I woke up this morning after having dreamed about the gut wrenching pain that the people of Misión Latina Luterana, Rev. Rabbell-González, the Sierra Pacific Synod, and hurt that’s rippled throughout the Latine communities local to the area and to those the story has reached, and across the ELCA itself, following the decision by the Sierra Pacific Synod Council to rescind the call of Rev. Rabbell-González as mission developer of Misión Latina Luterana.
My dream was focused on the secrecy surrounding the situation despite that key moments in this unfolding fecalfest were already played out in public at the synod assembly during the Bishop’s election and at least one floor speech of a person considered to represent the synod at Churchwide Assembly.
The tangents in that dream were many, but they focused intensely on the pain of secrecy.
It ended with a mostly imagined mental montage of public apologies by pastors, politicians, and actors. Among them was my shadow self, the Dream Eric who’s not so dreamy, who embodies my pain and shame.
Undreamy Eric was not kind to me, and he never is.
As also usually happens, Undreamy Eric eventually gave way to Eric sitting in the chair in the aftermath of that undreamy part of myself said his piece, and I remember what I said much more clearly than I usually ever do in a dream.
It’s one of those truths of faith that comes from the quiet space within, somewhat transcendent of my conscious mind, that stands up in moments when my coarser nature has been working overtime.
Dreamy Eric Speaks
The problem we have with faith is people too often assume that it’s some kind of panacea. Apply it to Sin once, and it’s not a problem anymore. Faith isn’t a cure all or some sort of preventative of the damage we do to ourselves and others on account of our soul deep brokenness.
The true strength of faith lived out comes when we unavoidably come face to face with our deepest darkness, and know bone deep that God already knows we’re assholes, somehow loves us anyway, and calls us to love us too! — even knowing that we’ll continue to be broken and toxic and fickle. God doesn’t love our fickle toxicity, but loves and tends to the wounded heart at the center of it. In this love, God calls us to love and tend to our own wounded hearts so that we in our pain won’t cause pain to the wounded hearts around us.
The problem we encounter is that in our own embarrassment and desire for the cheap grace of “moving past it” rather than being willing to do the hard work of reconciliation.
No one who loves you wants to see you grovel and wallow in your guilt and pain; but people who love you want to feel certain that you understand your role and observe actions that indicate that you’re willing to accept accountability for your actions. Long-winded apologies and public excoriation do very little in most circumstances to foster true healing. Mostly, these performative apologies just further the culture of voyeuristic violence as we witness the cycle of abuse in action.
This is why so many apologies ring so hollow. An apology is the invitation into reconciliation — not for our benefit so we can stop feeling bad, but for the benefit of those we harm, so they can begin to experience the healing that comes with knowing we care enough to offer it, whether or not they’re in a place to accept it.
The true strength of a lived faith in the face of our failings isn’t that it stops us from being assholes to ourselves and the people around us. Lived faith is there for the moments when we’re in the middle of the shitshow of Sin, not simply for the moments when we can look good.
Epilogue to a Dream
Our conversation about faith has a problem with overt religiosity that doesn’t translate into authentic religion — the lived faith that leads us to compassion for others, and in failing that, the willingness to face our demons openly. No one really cares if you can be nice to people who are nice back. Just about anyone can pull off that trick. What we’re called to in faith is compassion for those who hurt us and for those we hurt because we recognize each other most clearly in our wounds. We emulate Jesus in being willing to show our wounds without reservation so that others can see who we are and understand what’s happened. We emulate Thomas in reaching out to touch others in their wounded places without flinching, but by being believing of them. Sin is not evidence of a broken faith. Lived faith is most powerful when we relentlessly dwell with each other in our wounded spaces, sharing them together so we can reach the love proclaimed through the death and resurrection of Jesus; proclaimed by God, who comes to us bearing the wounds of Jesus’ humanity.