Posted February 25, 2014 by Marg Herder
“Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins.”
—Sarah Bareilles, “Brave”
I’m on this planet loaded up with my words. My liberal, feminist, queer words—dripping with “She”—as devoid of any type of violence as I can make them.
And over there in another part of the web, you’ll find my counterpart, Tim, writing conservative, complementarian, straight words, thick with male pronouns.
Judgment kicked in as soon as I read the first paragraph of his words. I created a confining container for him. I imagined him reading my words and creating a confining container for me.
Could either of us really have any use for the other when our words created such an imposing barrier?
As the Oriented to Love event approached, I had a sickening premonition that Tim would think me unworthy of the label “Christian,” unworthy of my own loving relationship, perhaps not even deserving of kindness. I feared that he would suspect I was on a mission to dismantle everything sacred and necessary.
When we met, I struggled to see past my expectations. I desperately wanted to, but I didn’t know how to let the words go.
As the dialog started, we communicated with words. I listened intently to his. I felt that he listened intently to mine. But they were words, and however carefully spoken, kindly intentioned, I protectively lined them up between us like a fence.
I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
The first time I started thinking Divinity was up to something was when I played my song, “At Her Table,” for the group. It became clear to me that Tim hadn’t just listened to the song, he had experienced it. This is always my intention, that a listener find him or herself, to an extent, involved in the music.
The divisive power of the words between us lessened. I started to wonder if maybe Tim was one those people who knows music. Not “knows music” as in appreciates music or likes music, but “knows music” the way I do, as one of the most powerful sacred expressions available to us. To people who know music, God’s voice often sounds more like music than words.
My suspicion was confirmed later in the day when Tim humbly created one of the most grace-filled moments I have ever experienced. Tim traded in “his” time, the time reserved for him to tell us about his own life, and instead read a long passage from 1 John, which he introduced as “a clobber verse for the other side,” and followed it up by playing a beautiful acapella arrangement of the hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”
My experience of hearing that song, in that moment, can only be described as feeling I was wrapped in the tender softness of the sacred presence of God. Through my tears, I looked over at Tim, and with eyes full of tears, he met my gaze. Something I will never find the words to describe flowed between and through us.
I will never get over it.
In that moment, I knew something that I could never have known when all the words were in the way, something magnificent and grace-filled.
I knew Sophia-Wisdom lived in Tim.
And immediately I realized how deep and fast and cold the river of my own prejudice flows through me. I became aware of how quickly I judge the people whose words are different than mine. I felt how little appreciation I have for the unique and precious manifestation of Divinity in people who, on paper, appear not at all like me.
Tim taught me that, without any words at all.
Posts inspired by the Oriented to Love dialog by Marg:
Introduction to the Series
Of the Mystery and Miracles
Questions and Consequences
All these Words
What Am I Really Afraid Of?
The Huge Knot of Misunderstanding
The Unbelievable Bottom Line (on the Evangelicals for Social Action website)
To hear my song, At Her Table, click here to go to the CFT audio page. It’s the last song listed on the player. It’s also available on Amazon and iTunes if you’d like to purchase it. Click here to return to the top of the page.