Thursday, May 9, 2013

Visceral Self-Respect (Luke 18:2-5)

(Jesus said) “Once there was a judge in a certain city who feared no one – not even God. A woman in that city who had been widowed kept coming to the judge and saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a time the judge refused, but finally the judge thought, ‘I care little for God or people, but this woman won’t leave me alone. I’d better give her the protection she seeks, or she’ll keep coming and wear me out.’”

The woman in this parable fascinates me. She has grown herself large and loud so as not to be invisible to the powers-that-be. By praising her actions, Jesus ennobles the impulse for survival when others would limit her desire. Not only does this widow need to fend off an unnamed opponent, but she also has to become visible, real, and obvious to the judge presiding over her case.

At this time in antiquity the widow would have had limited options for redress after her husband’s death. Any property could be taken by a son, or lacking a son, the closes male relative. The scales of justice were already tipped against her and she draws a judge who neither gave thought for God’s moral directives, nor for human opinions.

The widow had a choice. She could give up, acquiesce, and simply throw her hands up. Or, she could grow large and loud, digging deep inside for the fortitude to sway the scales of justice to her favor: no doubt, a herculean task in the face of hostile attitudes.

Those of us who find ourselves under the queer umbrella wish it was made of steel as we face hostile attitudes from time to time; for example, the conversations flying around Jason Collins recent coming out while staying in as a professional basketball player. These public conversations remind us that while laws are changing, attitudes have yet to catch up.

The widow fascinates me for her actions betray a radical freedom out of which she lives. While society was telling her to sit down and pipe down, she lived free of those imposed restrictions. I highly suspect her freedom was born out of the wholeness belonging to the arduous tasks of self-discovery, self-growth, as well as self-risk.

Our widow now becomes a model for all of us who have ever been told we don’t measure up. If she can give of herself it is because she appropriately loves herself. In viewing her scene before the hostile judge we begin to understand that self-giving without self-affirmation is meaningless.

The widow is our clarion call not to abandon the self, but to love the self as God loves us – deeply, abidingly, infinitely. How can we love others when we don’t love ourselves? How can we transform society when we are ashamed of ourselves? How can we bring peace, it we are not at peace within ourselves?

Self-consciousness, self-awareness, self-affirmation produce the kind of action we see in the widow. Becoming visible Becoming large. Becoming loud. There are those who would have us remain weak queer girls and boys, trembling in embarrassment of what resides deep within our self-identity markers and our libidinal drives.

The widow calls us forth by calling us to ourselves. Attending to the self (or the soul to use a churchy word) by loving and affirming the self sets us free from predetermined limits, hierarchal roles, patriarchal patterns, and internal guilt. The chains of psychological slavery have been broken and we are subservient no more. Experiencing wholeness we grow until the judge in our lives can no longer ignore us and must grant us some justice.

In the last parable we dealt with (A Self-less Self Love) the issue was humility and keeping the ego in check. In this parable the issue is aggrandizement so we are not invisible to others. Appropriately loving the self is not egotism, rather it is honoring and healing, especially among those who have been taught they are not worthy of love.

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