Acceptance of Self [At Love is an Orientation]

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By the time I was literate, I had the entire Left Behind kid series stacked on my shelf. The books, for those that don’t know, are futuristic stories of when God raptures Christians up to heaven, leaving behind the skeptical and non-believers to survive the apocalypse and, the Anti-Christ, and then- if they aren’t lucky- hell.

 

I couldn’t put them down, tearing through them on bated breath, closing the book at the end of each chapter to plead a prayer for salvation. Take me too, I’d whisper. Whenever my house turned quiet, I would peer around corners, check every room, until I found someone that fit my criteria for Safe Christian. Until I was sure I wasn’t Left Behind.

 

With the fear of God breathing down my neck, I tried so very hard to be good. I never missed youth group, taped up Bible verses on my wall, told every friend I knew about Jesus. And that part, the evangelism, was something more than the fear. His loving sacrifice has made an impression on me; planted in my heart a blooming love and hope for the world…

Read the rest over at Andrew Marin’s “Love is an Orientation” blog

Psalm 61- Breathing Room

Brown Bear, Katmai National Park, Alaska

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1-2 God, listen to me shout,
bend an ear to my prayer.
When I’m far from anywhere,
down to my last gasp,
I call out, “Guide me
up High Rock Mountain!”

3-5 You’ve always given me breathing room,
a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
made me welcome among those who know and love you.

6-8 Let the days of the king add up
to years and years of good rule.
Set his throne in the full light of God;
post Steady Love and Good Faith as lookouts,
And I’ll be the poet who sings your glory—
and live what I sing every day.”

-Psalm 61, The Message

 

I’ve broken up with God more times than I can count.

 

There were nights when I explicitly spelled out- in all the swear words, why I had enough. Why I no longer believed or was done trying to. He didn’t love me, I muttered, so I wouldn’t love Him back.

 

There have been months on end that I considered myself closed off from God altogether, even if I didn’t make that directly clear to him.

 

You don’t need to be in your Bible, listening to worship music, praying out loud to be apart from God. You just need to be reflexively blocking him out of your thoughts and feelings, like He’s not even there.

 

And I know I’m not alone in that. Believers that hold to an unbreakable life-long consistency are few and far between. We walk away- we walk back, shaking off all the things we didn’t even know were killing us at the time.

 

On Facebook, God and I have always had an It’s Complicated kind of relationship, because that’s been my journey. I walked away when I was ashamed. I walked back when I hit the floor of my loneliness. I ran far far away when the church folk said I didn’t belong. I went full steam back when a new church held me closer than any had before.

 

There have been times when my own unkindness toward myself has kept me away from God. I was my own worst enemy and left alone, I could really do a number on myself.

 

I know that David isn’t talking about this kind of resting place, he’s referencing the shelter of God. But I write in reaction to what I’ve read and this hit on something I had been thinking about.

 

And what if my walking away is that resting place? What if, when the church becomes too painful, God becomes too confusing and scary, He sets aside a place where I have to face my own reflection and understand how horrible I’ve been to myself? Where I can understand that until I love who I am, the world will still be able to crush me. Where I can understand that even at my very most self-loving frame of mind, it is still incomparable to His adoration for me.

 

Brennan Manning, the author/speaker/preacher/also the guy that has reunited Christ and I more than anyone in the whole world, gave a series of talks in 1996 at Seattle Pacific University and he spoke on how the greatest evil in our lives is self-rejection. More than greed, lust, every destructive thing relates to this. Nothing separates us more than when we believer we are the bottom of the dumpster. The crap of the creator.

 

And he quotes something from Paul Tillich. Something that quickened me into a desire to walk, jog, then sprint forward into the story of a Jesus that loves me.

 

“The beginning of faith is in accepting that you are acceptable.”

 

Accepting that in my own jadedness, bitterness, cynicism, pet peeves, offensive action, self-condemnation, laziness, busyness, my low and high, my deep and wide Jesus accepts me wholly, loves me fully, madly embarrassingly falling on his face happy in love with me.

