Set a goal so big that you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can. –author unknown–
Yesterday I heard the horrific news of the young woman in Lincoln, Nebraska who was brutally attacked in her home, this past weekend. Two men broke into her home, tied her up in the basement (where they had spray-painted horrible, frightening messages), carved sexual epithets on her face and body, and tried to set her house on fire. She is still alive. The woman is a lesbian and it was immediately declared to be a hate-crime. Reports say that more than 500 people attended a candlelight vigil that night in Lincoln.
The news of this story seems to have gotten lost in the midst of telling about another horrifying act of violence that happened this weekend in Aurora, Colorado. And if that wasn’t enough to cover up what happened in Lincoln, the NCAA’s decision on how to punish Penn State University for it’s horrifying act of violence in negligence is taking up lots and lots of air time.
All three of the these stories are ones that I can barely stomach enough to hear. What happened in Aurora is simply incredible. It has rightly raised the question of gun control legislation and I hope it raises the crisis in our mental health care system. It was completely random evil.
What happened in Lincoln and Penn State unsettle my heart and take hold of my mind. I feel a little queasy thinking about it because it gnaws at my conscience so painfully. I wonder how often I am guilty of negligence and cowardice towards hate, violence, evil. I hate conflict. I don’t like scary movies. I am a big scaredy-cat about a whole lot of things. But, I think I’m ready to get brave. Actually, I don’t think I, or any of us, can afford being anything but more courageous than we know ourselves to be.
Rob and I attend a progressive Presbyterian church called McKinley. Every single Sunday the pastor stands up and welcomes us all to worship and then makes a special welcome to all who identify as LGBT or Questioning, making it very clear that all are more than welcome, all are part of this community. This is not common in churches. Many churches will post in their bulletin if they are “Reconciling In Christ” or “More Light” congregations, the (ELCA) Lutheran and (PCUSA) Presbyterian churches way of designating a church that has voted to be publicly “gay friendly”. But, I can’t imagine that there are many that go so far as to start out with that welcome every single Sunday. Most churches or pastors might not do it because they don’t want to rock the boat; knowing that there are a wide range of opinions sitting in their pews. As someone who used to stand in the pulpit week after week, I can understand how nauseating it can get when the boat is constantly rocking. It is exhausting and can make me lose my nerve altogether.
But, when I think about what message I want our daughter Dinah to hear, week after week; I want her to hear this one, that ALL are welcome. I want it to be said out loud and not just understood by a kind, compassionate demeanor, and an appearance of progressive Christianity. When I think about the possibility and probability of a young teenager who knows they are gay but petrified to say it and feeling completely isolated from God; the welcome has to be said out LOUD. Or the possibility and probability of a parent who is struggling to accept that their child just came out; the welcome needs to be said out LOUD.
McKinley Church’s commitment to such faithful, Christ-like love in community inspires me to get brave, put on my big girl pants and start living my faith out loud too. This means (for example) not just leaving the table when someone starts telling a wretched and offensive joke, story, whatever (about a wide variety of topics!). I am going to sit on my hands and Speak The Heck Up, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. This seems like such a weak and childish lesson to learn, but seriously, I need to relearn it again and again.
And then there’s Joe Paterno. And thousands of others like him who have turned a blind eye to something they know is wrong or at least have a suspicion that something is not right. This is far from unique to Penn State. This happens in churches, in schools, in politics, in families. I am guilty of ignoring and not speaking up about things I knew were wrong, just hoping that they would go away or self-implode.
It takes a whole lot of bravery to name evil when you see it so close. That is no small thing. But, I don’t think we have another option anymore. Enough.
It is for just such a time that I really need my yoga practice. Faith-filled bravery is not just going to organically grow in me like the hair on my head. I know that I have to make a commitment to seek it, expand it, and live it out loud every day. The way I know how to help it grow in me is through yoga. It’s how I get grounded, go in deep, clear my head, loosen the grip of my fears & insecurities, and trust that God will fill my spirit with all the love, wisdom, and courage I need. All that is what I know to be prayer.
So, it’s to my yoga mat for me.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.