Tuesday, September 23, 2008

God's Love

Church was really good on Sunday. Two things really sang to my spirit.

In Sunday School the lesson was about Samuel the Lamanite, and as I was listening, it struck me that, Samuel, righteous as he was, was actually an outsider preaching to members of the church who had become prideful and wicked. I assume Samuel was considered a member of the church, too, since he was a prophet and living his life in righteousness. But my point is that it struck me as ironic that these high and mighty Nephites, who probably felt Samuel was beneath them, were being preached to and called to repentence by him, who was actually more righteous in his life than they were. I just thought it was interesting.

What really lifted me up spiritually was that the Special Needs Mutual came to our ward to sing and speak. I didn't even know that such a group existed. What was interesting to me was that during the sacrament, one of the special needs women started commentating on the proceedings at full voice. She was pretty much shouting stuff like "Here comes the bread!" and "Oh, he's passing by us now," etc. She wasn't doing it to be rude. In fact, she was quite joyful in doing it. It's just the way she was. As I sat there, I thought about how social rules have taught us all our life to be "normal," whatever that means, and that one of those rules is that we're supposed to be quiet and reverent during the Sacrament, and I thought, "I'll bet there are people in the congregation who are uncomfortable or bothered by this woman, and I asked myself a question I have asked myself often (and have even blogged about): "Why are we so afraid of people that are different from us?" I myself was not bothered by her behavior; in fact, I found it sweet in a way. And I always am interested in things that "rock the boat" a bit. In my mind I thought, "This woman is who she is. She can't help behaving that way nor does she view it as being wrong or un-normal." As I thought about this, I equated it to my own situation of being a homosexual, something I feel I just am even if it means I don't always fit in the "Mormon box."

What really moved me was that this special needs group sang a song that I know very well from having sang it in high school many years ago. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it as well. It is "In This Very Room," and these are the lyrics:

"In this very room there's quite enough love for one like me,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for one like me,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.
And in this very room there's quite enough love for all of us,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all of us,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.

In this very room there's quite enough love for all the world,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all the world,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power to chase away any gloom,
For Jesus, Lord Jesus ... is in this very room.

What was interesting was their configuration as they sang it. Unlike a "normal" choir that would be in some proper formation, one guy with Downs syndrome came to the front of the group all by himself, and yet another sang the song from the aisle near the congregation (still a part of the group, but completely on his own at the same time). Their voices were varied. Some sang just fine, others couldn't sing well at all, and that one woman just commented while everybody was singing until she was the last voice heard muttering various things long after the song itself had ended. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen or heard in church, and I was crying throughout, especially because the words seemed so poignant to their situation as well as my own. Sometimes one doesn't fit the conventional definition of "normalcy," at least by the world's standards or the church's standards or society's standards or what-have-you. But what really hit me was that it doesn't matter so much because God's love is so far-reaching, so eternal, so abundant, so boundless that there is a place for everyone at his table. No one is beyond the reach of his love. No one is excluded. Sometimes religion can seem like a very exclusive thing, and it is interesting that the irony is that God is completely inclusive.

I was reminded of a song from an Off-Broadway show called Altar Boyz called "Everybody Fits." It goes like this:

Some days you just can't begin.
You feel outside looking in.
It's like you're the odd man out.
Let me help you end your doubt.

It doesn't matter if you're different and out of place.
It doesn't matter if there's acne upon your face.
It doesn't matter.
Take my hand and then you will see
Everybody fits in God's great family.

Strangers seem to stop and stare,
Wonderin' why you're even there,
Feeling so left out and wrong.
I'll show you that you belong.

It doesn't matter if you have a gigantic nose.
It doesn't matter if you're born with eleven toes.
It doesn't matter.
You can trust and believe in me.
Everybody fits in God's great family.

In the family of God you'll learn
That there is no such thing as others.
All the woman and men on Earth
Can be your sisters and your brothers.

It doesn't matter if you're wrinkled and old and gray.
It doesn't matter if you face Mecca when you pray.
It doesn't matter.
Won't you listen and hear my plea?
Everybody fits.
It doesn't matter if you're yellow or white or red.
It doesn't matter if you're pregnant and you're unwed.
It doesn't matter
'Cause the truth, it can set you free,
Everybody fits!
Everybody fits!

It doesn't matter .
Every murderer on death row
It doesn't matter
Every prostitute that you know
It doesn't matter
Welcome to the fraternity.
Everybody fits in God's great family,
You and me,
We fit into the family.

I really believe in an all-loving God. I think sometimes people and religion make us think we lose his love if we sin or that if we're not living our lives perfectly according to society's norms that we're somehow unworthy of that love. I wish I could convince everyone that this isn't true. My heart powerfully received the message on Sunday (as it has many times before) that there is a place for all at God's table regardless of your situation. I don't care if you're a murderer, an adulterer, an atheist, gay, mentally-challenged, mentally-deranged, suicidal, a woman, a man, if you've lost all faith or have plenty, whether you're a prophet, or the biggest sinner in the world. God loves you and me in terms that are inexplicable to our finite human minds, and nothing we ever do will cause him to stop loving us. I become more and more convinced of that as I continue on my life's journey. It's good to know.

Anyway, that's all for now.


The Faithful Dissident said...

What a lovely post! This is something that I would love to hear from the pulpit.

Your experience last Sunday makes me think about my own branch. My branch president and his wife adopted several children who are now grown up, but they also have a couple of special needs foster kids. One of them is a huge challenge. I think he has autism and perhaps fetal alcohol syndrome as well. They have to watch his every move because he gets into trouble. It's often hard to understand what he says, but he's able to swear loud and clear! :) Just this past Sunday as the sacrament was being passed, I heard him let out a curse at the top of his lungs out in the hall. I just chuckled to myself. :) And I'm happy to say that whenever he does this, no one seems to bat an eye.

There was a sister in my home ward who was native. After she joined the Church, she would get up to bear her testimony and start singing loudly in Ojibwe. I remember feeling a bit strange when she did so, but I think it was because I was worried that everyone else was uncomfortable because it was so different. Sometimes we're more afraid about reactions than the differences themselves. But luckily it seemed that everyone loved this sister and she remained a strong member until she died.

Sadly, being different or a little "off" in a ward can have negative consequences. I remember a man who was investigating the Church in my home ward many years ago. The poor man had really bad B.O. and I think someone made comments and he stopped coming.

Beck said...

Thank you for this thought-provoking post. We all are misfits here, and yet there is still room for us all!