 

Even when I walk away, He’s there, providing a place of rest, a place of renewal.

 

RR

~~~

 

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The Psalms Journey community: a group of people writing through the Psalms. All posts are welcome. This is not about reaching some sort of standard. Or having the “correct” perspective on the biblical text.

This is about joining together as a community to rise up and declare the value and beauty and frustration and power of God’s Word.

(For more details, or to grab the button, click on the Psalms Journey page)

I’ll Do Whatever it Takes- Jessica [Love Letter Series]

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I’m unsure of how to perfectly describe my deep appreciation of Jessica’s blogFaith Permeating Life. It’s unbelievable. She has a deep, God-given passion for the LGBT community and I don’t know how often we, sexual minorities, thank those for putting that passion into action. The posts she has written have given me so much encouragement and hope and, a little itch for activism myself. She has put together the greatest list of resources on Faith and LGBT issues that I have come across, along with resources on privilege and her favorite books and comments (see if you can get yourself featured on the comment carnival!) 

 

I cannot stress enough how important her blog is. Follow her, in all honesty you’ll be happy you did. 

 

Here are her words to the LGBT community. I truly hope they move you as much as they did me. 

~ ~ ~

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“I hope you aren’t receiving communion,” the comment started.

 

It was on the monthly column I write for my local LGBTQ community center’s blog about issues of faith and the LGBTQ community. I don’t remember if I actually stated my support for gay marriage in the post — I try to write about current events and keep my personal views out of it — but it didn’t matter, because this guy had gone to the trouble of Googling me and had found my personal blog, which lays out my views in no uncertain terms.

 

The comment went on to say how my support of gay marriage was in direct contradiction to the Catholic church (of which I am a part), and then some ramblings about how the fact that I myself had saved sex for marriage didn’t make it OK to support gay marriage — a convoluted argument I’ve never attempted to make anywhere.

 

As a blogger writing about controversial topics, I’ve attracted haters, trolls, and angry dissenters before, but it was that opening statement that punched me in the gut. It’s one thing to tell me my beliefs are wrong, but to tell me you hope I’m not receiving communion?

To tell me, essentially, that my beliefs are so abhorrent that you hope I’ve separated myself from Jesus?

 

After I’d stopped shaking, I wrote to the blog’s editor asking that the comment be deleted under the blog’s guidelines, as it was a personal attack. He’d already caught it and apologized that it had even gone through.

 

As I reflected on this incident, I realized that I’d had a taste — just a taste — of what my LGBTQ sisters and brothers go through all the time.

 

When you write about things like faith and sexuality on a regular basis, you get used to people telling you that you are wrong, wrong, wrong, or even that your beliefs are sinful. But as a straight ally, it’s rare that people attack me so personally as to make sweeping judgments about the state of my soul or my relationship with God. I’m more likely to be seen as horribly misguided than as being an abomination unworthy of even receiving communion.

 

Not that it’s easy, having your beliefs viciously attacked. Sometimes I find myself not wanting to write about the very topics God places so strongly on my heart, particularly the call to all Christians to show love and understanding to LGBTQ individuals. But every time I think about walking away from the conversation, I remind myself that my LGBTQ friends don’t have that option.

 

And after catching that one stray, painful arrow that pierced me to the core, I realized that no matter how hard I fight, no matter how much of an ally I try to be, I will never be on the front lines. I will never have the experience that too many of my LGBTQ friends have had of having their personal faith identity, their very worth as a child of God, constantly questioned or openly mocked.

 

So what I want to say is that I will stand with you, in whatever way I possibly can, knowing that it will never be enough. And I hope that every arrow I do attract is one that I’ve saved someone else from getting that day.

 

I will speak out as much and as loudly as I can, not only so that I can continue to challenge people and to change minds, but also so that I, in my straight privilege and secure in my faith identity, can redirect some of the trolls who might otherwise go after someone else that day, someone struggling with their sexual orientation or wavering in their belief that God still loves them.

 

