In Mya’s memory: Acceptance is a two-sided responsibility
by Shannon Sanderson
Many people who attended Mya Dale’s funeral last Friday were angered or upset by what they took from the pastor’s eulogy, and some of that anger found its way onto Facebook. Shannon Sanderson responds.
Ok, it’s time for us to pause in our grief, just for a moment and step back a little. We all knew Mya — a little bit. She touched all of us deeply. But, no one of us knew her better than another per se, aside from her mother.
I am not always capable of perfectly affluent speech. But, I do have in common with Mya a willingness to walk up and ask questions, without backing down in the face of another strong willed person.
I spoke with the pastor, Mya’s mother and Mya’s father after the services Friday, several times. The following, which I posted somewhere else, I think is fitting for all of us to consider:
Mya’s church and pastor will miss her too. I spoke with him after. He truly has his heart in the right place. Lets not judge him harshly for not knowing how to word what he was trying to say, in a manner that ALL of us could understand and accept! Mya wouldn’t. She accepted each of us on the terms of our own limitations and that included him. He loved Mya and her example. But, as we all are, he’s human and limited by his own experiences. He didn’t intend to drive anyone away. He simply has a passion and faith that bubbles out of him. He too was emotional and hurting. He too was struggling to put to words the myriad thoughts and feelings that are coursing through him at the loss of a child who touched so many. He was struggling to figure out, HOW to speak to a community, that on any other day would NEVER GIVE HIM THE TIME OF DAY.
Isn’t that precisely what we struggle with? Trying to speak to a community that won’t give US the time of day? He experienced our struggle, he persevered and if he came off strong and off kilter… Well how many people think we’re just yelling about sex? That’s not our message when we fight for our rights, but that is often the message that comes across in our anger and passion and hurt. Lets, grant him the grace we want for ourselves, that he tried IN SPITE of the limitations of knowing HOW to do it.
I understand why people were upset. But, his heart was in the right place. He wasn’t trying to alienate everyone. He was trying to express that everyone was loved by God and that how they live their lives is between them and God. In other words, it’s NOT his place or anyone else’s to judge them.
He understood Mya’s message. He did not know how to express it, especially to such a mixed grouping. But, we’re all limited by our experiences. He worked with what he knew.
Mya was strong, loud and outspoken. She would have rallied up to him with her questions, not stalked away hurt and angry. Some people are more soft hearted then that, and thats perfectly ok. It’s ok if people can’t confront someone who is so filled with passion. But, for those of us who could. We found a man who IS willing to listen, consider and contemplate other ways.
We have to understand that strong people are attracted to other strong people. Mya was attracted to that church and that pastor for their strength, their passion and their willingness to be loud and in your face. Of course she was! That’s how Mya was! It’s ok if the technical details of what each of us as individuals believed is different. But, Mya WAS proud of people who were willing to step up, step out and make a stand. That’s what she did, every day.
I cant say that I could have expressed my sentiments better than he did if I were faced with a heartbroken Christian mother, a church following and a huge portion of the GLBT community, including those who’ve been judged and condemned, and those who are not believers. Very few in this world could. Because it’s damn near impossible to speak to such diverse emotional needs at one time. Those needs are so diverse, they beg individual conversations.
His method failed. But, he stood by and heard out those of us willing to talk after with grace And respect. He listened and he spoke and he expressed his regret that he was unable to express his heart as intended.
It takes a strong heart to ask strangers where you went wrong (which he did) and to accept their criticism with honest and sincere interest and concern (which he also did).
We can’t change and improve the world by avoiding the people who we disagree with. We have to be ballsy like Mya, step in and talk to those whose words and actions burn us. So they can understand us. So we can understand them.
I’m sorry it was a fiasco for many. I’m glad we had our get together at school. But, I also know, for others it was a blessing and they heard exactly what they needed to from that pastor. Including several who aren’t Christian, I know, because I talked with them afterward as well.
I think the future Mya wants, is one that includes all of us together in community. And that includes the pastor. That includes her church family and her pastor, whom she clearly remained deeply involved and attached to also.
Her mom’s greatest heartache wasn’t the pastor. It was that people didn’t understand that having him reassure her of Jesus’ love was her greatest comfort in this time of loss. She wanted all of Mya’s friends there, but she also wanted that sermon. She spoke after with great depth about how much she wanted all of us, Mya’s friends to know that Jesus loves us. It doesn’t matter if we believe it or not, that service was what she asked for and desired.
And Mya, she was a Christian. She and I discussed it. Her faith was important to her. I don’t think she would have wanted anyone to feel alienated. But I do think she knew that the pastor was trying. He was out of his element. But the man tried.
I’m furious with those who judge her in death and I KNOW you all are too. Let’s follow her example and give the guy grace and forgiveness for his failures, and commendation for his effort. He gave Connie the passion and reassurance she needed, she made that very clear at the potluck. If he failed to comfort others through his methodology, to me that’s ok, because all of our pain combined can’t compare to that of her mother right now AND he tried. All any of us can ever do is TRY. At least he tried.