Today I am thrilled to have Alise Wright contribute to the Love Letter Series. I first came upon her blog after I had read a few tweets by a few big name writers, all suggesting that her work is worth looking at. As always, I went into it a little skeptical, a little judgy, but before I knew it, I became a devoted follower. What I appreciate most from her is that she speaks from a place of conviction without arrogance. She’s strong and civil and knows what she’s doing. I didn’t really realize that this was the type of work I was searching for until I came upon her site. Currently, she is doing a series called “Mixed Up Faith”, a fascinating discussion on interfaith dialogue.
Today, she is addressing an email she received months ago from a friend. It’s a powerful testament to the need for allies like her.
Join the ranks with me and subscribe to her blog.
You’ll thank me later.
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You sent me an email a few months ago. I’m pretty sure I responded, because I usually try to get around to responding to messages that people send me. But I don’t know that I said everything that I needed to say in my email back to you. And even though it was months ago, I want you to know that I think about your letter to me and I think about it often. And I want to take this opportunity today to say more of the things I wish I had shared with you when you originally emailed me.
You shared so many difficult things with me. You told me about your parents who were not supportive of you, and a church that tried to change you. You told me about your struggles with belief after you came out and how you were coming back to faith, but found it so hard in the midst of the hateful words that had been said to you and the questions from in your own community of why? Why go back to an institution that actively works to remind you of your inferiority? Why go back to a group that considers your love to be a sin? Why go back to a God who some believe will send you to hell because you’re a woman and you love another woman?
Yet despite all of these objections, you long to be a part of the Christian faith community.
First of all, I’m so sorry that you feel like you need to ask to be a part of a community that is supposed to want everyone in the family. But when it comes to you, we put it up to a vote, like those of us who are already on the inside have some magical powers that are able to determine that “people like you” are worthy enough to be a part of our club. Even when someone like me comes to the conclusion that yes, you’re okay, that hardly seems like something to be proud of. I’m sorry that I treated your orientation like a theological puzzle to be solved. I often shake my head at those who still want to treat you as a second class citizen, but I ignore my own arrogance at treating you as an issue that I had to figure out.
But I don’t want this to just be about apologies. I want to work with you to make this better. I want to stand beside you and join our voices to change things.
I promise I won’t keep silent if I hear someone speaking about you like you’re not a real person. I will remind them that if we’re going to have a conversation about the LGBT community, we need to include someone from the LGBT community.
I promise to remember that as an ally, my job is to speak with you, never for you. I will always make room on my platform for you to share your thoughts. And if you’re not able to share because you don’t want to invite more pain into your life, I will always share your stories with as much dignity and honor that I can.
I promise that I will continue to speak to my children about the humanity of every person. We’ll talk about why equality matters and about ways that we can work locally and nationally and globally to help bring that about.
I promise that I will always be available to talk if you need me. Not to offer advice or to fix you, but to listen. I want to hear all of your story. Not just the hurts and the pain, though I will always listen to that, but I want to hear about the lovely things that happen to you as well. I want to know about the good parts of your relationship. And I want to know about stuff totally unrelated to your sexuality, because you are way, way more to me than that. So tell me about the project you crushed at work or the fun concert that you attended or the great recipe you tried.
I promise that sometimes I’ll screw up. I’ll think of you as my gay friend instead of my friend. I’ll feel whiney about what these promises may cost me in terms of other relationships or professional opportunities. I’ll think of the LGBT community as a monolithic group instead of as individuals.
But I also promise that when I screw up, I will ask for forgiveness and I will do whatever I can to make it right.
I know that “I love you” can sound shallow from someone you only know through a blog and email. But please know that you ARE loved. By me and by a God who created you just as you are and who has promised always to be with you.
May that promise hold you through whatever you face.
Alise is a wife, a mother of four, an eater of soup, and a lover of Oxford commas. Her writing reflects her life and her relationships with all of the “wrong” people that God keeps bringing into her life. She is the editor of Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression with Civitas Press. You can generally find her sitting behind a keyboard of some kind: playing or teaching the piano, writing at her laptop, or texting her friends a random movie quote. You can connect with her on Twitter, on Facebook, or at her blog.
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