A Prayer for Spacious Places

When hard pressed, I cried to God;  they brought me into a spacious place.–Psalm 118:5

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This is a prayer for those spacious places where we find peace, love, and freedom. These places are both physical and metaphysical. They are urban, suburbia, rural; they are the homes of our friends, the tents of our lovers, the blankets of stars.

Oh universe of all things great and small,

I have seen the wonders of this world, and my heart.

I have been split open by the view from the tallest mountain, by the stars shining from the tallest building, by climbing the tallest tree.

These places have broken the broken parts of me,
where grief and pain have made me small and petty.

I have seen so many places where anger has made everything small,
where tiny pebbles of hate burn without fire.

I wish to live only in places where I can be my biggest self.

Places of risk, possibility, enormity, and freedom.
Places that are so immense they terrify and inspire me.

Yet, out of all the spacious and immense places I have been,
from the tallest tree that I have ever climbed
to the view from a building trying to reach the heights of Babel,
the most spacious place I have ever known is love.

Let me live there always.

Amen.

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Heartbreak, Marriage, and Divorce–Love Embraces It All

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By: Autumn Elizabeth

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I would have now, if I were still married. I’ve been thinking about all the things in this life I have now I would have missed, and all the things I would have gained. Life isn’t always as simple as we’d like it to be. There isn’t just married and divorced, now and then. Everything bleeds together, and a little bit of the past always seeps out of a broken heart.

I’ve watched people lose everything when partnerships break, and I’ve seen people gain unbelievable freedom, I’ve seen divorce law work against everyone, and marriage inequality leave people without a legal leg to stand on.  I’ve seen the end of a marriage strip people of dignity and faith, and I’ve seen it restore belief.  I’ve seen all this in the lives of others, and in my own life.

I’ve also thought a lot about what it means to move on, to start over, and if that’s even possible. I think for some people moving on involves taking down pictures, and throwing away old love letters. But my elopement celebration pictures are still buried somewhere on Facebook, beneath almost two years of photos from my new life living abroad, but they’re still there. For me, the past doesn’t go away, life just steps in, putting ever more distance between the now and the used to be.

I haven’t forgotten how the refusal of my church to bless my same-sex union tested my faith in religion, but I also remember how the end of that union brought me closer to understanding the ways divine loves works through us all.  Where there is love, there is God, and my life, before and after my divorce, has been filled with love. Heartbreak just made me look at that love differently. Our hearts may be fragile and easy to break, the love of the universe is far sturdier.

Love flows through broken hearts, and wedding vows, it continues whether we erase our past or relish it, whether governments and churches sanctify or vilify it. Love continues even when we doubt its very existence. Love is there, in the smile of a stranger, and the hug of a friend, in the blessings and the break-ups.  Love lives, today and every day, and even the whole world’s collective heartaches can’t break it.

I’ve seen a lot for my time on this planet. I’ve been engaged to my high school sweetheart, I’ve eloped to Paris with a brave Midwestern woman , I’ve had an un-blessed, illegal marriage, and a lawless divorce,  and I’ve moved across an ocean for a new love. Everything bleeds together, the good and bad, the past and the present, the wedding vows and the divorce papers, it all runs together and somehow love embraces it all.

Faith, Hope and Loss

Today we have another post on the loss of faith. This time the post is from Josiah Taylor of Phoenix, AZ. He writes about losing faith and hope, and maybe regaining them too. 

I was asked to write about loss. I completely blew it off from the start, thinking ‘The hell do I know about loss?’ I’ve not had anyone I’ve been close to die. I’ve no story about a friend or family member with a terminal illness or their sudden departure. I don’t live in some sort of war-zone, where death and disease are the norm. I’ve lived a very simple, comfortable, middle-class life well enough.

After some thought, several things came to mind. The first was of the people I know personally who have experienced a traumatic loss of someone they held dear and what that means to them. The second, one great loss I’ve had was in the destruction of a particular friendship. That story, however, is for another time and subject. The last thought was oddly so late in coming considering how recent and prevalent it has been: the most destructive loss of my life thus far (and, I hope, ever) – the loss of my faith.

I’m sure it varies from person to person, but for myself, my faith was my life. I got through most of my childhood and early teens purely on faith. It wasn’t even a blind faith. Over the years, I had seen, heard, and experienced personally more than enough to make what I believed feel like fact. It was a faith I would have died for. Rather, it was the One in whom I had faith that I would have died for.

In the last year, that all went away. My spirit became so utterly broken. It’s a strange time for me. I heard lies recognized them as such, and chose to believe them regardless of how destructive I knew they were. Stranger still is when I began to think about Hell and concluded that I really wouldn’t mind going there. The strangest part is that I can’t even tell you how it got to be that way. I think I just kept believing those destructive lies and claiming them for myself as though they were true.  All the while knowing exactly what I was doing.

