The Ugly Step-Sister
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder
February 7, 2020
My house smells like dead mouse. We are engaged in the Mighty Mouse Massacre around here these days, and I think somebody got thwacked by the snap trap or one of the dogs, and has gone off to decompose somewhere out of sight. I am telling you this to assure you that I am not perfect, nor is my household and life always in order. This becomes an important fact to bear in mind as this essay unfolds. For those of you who have been reading my recent essays, you may have gathered I am having difficulty with my spiritual identity. No, not my sexual identity – which I know some of you have been questioning because of my recent – and lifelong – support of people who are gay. I am not gay, lesbian, homosexual, light in the loafers, a dyke, a … whatever the current labels are. I am a straight heterosexual woman who thinks women are anatomically incorrect when it comes to who I want in my bed and body. But the bottom line (no pun intended) is, as long as you are not molesting someone else, I don’t care what you do with your sex parts. That’s your business. End of that discussion for the moment. Let’s move on.
Today I want to talk about the Family of God. This is the title of a song by the Bill Gaither Trio that I learned when I was a young teen. It’s a beautiful anthem and was pretty much the underlying creed for why I took the bold step to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior. If you’ve missed the Family Essays, you may not understand how necessary it was for me to belong to a family of love and brotherhood – God is my Heavenly Father/Mother and Jesus is my Divine Brother. Did I want to be adopted into this Family? Yes. Oh, very yes! Where do I sign up?
I became one of those annoying converts who carries stones of judgement in every pocket and a backpack full just to be sure I never ran out. My parents were going to hell because they smoked cigarettes – they’d be familiar with flame and ash. My biological brother was off to the Bottomless Pit because he used drugs. (Well. Wait. There is something about that that turned out to be almost true, at least for a while.) The neighbors… The kids at school… The government… You name it, I had a judgement already signed and sealed just waiting to be delivered by God’s Right-Hand Maiden! ME!!!
Until, of course, that Divine Family I had become part of sent me a few Messengers and a Holy Cow Spirit! Dale and Karen Preiser. Best Youth Ministers EVER. We bunch of awkward and gnarly teens would go to them on a regular basis and want to get the Inside Edition of How to Save our Family and Friends. We’d throw accusations around like confetti at a jubilee. And you know what they said? Over and Over Again? “Go read what Jesus said were the key commandments.” We did. “Well,” Dale continued, “once we have that ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ thing mastered, we’ll move onto the other rules.” He gathered up our stones, used them to mark the kick ball field and we went out to play.
A little later I met a Catholic priest who was always a priest, not just on Sunday. I’d attend mass regularly, simply because I liked the guy. His recurring sermon? Love one another like God has loved us. Even when he aged out into dementia, this was his recurring lesson. Got to love a man who spends his dying words telling the world to love one another, even though he had not always been shown love or appreciation. Made me wonder.
I am one of those people who have often moved – for a job, for a boyfriend, for the hell of it, because the beach was four hours away, because the Rockies were further, because the rent was cheaper. Throughout this mad adventure, I visited churches and other houses of worship. I met with Buddhists to chant and breathe. I enjoyed celebrating Ramadan with a group of women who made me realize how cool a group of women could really be. I didn’t swim in the hotel pool when the Orthodox Jewish family came for a dip – I’m a goy and the kids were not allowed to be around a scantily clad Gentile woman. No big deal. I could swim later. The kids were grateful.
But one of my Christian friends had a canary. A cow. A fit of grand proportions.
Why would I make someone else’s religious beliefs more important than my desire to go for a swim in a public pool?
My answer: Because it was the right thing to do.
She ranted on and on about it being a public pool and I had every right blah blah blah.
I moved on. Concerned about her ire.
For a while, I worshipped with a bunch of people in a small mountain town. I wasn’t particularly welcomed, but I had tried the other church in town, and definitely didn’t belong there, not being from the proper Scandinavian background.
Which brings me to today’s presentation.
I have moved – again – into a small rural town. This one is on the edge of the high desert at the foot of the mountains. I have been attending a lovely church with some very genuinely caring people. Or, at least they seemed to be caring, until I started to voice my opinion and share my experiences. Now, I don’t go there anymore. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite those Christians – and not just the local bunch – who have never been anything but, to step way out of their comfort zones and visit a different church. A different house of worship. Meet the People. See if what they have memorized and wear on their clothing actually holds up when confronted with Differences dressed like other human beings. Oh, I know, Paul was all about keeping separate from non-believers. This would be fine except Jesus said, Go and share the Story. Who you gonna follow? Paul or Christ? Just asking.
Or, when someone else comes along and sits in on a Bible Study, why not demonstrate good social behavior and shut the hell up and LISTEN for a switch? What makes you think you have all the answers? I ask this, because, Let Me Be Clear – You are not the Christ.
I know that I am not. I am not even close. I am still working on that Love your neighbor thing. Because, quite honestly, I don’t love you. I do not. And herein lies my current spiritual dilemma. I may not cast stones of judgement. I am supposed to love this woman. This man. These people – these ‘Christians’ – who drive me up the ‘blessed’ wall and over the edge of my patience and sanity. I am supposed to welcome them as a Sister in Christ. A Brother in Christ. Part of the Family of God.
Makes me want to grit my teeth and snarl once or twice. But I have not been called to be the Ugly Step-sister. I have been called to LOVE MY NEIGHBOR AS MYSELF – even if, especially when, the neighbor is a self-righteous sanctimonious prig of a human being who runs around spouting Scripture and saying things like ‘Have a Blessed day.” I, the one who has experience in this behavior, am supposed to pray. And love. And that’s it.
Not my favorite thing to do.
So, if you hear me glaring at the next Christian who says ‘God bless you’, throw a prayer my way. My hands are busy trying to ignore the rocks in my pockets.