Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I went to church at noon today.  Left email unread and a list of things to do mostly still to do.  I was feeling pretty out of sorts, to be honest.  Tired, in the bone-deep way that only emotional and spiritual exhaustion bring.  I have a good life.  An amazing life, even.  And – and, I have so much baggage that keeps following me around.  Some of it can’t be classified as baggage, really, more just the real-life messiness of a divorce involving a shared child.  But some of it is simply baggage.  Stuff that needs to be ground into dust, let go of, forgiven.

So I went to church, in the middle of the day.  To be embraced by the liturgy, to acknowledge with others the depth of our need for repentance, to be reminded of our mortality, to be assured of our forgiveness for all that has been done and left undone that turned away from Life.  I listened to ancient, prophetic words.  I heard the good news.  I took the torn bread and poured out cup into my own human brokenness.  And I got marked.  Marked with the sign of the cross - smeared in black, oily ashes on my forehead.  Somewhere, in the midst of the liturgy, the spoken word, the sung prayers, smeared crosses and broken bread, I became a little more whole.  Let go of a bit more baggage.

The cross on my forehead has nearly faded away now, 8 hours later.  Sweat, distracted scratching, time…the ashes are barely noticeable.  It reminds me some of what is happening with a tattoo on my back, a mark made 15 years ago now.  That mark, over time, is also fading.  It was – and is – a mark I’ve cherished, both at its most vibrant and now as it fades more and more into my body.  The ashes and that tattoo: both are symbols of the very core of who I am.  Identities that matter, yes.  And identities that simply are solid and whole and me: claiming me from the inside out as one who loves, one who is forgiven, one who is marked for Life.

“ Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” –Isaiah 58:6-7

This season, these weeks of Lent, may I remember the core of why it is I choose to seek this fast.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Other Side

         I think Rev. King was right, that the arc of history does bend toward justice.  It seems like a long time coming when we’re in the midst of it, but it does happen.  There’s been all kinds of evidence of it just in my lifetime, these short 36 years I’ve been around.  Just this week, even, significant strides towards marriage equality on the West Coast have happened in both California and Washington.  There will be wonderful celebrations of love as a result, wedding bells will ring for same-gender couples, toasts made to relationships that have been committed for decades and to brand-new ones as marriage licenses are issued with equal regard for citizens of those places.  It is no small thing to have the weight of the law’s protection for your health care, your property, your children.
            The other side of those celebrations of love is the painful reality of what happens when life doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped and dreamed it would.  I do not know anyone who gets married that plans to also get divorced.  Maybe there are couples who go into it knowing there’s always an “out.”  But I haven’t met any of those folks, nor officiated at any wedding where there was less than a lifetime commitment made with every intention of going ‘til death do us part.
            The most painful experience of my life was the realization that the promises I had made with another were not going to be lived out.  That all the therapy and hard work in the world was not going to make it possible for the two of us to continue to keep those promises.  There are no words for the depth of heartbreak incurred in that process.  The family I had helped create, the configuration that had shaped my daily life and every future I could envision, fell apart - crumbling into pieces around us all.  It is a loss greater than any I have known.  It is also no small thing to NOT have the weight of the law’s protection for health care, property, children. 
            I live in a state that does not recognize legal marriage for same-gender couples.  North Carolina completely disregards the marriage license that exists with my name on it.  I was not allowed to have my name on the birth certificate for my daughter, nor even permitted to adopt this child I have loved and cared for since before she came into the world.  No family court in our state recognizes that I am now, and have always been, her other parent.  I am fortunate that my daughter’s legal parent does see me as important, and that I do have regular contact with and care for my child.  There are many other parents and children in similar situations to mine that do not have that option.  Everyone loses – parents lose children, and children lose parents.  It is true that everyone loses in a divorce, regardless of legal rights or not.  There are also some preventable losses, protections afforded to heterosexual, legal marriages in North Carolina that were not granted to mine.
            Much more can be said about marriage, and certainly there’s more to the story of my marriage and divorce than will fit into a blog post.  What I want every U.S. citizen to understand is that legal marriage matters.  It is about justice and equality in our country, for all of us.  Do not feel sorry for me.  God’s imagination, thankfully, is far bigger than mine.  I have a blessed life, with an incredible daughter, and days full of all kinds of love and joy.  Feel sad, as I do, that divorce became the only decision to make for me.  And then get angry.  Angry at the injustice.  Angry enough to tell your co-workers to vote against the amendment in May that would write inequality into our state’s constitution.  Angry enough to rally even a handful of people to call legislators, write letters, protest at your town square.  Care enough about children losing loving and caring parents to make sure we as a state move toward equality for all families.