After 3 months of arduous study, I spent 3 days with the most amazing, authentic, transparent and honest group of people with whom I have ever had the honor to interact.  It is difficult to put into words what my heart is aching to say.

To an outsider, we may very well have looked like a gang of ragamuffins.  As a group, we were younger, older, faddish, classic, tattooed, pierced, dress pants, flip flops, floppy hats, skinny jeans, warm-ups, shorts, straight, LGBT, Midwesterners, Eastern Coast, Western Coast, Southerners, Pacific North Westerners, Plainsmen, Australians, married, single, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, varying religious and denominational backgrounds, different skin colors and heritages and the list goes on.  But despite the richness differences can bring to any conversation, I found that foundationally, at our cores beings, as humans, we have much more in common than not.

While I dare not speak for anyone else, on any topic, a few things I found to be true include, but are not limited to, the following: It is frightening to be vulnerable.  It is daunting to expose our flaws.  Love is generally easy to give, yet it is ever so difficult to receive.  Broken hearts abound and the only difference between a shattered heart and a broken heart is the person experiencing the pain.  Family is of utmost importance, whether the relationships are intact or not.  Familial DNA often fails us.  We deeply love people who cannot, will not or do not love us in return.  Everyone has secrets and keeping those secrets hidden leads to shame.  There is a vast difference between who we are and who we pretend to be.  Outer appearances are not always an accurate reflection of inner dynamics.

Inner self talk left unaddressed, generally defaults to the negative.  Being unprepared for self-care is to be selfish and dangerous.  Organization goes beyond our closets and our lives to our relationships with others and our community.  In being open and gracious, our hearts are expanded.  Broken trust affects us in innumerable ways, for longer periods of time than we realize.  The action of “becoming” is not so much an adding to, as it is a chipping away.  Wearing masks is a tiring, abusive practice; and through intentionally abandoning those masks, it is actually possible to be loved and accepted as we are.  Not only can the older bring wisdom to the younger, but the younger can bring wisdom to the older.  Forgiveness, even though completely given, does not extinguish the pain.  The cost of success can at times be high, but the cost of failure is often times insurmountable.  The failure to launch can and often does take a toll in human life.  While some biological parents abandon their children, many do not.  And when those biological parents do abandon their children, God brings in a surrogate, whose love reigns down as manna from heaven.  It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.  Sometimes bridges need to be built, sometimes they need repairing and still others need to be burned.  As adults we have the opportunity and the permission to begin a new story for the rest of our lives, keeping what is good and letting go of what is not.  It is rare to see God’s purpose completely in the beginning of a journey, but the further along the journey one goes the more clearly we can see God.  There is a difference in being chosen and being invited.  The more you get to know an individual, the more beauty you find in them.  It is okay, to be not okay.  Not all wounded people have a tendency toward wounding others; for some, wounds increase the human ability to exude grace and love.  Finally, there is no difference greater than the sameness of God’s love.

A person does not have to be directly and personally affected by a cause to champion it; but if you are, the power of your story cannot be overstated.  The stories and lives of these courageous people who have been rejected by their families, their church communities, their neighbors, their friends and often times complete strangers, yet retained hearts overflowing with love, seemed on the surface to be an oxymoron of gigantic proportions.  But just as sure as the sun will rise in the East and set in the West, these people are real.  They are flesh and blood and have hearts that reflect Christ more accurately than most church sanctuaries on Sunday morning.

So as the introduction to our new lives has come to a completion, we each head out today to bring back to our communities the things we learned and experienced.  Which is to speak the knowledge and truth of Christ’s love for everyone to the powerful beast of exclusion.  If we remain diligent, in time, every chain will be broken and the beast we be defeated.  God be with us!