goodness and mercy

another one of our students passed away a few weeks ago, and his memorial was today.  it sucked a big one–it was rainy and cold and dreary, and all who eulogized him talked about how passionately in love with his fiancee he was.  pretty heartbreaking to think about as a wife.  and the baby was kicking like crazy when the student’s dad spoke, which only drew into starker relief the sadness i was already feeling at the thought of losing a son.  again, there are so many things that feel so different as i sit on the verge of being a mother.

the chaplain read psalm 23, a passage that is sort of like the coca-cola of bible verses: it would be played out if it wasn’t so good.  and i got really frustrated that a belief in God (the one with the capital-G) and a knowledge of the Bible have been so co-opted by crazy people that i don’t even feel like they can belong to the sane among us anymore.  “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and i will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”  what a lovely, optimistic, and comforting thought.  the assuredness of that statement, the certainty that in the face of your enemies, you declare that goodness and mercy will follow you forever.  if it weren’t from the Bible, it’d be all over pinterest along with those “go confidently in the direction of your dreams” inspirationals.

my relationship with God and religion and spirituality are complicated, to say the least.  it’s not something i feel comfortable talking about very much, and never really have, even as a child.  in a church and a school where “sharing your testimony” was pretty much de rigeur to demonstrate to everyone that you were a Real Christian, i’d have rather been a total outcast who everyone thought was going to hell than talk about my “walk with God.”  it’s mine–that’s the whole point.  stay out of it, nick lachey.

i grew up believing fervently in God, spent about a decade certain he didn’t exist, and now the pendulum has kind of swung back to the middle, where i feel i’ve divested myself of prior notions and am looking at religious texts with new eyes, sussing out what strikes me as something i believe.  and psalm 23 strikes me that way.  and when i heard the words, i kind of wanted to post them to facebook, like, what a lovely notion.  surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.  what a beautiful affirmation.  and then i thought, but will my gay friends think i’ve turned into a bible thumper?  will they think i’ve abandoned my politics if i quote the bible?  and what the fuck, man.  when did bigots corner the market on the bible (answer: i think circa 2001).  martin luther king jr. was a reverend.  and sister simone campbell is a nun.  the quakers are pacifists who believe in equality not in spite of their religion, but because of it.  it’s so frustrating to try to figure out what you believe in the context of what other people believe.

so.  here’s what i think.  i think marriage is a civil right.  i think the progressive tax is important and probably what Jesus would do.  i think abortion should be safe and legal, and i don’t think a non-viable fetus is a human.  and i also think this is nice:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest
my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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