Yep...that's right. I was called a harlot.
I was minding my own business looking for excedrine when this interaction took place:
W: Honey, I want you to know that Jesus loves you very much.
Me: Oh…well, thank you.
W: No, I mean it…it’s something that you really need to know.
Me: Well, I do…so, thanks.
W: it’s just that…Jesus really loves the harlots of this world.
Me: Ummmm…did you just call me a harlot?
W: Sweetie, you have that harlot look to you.
Me: I’m not sure what a harlot look is, but…thank God Jesus loves all of us.
W: Amen! Have a good day!
Here's what my thoughts on the event known as "harlotgate" are… (It might be important for me to say at this moment that I’m a pastor… Yes, I am an ordained United Methodist Pastor.)
This woman was doing what she was doing out of love. Yes, her method might be a little questionable...but she was telling me about a Jesus she has found to love her. I didn't ask her what her story was...I didn't ask how she came to love Jesus & want to tell others about him. My guess is that if I would have, I might understand this conversation a whole lot better.
People like this make my job a lot harder. If she had said this to someone else, the outcome might have been very different. (and let's be honest...she probably has...). To be labeled as something you're not can be detrimental & damaging to someone's faith journey. Personally, I come from an understanding that everyone reflects the image of God & that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Grounding my conversation (hopefully) in this help me to enter into a conversation very differently. I also understand that everyone has a story of how they are who they are. You didn't just wake up one morning the person that you are...understanding people's stories helps to know who they are without applying your label to them.
I didn't always believe that nothing can separate us from God's love...I didn't always believe that people are created in the image of God...I didn't always believe it was important to know people's' stories...I might have had some of the same conversations that woman had with me... In my journey, God did not change... But I did. And my understanding of who God is & how to share that message has changed dramatically over the years. It doesn't mean that I expect everyone to have the same experience that I do or even believe in God the same way I do...
What I will keep doing is this-- share the love of God with anyone I meet. In words or in actions...help to teach others to be mindful of what they say & do...keep encouraging others to share their stories which may or may not include a belief in God... I will also keep exploring to try & understand more & more why God loves a harlot like me.
I would also love to hear your stories… Feel free to share them with me at [email protected] and thanks for letting me share mine!