I know it’s not enough, and that I’ll still never know what it’s like to get more than a stray arrow once in a while.

 

I just want you to know that I would take them all, if I could, if it meant that nobody ever again had to question whether God loves them.

Love,

Jessica

~

Check out the other Love Letters here

A Brief Note on Exodus

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I was sitting at Starbucks, looking through my twitter feed when I saw that Alan Chambers announced that Exodus International was closing its doors. I held myself together as tightly as I could and then, slipped out into the night, tears and exhales and everything.

 

I remembered my first meeting. It was raining and the counselor’s house dimly lit. We sat on opposing couches and he opened a booklet, set it on the ottoman between us and turned it toward me.

 

“I need you to read this,” he pointed his finger to the start of the paragraph. “Out loud. It’s a pledge.”

 

With a sudden shiver in my spine, I croaked out something similar to this.

 

“I reject the world’s claim that God made me Gay. God does not make people gay. I accept that my sexuality is a result of my fallenness. I will not accept my sexuality. I reclaim that I am not gay. I am a follower of Christ.”

 

I closed the book and looked up.

 

“How do you feel about that?” He said.

 

I lied.

 

“Good. Its all the truth.” I said.

 

I never returned.

 

If any of you remember this post going up on Rachel Held Evans blog- that was a result of Exodus International. That was when they told my dad that he made me gay.

 

I have had to go through a lot of therapy to overcome the spiritual abusive practices and materials of Exodus International. The confusion, the shame they instill in you can be so deep that it can take months to even begin parsing out fact from fiction.

 

And now they’re closing their doors. And I am happy. It is a clearing of the space for the kingdom to come flourishing forth.

 

But the hard part now, for all of us affected by Exodus, is learning to forgive.

 

When I read Chamber’s apology, prior to the announcement, I sort of smirked. I thought, are you being serious? Do you think a Press Release apology can make up for all the blood on your hands? For all those who spent years in your treatment and then, put a bullet in their head or jumped off a bridge or hung themselves? For those that never really recovered at all? For those entering marriages to try to make themselves straight?

 

I sit in this place of joy that its over and anger because it still feels like its not enough.

I’m working on it. We all need to work on it. I will take my time as I am sure you will take yours.

 

I am skipping and startled by happiness.

I am dragging my feet toward forgiveness.

I am getting there.

One slow nod after another.

 

RR

Love is an Ability (Repost)

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(Reposting. Lately, I have been writing, incessantly, but much of it is for other things, long term projects, guest posts etc., and I haven’t gotten around to writing blog-esque material ready to publish. So I’m thinking I’m just going to repost some stuff this week, in case you haven’t read these!) 

~

In one of my favorite movies, Dan in Real Life, Dan is telling the boyfriend of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Marty, that he should stop seeing her; love, after all, can be such a dangerous feeling.

 

“Love is not a feeling, Mr. Burns. It’s an ability.”

 

 

The other night, as many of you know, I spent two hours in a severe tongue lashing from a fellow Christian brother who lamented over the fact that some folks, like myself, were openly questioning Church tradition regarding same-sex relationships. I asked him what his thoughts were on how he should treat his gay or lesbian neighbors and he replied with this. You can probably guess it before it’s even said.

 

“I love the sinner, but I hate the sin.”

 

I found myself laying in bed that night thinking about what people truly meant when they said it, and furthermore, what it really means to love.

 

And my mind wandered back to Dan and Marty.

 

Love is an ability.

 


 

Most of the time, an ability is not given, it is grown. You have to feed it and nourish it and work like hell to make sure it thrives through each and every season. Love is no different.


 

I am convinced that saying you love someone doesn’t count as love. I am also convinced that willing your mind to love someone that you’ve never reached out and touched, doesn’t add up to much.

 

Love cannot exist merely in the mind, it has to have legs and arms and kisses-to-give in order for it to be real. Feelings are fickle and don’t reflect love, because there are so many people in my life that drive me mad, but my love for them never ceases. Feelings are far away from ability.

 

