Grace to Breathe

Boy Rising from Swimming Pool

The sun is hot which only exasperates things. I just finished whipping through the afternoon playing basketball in the pool and I’m resting with family friends. It’s spring break and, for whatever reason, this small oasis has drawn much of our Minnesota network to this teeny corner of Orlando. For the most part, it’s great. After coming here for so many years it is starting to feel like a vacation home, a luxury I know, but at least its familiar and we’re all comfortable and I should, but I don’t, feel like apologizing for that.

Most of my parents’ friends know all about me except for a few and its not that we haven’t told them because of who they are or what they necessarily believe, the timing just hasn’t been right. In any case, I am sitting by the pool talking to my Mom’s friend, my former tutor, about the new Pope. She goes on about how much she likes him and I agree with her, and she goes further about her concern for the environment and global warming and I agree with her even more. And there’s this common ground that is felt whenever like-minded people meet.

 

“But ya know. If he goes too far… Like. If he says its okay to get abortions or if he says okay to be lesbian or gay. I’m done.”

 

I’m unsure as to whether she was done with Christianity altogether, because she’s definitely not Catholic, or if this was her way of saying she was done liking Pope Francis. In any case, her words didn’t wound, they sneered. And I felt my eyes narrow and I began to clear my throat and throw on my pre-emptive strike smile, because yes, I was Pissed Off.

I don’t wish to be anyone’s deal breaker, for anything. Especially for Christ. Especially because of who I am.

 

Sometimes, I wish all conservative Christians would have one gay kid in the family. I think we’d all understand and love each other better.

 

Before my claws protract and tongue puts a point on, another of my mom’s dear friends, a participant in the conversation, fully informed about my secret, interrupted and did exactly what, in my cool headed state, I would ask her to do.

 

“So, like, what does it mean to be a Jesuit Priest? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of that before.  It sounds interesting!”

 

Her question disarmed me and the conversation led to some lovely dialogue about oaths of poverty, even if I did grit my teeth for minutes after.

 

What I needed in that moment was an unbelievable amount of grace. Unbelievable amount. I understand the argument, “well what if she was talking about black folks or Jews?” but I have to reckon with the world I find myself in and I’ve made it a commitment to not shut any one out. My former tutor, had she known about me, would probably rethink things a bit and would definitely not come out the gate with that confession.

breathe

More importantly, I think as sexual minorities, we get justifiably defensive at thoughtless words tossed to and fro in the day to day convos. We get hit and we wince and all we want is war. We get frustrated at the folks with families and standing who have no idea how much they take their acceptance for granted. And when they talk down about people like you, yes, it feels like getting stung by so many bees.

But in those moments, we need people to distract us! The best thing our friends can do in conversations like these is provide a diversion before we say something we truly regret. For example, I let it slip that I can’t call myself an evangelical because, “they are so hard hearted.” I can’t tell how much offense she took to this, but in any case, I said it.


And, of course, we need advocates out there fighting for us on the daily. But we also need advocates that will hold us back from a fight when we need to. We need friends to look us in the eyes and ask if this is the hill we are willing to die on.


Because, normally, I will leave the conversation after its run its course, and I’ll remember that my tutor is a lover of Jesus and the planet and the poor. I’ll remember that she likely knows no gay people. I will remember that she is my sister in Christ. I will remember that she has no idea that I am gay. I will remember that the memory of her words, once she finds out about me, and perhaps, in twenty years when she changes her views, will be enough of a punishment for her.

 

And she’ll need me to forgive her. Which I’m ready to do now. Which would be harder to do if I fought and pushed her away.

 

Sometimes, biting your tongue is the best way to do grace.

Sometimes, its best, for friends to hold us back from ourselves.

 

Grateful,

 

RR 

The Importance of Getting Angry

AK Wolf Howling Moon Composite Summer Scenic Ridge Night Purple Dark

I got really angry the other night. I was at a friends house and I made the mistake of openly questioning the Church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality. What happened next was a two hour severe tongue lashing, lasting well into the dead of night.

 

Questions concerning a variety of interpretations, cultural circumstances, varying translations, and the Church’s notorious failures in understanding scripture (flat earth, heliocentrism, manifest destiny, the genocide of native Americans, anti-semitism, the rights of women, slavery, interracial marriage and so so much more)- Anything, it seemed, was irrelevant. He said as much.

“Look, I love the sinner, but I HATE the sin. Same way I love adulterers and rapists and so on.”

 

“Gays just weird me out- I believe that to be, like, the Holy Spirit convicting me or something.”

 

“I haven’t had to deal with this much any way. All I know is what God says and anything different than that… well, is just not God.”

 

Needless to say, I didn’t kiss him goodnight.

I darted out into the frigid dark like Hell’s worst child.



 

When I was little I knew that anger was wrong. On my bedroom wall I taped up the verse “Be slow to get angry” and I looked at it every time I threw a mean tantrum. Most of the time, I needed those words. My fits were just growing pains on the way to adulthood. They were unbecoming of a Christian secure in his seat at the table.

The real trouble with anger, I learned, is letting it cook too long. Taking its hand as it leads us down to the dark cabin of bitterness.

But maybe, if just for a spell, it can be the splash of water our hearts desperately need. Maybe sometimes, we’re just not angry enough. Maybe growth isn’t possible until we scorch the earth.

 

And that’s exactly what I did.

 

I went into my room, kicked the Bible off my bed and scratched away at my journal. I thought through all the things I wish I would’ve said and made a script for the second round. I thought through all the ugliness in Christianity today and wondered how the gospel had become such a vapid desolate space. Toxic to the atypical. The cupboard inside of me where I stored all of the things that I thought made faith real was billowing out onto the floor. Evangelicalism, Sola Scriptura and Fundamentalism all breaking to bits on the ground.

 

Whatever faith remained inside was limping.

 

Until it wasn’t.

I picked up the Book and ran my fingers across its pages. So many long lost places of refuge, so much calm imparted. Flickering lights, marking moments when my life changed. And abruptly, I felt myself drift away.

It was like a swelling gale sending the air back to my lungs. A sweet smell from the days when my faith had muscle. Doing His part to clean me out. Turning over tables like He was back in the temple. Knocking and breaking to get to me. Stirring the fire and rhythm and fight back into my soul. Reassuring me that He is who He said He was and that I will forever and always be His boy. That’s it.

And before I knew it, my knees hit ground to a symphony of Song of Songs 2 and whispered promises of I’m not like them. Images emerge of Hagar at the desert spring, rediscovering the God that Sees Me. All of me, adoring me. This old love that never loses its freshness.

 

And it hit me then and there that this holy ground, my acre, my faith, was never supposed to be overrun with such waste in the first place. Their swarming theology and their snap judgments were never going to give me this kind of peace. This kind of freedom.

 

This space is for my wild and weary heart,

Where I separate the fraud from the Father.

And find so much relief in that discrepancy.

 



 

Anger attacks anything that wars against the world we know. Sometimes we are wrong and anger is just an obstacle in our journey to becoming better. But there are times when we’re not wrong and anger is our loyalty under duress. It is our instinctive resistance towards anything that twists what we know in our gut to be true. Whatever rips away at our redemption.

 

In two hours my tender loving Abba became a mean old drunk. And the shifting of the earth, the desecration of that relationship, plucked at every vein my body.

 

Until He emerged again with His heart beating to the same rhythms and aches as my own. One that calls out Come away, my love, my lovely one come! the winter has past, the rains are over and gone.

 

And the anger recedes as I am overcome by His adoration.

Just peace.

Just love.

Just warmth.

Simple and more than enough.

RR