I was shunned today.
For as far back as I can remember, I have known a woman who, though no relation, has always been family to me. See, my grandfather (Papa) was a preacher and this woman was a vital member of the church. She had the sweetest soul I had ever known. She had more influence on me than my own mother. When I was a teenager, I kept my nose clean just so I’d never disappoint her. As an adult, I learned in those teenager years, she was going to ask me to move in with her and her family due to my own home being broken. We were very close and stayed close even after the birth of my three daughters.
When I was 30 years old, I had returned to Louisiana and returned to the church she still attended. The church where my papa had preached. For a while everything was as it had always been. As many times they will, things turned sour. She called me out one day to tell me my actions were inappropriate. Apparently times had changed and you just weren’t supposed to show love toward anyone anymore. Let me elaborate. Growing up in the church I grew up in, people hugged. Men hugged men. Women hugged women. Men and women hugged. Kids even hugged. Love and appreciation for the church family you knew was shown. Times had changed though, and I didn’t get the memo. Not until that phone call from her that day, 17 years ago.
Since she had always been that person I didn’t want to disappoint, or maybe it was just myself not understanding this more appropriate behavior, I was crushed. I was mortified. Everything I knew to be an act of true affection was now a vile display of a scarlet letter. I no longer even knew how to act. At all.
Shortly after my shame held me back, I visited a church where the pastor who succeeded my papa was now preaching. After the service, he went to the back doors as he always had, to shake hands and do that ever so despicable act of hugging everyone who came to hear the Word of God. As I made my way to him, I stuck out my now shy hand to shake his. He had the most confused look on his face and reached in for that hug. That hug that melted all those insecurities away. He even knew it was an act of love that wasn’t filthy. It was pure unadulterated love from one child of God to another.
Today, I saw that woman who I used to look up to. I hadn’t seen her in 17 years. She looked me right in the eye and forced herself to look away. This woman of God who was the sweetest soul I had ever known. Still, all these years, holding a judgement against me for doing something she was actually a part of teaching me as a young child. I said hi anyway and walked on. Not feeling any guilt. Not feeling any embarrassment, not feeling anything other than how sad it was for her very heart to have that judgment ruling it.
Today I was shunned, but today, her judgement didn’t matter.