I came home from the gym, feeling better than I had felt when I went but not as wonderful as I usually feel. Today has been a hard day, for no particular reason -- I cried in yoga class, because I couldn't do things I used to be able to do. In yoga you're not supposed to be worried about what you can't do: you're supposed to be all mellow and centered and stuff. But sometimes mellow and centered can be damned irritating. My limitations reminded me of my health problems, and I just wasn't in a mellow place.
Expert though I am silent weeping, Q noticed. In the middle of his sun salutation, he settled a concerned look on me and touched my hand. The kind teacher handed me a box of tissues and I went on with the class. I did the things I could do and didn't do the things I couldn't do. This is utterly in the spirit of yoga -- "power yoga" is an oxymoron.
Why did I cry in yoga class? I think it was because yoga is too kind for me today, too allowing of my weakness, too sympathetic. Kindness makes people cry sometimes.
So I went to the gym with Norah. We walked on the treadmill for half an hour at 3.5 mph, with an elevation of 3.0 during the last five minutes. As we pounded away, we talked of many things: of the indignity of magazine articles that talk about looking fabulous at 30,40,50 and then don't go any further, as if there's no point in even bringing it up at 60 or beyond. Of Martha Stewart -- I'm 100% behind Martha, and will bake her a cake with a file in it if she goes to jail and I can find a suitable recipe. Of Norah's daughter's wedding and what she will wear to it. Of what might be the name of that famous art museum in St. Petersburg -- The Onegin? The Nicholas? TheTrotsky? -- neither of us could remember, and only now, three hours later, am I able to remember that it's the Hermitage, dummy!
Finished with the treadmill, we moved on to what we call "The Equipment," as if the treadmill were something other than that. Using my legs, I pushed 230 pounds away from me and then pushed 150 pounds together repeatedly. Then I pushed 150 pounds apart. Then I lifted with my quadriceps -- 90 pounds -- and then with my knee muscles -- 70 pounds.
I bench-pressed 40 pounds, adjusting the machine to follow a man who had pressed 200. Aw, it's not really 200, he said when I congratulated him. I didn't know how to feel about that news: if his 200 wasn't real, then neither was my 40. I think I prefer to believe the machines. They're on my side.
The numbers and the pounding, the striving, the competition felt better, somehow. Better than the gentle spirit of the yoga. It was hard and fast, concrete. It was outward, not inward, and I wanted out. This is like the grace of God, I thought as I drove home. Sometimes you won't accept it. You won't take grace. You insist on works.
Grace happens to us. We don't make it. We receive it. It's not our idea. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.
I got home to a fistful of emails informing me that the Diocese of New Hampshire has just elected the first openly gay person a bishop. I sat quietly in front of the screen, the rain falling steadily on the roof above my head, a musical sound. Not the first gay bishop, by any means, but the first one who was able to be honest about who he really was. I thought about the long line of other bishops who were like Gene Robinson in that respect, like him and unable to say so to the people who loved them and whom they loved and served, some of them for decades, of the loneliness of that way of living. I thought about what life would be like for me if I had to hide Q from the world's view, instead of bragging about him all the time the way I do -- Q would be hard to hide.
I thought about what this would mean in the church. Not everyone will be as pleased as I am. There will be fallout. People will forecast schism, terrible things. Like they did when Barbara Harris was ordained the first woman bishop. And when women were ordained to the priesthood. Like people did when schools were integrated in the American South. And when the slaves were freed.
There was trouble when each of these things happened. This will be trouble, too. The Holy Spirit doesn't say anything about there not being trouble. The grace of God is not about having no trouble. But every deputy in the New Hampshire convention had a vote in that election, and they chose Robinson knowing exactly who he was. Elections are how we select our bishops. We think God is active in them. God was probably active in this one.
How will it go? We shall see. Because, of course, they don't know everything about Gene Robinson at all. They're just starting out their life together. They know some things. The rest they will discover along the way, as married couples discover each other.
I was afraid of the yoga, I think. Afraid of its kindness and the gentle way it exposed my pain. I was afraid of the grace of God because I was not its author, because I didn't control it and couldn't predict it. Afraid of it even though it was freely offered and utterly good.
We have nothing to fear, even if there's trouble. There's always trouble. And there's always grace with which to meet it if we will accept it. Hand in hand with the One who bears all things with us and never leaves our side. Not even for a moment.