Guest Post: Take what you love and leave the rest ….The deception beyond the perception
By Melissa Malcolm King
What does it mean to be a saint? To be perfected? To be like God? To truly love others without condition?
Often times in our quest for holiness, we lose sight of the reason for our worship. We become so consumed with the desire to look righteous that we forget that it is an action not an attitude.
I have witnessed well -meaning, kind hearted and devoted members of the church express sentiments that attempt to justify prejudice, bias, racism, homophobia, and more. The perception is that they are simply trying to live a Christlike existence. The deception is that their actions speak louder – the language of hate, condemnation and persecution.
Christ’s Mission went beyond the miracles he performed or the lessons he taught. What made him the Savior to the world was his ability to not only minister but to love unconditionally. He associated with people who were cast out of society and deemed less than human. The society in Jesus time felt more compelled to show their worship of God by playing the “who is more worthy” game.
This worthiness game divides people into categories: those who are chosen to follow Christ, and those who are not. It places importance on those who appear to have outwardly have made commitments to be saints and condemns those who do not. It enforces the ideal that our worth is a good as our product. Not only is this thinking false, it is devoid of love, acceptance of ourselves and others. It builds walls where bridges should be. It tears apart families and breaks down society. These attitudes and actions take the good news of the Gospel and turn it into elite society for cis-gender white folks.
Jesus himself said “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Yet in our meetinghouses, people are stoned with ignorance and injustice. Members stand in holy places yet create thorny paths for others. The solution is simple: If you claim to be a follower of Christ, follow him. Do not follow half-way. Do not follow in the shadows. Do not follow in silence. Do not let others dictate how you should feel or act when others are treated with injustice. Follow him.
Jesus left the 99 to find the one. I believe that this story goes beyond teaching us about missionary work and bringing more souls to the flock. I think the bigger message was that even though the sheep didn’t follow the pack, it was still wanted, loved and had a place with the flock. I think our call is much the same. In this case, to leave our comfort zone of loving the 99, and embrace the one. That person may be someone who doesn’t fit into the “Mormon Mold” like single mothers, People of color, the LGBT+ community, friends and family of other faiths, and those who do not believe in a higher power at all.
To begin this process, we must be willing to look within ourselves and accept our feelings about ourselves and others, good, bad, and indifferent. We have to rewrite the messages we have been given and stand up against hate in all forms.
To illustrate this, here are examples of the messages I have received throughout the years and what can be done to correct the course:
“Take what you love and leave the rest/Put it on the shelf and walk away”
When a marginalized group expresses pain, shame and /or sorrow we are often asked to pick out the best and leave behind the rest. I should not have to leave anything behind or endure the burden of inequality. Just like you, I should be free to enjoy all that the gospel has to offer with no strings attached. Along these lines, I was often told that the gospel is not a buffet line where we cannot pick or choose. In essence, we are welcome to the entire feast and the blessings. Why should I have to leave mine by the way-side and be satisfied with table scraps?
“If you had enough faith ,you would be willing to accept what is being taught”
Faith is an action. It requires doing something without knowing all the facts or the outcome. Faith is an individual process of connection, love, and the ability to go beyond ourselves to serve others. Regardless of my religious affiliation, I have to right to bask in my faithfulness. I do not have to accept what I know is wrong to demonstrate my faithfulness to man. I do not have to bow down and comply with any standard that makes me feel unsafe. My Faith is sacred and my own. It it is not up to you or anyone else to dictate how I should develop my faith or what it should look like. Faith is not about how I follow the teachings and principles that tell me I am less-than, not wanted, or that my life role is a narrow submissive one. Don’t believe me? Have a little faith.
“You must have not kept the commandments for that to happen to you.
If only your testimony was strong enough”
The God I serve is just, loyal, kind, compassionate, and loves me unconditionally. Our willingness to follow commandments and principles, or to make promises does not mean we are devoid of pain and sorrow. Just as you would not accuse a person with cancer of making themselves sick, it is impossible that a lack of devotion would cause more strife in a person’s life. The God I serve knows that heart of each person and would not want them to take on more than they can bear. The God I serve would not chastise a person for not accepting a calling, staying home on a Sunday to rest, or say no when asked to provide a meal last minute. We are called to serve, not to entangle ourselves in a web of despair. Our worship should not weigh us down, make us feel guilty or make us feel we are not doing enough. Otherwise, It becomes a millstone around our necks and deflates our souls. The God I serve wants the best for me as their child and doesn’t add to my turmoil, but lifts me up.
“When you sin, it’s just another a mark on your pegboard, you are like this chewed up piece gum, you are like a dented can.”
As a survivor of sexual child abuse and rape as teenager, I was raised believing I was sinner. I now know that the above analogies are wrong, but I still carry the scars with me today. I have to come to hold these 2 principles in my heart : When people choose to hurt and/or abuse there is nothing that we did or could have done to prevent it. We are not suddenly separated from God, cast aside or worthless . We are beautiful people who need healing spaces, therapy, and to regain the voice we lost in our trauma. We must remember we were born great – simply because we were born. It is as simple as that. We make mistakes so that we can learn and grow from them. We make mistakes in order to process the world around us. Making mistakes does not make us broken. It makes us human. It gives us the power to create new things and explore uncharted territories. The God I serve made me to have mistakes and loves me just as I am. I am not expendable, I am priceless and no matter what I do, the God I serve loves me even still.
“When will you______________________? You need to start work on______________.”
In the church walls, people often focus on the next step inside of focusing on the here and now. They get the privilege of only hearing or experiencing a mere page or two of a person’s life. These folks do not ever get to read the full story or even a chapter, yet they feel they can decide what the next best step is for others. When will you have kids? You need to start working on that family. When are you putting your papers? When are you going to start working on finding that eternal companion? You need to work on becoming a mother instead of focusing on school. The list goes on and on and on and on. No one should live a checklist life nor should they impose their expectations on others. You should be grateful that a person feels welcome and wants to be part of the flock. Our focus should be how we can love, support and give a voice to the voiceless. Please do not attempt to rewrite a story you have never gotten the privilege to read or experience. Please stand with me even if means others will stand against you. Let love enter where judgements exists. Please do not dilute my life into a meaningless checklist nor do the same with yours. Let love in. Let it begin with you.
“I could love you only if _______ I could only accept you when___________.”
Unconditional love comes when two parties cast aside personal basis, self-doubt and persuasions of others. Unconditional love includes allowing others space and time to be their best authentic self. At times, we are so engrossed and entangled in what we feel is devotion that we forgot the reason we became devoted in the first place. Find a way to let love in and let the rest work itself out. Unconditional Love is a process that takes place within. That said, let us not forget to nurture and love ourselves first. To do so is not selfish or self-centered, it is an act of humanity. It is impossible to have someone over for dinner if we have not eaten for days. Likewise, it is imperative that we love ourselves before unconditional love can happen with others.
May your pathway to discipleship be paved with unconditionally love and the desire to leave the 99 and serve the one. Take a moment, a minute, days if you need, and decide what you can do personally to rewrite the scripts you have been given. I have found that the greatest thing about life is that we can continually recommit ourselves to do better and to find a better way. We can strive to do so much more than just standing idly by. Will you do something more than walk with me? Hold me up when the ground is too painful to stand on and I will do the same for you. I believe that the most Christ-like thing we can do is to carry each other when cannot go any further. In my perspective, the footprint in the sand story includes each of us holding ourselves up following Christ down the sand. Let the journey begin and let it begin with you.