Put down your armor and
let the world in.
May the wind take away
the mask that your hands
on the bridge of your nose
when the weight of the
broke your heart -
Allow your fear, your doubt,
to return to its origin...
inside of you
where your Light became
the darkness, long before
you understood choice.
Who can blame our hearts
for the destruction it ensues...
at some point...
Who can blame our hearts
for being itself...
for closing off to the Sun
that greets us each day.
We have withered together
with sloping shoulders -
our eyes to the ground.
We must go on, past our hurts
to our Light again
where we all reside
We must crowd ourselves
through the streets,
of the same
- pain -
that our ancestors
taught us long before
we opened our eyes.
May our ears
hear Diversity's song -
for Spirit has been singing
it long before creation
kissed us all at once...
calling us forth,
asking us to open
and let the world in,
so that God can become
I’m scared. I’m scared every day. And I suspect that if I push myself and don’t settle for comfort, and reach for connection with others, that I’ll be scared for the rest of my life. Some days I’m scared just once or twice, mostly fleeting – those days that I am feeling secure and comfortable, those moments when joy slips by and into “what if” something goes wrong. Other days, I’m scared a lot, those days when possible rejection is thrown in my face with every new interaction. Days when I reach for my wife’s hand and hesitate, or grab hold and loosen my grip when a stranger looks over.
There are days when facing my fears is easy, days when everything seems light and confident. And then there are moments, often unexpected, when a fear emerges, and all I want to do is turn around and walk away – run away.
I’ve learned over the years, as I have tried to overcome my fears for good – that I won’t. That my wounds will remain – even if I’ve forgiven everyone who put them there. Even if I made them deeper with regret or mistakes or failure. My wounds will stay, no matter my effort to seal them, close them, and forget about them. And they don’t stay because I want them to; they stay because that’s what they do. You won’t find anyone who has worked harder at resisting that which makes us who we are. We are human. We all have fears. We all have wounds. We must accept that. Each one of us. And within those wounds comes a responsibility, an opportunity, to use that hurt, that pain, for good.
I remember watching my mom as I was growing up. If she ever came across someone who was going through a rough time, she would simply be there with them. She’d put her hand on their arm, her eyes would well up with tears, and they would feel seen, begin to cry and melt into her arms. I never heard her say anything – just pure compassion and love for where they were. I always hear people say about my mom, “Mrs. Robin always makes me cry.” That’s because she is real and present – even if you aren’t going through something tough, and if she gets this wave of love, she will turn to you and say, “I love you,” with tears in her eyes. She makes pain and joy beautiful, equally beautiful. She makes everything pure and simple through recognition and acceptance and validation.
That’s what I strive for in moments like these, when my own wounds pop up, when the tears well up, when my heart breaks – I know, because of watching my mom, that the fear, the wound that is there is being transformed by being present with it, so that I can love deeper, wider, and fuller. It isn’t easy work, but it’s necessary. The moment is necessary.
As hard as it is to be rejected by others for being who you are, for me, it is even harder to reject someone else. As we stare at the face of adversity this week, and remember our brothers and sisters who have gone on, along with their families and friends; as our fears emerge – may we put our hands on one another’s arm, cry our tears, and then stand taller, braver, and more confident in who we are as individuals and as a whole.
God is those moments we open our eyes and recognize what is, God is those moments that we pause and see another, and church is everywhere because everywhere is sacred. God is love. May love be our sanctuary. May love be our church, our synagogue, our mosque, our center for worship.
(I read this at an Interfaith Service in Starkville, MS on 6/16/16. The service included readings, prayers, songs, and thoughts in honor of Orlando Pulse by people from the Christian faith community - Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian - people from the Jewish faith community, people from the Muslim faith community, and people from the LGBTQ community. Yep, Mississippi is indeed more awesome than you may think. In fact, a Baptist preacher is the one who organized this.)
In New Orleans several years ago I organized an international life coaching retreat and was able to somehow pull it off without any big missteps. On the final evening, at the final dinner, the caterer brought me a beer to my table and said, "You have been one of the best people I have ever worked with in my career. You are so easy going and always friendly." And, I said, "It wasn't just me that had a hand in this..." A fellow life coach interrupted me and said, "You better say thank you." And so I humbly accepted with a, "Thank you." Accepting compliments is hard for all of us because we have been taught to brush off our light. It is easy to do the giving, and hard to do the receiving.
