Can you come of age more than once? How many times did Jesus “come of age?” Was it a one-time thing when he was 12 and stayed back in the temple to hang out with the religious scholars and teachers? Or, was it when he entered into the muddy Jordan River to be baptized like all the others by John and communicate that he too needed to be touched by waters of grace and hear of God’s love? Perhaps Jesus came of age when he encountered the Canaanite woman as she asked for her daughter to be healed and was challenged to realize his ministry is to share God’s love and grace with all people.
Jesus came of age all of these times and more. Each time he delved deeper into the realization of God’s deep love for him and his call to live out that love, he had a coming of age moment.
I have had various moments in my own life. There was a time in my life when I would approach communion with the thought, “make me worthy to receive this sacrament.” Through much interpersonal work and prayer, one day the narrative changed, “through God’s love and grace I am worthy, I am God’s beloved.” It was a coming of age time, into both my worthiness as a child of God and hearing God’s call into ministry.
Coming of age is not solely an individual endeavor, it is also something that can be experienced within a family, a relationship and a community. For Lori and I, we experienced a coming of age moment when we got married on May 20, 2017. It was a moment over 24 years in the making.
Our relationship, which began during my last year of seminary, was complicated in the life of the church. We knew we loved each other, made a life-long commitment, and we knew that I was called to serve the church, specifically The United Methodist Church, my life-long faith community. In faith, we struggled to make it work. We played, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In time, we found community outside the church to affirm our relationship and discovered support within the church. I had trusted colleagues who became valued friends where our relationship was also affirmed.
Not being fully out though, created limitations in our relationship and ministry. We had talked about marriage off and on, but felt we wanted it to be something we could share with the wider community, plus the legality was not there yet. On June 26, 2015 same-sex marriage became legal in the USA and our talk went into action. We began planning and getting excited. When I signed the UMC Clergy Out letter in May of 2016, we no longer had to decide how to handle the church.
When we gathered with family and friends, with those who had supported us through the 24 years, we had a complete sense that we, as a couple, were loved and affirmed by them as well as God. Lori shared with me this morning, that when we had a blessing of our marriage at church, that support of the faith community spoke to her of God’s love in a new way.
We came to age as a couple, fully embracing and embraced by the love of family and community and delved deeper into the understanding of God’s love for us as beloved daughters, as a beloved couple. What are some of your coming of age moments, as an individual or with others?
Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth