Then the Word of God came to me: 'Son of man, now turn and face the mountains of Israel and preach against them.... -- Ezekiel 6:1
A friend asked me a couple of days ago if I had ever felt God giving me a message to give to someone else. She gave me examples of when she felt God wanted her to pass along messages of encouragement. This friend's exuberant love for people is one of the things I love about her; she is unlike anyone I have ever met in this regard.
Unfortunately, I could only think of examples in which I felt God telling me to be critical of someone or some group of people. And I worry about this. No one likes to be criticized. I don't like to be criticized. It rarely ends up well. Besides, who am I to judge? I'm not perfect. Jesus preached against judgmentalism. And yet, I cannot doubt that God has asked me to be, at times, a voice of caution, a voice of judgment. I actually believe God prepared me for this role.
Four years ago, I was filled with an anger that seemed to come from nowhere. Out of the blue, I felt my blood begin to boil over the exclusiveness of so many Christians: they welcome people in, but then push them back out because of differences in beliefs or lifestyle. Day after day, this anger plagued me, and I couldn't figure out why. Nothing had happened that I could think of. In an effort to get rid of these thoughts, I decided to look in the Bible and see what God had to say about it. I started reading the Gospel of Matthew, and read until I came to verse 5:47, "if you only salute your brother, what more are you doing than others?" I felt as if God had given me an answer to my concern. Yes, I thought, God does not want us to only love those who think like we do. This is a mistake on our part.
Perhaps all this angst was part of the reason I had not sought out a church since we had moved to town a year earlier. But soon after this, I began to miss hearing the words of God on a regular basis. So, at the beginning of 2008, I became a member of the nearest Lutheran church.
Then I was filled with the desire to study all the teachings of Jesus. Staying up late at night, waking up early in the morning, squeezing as many hours in the day as I could, I immersed myself in the Gospels, trying to make sense of Jesus' message. I ate the words of Jesus. I woke up in the middle of the night with the words of Jesus on my lips. I was obsessed. Everything else in my life took a back-burner: my house, my jobs, and even my family. Finally, after about six months, around Christmas, I was able to reach a sense of completion, and be present in my life again. But I was a changed person. I was filled with all of Jesus' teachings. And I began to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, leading me.
I felt that I was being led to do something. But what? My understanding of Jesus' message was so different than that of some other Christians I met. I found myself wanting to argue. But I had been taught that there are three things you never talk about, let alone argue about. Those three things were: politics, sex, and religion. So I kept my thoughts to myself, though at times they were shouting at me. I wanted to speak up, but at the same time, I didn't want to be disagreeable.
Our church began offering healing services. I went. I prayed for understanding and courage: for the understanding to know what God wanted me to say, and for the courage to say it. When I got in my car to go home, John Mayer's "Say What You Need to Say" was playing on the radio. It's a very repetitive song. I disliked the song because of that, but I became grateful for the repetition: it took a while for the words to sink in. When they did, I had to laugh. By the time I got home, I remember saying to myself, "Okay, God, I'll speak up, but I'm certainly going to become a thorn in someone's side." Never were truer words spoken. That was in February 2009.
Immediately, God began presenting me with one person after another, teaching me to find my voice, teaching me how to disagree, teaching me what was worth arguing about, and what was not. I learned to first disagree with my friends. Then family. Then acquaintances at church. Then, in August 2009, when our congregation began to argue and divide over the issue of accepting same-sex couples in committed, monogamous relationships, I felt compelled to speak up, both privately to my pastor, and publicly to the entire congregation, about Christian unity. Staying silent was not an option. I felt like that was exactly what God had been preparing me for all along.
And now what? Well, now things are much quieter. Thank God. Only occasionally do I still feel compelled to voice my concerns to fellow Christians. Lucky you.
Dear Lord, is this what you had in mind when you formed me in my mother's womb? You certainly gave me a heart for justice. I hope I have not let you down too much. Love always, Pam