When we are told no...
God Himself buried Moses, with no grave and no monument that the Israelites could use to create another idol for worship.
~ Deuteronomy 34:5-7
I think for any of us being told "no," can sometimes have lingering consequences. Recently I was told I would not be able to attend a gathering of clergy because my current calling did not meet the qualifications. I thanked the person for the clarification and hung up the phone, while looking at the invitation that clearly stated "all clergy."
I don't know why situations like this still surprise me, and even more, why situations like this still can hurt me. In my mind I know it is often nonsence, but in my heart, especially when it comes to my faith, it is a specific pain, and often causes me to turn away, rather than to turn another cheek and try another way to belong.
Finding ourselves at the water's edge and not being able to cross over to the Promised Land is nothing new. Even Moses after leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt and through the desert for forty years was told, "No," because of his anger one day, and was never allowed to cross over.
I will admit, I have not always been the most faithful to supporting the decisions made by leaders in my faith tradition. I think it stems from often being hurt by the way that the decision has either neglected others, or caused the vision that God has planted to simply die inside those who dared to dream.
Years ago I served on a committee that was part of the licensing process for people seeking to become ministers in my faith tradition. We would listen to candidates share their experiences and how they heard God's calling in their lives. They would share how God brought them to a place where they could begin to talk about what God was doing in their life. Most of the time the committe would affirm. Although, sometimes I would see other members of the committee destroy the candidate's spirit through their questions. While most of those we met were welcomed, some were turned away, often never again to return. I would often struggle to remind others on the committee that God doesn't always call the qualified, but qualifies the called. A few times I would tell the candidate not to give up just because a group told them "No." Instead, go and find a way to make it work.
One of those candidates left and found her way in another faith tradition and now is serving mothers living on the streets with their children and helps them to find permanent housing.
Hearing that we are not "qualified," or "welcomed," can be very hurtful, especially in church.
I have seen it over and over throughout the years. Maybe the person was divorced, was living with someone, was gay, or had a tattoo.
I saw a church turn on someone when they discovered the person was married to someone of a different faith.
Sometimes the church can be anything but welcoming. Sometimes children can act like real bullies, rather than God's children.
Someone once asked me what God's love looks like when someone has really hurt us? My response, "On the day I die, the person who hurt me the most will be among those that welcomes me unconditionally into heaven. It will be as much a lesson for me as it will be for the one welcoming me home."
Because while we may be hurt by someone, or even an organization that may believe that they are acting as part of the body of Christ, God will always find a way.
One thing that we sometimes forget, is that even while Moses was turned away from crossing over the Jordan into the Promised Land, it is recorded that God cared for Moses the rest of his days and buried him. God always finds a way to care for each of us.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
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Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.