Today was the last day of committee business before we will gather for the plenary sessions for the rest of our time. It was a full day with lots of emotional discussion and attempts to honor the spirit of the overtures before the committees. In my role as an observer of a committee I had the unique view of watching the business at hand while being able to observe all the people in the room. I had the information of the overtures in front of me, I could see the committee, staff, advocates, press, and observers. Sitting in the back I could watch body language as words were heard and motions were acted upon.
This photograph I took first thing this morning had no real significance when I took it. I was taking it to show my children the view from my hotel room. However, tonight as I reflect on the day I realize this photograph illustrates how I felt today. In the distance is the OCC, the place I wanted and needed to be today, up close is the place I am, and in-between are all the obstacles and other places I will have to be before I get where I am going.
Today I watched as advocates spoke with intelligence, imagination, and love, three parts of our ordination vows. I heard them present intelligent, imaginative solutions relating to how to care for the communities they love. I heard committee members ask questions and provide options for meeting the need, or at least acknowledge the need was heard, even if no solution could be offered or agreed upon. I watched attempts to be who we long to be, who we are working to be, who we hope to be, who God is creating us to be.
I also watched and heard our brokenness. I watched and heard how our words do not match our actions. I watched the shoulders of those trying to love their communities pull back in defense, then slump in defeat when they realized they had not been heard, not really. I sat silently, first with confusion, then with disbelief, then with tears, and then with anger. Anger that propelled me to my feet and out the door as soon as I could be because I needed to move. I needed an outlet for the anger I felt.
For me it was not the outcome of the votes that matter, so much as the manner in which they were handled. If you know me, you know disrespect of any kind lights a fire in my blood, and silencing the voice of others in my presence makes me hear the phrase, “thems fightin’ words.” I was angry and I was hurt and I was embarrassed this afternoon. I spoke to some of the people I felt had been silenced to let them know I had heard them. Then I walked really fast and kept on praying.
God is always faithful.
Into my path walked one of the people who have been my pastor for more than a decade. They listened to me, really listened. The power of being heard can change everything. There will be no change to the situation that made me angry, at least not yet, because we are not yet where we long to be. We will not completely be there this side of heaven. We will not completely be there until Christ comes again. We will not be there because there are obstacles and places to go before we can be there.
But we can walk this road together and maybe get closer to where we want and need to be. We can learn from each other, we can learn how to listen, really listen. Even if we disagree, even if we cannot always walk the path together, we can learn so much from each other. The photograph I took today on a whim, now reminds me that sometimes we need to see up close, sometimes into the distance, and sometimes where we are will have obstacles so high we can only see the walls around us.
My prayer tonight is that no matter where we are, where we work, where we live, or who we share our lives with, we will recognize the importance of having people around us that can see up close, see the walls around us, and into the distance, and that we will listen, really listen to them. For I am convinced if we learn to listen we will embody the Gospel in a manner that allows the Holy Spirit to change the entire world.
I have hope, and hope does not disappoint; for even in my brokenness God placed just the people I needed to hear me, to make me run up flights of stairs, walk long blocks, to find a reason to laugh again, and to find God’s action in an emotional day. Tonight I am thankful for once again being challenged to find God at work, and finding God right there even in the mess.