“. . .and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by God, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 14b-15
I shared a poignant moment with Bishop Keith Whitmore at General Convention in 2003, the year Gene Robinson’s call to the bishopric of New Hampshire was ratified. We were in the vendor’s hall, where he was admiring several of my icons, He told me of the experience he had had that morning when the House of Bishops met for discernment around the issue of Bishop Robinson’s call. They had used a process inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola. They made a list of pros and cons concerning the ratification and then prayerfully determined which items on the list were inspired by fear (desolation) and which by creativity and love (consolation).
“I realized,” said Bishop Whitmore, “that my strong objections to same sex relationships were driven solely by the energy of fear. On the side of love, I can find nothing at all to say against them.” He shook his head in wonderment. Then, bleakly, he added, “My diocese is not going to be happy with me at all.” At that time Bishop Whitmore was serving the Diocese of Eau Claire.
It struck me in that moment that all the careful arguments I had marshaled over the years to counter Bible passages used by people who are against same sex unions really weren’t very effective. They didn’t do much except entrench people in their previously-held convictions. But here God had spoken directly to one of God’s servants, and he had listened. And he was sharing this with me not because I had put forth arguments to further my side in a debate but because he recognized in me someone who also strives to listen to God in prayer.
It’s a good thing to remember when we are struggling to convince people in any argument. We are workers who do not need to be ashamed. When we invite people to share with us the joy of serving God, we don’t have to argue against what might be keeping them from doing this. We don’t need to act more assured, more pious, more evolved or even more authentic than we really are. God speaks through us best when we are simply living our lives as disciples, listening to God in prayer and following the Way of Christ, which is the way of love – always the way of love.
In this time, when divisive language is used on a daily basis to create categories that distance us from one another, it’s good to remember that fighting back to justify ourselves often leads to more estrangement and violence. Showing up, being a presence on behalf of the God of love, and inviting everyone into relationship with the word of truth go much further in promoting the Kingdom of Heaven consciousness. Ultimately we are all on the same side; we are all God’s most beloved children. And God, God’s self will show us what we need to understand.
Laurie Gudim is a writer, religious iconographer, and spiritual director living in Ft. Collins, CO. To get to know her a little better visit everydaymysteries.com.