Our wounds of love can only heal when we are able to see past our barriers to them. My God, my religion, is all about learning to let love in. And that is a spirituality that will last a lifetime. By focusing on letting love in then there is always something to focus on, something to make me a better person. It isn't easy to let love in, it is the hardest work you will ever do because it means that you must be willing to look in the mirror, at some point, and say, "I am proud of you." Not just for our own sake, but for our children too. Let love in.
*If you would like to buy this piece, please go to my STORE.
There is a woman that works at the local health food store. We've built a friendship over the years. We have never had dinner or lunch or met for coffee. We just catch up on each other's lives every week when I go in for my stash of sugar free chocolate and grain free pizza. I know about her family, her travels, and her passions. Every time I leave her store, she says, "I love you." And not in a polite way - in a meaningful way. Sometimes I'm uncomfortable to say it back even though I love her too. But, I always say it.
When I finished this 45x30 black and white on canvas piece - it made me think of her. The picture is from The Chapel of Memories on Mississippi State's campus. In this picture there are two closed doors and one open - and you can't quite see where the open door leads, it is unknown. So often I get caught up in achieving/accomplishing that I miss the subtleties, the sacred. I try really hard not to, but I do. And then some stranger says, "I love you" and I remember that the true open doors are about walking into the unknown - to where you allow yourself to receive love - not just from the people that you know love you, but from those that you had no clue about. With every "I love you" we break down the barriers of today. That's the only way.
In light of this past weeks shenanigans with the passing of HB1523, I would like to share what I said last year to Starkville's city council when they were voting to repeal the anti-discrimination clause that was voted in previously. My sentiments are the same for this law:
"I grew up in Starkville. I told my family and community I was gay over ten years ago. The things I heard from others when I came out were: you are going to burn in hell, the wages of sin is death, you are a hypocrite, you are a criminal, you are wrong, you are disgusting, your opinion doesn't matter anymore, do you even know who God is anymore?
At the time, my 22-year-old self could barely cope. I had no one. I was left to figure it out on my own. The result of my experience was an inability to believe in myself. I often still hear in my mind, 'You are wrong. You are disgusting. You are not enough.'
In order to continue, in order to live my life the way I want to, it has required me to meet the darkness - to go to that place we all fear. I had to climb past every label that was ever placed on me, and you know what I found in that very dark place? I found a spark of light, and over time, with an intention to take responsibility and not blame others, that light has grown slowly.
I have come to understand that being completely alone is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I have learned that the love in me is the same as the love in all of us. I have learned to see the truth of humanity despite our inability to see it in ourselves. I understand forgiveness enough to know that I will have to choose it over and over and over.
I trust myself enough now that I know without a doubt that I am committed to seeing the light in everyone despite our differences (and that's a shit ton of work and it's hard - letting love in isn't a humans favorite past time - I didn't say this part in the meeting;) Our labels do not define us - the spark within does.
For everyone who believes that being gay is wrong or that gay marriage is a sin - please understand that I accept that because I do not, will not, confine you to who I think you should be. I will not tell you that you are wrong because I know how that feels. It hurts.
We all just want to be accepted and seen, and when we say, 'You are wrong,' we imply separation. Enough is enough. We all belong.
I would never exclude nor deny anyone their religious freedom, so I ask for the same respect and decency.
There is a young adult out there who is in the shoes I use to wear - fearing what it means to be who they are in this world. Some people aren't strong enough to know that there is nothing wrong with them despite others words and actions.
If our laws do not reflect complete acceptance of God's diverse creation, then we are knowingly destroying a part of US. Why would we break someone's heart if I am telling you what it feels like? Right or wrong is irrelevant in this decision- there will be further separation or greater unity. I choose unity."
And that pretty much sums up how I feel now, too. Saying this out loud to the community that didn't support me when I came out was the hardest thing I had ever done. We have to share our experiences, be vulnerable, and stop shouting our opinions so loudly. Smile at each other for God's sake. We have to choose who we want to become in every moment. Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert for the quote and pic above.
And by the way, yesterday my day consisted of the health food store lady saying "I love you," when I left the store; the bank clerk saying "I've missed you," when I pulled up the drive in window; and a client asking after finding out I was married to Clare, "What's it like working with your spouse?" That's the Mississippi I live in now. Every day.