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Skunk Jesus

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”

Last week on April 4th I heard the news that the Church rescinded the policy-once-labeled-revelation concerning the apostate status of married gay couples and the ban on baptizing children in those families until the age of 18. At first I worried that someone was foisting a sick and tardy April Fool’s joke. Then I saw it confirmed by reliable sources.

My reaction on learning that the rescission was real made me want to find a private place and offer whole-souled and ineffable prayers of gratitude. I did that. (I still do that.)

As the day wore on, however, a profound sense of mourning washed over me in swells. I remembered my bafflement and grief from November 5, 2015. I remember my husband curled into fetal position on the couch, crying and inconsolable. I remember going to my Friday morning temple shift the next day unable to keep my own tears from falling, unable to reconcile what I’d heard the day before.

I thought about the families whose loved ones and children were injured (or killed) by that policy. I know what suicide does to a family and the inexpressible tragedy it always is. I thought about the consolation Christ offered to the surviving Nephites in 3 Nephi 10:4: “[H]ow oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.” I couldn’t reconcile how the institution bearing Christ’s name could exile rather than “gather in and nourish” the families affected, and claim the policy was “all about love.” Those injuries, that kind of grief leaves scars. Reversing the policy is something to celebrate, but it will not replace the harm or scars inflicted.

Psychologists understand that apologies with real intent go a long way toward individual and public healing and can sometimes be balm to the lasting scars. Apparently the institution isn’t there yet. I pray constantly for further light and knowledge – for myself, for my Church, for the world we live in.

So, Thursday afternoon last week I wrestled with these multiple and complex thoughts. I have learned that acknowledging all my feelings – even the less pleasant ones like frustration and impatience and disappointment and anger – is a valuable part of God’s process for me to access clarity and growth. Sorting the feelings is useful. Determining which ones to feed is a still-in-progress kind of wisdom.

While doing that identifying and sorting in my turbulent head, I heard my husband suddenly call out, “Oh, no!” from his study. What new misery could this be?

I ran to his study, and out the window we saw a skunk waddling around on the entryway to our house. He or she was plump and content, snuffling around our shrubs for tasty morsels, sniffing at the threshold of our front door as though about to knock with its furry paw.

Since I had just been startled from serious soul examination, into my mind popped up what seemed at first like improbable scriptures:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:38-40)

While I am generally not a fan of “black and white” thinking, this plump, stripy black and white critter on my doorstep somehow prompted heady thoughts.

God often uses humor when teaching me. It’s one of God’s best features, I think. Within seconds of this oddball skunk encounter, God pointed out that among the things I was wrestling with were anger and frustration … with the Church.

Here, in full metaphorical glory was Skunk Jesus essentially knocking on my door in a startling disguise. Could I find compassion for the institution that bears His name, even if I think it is behaving in, um, stinky ways? Rather than feeding festering disappointment, could I remember that the only effective way to do anything in life is from a basis rooted in love? Could I look beyond the potentially unpleasant surface and see another aspect of God?  (thankfully, this creature – known as Schtinktier – literally “stink-animal” in German – remained calm throughout the time we were spying on it.) How was I going to handle the zenny conundrum of working from a place of charity while also sensing injustice?

Jesus is a master of paradox. He calls us to a life full of what seem at first like opposites. Author Richard Hansen notes these paradoxes in a life of Christian faith:

  • We conquer by yielding.
  • We find rest under a yoke.
  • We reign by serving.
  • We are exalted when we are humble.
  • We gain strength through our weaknesses.

I find that as I sort difficult feelings, working with the presumption of love first is hard. For me this will likely be a lifelong task. Resisting impulses to spit and fume about things and reminding myself to seek peace makes me feel less overwhelmed. It has nothing to do with condoning attitudes or behavior I think are wrong. Oddly I am getting better at sitting with all of those urges simultaneously – the spitting and fuming as well as extending myself with compassion.

When I do, I feel more like the not-a-skunk Jesus.

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

2 thoughts on “Skunk Jesus”

  1. Such a brilliant piece of analysis and analogy. Thank you so much for expressing the conundrum so many of us are dealing with. I’m coming to the same conclusion: there is no way but Love. We have to forgive even our church and its leaders. And yes, if we can get there, there is Peace – and the Prince of Peace.

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  2. Thank you, Linda, for sharing your "soul examination" and for seeing the humor and the insight, for sharing Love and Peace.

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