Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Reconciliation of Opposites

I opened my email this morning to find an incredible gift: this image, sent to me by my friend Robin. It is (if you don't follow both my blogs) a combination of Sunday's image of tormented longing from this blog and Saturday's image of loving acceptance from the poetry blog. I find it so amazing that she saw how they fit together; I only had this sense that each of them was incomplete.

As I wrestle with my own longing for church to "be all that it can be" -- and my distaste for how often it fails in that attempt -- I've been trying to figure out why that issue triggers me so. I mean, we all know that we dislike most in others the shadows that loom so large in ourselves, so can I reduce it to that: just a distaste for my own hypocrisy, for the ways I don't live up to my own ideals?

A week or so ago I reconnected (through Facebook) with the woman who was my best friend in high school. Amazingly enough, she now lives less than four hours away, so we have plans to visit when I take my daughter back to school after her spring break. We parted badly, all those years ago, separated by my jealous boyfriend (who resented the time I spent with her) and so this feels like yet another redemption in a long string of recent redemptions...

I mention this because she sent me, on Facebook, two photos she had of the two of us back in high school. So last night I was going through MY old photos to find the two I had of her. And in doing that I found the picture of me drinking champagne with the Archbishop of Canterbury back in 1992.

That picture was taken my first year in the job, and I see in that young face all the idealism I brought to that position. It feels so sad to me now, I can hardly bear to look. And it reminds me that my distaste for the church isn't just a projection of my own failures: it's a deep abiding sadness at all the disillusionments over the years, all the times I thought I had found "my people" -- people who believed as I did, and who would act out of those beliefs to bring the peace and joy and inspiration those beliefs brought us to other troubled souls.

I was thinking also, this morning, of my daughters and their longing for a community of like-minded souls -- particularly my younger daughter, who really struggles with her classmates' needs for drama, sex, drugs and alcohol. As a mother, I wish I could wave a magic wand, say "go to church, and there you will find others who believe as you do." But sadly now I doubt that that would be true, and I know for a fact that the word Jesus -- because their formative years were spent watching me struggle with the church -- frankly gives them, the younger one at least, the creeps.

That said, I really liked the Archbishop of Canterbury (or the ABC, as we called him). He seemed to me to be a good and forthright man who wasn't afraid to "tell it like it is." And over the years I have encountered other good and forthright people in the church -- two of them, in fact, the priest and his wife who served the church I helped found when our kids were little, still serve as my younger daughter's godparents.

But the fact is that most of those good and forthright people were sitting in the pews, not standing in the pulpits, though if I am honest the percentages may well be the same. And I was repeatedly dismayed to see how the trust of the folks in the pews was destroyed by those who claimed to lead them.

So yes, Robin: this image captures it perfectly. It contains both the deep love I have for all those who worship and trust, and the deep sadness I feel for not just my betrayals but ALL the betrayals over the years, even for Jesus on the cross. It is at the intersection of those two conflicting emotions that my questions and issues around prophecy fall. And it is also at that point of intersection that the potential for growth must lie -- as it always does -- in the reconciliation of opposites.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was listening to our current ABC on an iTunes podcast from the BBC, "All Things Considered" as I was clicking onto your blog this morning. Hmmm...

Anyway, I can relate to your outrage and feelings of betrayal and I can relate to my outrage being connected to a "distaste for my own hypocrisy" and the shame I continue to feel over my failings as a mother, daughter and whatever else I have been and still am.

And I, too, felt betrayed by a person in power in "the church." It kept me away for over 10 years. But I'm back again, different church, different broken people but the same level of brokenness (thank God, cuz I hate being broken AND alone).

And I, too, have been feeling unable to express myself as clearly as I would like lately. I'm blaming it on the Spring Training Season of Lent. ;o)