The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

June 25, 2000

Dear Mel and Gary,

As I sit at home reflecting on today’s action at the Presbyterian Convention, I am reminded of the joy and laughter that we shared today. That laughter was shared not only with my Squad members, and friends, but with others on the "bleachers" that I had never met before, by the sly smile of the arresting officer who teased me softly, almost winking as he asked me if I was ‘absolutely sure that I didn’t want to leave the street" It was the laughter that we shared with the gentle police officer who stood in the back of our bus and shared with us that in his spare time he was a Pastry Chef, and that he loved to visit San Francisco for his vacations. It was the laughter that I shared with my ‘booking officer’ as I teased him about getting ‘double pay’ for sitting in the shade and writing out paperwork with a bunch of Christians on his day off. It was the laughter of relief felt by those members of the Presbyterian Church, who for so long felt alone on the front lines of their denominational fight, recognizing the support, strength and love of those they struggle for, and those they struggle with.

I sensed a small spirit of confusion, feeling the tug of mixed emotions when we were told to stand in silent vigil, recognizing the seriousness of the actions we were taking. When my friend Chuck asked my Colleague and I to look less happy for a photograph, I had trouble conjuring up an emotion that did not to me speak of the Glory of today’s action. In a small part of my heart I wondered if we were somehow cheating, or being cheated of the full impact of Civil Disobedience, by being in the presence of such joy and gentleness.

And, then, I thought about what you had told us yesterday, about that "magical moment" when we, like the company of Saints before us, put our lives and our bodies on the line, and cross over the boundary of ‘Legal behavior.’ Having never been arrested before, I had high expectations. And today, as always, when I allow God to be in control, I was not disappointed. When I smiled at that arresting officer, and told him "Thank you, but I prefer not to leave," I did feel those Saints uniting with me, and with all of us linked by our tightly held hands. With my butch MCCLA Colleague on my right, and my newfound transsexual friend on my left, I felt the company of all those who have gone before me. I felt the spirit of Matthew, and the Spirit of Billy Jack, and the Spirit of Martin, and the Spirit of all those who are physically gone. I felt the strong and powerful Spirits of my closest friends who now are visible only to my heart, my friends Don and Kath, who join me when I have the greatest need. And, through the wonder of the presence of my company of Saints, I felt their joy as well. I heard their voices raised in song with us. I felt the warmth of their smiling Spirits. And I knew that while today might be different, it was exactly as it was meant to be.

What I learned today is that it is OK to live in the Joy sometimes. What I felt today, is that sometimes we need to not only insist on greater and more complete change, but we must celebrate and center ourselves in the wonder, the joy, the love and miracle that we are changing the world.

As I reflect back on what parts of today’s experience will stay with me forever, and what has been transformative about this experience on a deeply personal level, I think of the older woman, dressed impeccably, with delightfully blue hair who walked around our circle hugging everyone and whispering her love. It will be of the woman in the blue dress that stopped me in the Hotel of the Weston to thank me for being there, and who promised me that she would work from within, while we worked outside, and who guaranteed me that she would not quit. It was seeing the joy on the faces of those who choose to remain in more traditional denominations finding the real and soul healing power of success and collegiality, and support. It was watching people see their dreams made real as the former head of the Church announced that he had ‘changed his mind.’ It was watching the crowd, and seeing that more people were supportive than argumentative. It was being part of a movement that is right, and knowing that more and more people are ‘getting it’ in new ways.

I wonder, if in part, the joy, the ease, and the playfulness of today was not a reminder from God that we need not always struggle. Having heard how difficult your most recent Soulforce experiences have been, I see the evidence of God in today’s action even more clearly. I celebrate with all of my new friends the wonder of today. I unite with all the Saints, those both living and dead in recognizing the power of the miraculous, and the Joy of my God.

I thank you Mel, and Gary, and all who rise with you time and time again, often not in such an atmosphere of joy, and insist that the Truth be spoken in love. I am honored to have shared this experience with you.

With Love and Blessings,

Rev. Barb Sagat