What was once my willingness to die for my faith became my desire to die without it. As I mentioned, my faith was my life. Without that, everything became meaningless.  I was, however, not empty and emotionless without my faith. I was filled to the brim with anger, hatred, bitterness, pain, and despair. Someone simplified it for me one day: I couldn’t even hope for hope.

What got me out? Oh yeah, I got out. Thank God, I got out. It was a choice. It sounds so simple, but it was not so easy. I’ve found that I always always always have a choice. I chose to finally accept what I knew was true even, if I didn’t believe it at all. I chose to love God again. My brokenness stretched over a full year, but my choice to believe again and change could have been made far earlier than it was. A choice isn’t something you feel, it’s something you do.

My identity had been tied closely to my faith. When I lost my faith, I lost who I was. The beginning stages of recovering that faith only began a few months ago and I have quite a ways to go still to being whole. Yet, my loss was not permanent, even though I thought it was. The ability to regain what I thought I had lost forever feels like something bigger than a miracle.  I found that hope exists even when you can’t hope for it, even when you can’t feel it.

A Loss of Faith

By: Jenni Taylor

I’ve never had an easy time staying away from extremes, or the a + b = c method. If killing living things is evil, and ants are alive, then isn’t killing ants evil? If Christians believe the bible, and the bible says sell all your possessions, then aren’t you lying if you say you are a Christian and you’re rich? If God is love, and we are loved by God, why the hell is there pain and agony in the world?

Common questions,  at least, I hope I’m not the only one that ever questioned the morality of destroying an anthill. I was taught to ignore these questions, or look for answers later, when I was older. But how can you ignore what is right in front of you?

I’m a daddy’s girl, and my dad is the best man on earth. If you’ve met him, you know what I mean. Once upon a time my dad was a pastor, the best. But then all of a sudden he wasn’t, and then he was a truck driver, and sometimes a roofer with broken red hands, and then he was sad for eight years.

Every day he would pace and pray in our basement. The rest of the family would go about our day, still sneaking down to do laundry in the corner, or grab something from the freezer, trying our best not to interrupt. The more I saw him pray, the angrier I became.

If God wasn’t listening to my dad’s prayers, he sure as hell wasn’t going to listen to mine. I was taught all my life to love God. Not anymore. Not when it was pretty clear that he doesn’t actually love us back.

So I stopped loving God.

But not really.

Because if I really had stopped, it wouldn’t have hurt so much. I wouldn’t have felt so betrayed. I would have gotten over it.

But I didn’t get over it, and it was ripping me up. I couldn’t stop crying, because after all this time it still hurt like hell to know that everything I believed wholeheartedly was a lie. God left, closed up shop, went home. He wasn’t listening.

I had lost something, and it hurt in places I never knew could hurt before. It took leaving everything and moving to the middle of the jungle for me to even begin to work through my anger.

Sometimes it feels silly to even talk about this loss of faith when so many people experienced real loss- the loss of family, of love, of a parent, of a child.  Standing up for a round two in the fight to win back my  faith was  so hard, and brought up so much pain. Why didn’t I just quit? Was it even really that important?

Yeah. To me it was.

Looking at it now, it’s not a loss anymore. I thought my dad had lost something, but he hadn’t. It took a long time, but his life is finally exploding in incredible ways. He never doubted the faithfulness of God, and now it’s my turn to give that type of faith a shot. Instead being lost, my faith has a whole new beginning now. I can really say it was worth it.  My boxing match with the universe now feels more like holding hands and keeping my eyes open wide enough to listen and learn.

Combining the loss, the anger, the betrayal, the search, and the peace slowly creeping into my soul I’ve gained a weird sort of patience. I might be so bold as to call it gaining a little wisdom.

Persevering toward Hope

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?

Job 17:15

Lent this year was very hard for me, and not just because I was far away from friends and family, both literally(since I moved to Germany) and figuratively( since I gave up Facebook for the Lenten season). Lent’s forty days of preparation, penitence and perseverance  came on top of six months of unemployment,  a divorce and over a year of trying to keep my relationship together. Sufficed to say, I was ready for Easter.

However, Lent doesn’t end with Easter, Lent ends with the last supper, crucifixion and death. After forty days of preparing and waiting, we have to face even darker times before hope appears.

It is easy to forget about the suffering of Jesus on the cross because we know the outcome. Jesus will be resurrected!  Joy lives!  However, the truth is we have to dwell in the darkness first. Without pain there are no new beginnings; without the suffering of crucifixion we have no resurrection.

I find that life is a lot like the Lenten season. I wait, I pray, I hope and hope fails, I struggle, I hope again and at the end, I still must suffer through more before I am renewed with joy. But when joy finally comes, it is so sweet.

I, like Jesus’s mother and disciples do not know when joy will be coming around again, and sometimes it hurts too much to hope. Sometimes the most we can do is keep living,  keep persevering  and keep hoping for hope to come. Usually it is after our darkest hours, that hope rises brightest.

So this Easter, to those  full of hope,  and those who are still persevering toward hope, I say with immense relief,  “Hallelujah, Christ is risen!”