This past weekend women who I count as friends, known as ward members, and as neighbors who’ve gathered round my kitchen table, joined together outside the door of the Tabernacle to ask admittance to the General Priesthood Session of conference. This past weekend men and women that I count as friends, known as ward members, and as neighbors who’ve gathered round my kitchen table, criticized their actions, calling them out as faithless, insecure, and presumptuous. While I did not stand in line or have my name carried with them, my heart bled for them.
Growing up I recall our family of seven gathering around the kitchen table, laughing and testing our wit often at the expense of some of the more awkward characters we picked from school, church or the headlines. It was always fun; I’m certain I nearly peed my pants snorting in laughter. It all seemed safe within the filter of our home. Yet whenever we were really nit-picking or began ripping into someone new my mother would pipe in over us, to condemn our ridicule, and repeat her wished-for mantra, “your name is safe in my house.” Typically we’d fail to maintain the ideal she had for us, but it did a wonder at worming its way into the back of my consciousness. I still hear on regular repeat without her voicing it; and I want to ask it of others, when I begin to feel as my mother felt.
With her mother-heart my mom had the gift to find good in everyone. Everyone, to the point of groaning and aggravation of all of us kids. We just wanted to lay into the deserving and serve their follies sunny-side up for our own merriment and pride at “thank heaven we’re not like that.” Perhaps I’m slow on the uptake, or really just like to a good time, but the consequences of my actions didn’t seem to wear on me until I got older, a little taller, and later began to grow a mother-heart of my own. Not a mother-heart solely because I am a mother, but a swelling, blood rushing, pumping, red and blue heart of compassion because I saw the bleeding world around me. . When I saw others hurt, I began to hurt a little too. Shocked at the trauma, I offered my own heart to hold some of the flow and began to know my mom’s mother-heart, modeled after Christ’s sacred one.
* * *
Elbows on the green formica kitchen island, I hold my sixteen year-old head in my hands as all the sadness of my high school existence gushes from my mouth and hot tears sting my eyes. I wanted to know why no one could see me. I was mad about at least forty-seven different things and wailed them all to my mother who stood across me taking all of my sorrow in and hearing my futile wishes for restitution and revenge. She’d cackle at my suggestions, but then sensibly suggest that instead “act, don’t react;” which along with “your name is safe in my home” is probably the thing I least wanted to hear. I loved being right, and I just wanted to tell it the way I saw it. It would do me no good to shame and alienate people by telling them how right I was and how wrong they were.
* * *
In the months that lead of to this weekend’s asking and refusal, I didn’t know how to hold my own heart. It swelled with apprehension of the unknown. I feared the rejection and the backlash for them, but mostly I feared it for my friends from my friends. It came. And I had to just stop reading because I couldn’t keep doing it anymore, I couldn’t stand for more cuts. While I did not stand in line with them, nor ask that my name be carried along, my heart went with them and I don’t condemn them: I admire their honest desire and good intentions.
When I was young and happy to pick on anyone easy, I have would have helped lead the brigade. They were asking so boldy and publically, it seemed primed for the picking. They made it open and easy. But now, when I see others that I know and love, see only an action and not the people, I grieve. It is easy to have knee-jerk reaction and push back what sticks out; it takes more time to get to know each other and let them into your heart.
Couldn’t we all just gather back around my kitchen table as friends, neighbors and church members, and talk it out? I’ll make a pot of corn chowder, some salad, and a loaf of bread.
Don’t we all seek further light and knowledge; acceptance and welcome; love and safety? Is it okay if we don’t all go about it the same way?
We’ll break the bread and pass plates while we talk.
Didn’t President Uchtdorf give a fantastic talk that offered room for all of us without exclusion?
I’m sure it would go as most things do when you take the time to talk to someone; we’d see similarities and differences, but get along amiably.
You’d bring dessert and share it around.
We’d act, and not react. Your name is safe at my home, so please gather ’round.