Repenting of… Keeping Love to Myself

Lent Ashes

So as a bit of a switch-up from my normal way of being a Christian, which I tend to live out and interpret in a pretty undisciplined, passionate, ever-so-slightly blasphemous, academic, theology-and-cocktails, occasionally agnostic, low-church sort of way, I decided to break out of my norm and do something that would feed whatever inner part of me is liturgy-loving and ritual-infused. Thus, I decided a month or so ago that I would like to observe Lent this year: the part of the church calendar leading up to Easter that is a time of penitence, repentance and preparation, anticipation, drama, reflection, and usually involves giving up of some sort of luxury.

Now I know I’m not the first progressive Protestant to decide to do Lent, so I’m not breaking the sound barrier here. But I wanted to do something that forced me to reflect on God, and consider how I might live and love better… and I figured, this might be a really powerful way to prepare for Easter this year, when SafeHouse Church transforms from part-time, once a month, preview gatherings to Big Kid Church, every-week, inexorable, It’s-Actually-Happening church. That’s going to be a celebration, and I want to get my heart and my head ready for it.

And so I’ve been reflecting on themes of repentance. Rarely, recently, my biggest concern… and the shocking harbinger of my first reflection on repentance is… Mary Daly.

Mary Daly with an Axe

I’ve just finished my first-ever Mary Daly book, Beyond God the Father. I don’t know how it’s taken me so long to get to her — feminist theology is something that I’ve loved, and Daly is the grandmother of all white American feminism, and possibly broader even than that. Love her or… love her less… she’s a force to be reckoned with. Just look at that axe, all ready to fuck up the patriarchy.

It took me a while to get used to her style of writing, but once I did, I fell in love with it. All sorts of capitalized Words and hyphenated re-membering of language. She believes that words have power, and that it’s important to be creative and constructive with them. Yeah, I’m not really where she’s at on a lot of her ideology (I dislike making that apologetic), and yeah, she’s a bit of an isolationist, transphobic product-of-her-times (that’s a more important apologetic)… but one of the things she went all out for was believing in and living into a Future in which unjust relationships were no more, in which women were able to unleash all of their creative genius and craftiness, and in which people really lived into love. She saw that on the horizon, and called for people to live on that horizon even if it wasn’t quite here yet.

And therein lies my first bit of repentance for the Lenten season.

Over the last few years, my view of God and the world has transformed massively. I’ve gone from being a traditional evangelical Christian who believes that the purpose of Christians in the world is to convert everybody around them so that they won’t go “die in their sins” and God send them to hell eternally to something quite different. My understanding of the character and person of God has changed into something else. I’ve come to believe, deeply, in the most essential parts of my being, that God is love, that God is the parent who will never stop pursuing Her children. That He passionately resists the evils of poverty, addiction, abuse, dishonesty, and hatred in the world (rather than having sex with your significant other before you are married, or drinking, or hanging out with people of different religions), and invites us into the exciting, dangerous work of doing the same! I believe God, a personal, present, active God, is breaking into the world from that Future that the Christian faith talks about, in which all things beautiful are kept and all people are resurrected and all good things are glorified and “God is All, and in all” (1 Cor 15). God is breaking into the world, singing creativity into our souls, screaming… begging us to halt our violences big and small, weeping for the dying, rejoicing in our victories as people who bear Her image.

This is Not the Gospel

And… I think that a community of folk who are talking about God this way is a direly important counterculture! Not only to the way not only mainstream, young, modern-worshipping Christianity is today, with their God who tells you you’re so awful and disgusting that God cannot even look at you unless Jesus covers your sins with his blood, and who talk about “conquering the Twin Cities for Jesus,” but also to much of other mainstream culture, that tells you we can’t look at you unless you cover your body with the right clothes, makeup, persona, and perfectly sculpted having-shit-together-ness. One wants you to cover yourself with Jesus, the other with Express, and both can leave the wise person feeling the lovelessness, the shallowness there. I think we’re called, instead, as a people following the way of Jesus, to a Future where people are reconciled to one another, where people are healed, where love and creativity and community defeat hatred and brokenness and systems of evil and we’ve got to jump in or we will be lost here.

Neither is This

And, believing these things, passionately believing them, I have also really rather kept them to myself.

Somehow, I’ve left some of the evangelical parts of me that are important behind, and that’s been bothering me. If I really believe that God is this incredible, glorious force and person that has transformed my own life and I believe can transform others, for whatever reason, I’ve still kept it behind closed doors. I’ve told a few people, of course. But… this… this is Good News! People need this, are longing for this!

Here’s one of the parts from Adam’s talk Sunday night at SafeHouse that really stuck out to me:

“…James wants us to not just glance, but to look closely at ourselves in the mirror, this more-than-just-a-metaphor for the good news of God. The good news of God, the mirror, has something to say to us. We must hear it beckon us to prayer and protest. We must listen to it woo us into feeding the hungry and for developing a hunger for justice. We must let it speak to us when it comes to spiritual practice and social action. Because, ultimately, we are both deeply wounded and God’s prized possession. And that’s why we seek to empower people and to become empowered people ourselves.”

Empowering, at SafeHouse, is giving people the resources to be becoming what God made us to be. It’s at least partly letting them know God’s intense love for them and seeing them transformed by that. And I feel like I’ve been keeping that, this Good News, this Love, to myself.

And so this is my first act of repentance… to repent of keeping Love to myself.

I’m a person who would much rather hang out and listen to people than anything else. I’ve been burned by evangelical churchianity, and an ideological conquest that they call love. But if I really do believe in God, in this Gospel, this Good News that Jesus said in Luke 4:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because the Lord has anointed me
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor
to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind
to liberate the oppressed
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  
 

…then I’ve got to repent of not telling people this. Of personally enjoying the healing, the freedom, the restoration this has brought to me, but not sharing it with others.

And folk at SafeHouse, friends, everybody else, I’d love for you to think about this as well. To think about what it means to invite people into this Love, this Future.

I don’t care if you’re here, elsewhere, whatever. Tell people about this. Invite people to SafeHouse, or somewhere else you know they can live this out with others. But if you’ve gotten even a little bit of this grand love and embrace and healing, this God who is telling us we are Her children, don’t keep it to yourself. Introduce people to this God, to this love. I am pretty sure it’s badly needed, and that most people are waiting to hear it.

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2 Responses to Repenting of… Keeping Love to Myself

  1. `peter david thomas bolan says:

    This was quite beautiful–you are so honest about yourself –a true sign of Holiness! A true Man of God ! For so long I have failed to be honest about a component of myself—you were the first I was truly honest with —Thank you for allowing me to be me –all of me ! I know now this the way God made me –I know there is a purpose —I need to bring the love of God to others —What I have received–I will pass on to others ! You have inspired me! THANK YOU !

  2. Shane says:

    Good stuff, Seth. Thanks for the transparency and humility. Keep advertisin’ a God worth sellin’, amigo!

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