Growing Up!

“When we lose a dear friend, someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyse us emotionally for a long time. People we love become part of us. Our thinking, feeling and acting are codetermined by them: Our fathers, our mothers, our husbands, our wives, our lovers, our children, our friends … they are all living in our hearts. When they die a part of us has to die too. That is what grief is about: It is that slow and painful departure of someone who has become an intimate part of us. When Christmas, the new year, a birthday or anniversary comes, we feel deeply the absence of our beloved companion. We sometimes have to live at least a whole year before our hearts have fully said good-bye and the pain of our grief recedes. But as we let go of them they become part of our “members” and as we “re-member” them, they become our guides on our spiritual journey.” Henri Nouwen
What is growing up?  For me growing up is seeing the reality of life and death, and living; it is being open about who you are without having different faces for different people. It is facing the reality of death.  I see death around me all the time, I feel death around me, in so many ways.  Last night I was called out  at 9:00 p.m.., and a 19 year old was out on the streets in the Marina, he had been raped. I picked him up and took him to the hospital, and brought him home and put him to my bed. As he slept  I sat in my chair, and watched him breathe and simply prayed. I sat there the the rest of the night, and he slept so peacefully, and I wondered, what horrors will he have from this experience in the days to comeand I cried.
Sean said to me as I picked him up, “My friend told me you are the priest who always listens and you are like us, I had no one else to call.”  And he is right, I am like them, from my own journey, kicked out of the church, rejected, a prostitute, raped, I am as feral as they are, but I have always known how to work the system, and I have never judged them, because I have been and am judged so much. I love the church, but I am so far out on the edge now I do not feel comfortable within the local church.  Like Lazarus  in the parable of him and the rich man I am at a point where I can not return to my old life, and I am now owning that. That is growing up.
Today at the “420 Games,” one person laughingly said, “You are the only priest who is out here, they are all scared off their asses,”, and I am not afraid any more. I believe 420 is good for many people, and I smoke; I believe drugs should be made legal–because the War on Drugs has done so much damage to so many and that money can be used for treatment and education.
Today I met a 20 year old from Kentucky, who has just arrived. He was trying to sell pot for food, so I took him to lunch, and than up to Twin Peaks, to see the view of the City. We talked, and he talked of going home with the same two guys, my young friend, last night did, and escaping the same fate. Jake talked of his girl friend in Kentucky and how she can not understand his experience on the street, he talked of being cold, hungry, alone and afraid.  The streets are not beautiful, they are hell, and they cause so much torment.
Dorothy Day talked of the long loneliness, and how in her work she found solace; and so it is with me. I live a life that is lonely, I am misunderstood, hated,, loved, and not given a damn about, but in each person that I meet I find connection, and I am not alone. Last weekend on a camp out with three eighteen year old friends, I felt completely at home, at ease, because I could be myself, no expectations, no judgment. To me these three were the example of what ministry is: accepting people for who they are–no expectations, only that we love one another. I told one of my friends, “I felt safe,” and he joked with me the whole weekend about that–but I did feel safe, because they cared for me, just for me, with no expectations.
That is what Jesus calls us to do–to love each other without expectation, to meet each other where we are. If there is anything beyond this life–the only form of judgment we will have will be how we have loved our neighbor. It will not matter in what doctrine we believe, in the color of our skin, sexual orientation, religious practice–but only how we  love each other.
  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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