Leanne McCall Tigert’s personal reflection is my way to prepare for this week after the tragedy in Orlando, Florida, at The Pulse. In the past and in the future I have and will call for gun control, encourage legislation that separates hate crimes from others, and remind us all that true, open and loving welcome to all helps to raise children who are far less likely to commit hate crimes. But now, I listen to pain, to vulnerability, to those with broken hearts. Leanne’s thoughts are based on a reading of Wendell Berry’s poem which you may know or you may find here.
Reading “The Peace of Wild Things”. Wendell Berry
The 1970’s were wonderful and horrible for me
I was raised in a southern, moderately evangelical church, I figured out I was a lesbian, after I finally heard the word, I spent many nights in a hidden away, gay, and drag bar that was a great sanctuary and safe harbor, I discovered the mountains and wilderness as my other safe harbor and sanctuary. I still like dancing in gay bars, but I frequent the mountains much more often.
I’d like to share with you an event in my life from 1979, one of those pivotal moments. I wrote about it in one of my books, so this might be familiar to a few of you…maybe…
I had come out to my family—who were horrified and ashamed, and basically stopped talking to me. I came out to the minister of the church in which I was working as a youth minister—he packed up my office and escorted me out the door on the spot. Then.. I gathered up the nerve to come out to my close friend, with whom I was madly infatuated, or in love, or whatever it is at that point in life. She basically said, “thanks but no thanks”—which wasn’t bad for the 70’s.
My heart was broken. I went with my friends to the gay bar and danced until the club closed. I went back to my dorm room, and grabbed my guitar and drove to a park, by our standards today-a large wild park, out in the country. By then it was about 4 am. I sat on a picnic table ,playing my guitar, hearing the early morning sounds in the woods, feeling about as alone as I imagined I could feel, and having no clue what was next, or where to turn. So, I’m just playing my guitar as the sun comes up. Next thing I notice—a beautiful big yellow monarch butterfly lands on my shoulder, and then another and another, I’m thinking, “this is cool”, and I keep playing, and they keep landing, until I am covered head to toe, with butterflies. They stay for a few minutes, and then they fly off. I look around, nobody’s there. I quietly pack up my guitar, get back in my car, and head home, still with no clue of what’s next, but it seemed okay.
In my 21 year old theology, I believed that God had sent me those butterflies as a sign of love and hope for new life. In my looking on the horizon of 60 year old theology, I am aware that this extraordinary event may have been quite ordinary, and probably wasn’t so much about me, because it was much larger than me. I now know that it was migration season and monarch butterflies do this kind of thing. I now know that beauty and love and hope are built into the natural order of life—that’s the miracle.
Cocoons get shed, beauty is everywhere, love is outpoured, resurrection happens, hope survives every act of violence.
So, whatever brokenness you may feel—for yourself, for our world, there is healing, there is hope.
“I come into the peace of wild things…I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.”