You know how there are those facts that you hear from time to time but that you never want to believe? I had one brought to my attention Friday afternoon while chatting with some co-workers about relationships. They mentioned that there are actually women out there who change their behavior to impress men. I suppose my brain has always understood that there are people capable of being insincere, but it is so far from any skill I have that my gut has never quite believed it possible.
Tell us how you really feel…, yes, I get that a lot, and you can trust that I always will tell you how I really feel, and if you didn’t want to know why did you ask in the first place? From what I can remember I have always been like that, blasting my environment with all of who I am. I’ve started to believe that there are some people who make good children and some people who make good adults, and my unthinking honesty made me not a very charming young person.
I spent most of my late teens and early twenties draped in agony: desperately wanting to be anyone other than who I was while also knowing that my personality was far too strong to subjugate. I wanted to be meek and quiet, I wanted to not frighten people. But every time I opened my mouth it would be with a brash comment or a loud laugh, and every time I tried to keep my mouth shut I failed. It wasn’t just sharing opinions that I felt was so shameful, but the very act of being me, because my ‘me’ was constantly written all over my face, broadcast to a world that probably wasn’t interested.
Today’s Gospel is, as they say, a real humdinger. Sometimes the Scripture consoles, and sometimes it challenges, and today’s list of potential errors had me planning a ritual dismemberment in order to remove all of the things that lead me to sin. Buried at the end, though, I found some consolation. At the conclusion of an explanation of oath-taking and honesty, Jesus says “let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’”
If there is nothing else I have done right in this life, I have done that. My yes has always meant yes, and my no has always meant no. When faced with the choice between life and death presented in the First Reading I have always said yes to life – to my life, to the messy reality of who I am and how I was made. Maybe things would be better or easier if I had a different combination of traits, but this is all I got. Masking it or hating it would be a recipe for a wasted life.
I so relate to this. I think the secret is where we fit. We need to find the place where our traits are needeed.
This past Sunday I went to church for the first time I’ve been down here. I’ve been busy, most Sundays, and I’ve also been nervous about what I would find within church walls here in Florabama – what I’ve seen on signs along the road, well outside of church walls, has made me nervous enough. I went to a church that, unlike my home parish, has still not adopted inclusive language, and, unlike my home parish, toes the Episcopal party line about only opening the Eucharistic table to “baptized Christians.” When I saw that this was the day’s scripture, to be preached on by a blue-eyed, very young white man with a drawl, I braced myself for a Southern-flavored lecture on sexual morality, and even had brief visions of walking out before even reaching the Communion table and flashing my baptism badge. . . . Just goes to show, God will surprise us every time.
This young priest with his drawl touched only briefly on sexual morality – and that was just to say that when we look with lust we reduce women to objects, we deny their full, Godly humanity. That’s something I’ve never even heard from my lesbian priest at home. The rest of the sermon was devoted to telling us that this – this high bar that Christ sets for us, and our devotion to continuing to set it before ourselves, to continue to strive for it even as we continue to fail – is what marks us as Christ’s own. It is not the no-drinking-no-swearing-no-sex bar that is so often the measure down here (I can’t believe he went there, but he did). It is the determination not to lower God’s standards so that we can meet them.
And I, too, was relieved that my yes is yes and my no is no.