I won't lie - I'm a people pleaser who doesn't like to cause trouble, to stir the waters, to create conflict that severely divides people. And this entire past year has felt like the divisions have just been widening bit by bit across all lines--politically, racially, sexually, religiously, etc.
I won't lie - I haven't felt like my voice matters. There are already so many thoughts and opinions out there--what do I even have to offer?
But, perhaps, I will offer something new: complete and utter vulnerability. I will hope that by exposing myself, that by being authentic to my own struggles and shortcomings, others might find a space to voice their own vulnerabilities, and that maybe, just maybe, some of those painful divisions might be bridged.
So, let's do this.
I won't ever understand why feminism today can get such a bad rap. I won't ever be able to understand why women don't want to have equal rights, to make dollar for dollar, to be treated with the same respect and fairness, to have a voice and opinion that is just as valuable and necessary at every table--from church to board room to desk in school--as men. I won't ever be able to understand it because for me it's personal--being a female pastor is still seen as controversial in some churches, denominations, and religions.
But I will keep telling my story of how God (literally) called me away from another path, and how God's presence has guided me every step of the way down this holy and sacred one. I will not just keep telling my story, but I will keep encouraging other women in their controversial jobs to tell their stories of how they have seen the Almighty at work in ways beyond the lines and boundaries the world would put into place.
I won't ever pretend that I'm not guilty of white privilege. I won't ever say that I haven't been guilty of practicing my white privilege or (more painfully) racism--even if it hasn't been intentionally. I won't pretend that just because I have the theological education, that just because I've marched in protest, that just because I've attended a conference or two that my sins have been abolished.
But I will keep repenting when I see that I've fallen prey once more to system that has been in place as long as I've been breathing. I will keep educating myself, and I will keep trying to find ways to listen more to brothers and sisters who have suffered for generations under a system that cannot seem to be broken. I will follow you, and never be so prideful as to believe that I can lead you or be your voice. I will fail even despite my best attempts, but I will keep repenting, I will keep weeping at the brokenness, I will keep learning, and I will keep trying to be a better sister who follows your lead again, and again, and again.
I won't ever understand how LGBTQ siblings can be so quickly judged and condemned. I won't ever understand how their rights can be denied so easily. I won't ever understand how people can say that you must be one or the other. I won't pretend that I've been a perfect ally, because I too am guilty of narrowed vision that sees only one shade or another.
But I will keep repenting for the ways in which my language and my speech don't include the vast array of colors with which so many of my beloved siblings experience life. I will keep listening to your beautiful stories and learning through them as to how I can change my ways and become a better ally as I follow behind you.
I won't ever understand how we wound up to be such a divided nation. I won't ever understand how we got to be where we are today. I won't understand how fear became that which is our driving factor. I won't understand how desperate people would be for power. I won't understand how the natural instinct is to shame, mock, judge, disrespect, and see violence and hatred as the answer. I won't understand how this has been the response on both sides of the spectrum in varying forms, and that it has been just as painful regardless of which side it has come from.
But I will keep telling myself to not be afraid, and to not allow fear to have a foothold in my life. I will practice breathing in hope as I breathe out peace. I will find ways to sit with others, to hear beyond their anger to the underlying pain that they too have felt in those same varying forms. I will make compassion the blanket that surrounds me, and invite others to come and rest with me in the love of God.
I won't ever have this world figured out, but I will keep fighting for my place within it.
I won't ever be the perfect sister (God knows I will fail time and again), that I won't speak up when I'm supposed to, and that I'll speak up when I'm not supposed to.
But I will keep repenting. I will keep listening. I will keep loving. I will keep trying to follow the light of God to places that make me uncomfortable, to conversations that humble me, to people who bear the image of the Almighty in ways beyond my finite imaginings.
I won't do in life the never-ending checklist of expectations that I've placed upon myself or be able to atone for all the sins that I am always so painfully aware of. But I will wake up each morning to the presence of God's grace, breathing in hope and breathing out peace, and trying my damnedest to lead a life that reflects the love that God has been giving, is giving, and will give to this world now and forevermore.