Love cannot choose ignorance. It doesn’t describe a five second Google search of “homosexuality + Bible verse” as a true study of scripture. It strains the soul through prayer as it pleads for divine revelation. Love looks deep into the wisdom of others. It applies the mind in understanding the text by digging into cultural context, church tradition, the aim of the author and consistency of scripture.

 

Love is born through deposits of affection. It is intentional. It takes effort. You cannot love someone until you know someone and there is a clear-cut difference between knowing of someone and really knowing someone. You can put people on pedestals, but you can’t love them until you know them. You can leave the word love as the lasting residue of your rant, but you don’t love the folks you’re talking about, not really.

 

Love needs more time, likely more than the minutes you have to offer it. You need to sacrifice some schedule space for the other if you want it to be real. Love gets up at the crack of dawn because the other has classes and work, leaving them with little time to talk over coffee. It prioritizes the other person. Love makes the other matter more to you than the frivolous things of this life.

 

Love wears a cape. It arrives before it is even called upon. Love surrenders its shoulders to runny noses. It holds no pre-requisite for its remedies and it does not ask for that which is inappropriate. It comes without strings and is abundant in grace. It just wants to sit, just wants to listen, just wants to nod and stay until you’ve said all you need to say.

 

Love doesn’t dip into your past like a paintbrush to create an idea of who you must be today. Love asks questions and honors how far you have come. Love doesn’t whisper about you- it converses with you. The most unloving words can be said in the name of love, when the person of discussion isn’t present at your Bible Study.

 

Love is the two-minute response my mom received from the good people at the Marin Foundation regarding her endless list of questions. Love is the calls that were answered on our way to our first Living in the Tension gathering. Love is Laura who waited outside the Church building for God knows how long until our taxi pulled up. Love is the hug she gave us when we went for the handshake.

 

Love dwells. It doesn’t stop by on its own terms and convenience. Love is born into the dumpster of poverty. It snuggles with the shipwrecked instead of rolling with royalty. It goes off the map into dangerous territory because there’s a woman at a well that needs to know something. Love selflessly dies for those indifferent to its sacrifice. It rises three days later, because it never ever fails.

 

Love is engagement. It is entering into polar opposite worlds. It lives and moves and breathes, and is only real if it exists in both the heart and the hands.

 

Growing in love is messy and exhausting and tedious. But little by little it gets easier. Our jagged edges get sanded down. After all the stumbling and tumbling and screw-ups along the way, it will become an essential part of how we live. We will experience it in one another without thinking or trying. We will live to love. Truly.

 

And it will be as easy as breathing.

 

RR

I Will Stand Beside You- Steph Spencer [Love Letter Series]

medium_3002607644Stephanie Spencer is my friend IN REAL LIFE- and she’s also incredible. She has been a strong and steady source of support for me in my journey and I’m indebted to her for it. The psalm posts that I have done are with her link up “Journey through the Psalms” (join us tomorrow!). I am always grateful for her writing, the encouraging message she shares and her insight into scripture which always reveals something new and inspiring to me.

 

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll head to her site, Everyday Awe, and subscribe!. 

~

Empty Boxing Ring

I almost didn’t write this letter. Writing an open love letter to the LGBT community is outside my comfort zone.

 

I usually shy away from controversial topics when I write. I leave them to the people I deem better equipped than myself to handle criticism. I thought about the contentious nature of these discussions, about how a letter like this could blow up in my face or get people angry with me, and I wondered if it would be worth it.

 

And then, I thought again. Love should not be controversial.

 

So, I want to start with an apology. On behalf of myself and anyone else who has ever placed you in a category. You are not an issue; you are a person. You are a person who is loved and worthy of love. I am sorry that I almost said no to writing to you.

 

But, still, I’m scared. I am anxious about what I’m going to say next. Will you bear with me please? If I stumble over my words as I attempt to express my thoughts, will you read along until I get to the end?

 

