I was getting ready for work the other morning when I was struck by a sudden pang to see my father. Because of some terrible things he did, I cut him out of my life a couple of years ago. He hasn’t called in several months, and I was worried that something might be wrong. What if he’s dying? I thought.
And then I thought, if he were dying, would it change anything for me? I still have little capacity to tolerate any sort of drama. Talking to him wouldn’t close the rift that he created in my heart, wouldn’t bring back the years I lost feeling unsafe with him. And then I felt it: that old, all-too-familiar ache of having been robbed of a nourishing father/daughter relationship. Memories and milestones I should have had, but didn’t. And I had to pause and breathe and just let the wave of grief wash over me.
Overall, I’m happier and healthier these days, but I still have these moments when the scars throb, when I have to face the fact that I was hurt in significant, life-altering ways. I recently shared some of my story with a colleague, and he said, “I hope you continue to heal and are stronger for it.” I responded: “I will certainly be wiser and more compassionate, but never stronger.” I’m learning to walk with an emotional limp.
Today, the pain was back but in a different way. Today, I attended a membership orientation at the Unitarian Universalist Church. I went mainly to learn more about the denomination. I was one of two people from a Pentecostal background; most of the others were former Catholics. I soon learned that I was the only one there who still maintained belief in Christ’s divinity…or any ties to the conservative Christian community. When it came time to sign the membership book, I abstained.
I abstained because…I want to be absolutely sure this is where I’m supposed to be. In the sea of conflict that is my faith, the UU Church has been a harbor of rest. I can go and sing and connect with people who genuinely want to accept me. I can feel challenged to live better without being condemned or guilt-tripped for not living perfectly in the first place. It’s like seeing the sun after driving all night. You’re glad the darkness is over, but you’re dead tired and disoriented. The sunlight stings a bit. And all you want to do is lie down.
I just want to lie down.
I still work for a conservative Christian organization, and a couple of weeks ago, I was given a new title and a raise. I’m doing work that I absolutely love, and collaborating and worshiping with amazing people. After nearly four years there, they feel like family. And when I took the new title, I decided–in spite of some past dissatisfaction–that I would stay a little while longer and put my talents to full use.
But it does put me in a very awkward position. Asking evangelicals to be at ease with either Unitarianism or Universalism is like asking cats to be at ease in space. This is the ultimate compromise, the forbidden slippery slope–everything I and they have been warned against. How can you grow spiritually if your church isn’t preaching Jesus as the only way? I can explain, but it’s going to take a few minutes and challenge all of your assumptions.
But to go there, to the UU Church, and realize that I’m still the odd woman out…that really got the old scars throbbing. And today, I wondered if this is what Jesus is really calling me to: to hold the tension between these two, very different worlds. To occupy this no mans land. Lord, have mercy.
I just want to be. And for that to be enough.
I still feel, deep in my heart, some sort of call to ministry. But I don’t know how to answer it. The way still isn’t clear. Sometimes I have wondered, as deeply as I’ve been hurt by the evangelical church, if it wouldn’t just be easier to give it all up.
But then I try and find it impossible. The memory of His divine presence is etched into my heart. And His voice whispers, “I just want you to follow me–wherever I go.”