Shattered and Whole
Last month my blue Cath Kidston mug broke. Cath Kidston discontinued the style and none remained in stock. However, several of my readers found the mug online at another British company. Unfortunately, it was four times more expensive than the original piece. Nevertheless, someone decided to have the mug sent to me, which was so very thoughtful. I am drinking my morning tea from the mug as I type.
In a meeting last week in which the pastors of our new church were telling our Leadership Council how we were doing, I said, “I’m not going to lie. My life is really difficult. It is hard to be hated by so many people.” In the previous seven days I had been mentioned negatively in scores of alt-right and fundamentalist Christian publications and web sites. When I was speaking with Bishop Gene Robinson last year, he said, “The toll of being attacked is cumulative. You think you can dismiss the ignorance, but it finds it way past your defenses.” Uh, huh.
But life has these wonderful compensators. The attacks against me have been matched by a phenomenal outpouring of generosity. Since my TEDx talk became popular, people from Australia to Sweden have written to express their appreciation for my openness, authenticity and spirit. One writer mentioned she had never seen a YouTube video with as many “likes” per views as mine. I took a look on the Internet and sure enough, a lot of people have liked my video.
Then the mug arrived. I was with my fellow pastors when we saw the box. Given the threatening responses I received from the alt-right, I was afraid to open the package. Jen’s husband Eric opened it for me. We were all a little nervous. But when the opened box revealed a beautiful blue mug, I was more than relieved. I was elated. And I was reminded, “Yes, love wins.”
I am keeping the broken mug. The new one has a spot on the bookshelf where the old mug used to be displayed. The broken mug is on my grandmother’s dry sink in my office, all of its pieces gathered on a gold dinner plate. I see it all day long, just to the left of the Rocky Mountain view outside my south-facing window.
This is my life, shattered and whole, hated and loved, torn apart and put together. I will keep both mugs close. I love the broken mug. I identify with its jagged edges, the handle clutching the memory of a space, and the tiny specks that cannot be reassembled. I love the new mug, a sign of so many that love me so well.
As a white male from the privileged side of the tracks, I had no idea just how difficult life is. I thought it was hard fighting gender dysphoria. What I faced back then was nothing compared to what I face now.
Not long ago a female client of color said, “There is nothing I am facing that my pastor has not faced and he seems to find the strength of the Holy Spirit to take him through his dark days. Why can’t I?” She attends a megachurch. I thought long and hard before I responded. “Your journeys are very different,” I said. “You might find more help from the words of Jesus than from the words of a successful white male pastor.”
I am not diminishing the experience of her pastor, a man I know. But his experience has little in common with hers. Sometimes I want to go back and re-preach every sermon I ever preached as a male. Instead, I must show myself grace. As I said multiple times in my TEDXMileHigh talk, “I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.”
As a public figure, generous gifts have always come my way. I have also always had my share of detractors. But there are so many more detractors now, which makes the gifts mean so much more than they ever did before.
What I did not mention at the outset of this post is that I have received two identical blue Cath Kidston mugs within the past two weeks. A note in the second mug had the name of the gift giver, but it was not legible. So, whoever you both are, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I am blessed beyond measure, far more than two cups worth.