Today I got my acceptance letter for seminary. This is real, and I find myself without words to describe how I feel: “out-of-control,” “free,” “scared,” “joyful.” I think all the words in the universe are needed for this feeling.
It is unbelievable to me because I did not come here with this in mind. My life already was changed by showing up at Wilshire on Nov. 19, 2017 (I will never forget this date) and placing membership Nov. 26, 2017. Coming here was a gift to a soul that experienced a very dark night and scared I wasn’t going to recover joy again.
There is a lot of pain in the world right now, and there has been since our country was founded. Many of us are now waking up to how severe our injustice has been. The SBC, UMC, Catholic church and our political environment are all in an absolute state of chaos. There are a lot of people who feel betrayed and spiritually homeless.
I know that feeling. I know my pain is on a very different level than so many, but I have a glimpse of what it is like to know your humanity isn’t fully valued in your house of worship — especially if your humanity requires a plot twist in the story that has been told for too long.
As I watch politicians and faith leaders try to save face versus admit error and accept the consequences, it makes the agony so much worse. George’s sermon a few weeks ago was spot on when he said we do not have a society that redeems sinners, so we confess nothing. This is true for the church, and that is a sin.
The church has sinned. So many are telling me it is individual sin and nothing we can do, and I grieve that. I repent even more for our siblings of color who have been hearing this far too long.
I did not watch the Michael Cohen hearing this week. I could not bear any more news. But I am glad a friend posted the closing remarks of House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, as he spoke to Michael Cohen a word of redemption. It was a moment the gospel revealed itself here and now. Rep. Cummings was looking at a hurting soul who knows the damage he has done, and he spoke to him as a hurting soul who desperately needs to feel redemption. We need a society that lets people change and become better.
Cummings told Cohen when something happens to his children, he doesn’t want them to ask, “Why did this happen to me?” Instead, he wants them to ask, “Why did this happen for me?”
I want to tell all of these faith leaders and politicians that falling is not the worst thing that can happen to you. It might be the best thing that ever happened. It leads to redemption. Doesn’t the cross tell this story?
I know this personally. I know what it is like to fall and people rejoice that you did. It is agony. I also heard the best story I have ever heard while I was flat on my face. People in the Bible know what we are going through. They know our pain and our joy, and they speak to both.
For the first time I heard the lamentations. Half the Bible is lament. I also learned this: As far as you can go into your lament is also how high you can go into your joy. I am experiencing both simultaneously. Psalm 30:11 says, “You have turned my mourning into dancing.” Do we know how to dance if we do not know how to mourn?
So here I am in 2019 a whole new person again. I fell, and I got back up because the gospel breathed new life into me. I wanted to be part of something new that could help me tell this story. I came to Wilshire trusting you were going to accept this new me, because I had to believe it. I stormed down the aisle to Mark our first visit because he is the one I heard at SMU who told me Wilshire was the church I had been longing for so long. And now here I am a little over a year later with an acceptance letter from Perkins School of Theology at SMU! And I just attended a meeting on Monday because we are starting a brand-new Baptist House of Studies at Perkins, and I get to participate in this.
This brings a whole new meaning to Jeremiah 29:11 for me.: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”