I came close to making a mistake. A big one.
Living across the pond didn’t spare me the media coverage surrounding the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. For the past year I have watched between the slits of my fingers as Christian leaders from all four corners of the state crusaded up the steps of the Capital, establishing themselves as Biblical Bodyguards.
At first, of course, there was a sting. It never feels good to hear people talk disparagingly about you. But after awhile… it all sorta blended together. I developed a weird tolerance for their intolerance.
Then someone very close to my community began to vocalize his support for the measure. He wrote an article that opened wounds I thought had closed.
The post he penned advocating for the amendment left me distraught and brokenhearted. It wasn’t simply his support for the measure, I know wonderful people who voted yes. No, it was because his message endorsed myths about LGBT people. The very myths that used to color my own self-image. And his tone felt condescending. And the facts were fuzzy. And the “I feel for…” felt phony. All of which left me lost and sad. And then angry.
Swiping the cursor across the screen, I fired up Microsoft Word and began a long and emotionally draining response to his post. With every word, my hands trembled. I intended this letter to be an open one; I planned on pinning up his picture on the blog and to call on all of you to hold him accountable.
Cause that’s all I was doing right? Holding him accountable? Just like a good Christian brother should.
After much editing, reading and rereading, I worked up all the courage I had and went to the Registered Runaway site. Staring at the composition, I stole a glance at my Aunt and told her what I was about to do.
“Send it to him first. It’s a letter after all. Let him respond. Take the honorable route.”
I think, deep down, I was hoping she’d say that.
So I sent along my letter to the pastor using my anonymous email account. I made it clear that he had until 10 PM to respond, the letter would go LIVE then.
For the next hour I checked and rechecked my phone for any reply. I was anxious for his argument, and already preparing my counterpoints.
Another hour passed and then I heard the quiet chirp of my phone. Looking at the unopened message felt like looking down the basement stairs to check on a spooky noise. I just didn’t know what would happen.
I didn’t anticipate an angry response or an ugly condemnation. But I did expect a response, perhaps a more grace filled and compassionate argument reiterating his support for the Amendment.
But what I got, I’m not sure I deserved.
The email was from his wife. Her husband was away speaking at a conference, and she was left to handle his mail.
In one of the most thoughtful emails I have ever received, she apologized for how the post made me feel. She informed me that his post had now been deleted from his site. She wanted me to know that it was never her husband’s intention to hurt anyone. She said she understood that the question of “homosexuality” is far from cut and dry.
She talked about my blog, told me how it moved her and spoke of her sadness about LGBT experiences with the Church (capital C).
And she wanted me to know that I am loved. (She bolded that one).
This started a wonderful conversation that resulted in a suggestion from her that I get coffee with her husband. I accepted, telling her I would love to when I return from Europe.
Closing down my Mac, I felt a lump rise in my throat.
I had come so close to letting myself down.
On this blog, I have been fighting for an end to fighting. A cease-fire.
I’ve been loud about listening and unconditional loving.
About soul saving through story telling.
Maybe it was the miles from home, but I nearly offered bitterness an undeserved audience. I wasn’t just ready to shame a man. Worse yet, I was ready to shame a phenomenal pastor. Someone who is, by all measures, good and Godly. A man I have seen shape the lives of those I love most.
I tried to tell myself I was speaking truth to power, holding my Christian brother accountable, love through correction and all that.
But the reality is- I just wanted vengeance. I wanted to believe that he was attacking me. The caricature was convenient, it allowed my conscience to OK the letter. I made him into an imaginary boogeyman.
And the lump lowered as I realized something else.
I had just been a participant in a holy act of reconciliation. Far more was done in that email exchange to heal my conflict with the Church than a viral protest ever could. While this pastor’s wife could have written me off as a bully, she took the time to visit my blog and read my story. Meanwhile, she disarmed me. She showed me that her husband is not the boogeyman I believed him to be. If only I would sit and talk with him.
This event took me back to previous posts I had written.
“In our abandonment of Christ’s call to a reconciled human race, we forfeit the game. The pictures we paint of our perceived enemies are only as true as they are convenient. And the worst part of all of this is that our stereotyping only serves to widen the Grand Canyon between us.”
“This is a staggeringly similar story to God’s forgiveness upon us for taking his one and only child. Tim chose to invest in Takunda and spare him a punishment that probably wouldn’t even begin to match his crime. He chose forgiveness that wasn’t warranted or expected. Forgiveness that was unfair.”
“It’s not about the bullied becoming the bullies nor rebel retribution.”
Thank God my Aunt held me accountable. After I told her about the response, she said aloud, “I just got goosebumps! This is good, talking is always soo good.”
In putting the pin back in the grenade I remembered how reconciliation felt.
A lot like hope.