I’m a refugee magnet. My always-expanding circle of people includes a bajillion women and men who have been tripped up, stepped on, talked about, kicked out, and left alone to the point that they don’t know if they can keep going.
(If you’re reading this and you’re one of my friends, I’m probably not talking about you. You are the exception; you are actually fine. No worries.)
When I say “refugee” I’m not thinking of actual refugees who smuggle their babies across borders in the middle of a war-torn night. If I lived in a different part of the world, maybe. If my life were more open to the literal refugees that end up in the DFW metroplex, probably.
No, the ones who come to me are the spiritual refugees, the ones whose hearts yearn for God, whose minds cling to memories of love shared in families and churches. They are the ones who have been pushed away, pulled away, torn away from the relationships and institutions that once gave them the life they imagined God wanted for them.
They are women whose churches taught them to love God with their whole selves, their hearts and souls and minds and bodies, but then told them they had gone too far. They should not imagine that God wants them entirely, in the servant-leadership of the church, because they are women, and God knows, women are not cut out for this kind of service. Serving food from the church kitchen at a potluck dinner, yes; serving the body and blood of Christ from the table in the sanctuary, no.
They are women and men whose churches cultivated the Spirit of tenderhearted love within them, only to say later that such love is only meant for certain ones, not same-sex ones. They should not imagine that God is the source of that love, the love that wanders outside the bounds of our heteronormative expectations. Suppress it, ignore it, repent of it, exorcise it – whatever it takes to banish that love from your heart. And if you can’t do that, go away. We'll pray for you.
They are people whose churches didn’t or couldn’t make room for them in their difference, like their difference was disruptive, or too big, or too loud – like it was hurting the church somehow to have to live with it. They are people who at some point in the not-too-distant past believed that about themselves – that they were hurting the church they loved just by being the people they are. And so they left. And felt some relief, for a while, just being gone.
Spiritual refugees. Samaritan women minding their own business, drawing water at the well in the heat of the day. Pregnant, unmarried teenagers wondering if anyone will stand by them in their shame. Sick people with diseases so foul or fearsome that no one will touch them. Those who grieve too loudly and too long. Those without means to buy their way back in; those without advocates to fight their way back in. Who misses them? Who wants them? Where do they go?
Not a few of them make their way to me, and now to Galileo Church, because with us they find a place to rest, and consider whether God’s love might still be the realest thing in the world. They find a tight-knit group of former refugees who are no longer homeless, but who count each others’ living rooms and lives as home for their restless, hungry spirits.
I was a refugee once. I could tell you about that some time, if you like. But God and the people of God have taken me in, have brought me home. And now, mi casa es su casa. Come on over.