a place at the table

Yesterday I was with colleagues when I felt the wave of anger crash against me.  I suppose my reflection on the tiger’s tail was prescient and at least helped provide a context.  The anger that splattered wasn’t the flash fried kind that leaves simply a wake but rather the hot tar kind that burns as it oozes.  I awoke this morning feeling the sadness that follows.

I want this to be a nice story, a pretty story.  I want to feel zen and peaceful as I move through this chapter.  I resent the intrusion of these ugly feelings. But here they are.  My choice is to receive them with grace or reject them, but either way they are mine.

Helpful in yesterday’s conversation was a piece of naming.  I could name that I didn’t feel welcome at the table, specifically at the table of Christianity, of our denomination and now even at our local church.

While the truth of my retirement is a positive recognition of a need for this mid-life professional shift, the truth is also inclusive of much unresolved pain.  I feel pushed out by a church which has no room for me and my family.  This is an odd and unwelcome feeling giving the grace extended by my local church as I came out, left my heterosexual marriage, fell in love with a woman and remarried in Iowa.  This local church, at least, has been steadfast.  And yet.

Sally looked kindly into my eyes and said, “I hear your hurt.  There should have been a place saved for you with your name.”   In that moment, I felt something shift internally.  The clawing anger poked into the pool of buried pain.  Yes, my little girl screamed, yes.  I have given you (the church) my best self, my best years, my best hopes and dreams.  And you (the church) have used and abused and dismissed me.  Melodramatic, of course, but my little girl thrives in melodrama.

Interestingly, as I (together with the little girl me) hold the pain of that rejection and betrayal, another colleague makes another connection.  “You wanted to be welcomed at the table, but do you want to sit there?”

It is a profoundly important question and the answer has remarkable clarity.  No, I do not want to sit at the table.  Did I ever?  As far back as I can remember, my yes’ were couched in conditions.  From the outset, I was keenly aware that I was entering a field that did not accept me as I was.  What I was less honest about was that I did not accept the church in it’s current form.  I journeyed from the far right to the far left in search of a table where I could comfortably preside, but presiding was necessary in order to feel safe.  Is there, was there, will there be a table at which I would choose to sit and dine?