With broken hearts and bending knees

guidanceI 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.

Amy

Mother, writer, dreamer, hopeless romantic, opera singer, reader, researcher, lover of Jesus, Mormon and a feminist. I spend my days taming toddler tantrums and kissing boo boos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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8 Responses

  1. Big L says:

    Beautiful sentiment. As awful as this has been for me individually, for so many other individuals, and mostly for us as a church, in the past few days and especially yesterday, I have witnessed some miracles in the face of it. I have seen people reaching out to each other beyond their differences, I have heard people speaking up with feelings of pain that I didn’t know they carried, and I have a lot of hope that this event will be the catalyst for a good change in the institutional church.

  2. Emily U says:

    This makes me think a line from an Ingrid Michaelson song that I love. Certainly the most profound thing I know from popular music: “All the broken hearts in the world still beat.”

    I’ve often said, this is too much. That would be too much. I couldn’t go on if… But in truth even with a broken heart I do go on. I love your idea that the pain is holy, an evidence of being bound up with God and with others.

  3. Rachel says:

    Thank you. This is lovely.

  4. Jami says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you for your thoughts, for helping to give this pain of mine a purpose.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    I love this. It is a holy pain and a gift to give because while we can’t take away the pain of exclusion, we can at least (I hope) alleviate some of the pain of isolation and loneliness. Holding you and your pain, my friend.

  6. Rob Osborn says:

    I think it is important to realize that it is the actions of sinners and corrupt lawyers and judges that have brought on this policy. We should mourn for the sinners, lawyers and judges who place children in such precarious positions, not the church. May God continue to bless and watch over our holy prophets to lead and guide us through this storm.

  7. Caroline says:

    This is beautiful, Amy. I wish I had that balm — but I too doubt I’ll ever get it.

  8. EFH says:

    Very tender words. Thank you for sharing this.

    I love your idea of seeing the pain as holy because in such situations, I tend to make pain the center of gravity for my existence. But your words have added to what I have been thinking since yesterday – that the invitation of Christ to feed those who hunger and dress those who are naked and to take care of the widower and the orphan has taken a new meaning for me. This policy will create orphans and widowers and it is our sacred calling as members of this church with very bad policies sometimes, to take care of them and protect their dignity and value as much as we can.

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