Though this blog is not registered with RevGalBlogPals, I do lurk there. Today's Mid-Lent check-in was too good to resist.
Sophia (who is herself a gracious presence here) writes:
The pastor of my grad school parish once gave a fascinating reflection, at about this mid-point in the season, called "How to Survive the Mid-Lent Crisis"! As I recall, his main point was that by halfway through the season we have often found it very challenging to live up to our original plans....But, he suggested--on the analogy of the healing and reframing of our life plans that can happen during a mid-*life* crisis--that that can be even more fruitful.
So here's an invitation to check in on the state of your spirit midway through "this joyful season where we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed" (Roman Missal). Hopefully there's a good deal of grace, and not too much crisis, in your mid-Lenten experience!
1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year?
This Lent I did something I often do: vowed to say Daily Prayer (or the Daily Office, depending on your tradition) every morning by rising an hour earlier than usual. This is a challenging discipline for me, especially the early rising part, but I knew I needed it.
2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way?
Not only has life not gotten in the way, life has made this early prayer hour essential: Within a day of adopting the plan, the idea of coming out to my congregation began to burn in me, an absolutely unquenchable desire.
3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent?
The plan to come out: I know it is a blessing, but I also believe it is a great challenge (and no one, I believe, ever promised that blessings would not also be challenges). Yes, this was a surprise. After thinking about coming out a year ago, I had essentially tucked this idea away... found it a closet, I guess you could say. And I had no plans to resurrect it. But... there is coming a time when my congregation will vote to make what has been a temporary pastoral relationship permanent. And as that vote approaches, several things become clear.
First, I can imagine being at my church for many years-- ten or more. In fact, this is what I am hoping for. But I cannot imagine being there all that time closeted. In fact, I can imagine it becoming something that feels very, very oppressive, as I continue to have a vague sense of anxiety every weekend that Beloved and I stay together, or as well hold hands in a movie and I glance around to see whether I recognize anyone from my church community there. The other piece of it is this: being closeted is a temporary measure at best in a small town. Being outed is inevitable. I can imagine a scenario where people begin to learn this about me, and nothing is said... but attendance dwindles, people remove themselves, the trust in me has been hopelessly eroded. This leads me to the second dawning awareness.
I am increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of the congregation voting without knowing this about me. It begins to move out of an area of reasonable privacy (which I think was reasonable for the earlier stages of our lives together), and into the realm of dishonesty. Given the inevitability of being outed sooner or later, it just makes sense that I would take as much control (of an uncontrollable process) as I can.
4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week?
One unexpected thing that has happened is that my friends are not universally supportive of this decision. Most are... in fact, all but one. My friends who are out have all been incredibly sensitive to my need to be closeted as I have been. I have never felt the slightest pressure from anyone, and that includes Beloved. But as I have shared this idea, this news with them... their response has been joyful and supportive (even as they have said things like, I am afraid for you, for the difficult parts of this).
One friend has not been happy with this decision. This friend is sharing with me thoughts and ideas that are designed to be reality checks-- I truly think there is concern for me-- but which in fact are just full of fear, fear, fear. And which are feeding into some of my worst nightmares about the possibilities that lie ahead of me.
My agenda includes continuing to process all of this, getting my support systems in place and ready to go, and writing both the letter that I will send to the congregation and the sermon I will preach the following Sunday. And praying, praying, praying.
5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter?
I wish you could see me smiling. Whatever may come... at the end of it will be freedom. That is resurrection enough for me. I wish it for all.
Bonus: Share a favorite scripture, prayer, poem, artwork, or musical selection that speaks Lenten spring to your heart.
For me, the scripture of this Lent is from 1 John 4:17-19:
17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us.
Amen, Amen, Amen.