It’s a question, isn’t it? A tough one at that.
Can you love me anyway?
The other day, I asked that question of a guest on the Jerseygirl, JESUS Facebook page. She had dropped a drive-by comment on a blog post I’d shared, the intent of which was to make it clear that she did not like the post. It was good up to a point, she said, until I let my “progressive liberalism taint it”.
I am trying hard to choose the third way. I am trying very, very hard to not be triggered into an argument. I don’t want to argue anymore. But truly, I suck at this. Even now, I can think of a whole host of things I’d like to say, not the least of which is: I never hide the fact that I am an un-apologetically progressive Christian. What with being on the Progressive Christian channel of Patheos and all, I think that’s fairly clear. I think I might be out of the proverbial progressive Christian closet, so to speak.
But I want the third way. Because all of this divisiveness is doing horrible things to us. And I am holding myself just as responsible as I hold all of you. So I asked that woman this: Can you love me anyway?
I asked her if instead of seeing me as simply a “progressive liberal”, could she see me as a human being? As someone who maybe she might have something in common with? She didn’t seem to understand my question. It’s possible she thought I was being sarcastic. I wasn’t. I was really trying to understand. Is it at all possible for a conservative Republican to even try to understand me? Can she love me anyway, even though we will probably never agree?
I know it’s a hard question. She never answered it. She asked me, “Who is dehumanizing you?”. She quoted my blog post back to me. She explained that she was not attacking me, but rather just had a difference of opinion. I assured her I wasn’t offended nor did I feel attacked. I simply wanted to get to the love between us, to find out if it was there. And I asked her to please answer my question: Even though we will probably never agree, Can she love me anyway?
She never answered me, and I don’t blame her. I told her I wasn’t sure if I could love her either. Even though I was trying really, really hard.
I think we all have our own Jesus tables, right? We all have our relationship with Messiah. With Yeshua Ha-Mashiach. With Elohim. He is present, here and now, and each of us, we know this. In our way — in his way — he speaks our love language, inviting us to the most beautiful of tables. At these tables, the noise of the world, and all those angry, accusatory voices, they just fade away as we look at his face. As he beams at us. As he opens his arms to us, and we collapse into the very smell of him. Breathing deep, taking in his air. He sings liberation songs over each of us, freeing us from our own personal bondage. My bondage is different from yours. And it all leads to the same question: Can you love me anyway?
And his open arms, and the smell of him, and the beautiful banquet he has set out for us — the perfect wine, the succulent grapes, the crusty bread with gluten that does not wreak havoc, the cheese and the salad — oh, the salad. He sets this out for us, and he is our dessert. Our time with him — he is our sweetest thing.
But oh, this is MY table. My table is reserved for only certain types of people. I only let other Progressive Christians into this banquet Jesus has generously prepared for me. I only let in the Nadia Bolz-Webers and the Rachel Held Evans. I only let in the drag queens and the lesbians and Syrian refugees. I only let in the gang members and the drug addicts and women wearing hijabs. I only let in the broken people who are broken like me. Even though I’ve never been a drag queen or a lesbian, a gang member or a drug addict, a refugee or a woman in a hijab, for some reason their brokenness feels more like home to me than anybody else’s.
But my banquet table is NOT for the James Dobsons or the Franklin Grahams of the world. My banquet table is not for all those white Evangelical women who voted for Trump. My banquet table is closed to the woman who said my blog post was tainted by my “progressive liberalism”, who was so sure she was right and I was wrong.
But Jesus — my sweetest thing — He lets everybody in! WT-the bloody hell-F? (please note how hard I am trying not to curse.)
Jesus! JESUS!!! Don’t you know what she did?
And in the quietest of whispers, in the middle of the lullaby, in order to liberate me, I hear him tenderly whisper: I know what you did, my sister. My child.
The sound of a heart breaking is silent, but loud. It is the shattering that reveals the gem within. It is the refining fire, the alcohol in the cut. So I ponder. I rage. I self numb with music and wine and busyness and the punching bag at my kickboxing class where I am a bad-ass who messes up regularly, as if on cue.
And finally I go back to Jesus and I say, Can you love me anyway?
And Jesus, my Jesus, he just opens his arms.
I am trying to learn how to do the same. It is the question at the crux of it all, I think. It is the motivating factor in everything we do. If I do this, if I act like this, if I show you who I really am, Can you love me anyway?
The bad news — and the good news — is that probably Jesus is the only one who can love us anyway. It’s probably only in his presence that I could sit at a banquet table and — under his gaze — stare into the eyes of the woman on my Facebook page and see her humanity and not just a woman who has betrayed us all and doesn’t see her own duplicity. It’s only under HIS gaze that the log will be removed from my own eye so I can see her — her humanity, her personhood, her belovedness, the way that Jesus cherishes her. She thinks her heart belongs to Jesus just like I do.
Can you love me anyway? And can I love you, regardless?
I don’t honestly know. I’m trying. My soul cries out this question of everyone I meet. If I show you…can you love me? I think this is the human condition, and we keep screaming NO! at the tops of our lungs, and I, perhaps, am the loudest.
It’s possible that this is at the root of one of my greatest pains: I have not been to church in ages. I love my church, but there are people there who have hurt me with their Facebook posts. With their silence when I demanded a response. With their desire for peacekeeping.
I am, perhaps, the rudest guest at this banquet, what with all my demanding for my perceived justice.
I am not sure how to be different, how to live out this third way that I know is there, but seemingly unattainable for me. I am still trying. I have not been to church, but I have not been anywhere else, because that would feel like cheating on a beloved. Like an illicit affair. I love my church. But all my sharp and pointy edges, all my needing to be the justice seeker, I feel like I belong nowhere. Like I am a nomad.
I have been to the literal Biblical wilderness, to the place where John’s feast was locusts and honey. I have been there and I recognized the desolate sands as familiar and my own. But still, there is that voice crying out, Make way! Make way!
I am trying to make way. In my heart. I am trying to grow a heart big enough to live up to Jesus and his big party.
All I can do is surrender my seat to him. All I can do is stand up and give my seat and say, Can you love me anyway, even though?