How do you feel when you receive an invitation? It probably depends on where you’re invited and who else is going. Invited to a potluck dinner with friends? Great! I’ll bring pesto pasta! Invited to go hiking? Sure, let’s go! I know just the place. Invited to join the Becoming Beloved Community Task Force in the Diocese of Southern Ohio? Hmm… I’m not so sure about that. Let me think about it.
Two of those invitations fit right in my comfort zone. Attending a small gathering of friends with food and walking and talking with a friend – no problem. Meeting with people in my diocese to create a community where we respect our differences and work toward racial reconciliation – suddenly, I’m thinking about all of the things I have to do that don’t give me the time to join this group.
Turn. Learn. Pray. Worship. Bless. Go. Rest. When I first understood that Bishop Curry calls us to follow these practices daily, I couldn’t imagine what success would look like for me. I couldn’t see past my own limitations, fears, and insecurities. But I knew that Bishop Curry believed in our ability as a church to follow the Way of Love. His belief helped my unbelief.
[Learn more about the Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life]
The seven practices of the Way of Love are not designed to invite us to be comfortable. If we truly wish to live a life following Jesus, we must challenge ourselves to enter into spaces where we don’t want to go. The practice of Go calls us to cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus. It’s easy to cross boundaries when you have a map. It’s easy to listen deeply when you love the speaker. Live like Jesus? Well… let me get my phone and my special pillow before we go.
My diocese called me to cross boundaries into uncomfortable, painful spaces with people I don’t know or know well. As an African American woman entrenched in midlife, I can think of a thousand things I’d rather do than sit around talking about racism, conflict, and atrocities past and present. Yet God would not let me reject this call, although I tried many times. The Spirit pushed me to say yes to this work after months of avoidance, discernment, and prayer. My elders and ancestors hold me in their arms as I journey down this road. Now THIS feels like living like Jesus.
The Way of Love’s call to Go might call you into comfortable places with agreeable people. But don’t stay there too long. If we really want to live into the Way of Love and follow Jesus, we must follow Him into those places that make us squirm, turn our heads, and initially want to say no, I’m not going there. But love itself being a multifaceted state, by its very nature, forces us to move beyond our heart’s desires to create our heart’s desires. If our desire is to follow Jesus and to live a life filled with the Spirit, we must lose ourselves and rebuild ourselves in each other. We can only do that if we’re willing to go where it’s difficult, dangerous, and painful.
Our work in Southern Ohio is underway, and now I’m emboldened to get to the work of creating Beloved Community centers throughout our diocese. I’m prepared to face the excruciatingly painful task of racial reconciliation and understanding in our urban and rural communities. Most importantly, I’m blessed to be in a church with a Presiding Bishop who believes in us so much that he knows we can achieve the Way of Love. We follow Jesus – we can do anything.
This reflection, written by Miriam McKenney, is part of an ongoing series on the Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life