Out of My Mind


Out of My Mind                                                                                                                                

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.”

Mark 3:20-27

———————————————————————————–

A reflection by Travis Stanley.

“Then he went home.” 

“They went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”

I was the pride of my home congregation growing up.  The young man with the most potential.  I preached my first sermon when I was twelve.  I led worship.  I taught Sunday School class.  All before I was in High School.  Then, I went to a good school to learn how to “make a preacher.”

And then…well, then I went out of my mind.

It doesn’t matter how many people crowd around you, how many people praise you.  It still hurts when home thinks you’ve gone crazy.

I grew up a fundamentalist.  I should be used to the fundamentalist way of thinking: “Everyone, but us, is out of their minds.” After all, we were the folks that believed we were the only ones going to heaven, and we weren’t even sure all of us were going.  But I’m still shocked that home doesn’t understand me, or even seem to try to

For fifteen deliberate years I have tried to leave that judgmental spirit behind.  But no matter how far I go, it has a way of finding me and getting into my head.  Even when no one is around, home has a way of judging everything I do.

No matter where I go, home still finds me.

Home came out to restrain me the other day.  It was on Facebook.  That’s where it seems to happen the most, these days.  It began when I posted on Facebook my joy in anticipating my wife’s first sermon.  See, this was no ordinary sermon.  All first sermons are special, but this one was extra-special because where we come, God doesn’t gift a woman to preach.   So, I posted on Facebook about my joy.  My wife was going to preach!  This was exciting!  She was living into her calling.  She was preaching the good news, serving the church.  Who wouldn’t share in this joy?  And then…

Home came out to restrain me in the form of a lady from the church of my youth.  She posted on my Facebook status a long diatribe on why women cannot be preachers.  It was rather preachy, ironically.  I debated what to do, how to respond.  I deleted the post and sent her a private message.

She has yet to respond.

And it felt good to delete the post.  But it also felt really, really painful.

It wasn’t that I doubted my beliefs or that she said words that were harmful.  It was because, well,  home is home.  These are the people of my childhood.  These are my family.  These are my earliest memories.  The people who first loved me.  The people who gave me candy and hugs and cheek-kisses and faith.  The people who gave me opportunity to find my voice and calling.  The people who taught me to sing–and believe–Jesus Loves Me.  This is home.

But now, home looks at me so confused about where I’ve gone and what I’ve become.

“He has gone out of his mind!”

No one has ever accused me of being possessed by Beelzebub, but I think it’s only because home believes that demon possession ended in the first century.

But something’s not right with me.   After all, I was brought up right.  I had promise and potential, and yet I was led astray.  It must have been the devil, or maybe it was my “preaching wife” or those liberal universities.

For once, I wish someone would at least entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, God had something to do with it.  But usually, the easiest and most plausible explanation is Satan.

That’s all the religious leaders from Jesus’ home could come up with.  Satan.  Satan is making Jesus cast out demons.  Because that makes sense.  Can’t be God.  No, no!  It MUST be Satan.

Jesus’ response,  “Um, how can Satan cast out Satan?” And then, he just goes off.

But be careful with Jesus’ response.  Because, at first, it does seem like Jesus is going off, Facebook style, on the folks from home.  But Mark warns us ahead of time that Jesus is speaking to them in parables, which usually means that no one really knows what the hell he was trying to say, and it’s usually not what you first think.  And rarely does anyone step away from one of Jesus’ parables completely justified.

Maybe Jesus’ whole point is to go off on their wacked-out thinking, pointing out the absurdity of it all.  Satan casting out Satan.  It’s ludicrous (even if you believe in Satan).  And, after all, Jon Stewart didn’t invent the sarcastic tirade.

But as so often happens with Jesus, the Point of his parables is usually pointed in every-which-a-way.

Yes, it hurts when home doesn’t support you, or authenticate your ministry, or understand you, or say, “you know, I don’t always agree with you, but we sure are proud of you.”  That hurts.  Because it’s home!  It’s the place that first loved you and called you.  And they should know better.

But it can’t be about home, because you can’t change home.  They are the way they are, and they’ve been that way a long time and will continue being that way for an even longer time.  That’s why  Jesus points us inward, to our own house.

Home may be divided against you, but what about your own house?   A house, divided against itself, cannot stand.  That means you have to be strong.  Be firm.  Know what you believe, and believe it.  Don’t let home get you down or get in the way.  Don’t believe what they believe about you.

Easier said than done, Jesus.

Why is it so hard?  I do not know.  This is life, and life hurts sometimes.

But there is good news.

After all, Jesus calls us the strong man…the strong person.  This is our house, and no one can come in and take over unless they first tie us up.  So long as we are true to ourselves, true to our beliefs and callings, true to the journey God has called us to be on, then we are not going anywhere.  Home does not have to agree or change their mind or even like us.  We just have to be who we are called to be.  Free and unwavering.

You can let them in and let their questions and doubts and criticisms eat away at your soul and your calling.  Or you can find your affirmation elsewhere.

That’s what Jesus had to do.  “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Maybe it’s not the best good news you’ve ever heard, but it’s still better than the alternative.  There is family for those who need family.  There is home, for those who need home.  And you’re not out of your mind.  But if you are, there’s a community of others out of their minds too, and they welcome you in.

