I was already stinging from the loss—and already angry with the state of our denomination—anger and hurt that will eventually transform into more words and action. What I needed at the moment wasn’t words from people who had been silent, and I did not need the “opportunity” to teach these dear ones just how to support people who are engaged in community organizing and action.
I’m still stinging—still a little angry and a little hazy about how to face the world and our denomination after they voted to continue to profit off climate change. I’m still resisting the urge to respond to the texts and emails of people who just now are writing. But that resistance isn’t about anger—isn’t about saying now that they should have been there for me when we were in the middle of the struggle.
It wasn’t their struggle.
It was mine—and the struggle of those of us called to hold the PCUSA accountable to putting our treasure where our hearts are.
When I look up from the sting, I’m amazed again by the cloud of people who loved me through the most difficult three weeks. My parents and siblings have been stellar, and I have been privileged to work alongside a cohort of brilliant and wonderful people who have put their hearts and souls (and soles…) into organizing in the PCUSA. Seriously: everyone should get to do a hard thing with a bunch of their favorite people!
But a few days ago, my mom (who was at General Assembly with me) asked me how I keep my head and heart together in the loss, and I smiled at the gift of my six white dudes.
I work professionally and academically to dismantle hetero-white patriarchy, even making a reputation for myself in coursework for being the one to complain about the collection of white philosophers we’re support to read. (But let me note too that I will spend much of the rest of my life wrestling with how to use my white privilege for the good.)
I often find myself marveling at how my life in hardest moments are buoyed by six individuals who are white men (a reminder that individuals are different than systems.)
And so, on June 23, I focused on the snarky note from one of my six white dudes—the note that said, basically, “hi. Come home now please. This part of the world needs you to save it, now that you’re done with your Presbyterians.” That’s the one who would randomly send me notes about his cat or junk food… and the one who gave up driving for most of the time I was walking and who (while not a Presbyterian) watched most of the livestream of the plenary debate on divestment.
One of them wrote to me every morning. To be fair, he writes to me every morning—every morning for the last four years—to remind me to greet the day and to check in. We’re peer mentors to each other and in this three week span, his notes reminded me that a new day brings new challenges, but also the same necessities of every other day: be kind, seek joy, put on sunscreen.
One of them wrote to me every evening: the first week of the walk, he reminded what day of creation in the story of Genesis was happening, and the second week, he made up other parts of creation that were coming into being. He is my mentor in the more traditional sense, and he reminded me that most of my schooling has prepared me to be hopeful in the face of failure (and also he reminded me on more than one occasion that the whole thing was a miracle and that I could be proud of myself and our whole team.)
One of them called me nearly every afternoon for three weeks, heard me at my crankiest, reminded me that I’m stubborn to a fault, and then loved me into some hard conversations. (To be honest, at one point on the walk, I yelled at him and told him he was the meanest human I’ve ever met, and he still picked up the phone the next day and asked, “hey: did you tell the patriarchy to smash itself yet Well: damn.)
One of them (my partner) called me every night—when I wasn’t out of my mind exhausted—to tell me he loves me and that somehow it would be alright. And when I was exhausted and needed to just go to bed, he reminded me that actually this three week adventure was objectively exhausting.
One of them was on the walk with me—and simultaneously told the most embarrassing story of me on the walk and also over the course of those three weeks said again and again that he followed me (and then did.) If ever I needed perspective on just how seriously I should take myself in this work—here it is.
Soon it will be time for me to walk again and to help listen to where God is calling us in our work for eco-justice in the PCUSA.
I am so grateful that we do not have to do it alone.
I am so grateful that my little cloud of witnesses teaches me to keep walking and to be surprised.