My pastor’s wife and I went for a walk this weekend. Her words refreshed me more than anything anyone has said in a long, long time. Why? Because someone who we’ve “come out to” still affirms my value and worth, even from somewhat of a position of leadership over me. (I say somewhat because we still consider that church to be our home church, as much as a church could be, because many of our friends attend and that was the church at which we used to be on staff.) It’s a tiny church, but we know everyone well and have always loved their quality of unconditional love they show the world and to me. (As much as Christian love can be unconditional). I wrote a previous blog about my pastor’s reaction to our coming out as unbelievers here. If you remember, Jon said, “this changes nothing” in terms of how he saw us. His wife, we’ll call Michelle, demonstrated that by her actions to me this weekend.
A few days ago, some women in this church got together for a celebration and I attended. A discussion that had some political hues to it emerged, and one woman got so offended that she left in tears. Everyone felt very misunderstood. I remained quiet throughout the duration of the conversation.
So Michelle told me this weekend, “Teal, I trust you and your perspective. I want you to speak to me about my heart and pour into my life if you feel there is anything that needs correcting at all.”
My jaw almost fell to the floor. She still trusts me and my perspective?! She wants me to give her my insight?! I wouldn’t have been surprised if people shut the doors to their life when I came around to protect themselves from my “poison.” But not only did she not shut the door, but she invited me in. Wow.
There is such value given by invitation.
We also talked about our future plans. Now that are no longer going to be missionaries, where will we live? What will we do? It’s a difficult, exciting, though sometimes hopeless place to be. But she provided not only valuable insight, but words that showed me not only that she still cared, but that even God cared (in a way other than disappointment). “I listened to this sermon by Tim Keller the other day,” she said. “It was about rest and the sabbath, and that sometimes we need to truly rest to the point that we no longer place our identities in anything that we do. I think you are going through this season in this journey you are on to learn that you no longer need to do anything in order to be valuable. Your value isn’t in ministry, in reaching out to people, in humanitarian work, in fighting human trafficking, in anything. You can just be still, be with your baby girl and with Silver, and still have value.”
In describing me finding my identity apart from dysfunction, she never mentioned “finding it in God.” Resfreshing. Shocking, even.
I think that she believes that God is directing me towards freedom. And there is an incredible amount of hope and relief from that. Not because I believe that God exists, but because her worldview still allows for me to have as much value and purpose as I did while I served on staff as a missionary. And not only that, but that my value remains constant even while in this place of atheism that I am now. Hell and damnation aren’t even a thought in her mind. Just my finding freedom — which to her, is a direction for me that her God desires.
This is unity. This is freedom. This is hope. This is love.