There will always be critics and naysayers and doubters and betrayers.  Jesus’ point: don’t let them in your house.  In your house, invite your true brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers.  These are the ones who do the will of God, who affirm you, love you unconditionally, and see God at work in you.  This is the good news I chose to believe, even when it hurts.  And even when it hurts, it feels right.

I still dream of everything being reconciled, of the naysayers saying, “Travis, I’m proud of you and who you’ve become.”  But I’m not sitting around home waiting for that affirmation.  I still love home and value all the many gifts they have given me.  But I’ve decided to go out and live.

Because, at the end of the day, I want to be proud of myself.  I have to do what I have to do to be who I have to be.  Being who I’m called to be is a wondrous thing, and I’m not letting anyone break in and plunder this good news from my soul.  Not even home.

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7 thoughts on “Out of My Mind

  1. Isaiah 6:9-13:
    And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.

    Paul Tillich:
    “All people desire false prophets, who, through the glorification of their gods, glorify their followers and themselves. People long to be flattered in regard to their desires and virtues, their religious feeling and social activity, their will to power and utopian hopes, their knowledge and love, their family and race, their class and nation. And a false prophet can always be found to glorify the demon they worship. But when the voice of the true prophet is raised, they shut their ears, they contradict his statements, and they ultimately persecute and kill him, because they are not able to receive his message. The order endures until the prophet’s words are fulfilled, and the cities are destroyed, and the land is made desolate.”

    Derek,

    I feel your pain and frustration. It is not pleasant to be thought of as out of one’s own mind. Furthermore, to say that the commission to preach God’s prophetic truth is unpleasant is perhaps the understatement of the last three millennia.

    I must remember that the God I serve is so holy that if one’s life, one’s culture, one’s world is not fundamentally rocked to the core, if one’s very being is not disoriented and shattered right up to the point of annihilation, there’s a chance I have fallen into idolatry. The God I serve commands me to throw my life in front of the violent and dehumanizing institutions of this world (yes, even the “church”) in order to express God’s judgment against oppression, abuse and evil. Yes, even to the point in which it crushes me.

    I must remember that I am not free until every woman, every child, every person of color, every poverty-stricken soul, every LGBTQi brother and sister, every human being who has been denied a voice or a place at the table is free.

    If folks are getting uptight about letting women in the pulpit, they better brace themselves for a real shitstorm when they find out that the petty God that follows them around approving ideas, giving advise, cosigning nonsense and granting wishes like some Santa Claus/yes-man/golf caddy, has been dead and rotting since the first drone strike in Afghanistan, since the first firing of the crematorium at Auschwitz, since the first African perished in the hull of a slave ship, since Jesus of Nazareth writhed and died on the cross.

    We are called to preach the Word of the real God, the true God, the only God who can and does respond to the disease of sin that cripples us. Only that God can set us free. But I expect to be fought every step of the way to preach the love, power and justice of that God.

  2. This sermon was awesome. Sending it to a few lesbian minister friends who need this good word this Thursday morning.
    On my ordination day at my home church in Hereford, TX is 1979, one of the Elders said to me, “you know we are only doing this because of your daddy. (YES, HE WAS THE FORMER PASTOR) But don’t ever think you would be called here.” Happy ordination day.
    As it turned out, there was not even a chance for them to change their minds. The pastor that followed my father led them out of the denomination wthin two years and the church that ordained me evaporated. Mostly to the church alumni association. Dad moved away and I have no family there anymore so I never go back.
    Homeless.
    But I know that had that church remained, I would have been a thorn. I married a man who was a favorite student minister and we went to seminary together. “What is your husband going to do with you?”
    We divorced 13 years later. And I finally fell in love–fell hard–with a woman.
    Recently my high school started a Facebook page and I was invited to join. You are asked to tell something about yourself as you join. So I wrote several paragraphs. Ministry. My family. The moderator never allowed it to be shown. “We don’t allow anything about religion or sexuality on this site.” HM, well there is not much more to my story.
    Next year is my 40th high school reunion. I am thinking about going, with my wife.
    Home.
    Have I gone out of my mind?

  3. Joseph, thanks for your challenging and kind words. And I really like (in a unpleasant way) the quote from Tillich. I need to chew on it some more…

    Nancy, I only know the pain of being labeled “unchristian” because I believe that the kingdom, marriage and ministry is/should be wide-open for those of all sexual orientations. I cannot imagine what it feels like for you to be rejected, not because of what you believe, but because of who you are.

    As far as the high school reunion, I do not think you’ve gone out of your mind. I believe I’d feel the same way, too. I’m not sure if I would act on it (often I convince myself it’s better to just leave it alone). But you can’t help but think it’d be fun to see their faces. 😉

    • I was the class Valedictorian so I keep hearing that they are all amazingly curious. My wife is Puerto Rican and I am gringa–that will also be very interesting in a town that is used to having brown people as the farm workers. She is a college professor! Yes, I do think we need to show up!

  4. Derek, thanks for sharing this piece by Travis. It so intimately mirrors the relationship with my family of origin and the conservative church of my youth. Had I written it, I am not sure it would have looked much different. Mine, as you know, has to do with the pain of rejection because of my sexual orientation. The love may be there, but the affirmation will never come. So, as the story relates, we choose new paths and gather new families of choice. Nancy, I too have a class reunion this coming October and had decided not to go. Let’s do it!!!!

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