Stubbornness

March 10, 2007

I found a new spiritual director this week.

I loved the spiritual director I had in California, and it probably took me this long to find one here in Austin because I was grieving the fact that I couldn’t use her anymore.  You might say I was being stubborn about it.

Anyway- I went to spiritual direction one night this week, and when I left I was feeling very refreshed.  She gave me several suggestions for my spiritual practice that I think and hope will give me new opportunities for strength in my relationship with God.

After my appointment with her, I had a study group at the seminary for a liturgy test we were having the following morning.  I was running a little late from my spiritual direction appointment, and when I arrived in a very relaxed and renewed state, I apologized and explained why I was late.

Someone said, “Gee, I wish I came out of spiritual direction renewed.  I always leave grouchy and angry.”

Now I don’t know anything about the relationship between this person and the director involved, but my guess is that there are at least two possibilities:  1) it is a bad director, suggesting improvements in an abruptive manner; or 2) the directee is not receptive to the changes, causing friction and tension when suggestions are made that the directee doesn’t want to follow.  Maybe it is a combination of both.

Certainly we are all stubborn to some degree.  One of the biggest milestones in the journey with God, I think, is when we come to the realization that control is an illusion.  We just don’t have control over much of anything.  I think stubbornness is a response against this tenet.

That can sometimes seemingly be at odds with the peace and justice movement, which is based on changing the world.  While just as in any case there are exceptions– those who put their own desires above God’s– the best workers in this part of the vineyard listen closely to God and become the hands and arms of the body of Christ, carrying out not their own personal agendas but listening quietly and in community for direction.

Someone remarked to me recently that they didn’t want my ministry to be “all about me being gay.”  Of course, I don’t really either.  I’m content to talk about something else, to minister in another direction; but if the Church doesn’t allow the conversation to move forward then it is very difficult NOT to have my ministry be “all about me being gay.”  But for whatever reason, the church has pointed the conversation to our sexual orientation, and God has put me in this particular spot and this particular time, giving some voice, however small, to my particular story so that those who are not capable of speaking yet may freely speak in the future.  It isn’t about me at all; there is nothing particularly remarkable about me nor my story.  Not in the sense that everybody’s story is unique and remarkable. 

So I could take the easy way out, go sit on the bench, and quietly ride through seminary without any bumps, bruises, or scratches to show for it, as many others do.  But then I would be stubborn, wouldn’t I?  Because I would not be authentic to who I am being called to be, to serve those who cannot speak for themselves, who do not yet have the freedom to become fully developed in their growth with Christ because they are not safe in this Church, who can not tell their stories.

No, faith is all about risk.  It is about uncertainty.  It is about listening.  It is about not knowing.  All I can do is respond out of my own willingness to love God and neighbor.  That doesn’t mean beating anybody over the head with a stick.  That means enabling people to lose their stubborness through loving them, just as they enable me to lose mine in the same way.

j

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