Reflection: 1 Kings 19

A few weeks ago we explored the story of Elijah and King Ahab who were in the middle of a cultural war when Elijah, filled with passion for the Lord, executed over 400 prophets of Baal.  

This morning we address the next chapter in the story. Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, swore revenge on Elijah. He was afraid and fled for his life into the wilderness. “It's too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”

While the previous chapter in 1 Kings was about the passion of standing up for your beliefs, this part of the story is more about the overwhelming fear that can come when you are the target of another’s rage. It is about running and hiding and trying to find God in the middle of all the madness. And it’s about sitting still long enough to hear God’s call, receive His grace, and regain the strength to rise again.

* * *

Years ago, in college, as I was beginning to understand my own sexuality, I attended a lecture where my priest tackled the topic of homosexuality and the Bible. Much like discussions you can find on More Light or Covenant Network websites, he challenged the ”sin” of homosexuality, explored the historical and cultural context of the few biblical passages that address it, and landed on a message of love and acceptance.

Now this was over twenty years ago, and a pretty radical message for the day. As I left the auditorium, I saw a fellow student holding a sign that read, “Father Richard is a Heretic!” At nineteen, I didn’t know what this word meant and I actually had to go look it up. Over the next few weeks a firestorm erupted (fought in the editorial section of the college paper) over what my priest had said. As I watched this, and learned more about it, I kind of came to the same conclusion. Maybe Father Richard was a heretic – certainly as it relates to the teachings of my childhood church where I’m not welcome to the communion table.

I felt confused and betrayed.  This was not a battle I could fight. I wanted no part of it and ran into the wilderness to hide.

I went from a young student who attended Mass nearly every day, to never setting foot in church again except for funerals. And when I did, I was burdened by a mix of longing and disgust... certainly not love.

* * *

Years later, I met Sheila – and we decided to start a family.

It was important for us to bring our children up in a community that would teach God’s love. But to tell you the truth, for most of the past eight years I’ve only been along for the ride. I still felt spiritually dead inside. I had lost my faith, lost my ability to pray, and lost my trust in God. 

Then, about a year ago, I almost left the church again.

Another firestorm was brewing across our nation... something around a certain chicken restaurant and marriage equality. This time it was being played out on the Internet and particularly Facebook where people will bluntly share all sorts of opinions that they would never say to your face. Suddenly I knew where people stood – family, co-workers, friends – people I trusted with the care of my kids. In a surprising number of cases, I found they were not on my side.

I felt like the ground was falling out from under my feet.

It was about three weeks later when I was told by the Boy Scouts “Thanks, but no thanks” when I volunteered to help my son’s Cub Pack as a treasurer. This was the first time in my life when my sexuality was evaluated over my talents and experience.

I had just had enough. I wanted to be as far away the noise of this Christian Cultural War as possible. I was consumed by the fear and pain of betrayal. I was disgusted by those that use the Bible as a weapon of exclusion. I did not want to be part of this battle anymore. I wanted to spread my wings, tuck my little ducklings safely underneath them, and run back into the wilderness to hide.

Now, I want to be clear that we have always felt welcome here in this community. 

But there is a weight of shame I carry inside - the feeling of being flawed by my homosexuality and unworthy of connection. A shame that comes from years of exposure to this war. And it doesn’t matter how kind people are or how successful I can make myself appear to be. It runs deep like a thistle choking out my garden and dropping seeds of doubt everywhere. There was a time when I raged against this shame, and then a time when I buried it under mountains of work. Now, I struggle with whether to try to untangle it --- or just embrace it. Because all of us, at some level, know this darkness of shame and it is often in this darkness that we can best see the Light.

* * *

One night, amidst all this noise, I closed my eyes. I sat still and listened. And like a whisper in the silence, I awoke the next morning with an overwhelming sense that the most important place for me and my family was right here – in this “School of Love.”

And now my challenge is this: How do I grow from my childhood relationship with God to a mature adult relationship? As I child I was so protected from the world. As an adult, how do I find the Love when now I have an unfettered view of all that is ugly, twisted, petty, cruel, vain, deceitful, and indifferent – and at times am a target of these actions –  as we all are?

Well, I don’t believe God is found in judgment and certainly not behind any war, no matter how righteous the cause.

I think His love looks a little more like this: 

 A prayer for the closed hearted.
The holding of a friend’s painful story.
The revealing of my own truth.
Trusting others to hold my babies safe.
Offering forgiveness when it is sought and even when it is not.
Sharing the harvest.
Encouraging the heart.
Waking to the hope and promise of a new day.

Like angels who brought bread and water to Elijah in the wilderness, these Acts of Compassion and this community have provided strength and sustenance to me over the past year as I have tackled the sometimes seemingly impossible tasks of God’s calling. I am learning not to hide from this Cultural War, but to try to approach it from a place of love.

And, it’s in this light that I’d like to say something to those who worry that there is something fundamentally wrong with them because they look, or see, or feel, or love differently than most.

You are a child of God.

And if we can do anything right it would be to keep reminding our children, and maybe even ourselves, of this Truth.