Being blessed by God doesn’t always mean a life of sunshine and daisies. It’s easier to focus on the nice things and be grateful. But what of those hard fought life-changing blessings? You know the kind. They leave us breathless, wondering what just happened, and, possibly, limping into the day. These are the kinds of blessings that neither the world nor the church wants us to talk about overly much. They aren’t pure happiness; they are the moments when excruciating pain leads to transformative joy. From that moment on we remain marked, different. Just as clearly, we are blessed.
Years ago a series of events lead me to the realization that I was not straight and this fact probably had something to do with the failure of the few romantic relationships I’d had. At the time, I believed I was working in my dream job, an ecumenical youth ministry. In a few short months, I’d come to accept this new self-understanding and to celebrate the feeling of wholeness that I’d never had before. Then I came face to face with a choice that would radically change my life. I had to decide whether or not to tell my employer about my self-discovery and that I was, in fact, dating another woman.
This was back in the days before gay marriage was legal anywhere. However, I thought everything would be okay because I belong to a denomination that already ordained LGBT folks. I also knew being honest with my employer was the right thing to do even though it was really hard. After all, I’d barely begun to understand it myself, let alone say it out loud to very many people. It also wasn’t exactly the safe thing to do, to come out publicly while serving in a highly visible position in the community. This was happening around the time of Matthew Shepherd’s murder. When word got out, people were not shy about sharing their opinions, some of them rather unpleasant.
I ended up resigning my position because I had been told that as a condition of my employment I would have to come out to several people in positions of authority within the town and several of the churches. This began a decade of challenge in my life. My relationship with the church was forever changed. My career path was altered beyond recognition. My trust in people to do the right thing was completely destroyed.
Looking back, however, I can see the blessing God gave me. From that first inkling of self-understanding to the moment I stood publicly for what I knew to be right, I no longer felt that something was innately wrong with me. Yes, I was unwelcomed in a lot of churches because of who I was. But I was not longer unwelcomed in my own spirit. I was free to learn to love myself, becoming the woman God created me to be even as I limped along.
I don’t tell this story for any reason other than to say that sometimes wrestling with God for a blessing isn’t a bad thing. We just get to a place where we can either give up or hold on until we are blessed. Sure, it’s risky and it’s going to change you in a way that might be painful and unpredictable. It has to be better than always choosing the safe, easier way. But, then again, I might be the wrong person to ask about that. I have a natural tendency to choose the difficult way. Maybe this is why I have such a strong affinity for Jacob. He complicated his life repeatedly and not only did God bless him, God loved him for exactly who he was. Moreover, I’ll bet when Jacob looked over his life, he wouldn’t trade his limp for anything, not even a simpler life.
RCL – Year A – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – August 3, 2014
Genesis 32:22-31 with Psalm 17:1-7, 15 or
Isaiah 55:1-5 with Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21