Or: they just. didn't. like. me. I had essays in my head; sometimes I had short, sharp quips. I had a thesis defense ready against their rejection.

Like many of you, I have emerged onto a few mountain plateaus: I have a better sense of who I am and why that is a good thing. It doesn't bother me so much if I meet someone who doesn't think I should be a pastor, for instance. (Oh, it bothers me, but much less). Somehow the grace has been given for me to let my life, my tangible reality, do more of the talking about who I am and what I'm worth. I know I'm powerful, just like you are, and I can live without reacting even when knives are thrown because

you're powerful and may be unpleasant + I'm powerful and not afraid = 

Equals what? 

Jesus said, "Love your enemies. " Too often, we've equated love with quiet neutrality. But is disengaged tolerance the kind of love Jesus wants us to embrace?

Once we realize we're powerful and able to love anyone, once we think we have recovered some measure of ourselves and our true identities, once we realize we don't need to fight against anymore, is the answer really indifference and silence toward those who disagree?  Or does love bear more responsibility?

I've been musing on this and maybe you'll muse to--about love that disagrees and explores, that contends against and humanizes at the same time, that is powerful and at odds while blessing. 

I'm not afraid of you and I bless you.

What if this sentiment was behind every difficult thing we had to say to someone who doesn't see the world the same way we do? From...

I dislike your cranberry stuffing to...

I don't like it when you yell at me,

Your words are judgmental and they hurt,

I'm a woman in ministry,

I'm gay, a Muslim, an NRA member, a unitarian, a Christian,

or in the words of Mythbuster Adam Savage: "I reject your reality and substitute my own." 

I'm not afraid of you and I bless you.

It's easy for us to cling to our circles of safe people who think the way we do and talk the way we do. It's easy to let go of dialogue with those on the outside.  But when we do, we give up the privilege of engaging others in meaningful conversation about the change we want to see in the world.

I ran across a post by Sarah Cunningham today in which she speaks of the kind of bravery that goes hand in hand with powerful love.
"I must learn to hold bravery in one hand and humility in another....humility creates a better chance of being able to address hate without perpetuating it. To confront injustice without wielding more of it."
Yes, that is what I'm getting at. When we live in reaction, we often perpetuate hate. When we live defensively, we are poised to wield more injustice, more judgment, more wounding.  So, I'm asking myself--and us--what more is required now that we're not enemies?

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