With broken hearts and bending knees
I remember the first time I re-encountered Jesus, coming to the New Testament with my heart in shreds, wondering if there was any god in the universe that could take the pain I was feeling and turn it into holiness. It was in those dark months of postpartum depression combined with the pain of seeing the sexism and exclusion that had underscored my entire life in Mormonism–previously unnoticed but now so blatantly, cruelly before me. It was at a time when I hoped for something Divine, something larger than myself and the people around me, but at a time when my hope was waning and my faith tattered. And yet, there was Jesus, as perfect as before but for markedly different reasons.
This Jesus was the underdog who defied the religious, cultural and political leaders of his day, never cruel but never relenting. This Jesus defended the prostitutes and adulteresses but repeatedly called the religious leaders to repentance, the same ones that held the stones in their hands to punish these “sinners.” The Jesus of my youth hung out with these sinners as a way to call them to repentance but the Jesus I re-encountered with fresh eyes stood with them because that was the point–we were all sinners. The difference between the sinners who dined with him and the sinners who questioned why he dined with them is that they recognized their imperfection. We were all measuring short of the Law and all in need of Grace. None of us was truly above another. This wasn’t lip service for Jesus, this was his life and mission. And this was the call he made for his followers–Preach this gospel. Bring souls to him. Let them rest.
In the days following the leak of a change in policy regarding the exclusion of children of same-sex parent(s) from full participation in the LDS church, I watched the stones come out. They were thrown by those who professed to know who the true sinners were. I’ll admit my own shame in picking up the stones near me in retaliation. Full of pain, frustration and absolute futility, I hurriedly gathered those stones and hurled them in every direction, thinking they would take my pain with them. But after the stones were thrown, the pain was still there. Still raw. Still broken. Still in need of that Balm in Gilead.
I want to write and say that I’ve found that balm, that I feel at peace. But I don’t and I doubt I will. It’s likely this policy, or whatever remnants we have of it in the future should it (likely) be changed, will always bring sadness and disappointment. I can’t change the fact that I hurt or that it feels so awful, but I can explore the edges of that pain and allow it to purify me, to supply me with that broken heart so often described as the sign of our covenant with God.
Perhaps we do not take God at his word when he says it will hurt. Ministering to those who have been the recipients of the stones of the righteous brings heartache. As we bear one another’s burdens, we have to do some actual bearing. And it might hurt. In fact, it likely will.
And so I look on that pain as holy, the sign of my covenant with God. While it doesn’t take it away, it gives it purpose. And that’s enough for now.