I preached at a Quaker church on Sunday. Or, in Quaker speak, I brought a message to their meeting.
And here’s the thing: I had it all figured out ahead of time. Everything I’d say. It’s a message I’ve given before and one very close to my heart. My favorite thing to talk about, really, the idea that we exist in the mud and the mess and the muck… and that the magnificent is to be found in this crazy life. We are, all of us, so deeply human; horrible and heroic to our very bone. And we are, all of us, made in the image of God, whom I call Love when the God Concept is too much or too co-opted or too politicized for me to bear.
Made in the image of Love. In the image of the Divine. Imagine!
So I had it all figured out, this Love message, and this Mess message (MESSage), and this Wild and Weird and Wonky and Wonderful message.
And then I scrapped it.
All the perfect things I’d planned to say.
All the nice phrases.
All the pretty bits.
Because I felt overwhelmed, on my drive to West Hills Friends on Sunday, with the conviction that the MESSage was hollow without more of my humanity.
I felt Love whisper, “Tell them who you really are. Tell them.”
And I remembered that part of who I am – the human part – got on the scale that morning for the first time in months and saw the number of my weight… and that I was kind and gentle to myself about it… and also ashamed.
So I thought back at Love, “OK. I’ll tell them part of who I am. I’ll tell them the part about how I couldn’t find the right sunglasses, so I said DAMN IT before getting in the car to come preach God’s Word. But I won’t tell them the part about my weight, because that’s too much. I can’t do it, Love.”
And Love whispered, “Tell them. Tell them the actual number.”
Sometimes, Love’s a real dick, you guys. Just relentless in pursuit of us, as though Love believes we don’t have to be ashamed. As though Love believes we’re valuable. As though Love wants us to be free.
Isn’t that silly?
I cried in the car on my way to preach God’s Love to my friends.
I cried because I only want to share the parts of my humanity that are funny and cute and already resolved, and I want to hide the parts that are unhealthy until I’m better. Until I’m healed. Until I can say, “Once upon a time I struggled, but now I’m PERFECT.”
But that isn’t what Love is all about. Nor is Love about rejecting the gift that is our humanity, even though we find our flaws troubling.
And so I went to church. And I preached Love. Even to myself.
If you’d like to hear the rest of the story, this is what I said:
Today, friends, I want you to hear this:
The person you are is a gift. In all of your humanity. Muddy, messy, mucky, magnificent. Imperfect and exactly right. The person you are is a gift. Made in Love’s own image. Pursued relentlessly by Love. And deeply, deeply valuable, exactly as you are.