I want to write to you about wrestling.

 

If you are gay, follow Christ, and believe that the Bible is the Word of God, there will likely be wrestling for you. There are verses in the Bible that talk about homosexuality, and those verses are difficult. They may already be triggers for you because of the many times these verses have been misused and abused to make you feel unworthy or unloved.

 

I am so, so sorry for that.

 

But, we can’t pretend those verses aren’t there. They are imbedded in culture and language and history. They are difficult to interpret and frustrating to read. But they are there, in the Bible. (They are along side many other challenging verses, by the way.)

 

In a deep way no one else can understand, you will have to decide what to do about these verses that talk about homosexuality. They are words that will push you to think, not about what you believe about an issue, but about what you believe about your life and your God, about your choices and your doctrine. As you decide where you fall on the spectrum of interpretation of not only these verses, but the Bible as a whole, you will end up agreeing with some and disagreeing with others.

 

The wrestling match between you and God will likely be unavoidable for you.

 

What is frustrating is how many Christians have put themselves in the ring. They have positioned themselves between you and God, and forced you to wrestle with them. Some have done this by making you think you have to have it all figured out before you approach the Lord. Others have stood as gatekeepers, acting as if you have to agree with them before you can pass through to God’s kingdom.

 

But it is not the role of Christians to stand-between. It is our role to stand-beside.  

 

We are called to bear each other’s burdens. If you are wrestling with God, then it is my job to be there with you, offering you strength. To be a listening ear as you sort things through. To voice concerns, and share encouragements, and be there with you no matter what you decide, now or in the future.

 

In the midst of this stand-between culture, there has also been another barrier built. It has been built upon the idea that there is something wrong with wrestling.

 

As we struggle to interpret the Bible, we should remember the characters it displays. There is Jacob, who, after an all-night wrestling match, is renamed “Israel” which means “he struggles with God.” There is David, who fights with God over and over again in the Psalms, asking why he has been abandoned, wondering why God isn’t acting differently. And then there are the disciples, who over and over again told Jesus that what He was saying was difficult and confusing.

 

If you wrestle with God, you are in good company. Wrestling does not show a weak faith, but a strong one. Wrestling moves towards instead of walking away.

 

Whatever you decide to do about these particular verses, there is a much bigger narrative that happens in the Scriptures. It is the narrative of a God who loves us. Who pursues us. Who pours his grace upon us. Who shares His presence with us through His Son and His Spirit.

 

The Bible is the story of a God who lets nothing come between He and His people.

 

So please, don’t let anyone position themselves between you and God. If you get frustrated, please don’t walk away. Chose to get into the ring. That is what gets you into close proximity to the God who loves you.

 

And please, find Christians who will stand-beside instead of stand-between. I will be there among them, outside the ring, ready with water when you need it.

 

With love,

Steph

~

~ be sure to check out more over at Everyday Awe~

Your Name- Aaron Smith [Love Letter Series]

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From my conversations with Aaron, I can honestly tell you that this guy is about intentionally loving people- I don’t think we realize how rare that really is. The brief conversations I have had with him have been encouraging as I look to how this is going to shake out in the church. If people are about love, we should be so optimistic. I am. Especially after reading this.

Aaron blogs over at Cultural Savage, you can land over there by clicking here.

~

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You have a name.

 

Too often, you are a topic for discussion. You become something for conservative preachers to demonize and slight, or something for progressive thinkers to wave about as a flag, proving their liberal and loving nature. But you are neither target nor trophy. You as you are, you are named.

 

I would like to say that I have always remembered your name, but I can’t. I am guilty just like the preachers and the pendants. It’s not that have ever consciously thought of the LGBTQ community as one homogeneous, faceless mass of people, but when I don’t intentionally act on the reality that you are you, individualized, personal, and with your own name, I do you unintentional harm. And I harm myself as well.

 

