The hardest part of any project is to begin.
Starting the first paragraph of an essay, getting up in the early morning hours for a run, or forcing yourself to start a conversation with someone you’ve just met. The results of running or writing or meeting new people can change our lives, but it’s so difficult to take the first step to do the work.
It’s uncomfortable to put ourselves out there, and our beds are so much warmer than outside before the sun is up. The fact remains, though, that any work worth doing is most likely going to take us out of our comfort zone.
During our Table Talks at the NSU Wesley Foundation, we speak a lot about what it means to be a member of the church. Some of us grew up in the church and others are just starting our journey with the church here, at the Wesley.
For some of us, the church was a distant but looming organization that was interacted with only on occasion, and for others it represented a family and a place to search for and discover God as well as define ourselves.
For me, neither of those answers truly fit.
I grew up immersed in some form or another of church. My family ended up changing churches several times throughout my life, I was always a member somewhere. I enjoyed debating with my youth pastor, I loved attending potlucks and youth events with my friends, and I even liked spending time with the older ladies who wanted to hear all about school and what I wanted to be when I grew up.
The problem came when I had to sit alone with God, at the altar or in my seat in the back row and consider a verse we’d learned about cultivating a relationship with God- when I had to confront my own dissatisfaction with that relationship. In those moments I was faced with my anger toward God and my unwillingness to have a relationship at all, let alone put in the work to pull God closer.
Facing this anger seemed daunting. I knew that I couldn’t tell my youth pastor, or my parents…
Even the little old ladies who had loved to hear about my plans to be an Archaeologist would have rebuked me. I knew deep down that if I confessed a resentment toward the God they’d taught me I should love, I’d be met with the obstinate belief that I was the problem, not God or the way we believed.
They wouldn’t understand that anger anyway, because there was something I knew, and God knew, but the ladies and my pastor didn’t: I was gay. And even at a young age I knew the church would ultimately be a very unforgiving place.
Usually, during Table Talk, we conclude that we can’t shy away from the fact that the church it is falling short and that it’s our responsibility to build it back up again. We decide to make our amplification of God’s love louder than other people’s hate and bigotry. There is an unspoken understanding, however, that things are much more complex than a few people’s commitment to love.
The basis of our conclusion is very true. God’s love is transformative. However, accepting God’s grace and love and deciding to emulate it is hard work. But it’s work worth doing. Love is a choice. It was a choice that, when I was a 13-year-old wanna be Indiana Jones, I didn’t know how to make.
The first step is making our love louder than hate, but the second step is teaching people how to begin the work of choosing love.
And giving them a place where they feel like they can.