There are a lot of things on my mind lately, particularly with continuing to try and blend this family. It is not easy, as every person under this roof has experienced great loss in one form or another. So, either I have actually had the capacity to think beyond our craziness this summer or I just need a break from it, so I'm writing WAY, WAY, WAY outside my usual box.
I can’t stop feeling this wrestling over the issue of the church and the LGBTQ community. Maybe that is such a weird thing for me to be writing about, but it is holding a tender place in heart right now, which is a strange combination of gratefulness, confusion and wrestling.
I want to start with gratefulness. I feel so grateful and humbled and honored that I have friends that are gay or lesbian. I feel honored that they know that I love Jesus, yet they have always accepted me. I feel so so so so lucky for that gift. For whatever reason, Manitou seems to have a higher population of lesbians (Ugh - I don’t even know what the PC word is??? Should I just be using “gay”? I need a lot of grace in this area folks) and so, naturally, I have gotten to know some sweet friends that are not in my churchy bubble and that gives me so much life.
These friendships that I feel so fortunate to have had, all contributed to me taking a longer, harder, hopefully a more gracious look at my heart and this subject.
I just want to tell you about a couple of my friends. One friend was kinda like my bus stop buddy. For two years, she and I were the only two at our bus stop. I was always itching for adult interaction during those little kid years, so I would pretty much make her talk to me, even if she was trying to look busy grading papers in her car. And every day, we would talk and laugh and I’m sure she has no idea how much I looked forward to our laughs.
One night I was taking a walk around the neighborhood a few months after Dave died. The first gal I ran into had been married to another woman for many years and had older kids. She stopped me and asked how I was doing and she said she had seen me throwing the baseball at the park with Spencer. She said she would love to work with him, if I needed someone to help him with his throwing. (Based on his throwing now, I should have taken her up on her offer back then . . . although it’s finally starting to look a little better). As I continued on my walk that night, I just happened to come across two more same sex couples that I didn’t really know, but ended up in conversation with them. I was changed after that night.
I also have one sweet friend who was like my personal nurse during my back surgery era, who was willing to open up and talk freely about her treading into the new waters of dating other women. I still feel so honored that she would trust me with her thoughts and stories, knowing that I love Jesus and that I think the Bible is the truth. I also feel so honored that she and her partner came to my wedding. She knew there would be lots of churchy friends and talk about Jesus, but I hope and I think she trusted that me and my friends would be so thrilled that they were there. I’m so thankful that she gave me the benefit of the doubt . . . that I would not judge her or try to change her or anything else, but care about her (and beat her in ping pong).
So, all that to say, I feel so fortunate to have people who have trusted me with their stories and it has made me change. I don’t think of gay and lesbian people as a whole group of people anymore, but as each individual. I’m sorry that I have not always done that.
You see, I can’t name one gay person that I knew growing up, except for one and I didn't realize it until later. I went to Oklahoma Baptist University, where if someone came out of the the closet, it was like a scandal. In my 20’s I knew of a few people, but I didn’t KNOW anyone who had a different lifestyle than mine (again, please forgive me if I chose all the wrong phrases or words).
So, onto the confusion and wrestling. Without the friendships I have made, maybe I would have never made it to the confusing and wrestling stage. Maybe I would have always stuck to not thinking about it at all, or only going as far as knowing the Bible seems to say it’s not God’s best plan. So, here is the long and the short of it. I desperately want everyone that I know, no matter their background, their beliefs, their skin color, their sexual orientation, etc . . . that I care about them as an individual. Every person. I desperately, also, love Jesus. Jesus is everything to me. I want to honor the Bible and honor God. I really don't think these things are opposed to one another, because God's love is so far greater and more pure than mine and he loves everyone with a ferocity I will never understand until heaven. However, I'm not sure that in this society, I can quite figure it out. I mean, I think it is easy, but to convey it is so hard. I know that I am not in a place of judgement. I know that the Bible calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. I WISH the Bible did not say anything about homosexuality being a sin. I WISH I knew how to interpret it the exact way that God intended. I wish there were clear answers about how to do this. I do appreciate what I heard once about this topic from an old pastor. "When in doubt, choose grace." - Jim Singleton. That has been so freeing.
