The very ones despised by the religious order were the ones He identified with most. Those were His brothers and sisters. Those were His friends. Those were the ones that got Him. He is with the beaten beside the road. He is with the hurting. He is with the accused. He is with the LGBT soul drowning behind the closet door.
He has carved your name in His palms. He has counted the number of hairs on your head. He thought of you first. He loved you first. He made you on purpose. He gave you a heart and a soul and a mind and breathed life into all that you are.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that evening was not an ending, but a milestone. A turning point. I had finally and unapologetically let go. I had wrestled with the angel, and I was defeated—rendered incapable of fighting anymore.
Since that night, my journey has been interesting and unexpected. I’ve rejected God. I’ve come back to God. I went through a time of sexual promiscuity. I met and am now “married” to my current partner. I stopped going to church, stopped praying, and stopped reading the Bible. I started going to church again (about 6 months ago). The church I go to now is gay-affirming. Every week at the communion table, all are invited to partake wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith.
We were created for relationship. It’s in our blood, our bones, our DNA. It’s intrinsic to who we are we God’s creation. And I’m not talking false, superficial, culturally-dictated relationships where you do what is “right” and “good” by the standards of others. I’m talking life-giving, abundant relationships, romantic and platonic. Any relationship that forms out of love has the potential to bring life. This is my hope for you, that you find this kind of love.
In my circle of friends, of LGBT people of faith, Christian faith in particular, there is a divide between those who believe that same-sex physical intimacy is God-honoring, and those who believe that sex of any sort, in order to be holy and right, should be restricted to the heterosexual marriage bed. While I can tell you about my own conclusions, my own wrestling with this particular component of relationship, I cannot decide for you what is right and what is not. No one can make that decision for you. But there are plenty of people out there willing to walk the path with you, the journey necessary for coming to your own conclusions.
Now, I’m not saying that there is a “gay way” to pray–of course not. However, we come to the Divine as a whole person: body, soul, and mind. And like any other person, our sexuality is a large part of who we are. And were we to repress and deny this core aspect of who we are, if we were to shut down how we experience love, we would risk shutting down our pathways to each other. And by denying God access to every inch of our being, we risk shutting down our pathway to Him, too.
You and I are gay and straight, but we’re so much more than those attractions we express. They are a part of our days, and some days they are ever so important, but other days they are the most minuscule, unimportant parts of our lives. We’re people: working, studying, crying, learning, praying, laughing, and being human. That’s what makes us people: the being, not the gay or the straight.
When we are being together, we are a community. We are common. Maybe we find that commonality because we’re both human, or both have crazy dreams about becoming BFF with Taylor Swift at a Rhianna show (oh, that’s just me?), or because we’re both trying to follow the same Jesus way.
It’s important, because I’m sure that you have an idea of who you really want to be, the “best version” of yourself. You see this person hinted at in the heroes you have chosen and in the ideals to which you strive. You see it through Christ himself. And your sexuality is important to becoming that person.
Your sexuality comes from the deepest, most intimate center of your being. It’s the part of yourself that stretches out in search of connection, in search of intimacy, because that part of yourself knows that you have something to give. Your sexuality exists because you have something to give – and in giving that, you make the world the better place. You bring about new life, regardless of whether or not you have ever or will ever have children. You should never fear it, be ashamed of it, or want to get rid of it, because your sexuality is a part of the gift you have to give to the world.
Your sexuality exists because God made us to need people and to be needed by people.
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.
Then, somewhere in the emotionally rending chaos of my mind, a calm voice tenderly resounded. “My grace is sufficient for you.” As someone who leans admittedly Reformed in theology, I don’t believe I’ve ever had anything to do with my salvation. He is, after all, the Author and Finisher of my faith. My story begins and ends with Him. To live according to someone else’s convictions out of a place of fear and shame is hardly what I call living in freedom. Rather, I recognized that I would have to respond authentically to what He’d revealed to me. If I believed that God is good, then I would also have to trust that He wouldn’t let me remain on a path that would lead to my eventual destruction but would lovingly intervene as a good father.
When I looked up at God through my scared and ashamed little girl eyes, you know, the way your face stays downcast and only your eyes look up? I saw that grin of delight, that gleam in his eyes. I lifted my head in bewilderment as he grabbed me under my arms and launched me up, up, up into the air with a laugh, then caught me in his gentle strong embrace and spun me round, round, round, my legs floating on the force of his twirl, until I was laughing and squealing too. That’s when I knew everything I knew with God was no illusion. My experience of him, my relationship with him was true. He IS good and trustworthy and gentle.
So that’s what I want to say to the LGBT people reading this: Your voice is so powerful. Your stories and your openness about your own experiences changed me. And slowly, through your voices, the truth is coming out, and the stereotypes and ignorance and fear will have nowhere to hide.
If you can, tell your story. Some people will listen and some will not. But in the long run, I really believe that the light will win. People will no longer be able to deny the fact that you are real human beings with complex lives, and you deserve respect and love and equality. And straight Christians cannot continue to be so blind to the existence of our LGBT brothers and sisters.
I would like to let you know that no matter what; no matter how you call yourself; no matter what you do; no matter the color or style of your hair; no matter how many tattoos you have or don’t have; no matter the color of your skin; no matter the object of your affections; You. Are. Loved.
You are loved.
I love you—though I don’t know you, most likely, I still “agape” you. And I can safely assume that you have at least some, even if it seems like only just a few, friends and family members that truly love you too—even if they have difficulty showing it. But even better than that, God loves you.
You are loved. You. Are. Loved.
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.
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.
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’m not going to stretch my arms out for a way of faith that excludes the LGBTQ community. I won’t die on the mountains of verses that have been used to exclude you from the Body of Christ. I know there’s a lot of debate, you know it better than I, but I’m not going to stake my faith in Jesus on Genesis 19:1-11 or on the peaks of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. And the rocky caves of those verses, you know the ones, in Judges, Kings, and Romans; no, I will not die on those mountains either.
Instead, I will look to Calvary, the cross on which the Savior died. And I will say, “Lord, these men and women and children, these are your people. I want to care for them as you would care for me. Grant me the love and the compassion to take care of my brothers and sisters.”
It has been overwhelming. That is the only appropriate word for what this series has done to me. I have gotten emails about folks passing out these letters to friends, to families, to pastors. I have read through messages of wounds beginning to heal. Of people hungry for acceptance. Of children of God unaware that they are, in fact, Children of God. The ones that are so defeated that the very idea that they might be called son or daughter is absurd; meant for someone else.
Things are changing.
These letters are bringing hope for those that fear the world they walk through every day. It is connecting them to a community that loves them, right here in the blogosphere, and it is pushing them to imagine that there are others out there, in their everyday life, with arms to hold if only they would let them in.
I know I haven’t been writing as much, and that’s okay- I have some other responsibilities to attend to and for the next couple weeks, my posting will be rare. But I do want to open up an invitation.
I’ve been so blessed to have so many folks submit pieces for this project, who waited patiently for their turn to publish, leaving me with little work other than pressing a couple buttons. And I am incredibly grateful to each and every one of them.
But, who says we have to stop?
If you have a piece that you’re interested in posting here for the series, I welcome you to email me at email@example.com. Or DM me on twitter @Runaway_Writes. The people behind these letters have all had something in common, a desperate desire to find a way to express their love to their LGBT brothers and sisters. A space to spell out their thoughts for friends and strangers to absorb.
If you also have something sitting on the very top of your heart, I welcome you to contribute. That is all.