Walking in to Authenticity, Part 2. Freedom in Faith.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The dog park is a pretty fascinating place to hang.  Man, the stories.
I could write a book on the lives of others I've picked up along the way.
What simply began as a place I would take my dog to run free, has at times, become a place I hear lifelong list's of ailments (of the humans AND the dogs,) their breed's, ages, personality quirks and where I've continued to discover how much people just want to talk.  Just want to shareCrave connection and acceptance and just want to be seen and heard.

I sat on the bench across from this older man, late 60's maybe?  He was bundled up on a cold, September morning in a fleece jacket and ball cap.  His dog wasn't even there.  He had just stopped in to say hello to my friend I was with.  Come to find he's actually a neighbor, a relatively "positive" guy despite the hardships he's endured, most recently losing his wife of 30+ years to cancer.  I'm genuinely interested in talking with him and getting to know him and hearing his story.

He seems sweet and kind, sincerely curious about my life as well.
He's a great listener.  Scratching his thick beard and puffing on a pipe, sensitive to my friends' and my comfort with the smoke billowing forth in to our faces.  "Would you ladies mind if I smoked this here?"  We both shook our heads, "Nah.  It's fine.  Go ahead."  (Although I did mind.  I hate smoke.)

But I like him.  We could be friends.  He seems wise and nurturing.  The widowed dad of a son not much younger than us, working a job that has him on the road five days a week, helping him to move on after heartbreaking loss.

And then he says this.  "You gals, I was here the other day.  This queer was here with his dog."  He laughed.  "You shoulda' seen him.  Prancing around on his tip toes. . .man, he was so light in the loafers.  You shoulda' seen it!"  He chuckled heartily at his renditionTook a pull off his pipe.  A man careful about where he smoked, but seemingly unconcerned with the offensiveness of such a comment, if THAT would upset us. 
Totally unaware how this added zero value or significance to the "polite" conversation we were having otherwise.  It was like being slapped across the face.   
I thought, "Why?  Why.  Why did you have to say that."

A completely horrific, bigoted and unnecessary remark.  And although language like this still exists in our world, although we've heard so much of this kind of talk in recent days, the sting of anti-gay rhetoric like this never nor should ever, be accepted or tolerated.

My heart sank.  I felt a rage bubbling within, but it was drowned instantly by sadness and disappointment.  I weakly replied, 
"Well?  He is probably really happy to be who he is."  
I didn't even know this man.  He just got done telling us about what it's been like with his wife gone and his adult son moving back in with him.  In that moment, I held my tongue.  I didn't feel like I could or SHOULD completely lose my shit on him.  But my response in defense of the gay man he spoke of was so lame.  And I left that morning feeling I hadn't done my part.  Hadn't done any good.  Hadn't defended this gay man who unknowingly STILL falls prey to judgment, non-acceptance, ignorance and hatred.

I know now nothing I could've said would've changed the old man or enlightened him in any wayHe no doubt has a LIFETIME of conditioning, convictions, judgments, hatred from his OWN pain built up in and around him that I could never permeate.

But I don't know how to stand alongside people like this, with love and acceptance.
How do you do that?  
How do you respect someone who believes in such deeply, debilitating prejudices?
And doesn't view human life the same way you do?
No, really.  I genuinely want to know.  How do you love and accept someone who's destructive opinions and belief's you don't RESPECT? 

Although I didn't have the courage to stand up to this stranger in that moment, who in a few crude remarks spoke against everything I believe in, I knew from that point on, I would NOT settle for anything less than our highest capacity of our human consciousness, to love, embrace and defend ALL walks of life completely, without question.

That I HAVE to require more of myself, my friends, my family and my faith.  I know there may not be a whole lot I can do to change the minds of people that feel this way, even harder for me at the moment, to love even THIS guy for his beliefs, but I CAN love and accept with even MORE intensity, those who have been cast aside, told they need to be "saved" or forgiven in order to be loved by God or seen as the whole, beautiful soul they already are.  To continue to contribute to allowing, inspiring and igniting the TRUE SELF of our fellow humans to be revealed and shared and to shine through.  No less than that.

I love what John Shelby Spong says.
"WE can either follow Christ or maintain our prejudices.  There can be no compromise.  A church unified in prejudice cannot possibly be the body of Christ.  Any prejudice based on who a person is, his or her very being as a child of God, cannot be a part of the church's life."  Whether from the church we grew up in or the family that raised us, we NEED to require more.


ALL WHOLE, as we are.

despite the differences in our physical forms, our sexual preferences, our behaviors, personalities and pain.
So we CANNOT continue to allow this type of language, judgment or separation to exist in our presence. 

I realized that clearly, I'm also judging this man for sharing his own pain and disillusionment (albeit, in a destructive way,) some of which is probably not his fault.  Maybe it was how he was brought up, what HE was made to believe, was told was the TRUTH.  I know any anger I feel towards him or frustrations towards establishments that still hold strong to their beliefs, is pointlessThe shifts and changes required to live in a more loving, compassionate, accepting presence?  Will have to come from within their OWN hearts.

When I step in to the Catholic church today, much like the one I was raised in, I still observe it's architecture with the awe and wonder of a child.  The strong, faith-filled communities that have been built within and around it, the idea of God and Jesus at its center.  I revel in its undeniable beauty, size and design.  We send our kids to Catholic school, as I CRAVE for them to have SOME foundation in faith.  To know God and the stories of the life of Jesus.  

But, as John Shelby-Spong shares, "Ultimately, the resurrection is a call to Universalism.  Go to all the world, go beyond the boundaries of your fears.  Go to those you have defined as unclean, unworthy, unsaved, uncircumsized and unbaptized.  Go to those you have reduced to being in the object of your prejudices.  Go to those who are different.  Go to the rejected of the world and teach them what I have taught you, namely that God IS LOVE and that love embraces all that God has made, that love has no boundaries, that love rejects no one and that love is the essence of the gospel.  The Great Commission was never meant to be a charge to us to convert the heathen, as it has so often been interpreted to be.  It was and is a call to see everyone as living inside the love of God."

To EXPLORE a faith-filled life with curiosity, deep questioning, never settling on what is portrayed to them as the ONLY truth and to recognize the divine being and beautiful inner voice they possess already.  To know that if they love and see others as inherently HOLY beings, they will see themselves as the same.

This current struggle for me, like most, does not come without pain and heartbreak.  Frustration and despair.  I am still FULL of confusion and questionsBut on the tails of our human suffering I've learned always comes an even greater invitation to live in a more expansive and inclusive way in the world.  An (initially) uncomfortable stretching and opening of our hearts and minds to go beyond what we think or have been told is truth.    
To be uprooted again and again, so we can grow.  
To lose our faith over and over, so we can find it again.

(And truly, if you have suggestions, ideas, your OWN truths that you think might be helpful on how you continue to love and be with people whose opinions and beliefs are so opposite your own, do share.  If you can't leave a comment here (sometimes tricky,) just email me at ewesterhaus@gmail.com or leave me a note on FB.  LOVE to hear others' thoughts on this struggle.)


Unknown said...

Nice blog !!!
thanks for sharing
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