See, I don’t have all the answers. I am aware that people on both sides of this “discussion” about LBGTQ and the church, about you and the church, seem to have all the answers in a neat little package. I don’t have that. I have questions, the kind of questions that are hard to ask. Questions that will get me scorned by conservatives and judged by progressives. Questions I have been afraid to ask you, because I forget that you have a name. It’s easy to assume that some topics are off-limits, that some things can never be talked about. It’s easy to let the fear of what people will say and how people will react keep me silent with my questions. In the face of that fear, it can hard to remember that you are not a topic.

 

But I need to remember. You are not a topic, an issue, a political or theological stance. You are human, full of complexity, personality, intelligence, and emotional depth that all together are uniquely you. There is only one you.

 

And you have a name.

Clint. Shannon. Lauren. Steven. Cassie. Matt. Brandon. Nikki.

You have a name.

 

You are who I want to talk to. You are whose story I want to hear. You are who I want to laugh with. You are who I want to meet my son and my wife. You are who I want as a part of my life. You are who I want to love simply because you are you. It is you who have been a good friend to me. It is you who I enjoy beer with. It is you who I am glad to meet. It is you who I am excited for when you find a new crush. It is you who are complexly human, full of everything that makes humanity so wonderful and terrible.

 

It is you who has a name.

It is your name that God knows.

 

You who are made in the image of God, you are valuable to me. You are valuable because you are you, and I don’t want to spend my life not knowing you because of some issues, some questions, and some words flung far and wide my preachers and pendants. Yes, I have questions that I haven’t been able to find answers to, but I also haven’t bothered to ask you, to talk to you, to hear from you and be heard by you.

 

The more I think about it, the more I realize that there may not be a “solution” to this issue, mainly because people are not problems.

You are not a problem to me. You are a name I am glad to sit at the table of God with.

Forgive me for forgetting you name. I will try to keep it on my lips more these days.

It’s a beautiful name.

 

With love,

Aaron

~

Seriously, be sure to check out his blog

On Saying Goodbye

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On the very last day of school, we split the day in two. Morning was for finishing assignments at neckbreak speed and begging tender-hearted teachers for just one point more. For handing out goodbye and good luck cards between teachers and students. For laughing and hugging and crying and laughing. And crying.

 

I sat at my desk and took in every fleeting second of it. Listening like a nervous parent to their talk of summer parties and dangerous fun. Watching enemies make closing comments to one another. Laughing a little at a basket-case teacher by her door, flinging her arms around students she never even had.

 

I walked down to the daycare approximately one hundred times and played house and read books and tucked in those kids at nap time. I was kissing the crown of their heads, praying intentional prayers for their summer away from structure and nutrition and so much attention.

 

I cleaned out my desk. Found the birthday cards I had received months ago. Looked over at projects I never quite completed. Discovered that many of the pens I had lost were tangled through the clutter in the drawers and when I put them in a holder, it was packed full. Even though you won’t get it, that was strangely sentimental.

 

The afternoon was for the party. One of the teachers grilled outside, beneath an awning as the sky drizzled with rain. Several staff made salad, dip, bought reduced fat chips from the Cub down the street. We had a Soda-walk which was a Cake-Walk with soda. We played Pictionary and Basketball and set up a Photo Booth with wild costumes on a rack.

 

When all was said and done, I sat on the front edge of my desk as students approached and gave their hugged goodbyes. Goodbye. I’ll miss you! Be safe. Be smart! Make time for reading! With each one walking out, it felt like a slow draining of the season. You realize that the ones you had so much access to, so much influence over are now off into the world without a structured balance to keep them tethered to the ground.

 

