28 February 2014

God, grant me the serenity to be still

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
~I John 4:7, 16, 18a & 21

That pretty much sums it all up for me. My whole theology in a few neat sentences. These verses are my touch-stone. They are the metric by which I measure the rightness or goodness of anything. God is the genesis of Love and Love is the genesis of all good in the world. God loves love. Whenever someone attempts to make a Christian case for exclusion or condemnation of same-sex oriented people, I come back to my touch-stone: my complete faith that Love always wins.

There are some things happening in the Mennonite church today around the issue of same-sex sexuality. This conversation has been rumbling for a few decades, but it seems to have finally reached a critical mass. And now most everyone in the church, on all sides of this issue, are jumping into the conversation with their opinions and ideas. I think dialogue and everyone coming together around the table are great things and I support them. I obviously have my own opinions and ideas and I have been encouraged by friends and family to join them at the table; but, this is not my fight.

I'm sure you want to lecture me on how civil rights and basic justice are everybody's fight. And you'd be right to say those things. But I am not saying this out of laziness or defeatism - I am saying this out of serenity and faith.

Back in 2011, I went to the Mennonite Convention in Pittsburgh. One night, I attended a "listening circle" around the issue of same-sex sexuality. I went in the spirit of hope and curiosity; I had no idea what I was in for. I honestly don't remember much of what was said. It was so wounding and painful that I think I've blocked it out. I do remember that, when I'd had enough, I turned to my mother and told her, "Every negative thing they say about 'gay people,' it feels like they are saying it directly to and about me." With that, I walked out of the room. God, in her divine wisdom and providence, had put the room with the "listening circle" directly next to the prayer room. Without thinking, I walked into the space, found a private curtained-off area and dropped to my knees. Through tears I prayed for serenity over and over again. Weeping out all of the pain I'd just endured.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I left that prayer room serene. I have remained serene regarding this issue since that day. I have faith in my God and in my church and I believe that love will win. But, I have accepted that this is something I can't change.

I am reminded of a verse from the Old Testament that I learned in high school: "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." I'm not saying everyone should be still, but I think this fight is for people with thicker skin than mine. I support and encourage those who are pushing back against the oppression of the established order. This is important, necessary work that needs people who are fierce and passionate. But it is also okay to be wounded and weary.


  1. Thanks Natalie. I love the Serenity Prayer and use it a lot to stay focused. All those things you heard...they were about them, not about you.

    Love, Steve

  2. Amen! We've talked about this.There are some things that you are extremely passionate about that are not my fight and vice versa. But that's why we are all important: to advocate for each other, console each other, rejoice with each other, and support each other as we work separately and together.