I watched a video this week from one of my favorite childhood pastors. He was always so funny and engaging when he would occasionally speak. But even as funny as he was, he evidently had a secret life of alcoholism for many years. He ended up going to rehab and eventually helped to build a church for people who would not typically walk through the doors of a traditional church. His heart is GIANT for the marginalized, the hurting, the people who don’t feel loved by God, and a portion of his church are those that feel rejected by the church based on being gay. Although his heart is huge for each person in his church, his conviction about gay marriage led him to decide that he could not personally officiate a marriage between two people of the same sex.
So, in this video, he was stepping down as co pastor, from “The Refuge,” whose mission is “dedicated to helping hurting and hungry people find faith, hope, and dignity alongside each other.” It also says on their website: “We are old, young, poor, rich, conservative, liberals, single, married, gay, straight, evangelicals, progressives, book-smart, street smart, certain, doubting, hurting, thriving.” Upon watching the video, it seemed to me, like he didn’t want to be the cause of hurting anyone, but he also had to hold fast to what he believed was true. I literally watched that video and cried . . . WAY harder than I thought I would. Cried for the pain and hurt that surrounds people not feeling loved, people who feel misunderstood, people who are trying to love and everything in between this issue("issue" seems like too light of a word, doesn’t it?). I know God doesn’t need me to defend him, so I don’t need to take a defensive posture. I do want to honor God, (although I don’t all the time in other areas), I do believe the Bible is truth and I want to know the truth of what God is saying and not think that I can make it fit to what I WANT it to say. I believe that God would never want anyone to feel unloved and uncared for, based on following Him. So, how do I do this? The only thing I know, is that as long as I am wrestling with this, I have no pride in thinking that I know the answers. Without answers, I have to continually be connected to God and I know I just need to keep loving others and being aware of my OWN enormous amounts of sin.
Thanks for grace from all sides of this whole deal. I'm sure I delivered all kinds of unintended messages in here. I claim to know very little, but I hope that my heart is somewhat understood. I typically only write about my life, which isn’t all that controversial, so this is certainly new for me. (Hopefully, this isn't controversial, either). I have actually tried to write a couple different posts, but I just kept feeling like this is the one I needed to write.
"....as long as I am wrestling with this, I have no pride in thinking that I know the answers..." That is the key to this post. I think part of living in a thriving, dynamic culture is continually being willing to work out what we believe and be willing to understand things in a new way. This is so so important. Sometimes I want to say to my gay and lesbian friends, "I'm so sorry for the way Christians have marginalized you and I'm so sorry for the ways that I have done that to you. I really like you and I don't want you to think there's more to our friendship than the connection we're enjoying right here and now." Thanks for blogging about this - I hope there's a rich conversation filled with kindness and creativity that ensues.
Another key phrase to me is, "I'm sorry if I haven't always done that." Recognizing there are numerous occasions when we speak without thinking or judge too quickly (or at all) is an important first step. In this world of so many factions, it's easy to lump a whole group of people into one label. To dismiss or view as "less than", but Jesus never did that. "Us" and "them" is such a dangerous mentality. He always looked at each person as an individual, wholly and dearly loved. My prayer is to live with Jesus' eyes. Eyes to see the image of God in each and every person -- with a story and a longing to be loved and known. Like you, Holly, I wrestle with so many things. I truly have no answers except -- JESUS. At the end of the day, He is speaking to each of us and our job is to open our hearts to hear what he has to say and (hopefully) walk in his way as one body -- one people. I recently heard a pastor say, "Unity is not possible apart from diversity. Apart from diversity you just have uniformity." Unity in Jesus is what I hope for as we continue to see His Kingdom come...