And there is something about saying goodbye that is always bittersweet. We let go of certain people and things, possibly positions, and we make space for new ones. We clear out for the next things to float in or, as life normally goes, knock down the door and colonize our life. Summer sets us free to possibility.

 

But there’s also the reality that you carry these kids with you wherever you go. Somewhere between the drug withdrawals and the baby insomnia, you work your way into their story, their survival becomes linked to your own.

 

We are saying goodbye and though I may be back next fall, there is always the chance I won’t. There is a chance I won’t even visit. And if you only look at it like that, it’s quite sad.

 

But that free space. Those random road trips to mysterious places. That freedom in the unknown and that sudden moment weeks after you get there, you find yourself really there, seeing how life imperceptibly organized itself into the next season. That’s the beauty of this life- goodbyes are the hardest and best things we do.

If just the hand of tomorrow reaches out to tug you forward, you have to take it, take off, you have to keep moving.

 

Goodbyes are hard. Yes.

 

But life is a journey. You have to keep going.

 

RR

A Pastor and A Kicked Shut Door

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Perhaps its best to start with the kicked-shut door.

 

The rejection, the rage of that Mother’s Day morning was the first time in years that I wished I felt numb. I ran out but I wanted to race up. I wanted to take the stage and take the mike, I wanted to say Stop, for the Love of God, Stop.

 

And for the life of me, I don’t know if it’s cowardice or ignorance or both that made him cut us out of his life. I don’t know how he thought it best to use his secretary as an intermediary to a mother feeling maimed, covering her wings over her boy. I don’t what kind of gall it takes to tell her to buy a book from his store like a salesman would do. I don’t know how you become a pastor to thousands- the biggest church in the State, and be the kind that slams the door on those you singled out and shamed. I don’t understand any of it.

 

I’ve been reading up on reconciliation and here’s what I’ve found. One of the most important parts of healing is to face the offender- pull out the arrows one splitting tear at a time and put them back in their hands. Let them put a pressured finger on the tip of the spike; let them imagine ten years of these hurling down on you.

 

And ideally, you find forgiveness. Your waters wave into one another and you feel what the other side feels like. He would feel my wounds and I would feel the spotlight heat on a megachurch stage. But even that is getting ahead of ourselves.

 

What we can do, pragmatically, right now, is find some closure. He can give me that by hearing me out. By letting me sit in his office and speak and cry and tell him what it felt to run out of church on Mother’s day. To let my mom puff up and protect me, claim back the thousands they gave to his ministry.

 

But he won’t.

His door stays shut.

 

And if you can’t have that, its not like you can just throw this all away. These wounds haunt you like phantoms, like a deep impression you can never fill. In many ways they become one more thing to overcome. One more thing to block out. One more invasive blot to the Gospel story. One more screen in the space between you and God.

 

And it’s not like this silencing is anything new. We’ve read and wept over the stories coming out of Sovereign Grace Ministries. And I know that my story is not just different, it is several degrees less. But it still matters. The standing outside in the kicked shut silence is where those fluttering feelings peck you apart and the only way I think I can rid myself of them is to speak to he who hurt me.

 

But his door stays shut.

 

The funny thing about silence is how loud and ugly it can sound.

 

It says your pain is petty, inconsiderable, not worthy of five minutes time. It says that there is an admission to this office, you take what I said and go get fixed into something else, because this place isn’t for those like you. It says you can come and hear my word, but don’t you dare disagree. Don’t you dare believe you know God like I do.

 

And it shoots a thousand inexpressible insults, a thousand sharp cuts. A thousand ways that say your words, your story, your pain, don’t matter at all.

*

How I wish he could’ve been different. I wish he was like another pastor I once grabbed coffee with. By the time the two of us had crossed paths, I had been beaten to a pulp. I had flirted with ex-gay and even though it was a one-time thing, the nausea of it stayed in my stomach. I came to the café with my journal torn pages, scrawled out lists of religious wrongs.

 

And he Listened. He made me feel heard. He leaned in and said I am so sorry. He fell back and bloomed open his arms, smiling when he said, your story needs to be shared! Your story is going to change things- change people.

