On Sunday we will be having a discussion about Sexuality, Gay Marriage, and the Church. I have been talking about this for some time. I encourage you to come! While I am not going to talk about that issue specifically in this article, in a lot of conversations I have had with people I have noticed a pattern which is what I am going to talk about here and that is it open a conversation into the different ways in which we live out our spiritual lives and how that impacts both our relationship with God and the greater community.
For many in the church, we often feel like we have a split personality. On one side we have all of the traditions we have learned. Even in traditions who claim not to have dogmas, essentials, fundamentals and the like, we have developed teachings that become so ingrained it is hard to fight off a change of interpretation or understanding. This often causes a lot of internal conflict in both the spiritual life as well one’s self-identity.
It reminds me of a story an older member of one of my previous congregations told me. When he was a kid he was taught that only evil bad people would write with their left hand. Being born left-handed he struggled to teach his right hand to do what he knew his left hand could do instinctively. When he got to college he was struggling to keep up with taking notes, this was way before computers. The professor who had developed an affinity with him asked if he could teach him short hand to get his notes quicker so he would pass the class. When the professor started to work with him he said “let’s try something” put the pen in his left hand, and this man was off to the races. He still learned shorthand, but began to write with his left hand.
Towards the end of that semester some things started to turn for him, and he began to equate them with his writing with his left had. He felt as if he was now doing evil and was reaping the punishment. At the time of this story, the man was in his eighties and still mostly wrote with his right hand. He said he knew better and it was not a bad thing, but those voices and teachings were too hard to overcome.
We know that a good percentage of the population is left-handed. Not too long ago we thought, and some churches taught, that this was a sign of evil. To some that was never accepted, but to many it was, and even after society changed its understanding, ingrained in some was a sense of superiority for being right handed and in others shame for being left handed. But for this man, even though he knew he was silly, and being left handed was ok, he never could let himself just be and find a level of reconciliation between what his heart, head, and faith were telling him.
A lot of times in the church we have a difficulty when things change, especially big understandings, because we cannot find reconciliation between what the heart feels, what the head understands, and what faith tells and expects from us. What makes this overly complicated is when the faith traditions seem to change directions or our world changes and all three are no longer in alignment and we feel as if we have nothing to stand on except the core of what we were.
When I first started out in ministry, God was pretty well defined for me. I knew the expectations, the teachings, and so on. It worked well, lead me to becoming ordained, finding success and growing to a certain point where it now longer worked and the teachings no longer matched what I was experiencing, so I had to do the difficult job of figuring out all of the differing parts of my faith. As I was starting to gear up for a battle at My session meeting over two issues, Gay Ordination and the document on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. a wise elder told that story. At the end he shed a tear saying “we spend so much time in our lives so sure of what God said and wants that we forget how it impacts others and impedes God’s love.”
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen