Other Paths

[Image Description: Dirt path along the side of a meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park, mountains in the distance.}

What will people think?
Always bear that question.

They will know we are Christian by our
christian values,
christian t-shirts,
and prayers around flagpoles at public schools
we don’t even attend
because we are separate,
not of them.

Listen to us, your elders,
we will show you the way you should go,
to mold you into the perfect christian image.

You will not lie.
You will not mock.
You will not disrespect.
You will not forget your manners.
You will not lust.
You will not cheat,
or you deserve just what you get.

If you disobey
you deserve the blistered bottom,
the lost meals,
the harsh words,
the shaming,
the threat of being shunned.
And you will call your friend
and tell her you can’t attend her birthday
because you broke the rules.

These are the consequences
I learned.

You taught them from
your sanctuaries,
your kitchen islands,
your youth group bible studies,
your conferences,
your words,
and I believed you

until I didn’t.

Until I saw the fear
I was painting on my own children’s faces,
the pain I caused,
the shame I inflicted,
when I doled out
the same manufactured consequences.

Love had to be another way.

Love is kind,
does not grow calloused to another’s pain.

But you said I was going astray,
ruining them.
They would never know
right from wrong.

Now I see
that was the ruse all along.

To excuse lying if it gets you the court seat
To excuse mocking if it only targets “them.”
To excuse disrespect if you think it’s deserved
To excuse lust if it might have been a joke
To excuse gaming the system if it gets you what you want.

To think the end justifies the means,
while keeping us all from seeing the means
are often everything you told me was wrong.

You would have been my elders
but now we’re just adults
on different paths
with different understandings of God.

I know this sounds like anger.
I have been angry.
I have argued and tried to convince.
I tried to go and never look back.

But I now I see another truth:
We’re still part of each other.
We were all caught up in the same
misguided tide.
And my rage,
my desperate attempts to convince you,
my wanting you to be ashamed for your complicity,
have roots in the same poisoned well.

More shame or pain or hurt
will never turn the tide.
Even if the ruse tells us it’s deserved.

This is the hard part,
it calls for courage, for unguardedness
I’m not sure that I possess.

I still have far to grow.

I know I can’t come back,
But I can be here,
arms unclenched,
in this loving, spacious wilderness,
holding this painful tension,
while love beckons you
with kindness,
with patience,
with your own new path.

Because the good news isn’t
politics and anger,
punishment and fear.

It’s letting go.
Breaking free.
And finding life anew.

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