A few months later I cried as he led the congregation in a prayer of repentance for the collective homophobia of the Church and I remember how healing glowed and trickled its way through me. I remembered feeling like I belonged.

 

Because they told me I mattered to them. My pain mattered. My story, my value as a human being mattered to them. He could’ve closed the door and dismissed me as inconvenient, but he responded to that email within a couple of days. He told me that I was making a difference in his life. And that matters more than he knows.

 

So the church will never be one broad, sour-shaded stroke. Pastors come with hearts of different shapes and sizes. The key is to know, through every cell in your being, that they do not name you. They do not define you.

 

But they can lift you up. They can surrender shoulders to runny houses and spends hours with your coffee-incensed rant. They can remind you of the truth of your worth.

There is one perfect love out there and once upon a time he pieced you together part by part. Polished you with his warmth. He breathed a deep eager breath into your lungs. Held you closer than you can hold yourself.

So know this- you are lovely, you do matter, you are heard, because He says you are.

When the world, when the church, say you aren’t, He says you are.

And nothing matters more than that.

 

RR

 

Whether you are LGBT or straight, have you ever felt cut out from your church? Have you ever felt a pastor’s silence like this? Please share your story here- it matters.

Speaking Up

Close up of microphone

 

 

Her knee-jerk reaction was to write an email to the pastor.  One of words laced in barb-wire to do-back what had been done to her son. That’s every mom’s knee-jerk reaction when her kid gets hurt. To get even.

 

But out of respect for herself, respect for him and respect for the God of reconciliation, she decided to call and set up a meeting. His secretary took down the message.

 

She received a response- from his secretary- one that couldn’t have been more clear. He’s just too busy. He has too much on his plate to bother with this. The secretary had given him the message and he outright refused a meeting, BUT- there is this book in the church store about homosexuality and he would like to invite her to purchase it. He tells her it’s what he bases all of his beliefs on. It’s good stuff.

 

Needless to say, she hit the keys. She punched out an upset, but respectful email, explaining exactly why we are running from his church. How hurt we were by what he said. How hurt she is that he will not meet with her. She pressed Send.

 

After a week we received a response that was pretty typical Christian, and I don’t mean that in praise. I could point to many adjectives but none of them are of virtue.

 

When I got home, my mom had the letter printed out on the counter and as I read it, I fell back in my chair. Pulling out a pen, we began picking through the words, looking at what he meant, keep ourselves in check- keeping ourselves from reading into subtext, but unable to deny that there were thick strokes of it.

 

I grew so angry so quickly. More angry than hurt. And as I reach my boiling point I slapped a hand to my forehead and said, I am done. This is too tiring, I can’t do this anymore.

 

And can I tell you what my mom said?

 

Imagine if MLK said that, if Rosa Parks did. Imagine all the oppressed, all the least of these that sat back and said they were too tired. Too beaten down to get back up.

 

She held up the letter close to my face. She flicked it as she spoke.

 

In your life, you are going to get a hundred of these. A thousand. It’s not right, but it’s reality and I worry that every time it’s going to tear you apart like this. You have to grow stronger.

 

Truth in freaking love. (I use that pejoratively because it’s something my pastor said in the email.) But if there ever was someone to successfully tell the truth in love, it was my mom, right there at the kitchen counter.

 

And right now I’d like to end this post. I’d like to tell you that I will respond to every word in that email. Noun to verb. Cliché to Cliché. I want to respond not out of a sense of getting even or publicly shaming this pastor (he will be anonymous as am I), but out of my conviction that unless I speak up, unless I advocate for myself and every other person hurt by church, nothing will ever change.

 

Because unless we speak up,

 

Pastors will continue to hurt people, without even the decency to meet with them in private.

 

Emails will continue to be thrown like grenades, ones that literally put words in the mouth of Jesus (not kidding. I’ll explain later.)

 

The closeted will curl up in the corner and hope will be all but extinguished.

 

And I’ll be regretting the fact that the whole time, I stayed silent.

 

So I’m speaking up. 

 

With absolute decision.

 

RR