Loud pop music greeted us as we entered a small Irish pub in downtown Washington, D. C. Four women were on the seek for some good food and a place to enjoy time with one another. It seemed oddly fitting for us to choose exactly this location as a diverse group of women, who found friendship through a shared passion – the passion to proclaim the commandment to love neighbor and self in a public way as Jesus had asked his disciples.
The doctorate “Public Engagement” at the Wesley Theological Seminar (Washington, D.C.) had made our lives paths cross in an unexpected way. Maybe without Gods providence we would have never met one another. The communities we come from are very different and even if it hurts, to write this, in the United States these “social bubbles” might not interact as eagerly as one might wish.
But God has provided us a beautiful friendship, binding together in love and respect a Korean-American Methodist Minister, a African-American Church of Nazarene Minister, a Latina-American Methodist Minister, and a German Lutheran Pastor. It is this friendship that was formed early on in the course, which gave me the greatest lesson I could ever learn: that we are free to love another. We don’t need to stretch ourselves out of shape in order to love the other person, but if I accept my neighbor in his neighborliness I am able to find myself as a human being God the creator has made. By hearing their story, sharing our lives with one another, crying, celebrating, and just being there for one another. It is such a gift and privilege, because I can be, who I am. A German Lutheran, who carries the burden of the troublesome German past, and tries in her humanly ways to influence the the present and future driven by Gods love.
It is in Howard Thurman I have found an exceptional theologian and mystic, who was able to put the experience I am making into beautiful words (please note that when he writes about male, I am freely contacting female as well!):
“The religious experience as I have known it seems to swing wide the door, not merely into Life but into lives. I am confident that my own call to the religious vocation cannot be separated from slowly emerging disclosure that my religious experience makes it possible for me to experience myself as a human being and thus keep a very real psychological distance between myself and the hostilities of my environment. Through the years it has driven me more and more to seek to make as a normal part of my relations with men the experiencing of them as human beings. When this happens love has essential materials with which to work. And contrary to the general religious teaching, men would not need to stretch themselves out of shape in order to love. On the contrary, a man comes into possession of himself more completely when he is free to love another.”
(Howard Thurman, The Luminous Darkness, New York 1965, p. 111.)