The Day I Was Saved. — a warning, there is some strong language in this one. Also, I started this one prior to Easter, and am just finishing it.
Except… that’s not what we call it in the Episcopal church. Not exactly, at least.
I couldn’t even tell you WHAT we call “being saved” as compared to other Protestant denominations. I know I was baptised as a baby. I was confirmed when I turned 13, and recevied a locket that had once belonged to my great-grandmother as a present.
I had been an acolyte since I was in the third grade. I was the youngest person in the Diocese of Atlanta to be licsened as a lay minister/reader/chalice bearer at the age of 16. I was encouraged and taught by faithful ministers, namely Father Tom as I grew into my teenaged years, to question and grow in my faith. But faith, for me, was always something quiet. I didn’t talk about it much out loud.
Later, I would somehow find myself in the company of someone who tried to make me question all of that. Who insisted that God hated me, and that I was a terrible person… did I even deserve to live? No, I didn’t, according to them. It was a hard time in my life, and I came to believe that I was being punished. This person insisted that I was sinful, and had permanently removed myself from any love that God could hold for me. And in this time, there were only two little people that I lived for… the same two people that I live for today, who I would do anything for: my children. In so many ways, God showed me His love through them. And still does.
Even though I knew this, I was still being told that God hated me, and there were moments when it seemed it had to be true. So much of life had become hard. I was told so often that I was a bitch. A whore. Plenty more creative insults beyond that. But you get the idea.
I was spending my days walking in darkness- the only glimmers of light and life being in my sweet babies.
The moment when it all began to change was in church. I wish so much that I could remember what the Bishop was preaching on- but I know he was there. And in a moment I realized: God does love me. The only way to describe the feeling that came over me was that of a weight lifting off of me- of realizing… I was loved. I was worth… something. Something more than what I was being told.
So much of that time in my life mirrors this Holy Week that we just finished. Coming towards the end of Lent, as Jesus marched towards his inevitable death to bring us life. So much of where we all are today seems parrallel.
Personally, I don’t think any one faith has an absolute monopoly… I like to think we all believe in the same thing, but just give it different names somehow. How beautiful would that be?
As for me… I have realized that even with baptism, with confirmation, the birth of my children, with all of these things we do to show our faith… that moment when God became as real as he could to me- when He came down and told me he Loved me despite what anyone else might say… that was when I was saved. Much as it might feel out of place for this cradle born Episcopalian to say.
You may wonder why share this story now? What could possibly compel me to tell it? I was listening to Bishop Robert Wright’s podcast called “For People”- you should really give it a listen- and every time I hear him talk or preach I am inspired. *Go here and here for previous times.* He says at around 21 minutes into the introductory podcast, that we are called upon in these times to share our gifts.
For me, in this time of quarantine, I have become acutely aware of what life can be like when unpartnered. Someone walked out of my life around a year ago, and while it needed to happen, it came about at one of the hardest times for me. The absolute limits of my strength were tested, and continue to be, but I have learned what I am made of- and how to get through it. Bishop Wright speaks of how this virus, and grief, and so many things like them are not OF God but that we can find God through them.
I feel called upon to share my story with each of you- to show you that God is real. That faith is, as Bishop Wright goes on to say, a gift. It is a gift that I can share with each of you. Believing in God will mess you up in the best way possible- it can upend your whole life, and set you on the path to knowing that there is a love out there that is greater than any love we know on this Earth. So you may feel alone, you may be longing for a human touch, but let me tell you- God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are there for you. Not in the image of a human man, my daughter will even tell you that God is a woman “because women have babies”, but in the image of just simply love. We are all in this together.
The other part about realizing just how real God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are is this: being saved is without a doubt one of the most inconvinient things that has happened to me. It would have been easier to stay where I was, to believe that I was unworthy of love- of life.
Being truly of faith has forced me to to refocus all of my views. It has pushed me into realizing that every life is precious- and so often people who claim to love God do not really know Him because they search for justifications for why others are not valued the same way. The lynching of Ahmaud Arbery is the first time I’ve seen many people, who are not ordinarily outraged over the loss of black lives in the course of violence, express their anger at people who would commit such an act. The question remains, will they direct their anger at the men who did this alone- or at the system that has fostered the attitudes that these men carried within them as well?
I have to wonder if perhaps this pandemic has stripped us down to having so little that we have to turn to faith. This might be dangerous to wonder out loud, it might play into the ideas that some have that God brought this onto us on purpose or that simply praying can bring about it’s end- but Bishop Wright answers that one in his podcast on Prayer so check it out here. Perhaps now we are finally seeing the worth of others that we did not see before. Of the grocery store worker, who only makes minimum wage but is out there for us, who some once argued did not deserve a pay raise but without them we would be so lost. Or Ahmaud Arbery, a man who was out on his usual run, a man who it was said in a Bitter Southerner essay would give people joy as he ran by– or stopped to play with children.
Being saved, having faith, believing- it is massively inconvinient. Exploring a true relationship with God means examining the Word more deeply, realizing that Love for ALL is truly at the root of it all and sometimes you’ve gotta flip some tables and stand up for those who need you. The first step for me when I was saved, or whatever you want to call it, was to realize that I was Loved and Worthy. And once I realized that… then I realized everyone else is, too. Which makes it really hard to sit silent when others so clearly can’t see it.
I pray that each of you finds healing and comfort in this time of so much grief. That you can come to feel this love as well, to know all are worthy, and the Light is coming very soon- if it isn’t there for you yet, it can be.
Love to all y’all,