Rev. Rebecca Trefz, director of ministries, Dakotas UMC
It’s been one week since I returned home from General Conference in St. Louis. People have asked me how it was, what it felt like, how I’m doing. For a few days, I just kind of felt discombobulated, like it was all a bit surreal. But as I emerged from the fog, I realized how I was feeling. I’m tired.
I’m tired of being in settings like General Conference that feel more like our U.S. Congress than like church—where I feel like I can’t talk to certain people because they’re from the “other side”—where I have to dehumanize them as the enemy because "they’re unloving, heretical, un-Biblical, judgmental,” in order to feel secure about my viewpoint. I’m tired of feeling like you can’t value or affirm the friendship or gifts or insights of someone from “the other side” without including the disclaimer, “even though I don’t agree with them” so others don’t get the “wrong impression.” I’m tired of caving to the culture that says this is what disagreement must look like.
I’m tired of arguments that use Jesus’ words from Matthew 19:4 to affirm “traditional” marriage while ignoring what Jesus is actually speaking against in this statement—divorce, and remarriage. I’m tired of arguments that use Jesus’ words “do not judge lest you be judged” as a dismissal from our responsibility to wrestle with the boundaries and self-denial Jesus calls for. I’m tired of arguments that make me feel like I don’t submit to the authority of scripture just because certain things are not as “clear” to me as they are to others.
I’m tired of statements like, “sin is sin.” While it may be “true,” they are an oversimplification that gives me no guidance on how to be open to God’s continued conviction and sanctifying my own life. It feels like I should just have the list of “don'ts,” check ‘em off, and call ‘er good! It lets me be lazy in reading scripture because I only have to believe it was inspired in the writing and not expect that I better allow the Holy Spirit to inspire the reading. It lets me call on my confirmation bias to only seek out voices to reinforce whatever reading I choose.
Likewise, I’m tired of the statement “love is love.” While it may be “true,” it also feels shallow and gives me no framework for the depth of transformative love that is found in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve witnessed parents loving their children, spouses/partners loving each other, and church members loving one other in a myriad of ways that could not be encompassed by a simple phrase. I also think my definition and understanding of love has changed and grown and become more complex through marriage, parenting, and ministry.
I’m tired of being called by Jesus to go and make disciples, of meeting amazing LGBTQ persons and welcoming them into friendship or our church family but not having guidance from the church on how to disciple them to order their affections and desire for intimate relationships. I feel frustrated that I can offer my young adult niece and her boyfriend guidance and discipling in regards to sexual intimacy before and during marriage, but can’t offer the young adult gay couple in our church the same beyond life-long celibacy and singleness.
“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me…” (Lamentations 3:17-20)
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)
As tired as I am, I am not consumed because of God’s faithfulness—in my own discipleship and faith journey as well as in what I have witnessed in others.
I have been renewed by the opportunities God has given me to meet LGBTQ pastors and individuals who are doing phenomenal Kingdom work—both on the social justice front as well as on the evangelical, Jesus-died-for-my-sins-and-rose-to-conquer-death front. They are embodying Jesus’ words that a good tree bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17).
I have been renewed by God stirring in the heart of my former seminary professor—one of the most orthodox United Methodist’s I’ve ever met—to write an article that was like water in the desert for me as he described what was missing for me in other “arguments” for inclusion. As he did in seminary, he has spurred me on to go deeper.
I have been renewed by the ways all of this has made me wrestle more deeply with many areas of scripture that other faith traditions say are “clear”—my position in church leadership in a role of leading/guiding/admonishing men; my role relationship with my husband or our decision to no longer “be fruitful and multiply;” the ways in which I counsel people in areas of relationships or procreation. I have been renewed by the restraining and renewing influence of the Holy Spirit who challenges me to not demonize or dehumanize people who frustrate or anger me and to not forget about the logs in my own eyes.
I have been renewed in this past year, and even amidst that divided General Conference, by the “traditional” friends God has brought into my life who have talked and wrestled with me, who have encouraged and challenged me, and who have modeled the messiness of life-on-life discipleship that can’t be outlined in a Book of Discipline but is more real and raw and life-transforming.
And, I have been renewed because I have seen people in the Dakotas defy expectations and work together for the sake of the mission. It was those same Dakotans who were sending cards and texts and care packages and prayers to our delegation before, during and after GC because they cared about us as "family" more than our vote.
So I’m tired, but that’s why God invented espresso and the Holy Spirit (ok, maybe “invent” is the wrong word, but you get what I mean 😉). And, as someone reminded me, it’s also why God created Sabbath. Like many of you, I don’t know what the future holds for my calling or vocation or my denomination. But I believe in a God who breathes life into dust and brings the new life of spring from the dark of winter. I believe in a Holy Spirit that can transform what is broken into something beautiful.
And I believe in a Savior that redeems and resurrects, who is beckoning all of us in our physically, emotionally and spiritually weary states to take HIS yoke upon us and learn from HIM. And that is what I intend to keep on doing.