by Rev. Jen Rude
ELM Program Director
Barbara Kingsolver in a recent interview in The Sun magazine talks about raising her kids with the mantra (that she learned as part of their Montessori education), “You can do hard things.” Instead of taking over, or never allowing them to try and fail, when a task was difficult, she reminded them, “You can do hard things.” They have absorbed these words as their own and now often repeat it back to their mother when she is struggling. I am struck by how often I limit myself in the face of hard things, but also how looking back, these have often been the most meaningful and profound things. This season, I remind myself, I can do hard things.
Parker Palmer in one of my favorite books of his, Let Your Life Speak, says this about spring: “I will wax romantic about spring and its splendors in a moment, but first there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in the early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice. But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.” Although I won the award for “muddiest camper” at summer camp when I was a kid, mostly these days I’m not thrilled about being in the muck – it’s hard, and often not very pleasant. But I wonder, what new life awaits me there, here, in this muck? This season, I remind myself to enter into the muck (or not be so quick to get out of it) knowing that avoiding the muck is often avoiding the possibilities of new life.
Joel Workin, one of the early prophets in the LGBTQ movement in the Lutheran church wrote an essay called “The Cost,” now in a book of his collected writings entitled, Dear God, I am Gay… Thank you! (For those of you coming to the retreat, you’ll have an opportunity to hear more about Joel Workin and to receive his book). This essay was written about the time of “the Berkeley Three,” three seminarians who came out to their candidacy committees, whose actions fueled the LGBTQ movement in the Lutheran church.
A short excerpt from Joel’s essay: “The past months have been a time of kairos, and it seems that a great part of what angers people is a recognition of the cost, the price of being ‘out’ in the Lutheran church. The toll, both professionally and personally, is indeed very high. Careers are ended, even before they are begun. Private life vanishes. Families are exposed to public attention. No one can pretend that being out is easy, that to follow the call to honesty and discipleship in this way is without a cross. Yet, what is the cost of the closet? Over and over again, as people, many of them closeted, express their rage over the price that three seminarians and many others have to pay for being out, I want to know – what about the cost of the closet?”
This Holy Week, Joel’s words invite me once again to think about the costly way of the cross. But also, the costly way of not the cross. The choice is not between paying a price and not paying a price – but which price, and what cost, which hard thing, and for what.
This week I remind myself that our God can do hard things, is doing hard things, even (especially) in the muck, and that through God, by way of the cross, so can we.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”