Lesley-Anne

Today is my birthday. I am choosing to spend this part of my day alone and writing. It is good for me.

People might be surprised to know I was excommunicated from my church for marrying my husband, over 29 years ago. I have denied my pain, making light of it whenever it came up in conversation. I made it about my husband’s woundedness, rather than my own.

Oh, I knew what would happen. I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and knew their stand on being “unequally yoked.” When the elders contacted me about my engagement to a Catholic, I agreed to meet with them. No big deal, really. A formal letter was read to the church announcing my “outside place.” Friends and family I had grown up with, shunned us. My finance never understood why the church would turn against us, rather than rally around us. But I always knew why. I chose him. I still do.

Years later I began to see the pain in my poetry, but it remained mostly hidden.

Dark lamb

On the morning you pushed out of
her warm constricting comfort
did you know
you weren’t
snow white pure desired
did you sense
knowledge in your belly
of things outside commonplace
revelations of rebellion
did you guess
as you kicked up heels
and ran joyful on newly dry legs
in stubble not yet promising summer sweet grasses
the darkness that set you apart
might be your
complicated saviour?

Lesley-Anne Evans, September 2011

Fast forward to 2015, and a contemplative retreat where God moved and my spirit was laid bare. Have you ever been a stranger? The question hung in the air of the little room. Then I remembered.

I began to tell the same old story about my excommunication, apologetically, rationally, in the way I always had. But then, I began to tremble and shake and weep until I could no longer speak. My fellow cohorts paused with me there, held my exposed pain in silence, then in prayer. Someone gently asked if I might allow him to stand in place of the church, for me? I nodded. He then said how deeply sorry he was, and asked me if I might be able to forgive him. I breathed a deep yes. Yes. I forgive you. We stayed there together for a long time. More conversations followed later. More processing. Still more to come.

I recognize now how being excommunicated has haunted me for most of my adult life. I have longed to be accepted, to fit in, to be enough. I have discounted my own desires for those of others, so they would like me, or to prove my usefulness. I have not spoken up, I have apologized falsely, I have taken the lesser place. Even today I check my FB page for birthday messages and proof, why? I have been, and still am, a stranger. 

And yet, God…in his mercy…tells me that in him I am not a stranger, but Beloved. So I am leaning in to him with all of my longings. I wonder what comes next?

My path since then has brought me to where I am often present to strangers who search for belonging. I sit and listen. I cry. Sometimes I pray.

 

Story by Lesley-Anne, photograph by Claire Evans.

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8 thoughts on “Lesley-Anne

  1. Lesley-Anne, I so love it that you’ve included your own story on this blog. It is such a beautiful embodiment of how, in allowing your wounds to touch the wounds of Jesus, they have become places of welcome and healing for others too. Your own sense of being a (now welcomed) stranger sets you alongside others of us strangers and moves you to reach out and create community wherever you are. I’m grateful to be at least a small, distant part of that community. Happy birthday, my beautiful friend! May this day, and this year, hold a sense of God’s delight in you and an ever-deepening awareness of how God has brought you (and each of us strangers) right into the inner life of the Trinity.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well i can’t say i understand , but i have known others who have been in your position, i can only imagine the pain of leaving those you love and care for , to be with someone you eqaually love and care for , we are all raised with the believe or understanding that when we unite with someone in mariage or for life that they too will become a part of our bigger family , but for some it is like a part of you being severed without your consent , no choice , you have to leave and you are forever burdened with the pain of being alone . You wonder if it was worth it , but in life sometimes the old adage , when one door closes and sometimes permanantely sealed shut , another opens , but for some the pain is too great , and they are forever wondering how to find the key to open it again . We though who have come to know you , we have been the victorious ones, you have enriched our lives , sometimes beyond words, we are blessed by your presence and your elouguent words that you share . For that we thank you and we are all one family and community and we love you . Happy Birthday Kandy

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Operating invisibly and commented:
    What a remarkably insightful, profound post, Lesley-Anne. lived in Kelowna once too. I have felt the sting of “being shunned for my own good”(so I was told) buy my so-called brothers in my church. I chose to love my now spouse before we were married — and was labelled a fornicator. I know what this feels like. But I’ve realized that taking the lesser place was my only option. To love those who scorn us, we must do this. It is the truth of real humility. It is what Christ meant when He said “the first shall be last”. As an active Contemplative, I understand this now. It doesn’t erase the pain — it only helps me to make more sense of it. GBU, AAM

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your words of love. I believe the walk of the contemplative is to this place you describe so well, to hold rather than reject the hurt and suffering (by others and myself) and to learn to love integrally as you learn to love all of yourself, also capable of such hurtfulness and unloving behaviour. I am slowly and compellingly learning these contemplative ways…drawing my woundedness wholy into the loving presence of Christ, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Thank you so much for writing. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lesley-Anne, I saw and felt your pain. I see the evil of the church who sees themselves more powerful than God. Who sees rules more important than the heart. It’s so evident in society too, where rules not followed, molds not conformed to hold sway over love. I love seeing how God sacrificed you, because He loved you so much, in order that the people of the street would have a voice and be loved too. Redemption!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for being part of that loving circle that did not pass by me for the sake of curriculum or timing or appropriateness, but instead picked up my broken heart and held it for a time. I will never forget that day, or you all, my people. With my deep love and gratitude for your heart. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

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