Both Sides Now

You know that Joni Mitchell song?  You know the longing lyrics where she looks at clouds and love and life and concludes each time, “I really didn’t know ___ at all.”

The lyrics have been in my head since I left this afternoon’s pastoral visit with a recently divorced member of the church. She’s cautiously elated. Yes, that’s possible. I so enjoyed hearing her story and listening to how her past year has unfolded. I found it truly amazing. But, I was very careful with my words. I was careful what I said so that it wouldn’t seem that I was taking sides. After all, her ex-husband is a member of the church. It’s not my job to pick sides. It’s the church’s job to welcome them both. We have to hear both sides now. We don’t really need to understand it — but we have to listen. We have to remind them both that this is their home.

It’s an awkward dance — and I realize it’s a rare event that these steps are learned. More often than not, we pick sides. I know that’s true for my friends. I don’t have patience for the guy that broke my friend’s heart. I’m loyal that way. Except that’s not what happens in the church. More often than not, we know the husband, the wife and the children. We have been their home. As a marriage ends, that doesn’t change. We continue to be home for that whole family. It isn’t easy. It won’t be easy. But it’s the right thing, isn’t it? It’s what we’re supposed to do as we welcome the stranger, the orphan and the ones that feel everyone else has rejected them. That’s Biblical. I’m not implying that the divorced are strangers or orphans. I’m just using the mandate from the Hebrew Scriptures. What is missing from that ancient scripture is the fact that we don’t only welcome the stranger. We welcome the person that made that person a stranger. We welcome both sides now. That’s what Jesus teaches us to do.

I realize that I had the same conversation this morning. It’s rooted in my thoughts on this Lillian Daniel conversation but I realize that all of the things I read don’t say exactly what I find so interesting about our united and uniting church. We are an intentional community — not a monastic one as that phrase infers for me. Instead, we are intentional to stick together through the tough questions. We’ll stick together through divorce, death and all of the rest. That’s not true for every circle of friends. It is true for the church. Or it should be.

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