Journey on the Edge

Journey on the Edge

“The Bible is an oral history. It was passed down, word of mouth, father to son, from Adam to Seth, from Seth to Enos, from Enos to Cainan, for forty generations, a growing, changing story until Moses finally gets it down on lambskin. But lambskins wear out, and need to be recopied. Copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of an oral history passed down through forty generations. From Hebrew it’s translated into Arabic, from Arabic to Latin, from Latin to Greek, from Greek to Russian, from Russian to German, from German to an old form of English that you could not read…. You can’t put a grocery list through that many translations, copies, and retellings, and not expect to have some big changes in the dinner menu when the kids make it back from Kroger. And yet people are killing each other over this written word. Here’s a tip: if you’re killing someone in the name of God, you’re missing the message.”
Nick Annis
“You shall love the Lord Your God with all of you strength, mind, and being, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus of Nazareth
I do not share some things because I feel like I scare people, and than I am asked to explain logically what I can not explain. Yesterday I shared with my therapist an event I really never share and it was a really freeing moment for me, for it was an incident that shaped, and changed my life in so many ways.
One summer night in the late 80’s a person in a helping profession invited me to meet him on the corner of Vine and Hollywood. He took me to a small office, and asked me to give him a blow job, and I refused, this man then grabbed me and tried holding me down, and I got a grip on him and pulled my knife and put it to his throat, and began to push it in, when I heard this voice, say, “River!” I came back to my senses and ran out on to the streets as fast as I could. I was horrified at what I almost did.
People asked why I am so opposed to the death penalty–it is simply because I could have been on death row, for  we are all capable of taking life. In those moments I realized the capability of any human being to kill, and I became violently ill. I vomited.  That experience was to stay with me, to stay with me through the violence I see every day, and have experienced. For that experienced has shaped who I am. For in that experience I came to understand the Great Commandment of Jesus–To love God and our neighbor. Last year this gentleman had me called to come to L.A. to give him the Sacrament of Reconciliation–and  as I anointed him I saw the face of Christ, and we both were at peace. I shared with him that he gave me the greatest experience of God’s grace, and that for me he was the angel I met unawares. He died in peace.
That night so long ago was the beginning of me letting go of all the false boundaries that we surround ourselves with-race, creed, color, religion, poverty, wealth, and power. Ta-Nehsi Coates said: “The streets transform every ordinary day into a series of trick questions and every incorrect answer risks a beat down, shooting, or a pregnancy. None survive unscathed.”  The streets have transformed and  continue to transform of my life.
In the past week I have moved in the worlds of wealth, poverty, gangs, young and old,  all of the sexual orientations, and I live and I am in one of those minority differences, and what I see we are all the same-vulnerable, limited, fragile human beings. We are all children of God.We are loved by God in such a way that  God does not asked us to say I am sorry, but that we are loved for our own sacredness. God loves us in our scandalous living and  calls us to come to God’s grace.
I do not like to to define some one by a mental health diagnosis  because diagnoses are  man-made (for the most part they are  “man” made) and reflects our own biases, they also are a means of separating us from relationships. I define good mental health: as loving our fellow human beings, and giving of ourselves so that they might live. I define being comfortable with ourselves by showing love, concern, for the well being of others, and in turn loving ourselves, accepting our differences, and being content with who we are.
When people tell me I am generous–no–I am being a human being, simply. When people tell me I am different–I will probably get irritated, but I am going to suggest that they look into a mirror and look at themselves first–and than tell me how different I am. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164

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