Fear is a Prayer
Joy is thanksgiving for God’s grace. Sadness is wanting something and suspecting I can’t have it; grief is knowing I can’t. Anger is the feeling that something is wrong and wanting it to be made right. Guilt is feeling I have done something wrong and being unsure if I can make it right. Shame is believing that I am wrong deep inside myself and wanting to be changed.
And for me, fear is a feeling that I am in over my head and need help. Fear comes over me when I have done all I know how to do in a situation and finally look to God to open a way where I see no way. Like all of our feelings, fear is a prayer.
It makes perfect sense to me that fear plagues the church right now in connection with the effort to find our way with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Some of those fears were discussed at the recent More Light Presbyterians conference in Nashville.
We talked about the immense fear that GLBT Christians feel. How much more in over our heads can we be than when we awaken to our sexual orientation and realize that we are among those whom the church has so often shunned as beyond Jesus’ redeeming love? Who can we trust when the church, which has told us since baptism that we are God’s beloved children — and we trusted that witness — suddenly pulls that assurance out from under us, insisting that there is a qualification to Jesus’ promise, and we don’t qualify? We have been thrown in over our heads, and the very One who has always been our Help and Hope is being taken from us.
It also makes sense to me that those who believe GLBT are people beyond honorable membership in the church are afraid. Through the years I have had many conversations over lunch or coffee with colleagues who disagree with me about the place of GLBT people in our church, and they have expressed their fear that GLBT inclusion is a change that will leave them behind. And now they see the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches come to an understanding of Christian faith that embraces GLBT people as just like everyone else. They see more and more acceptance of GLBT people in our own PCUSA. Fear right now, as a cry for help, is completely understandable in our friends who disagree with the church’s growing acceptance of the GLBT faithful.
In these questions facing the church, it is easy to feel that we see no path to resolution, to feel in over our heads. And yet, sometimes we only think we are in over our heads when we still have in ourselves the strength and wisdom to resolve the situation with love. Sometimes miraculous things happen when we stop and pray, leaving space in our hearts for God to act in mysterious ways.
And sometimes, I would say to those who feel GLBT inclusion means their own exclusion, what we fear is an illusion. We can consider together the possibility that there is room in God’s house for all God’s children. Even through our various fears, we can make room in the church, God’s house here on earth, for one another. Here’s a good place to start: let us pray together.