Cautionary Tale

[Image Description: black and white photo of a cloudy sky reflecting in a lake.]

People should not be excluded
for things that are not their fault,
especially kids
who had nothing to do with adult actions
and need their community.
It’s wrong to shut them out.

I said these things,
more or less,
to the church elder
in the church office
after church.

I tried to say it
meek and deferential
like a Good Christian Girl,
but below the surface I was
fire, righteous rage, teenage defiance,
and trembling with church-instilled fear.

I tried to be the Good Christian Girl
for a very long time.
I went away,
returned,
and tried on
Good Christian Wife,
Good Christian Mother,
Good Christian Woman,
too.

But I am a terrible actress
with no poker face,
and an insistence on a much more spacious God.

I wonder if he had any idea what I’d learn, that elder,
that kind-hearted man turned instrument of patriarchy by church teachings,
when he said to my face that it was not my place,
but then changed his mind behind closed doors
with other men.

I wonder if he knew I’d look back on that day
and realize that any church that knows a
teenage girl is right,
but can’t say it to her face,
is no place for her.

I was supposed to learn my place,
but instead I became a cautionary tale
in that kind of church,
the wild woman in the wilderness of faith
with scary ideas
like there is enough for everyone
and God is not a man,
out here in an ever-widening circle of who’s included.

Ill-fitting facades,
abandoned on shore,
swimming naked in the waters,
Spirit brooding over,
waiting for what God will speak into existence next.

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