My Thanksgiving break was…interesting. And good. And hard. Very, very hard. Over the holiday, I had some people in my life who are my closest family and friends assert rather strongly that they disagreed, or at least had strong cautions rising, with the way I am approaching this vision. These are people that I love and trust very much. Don’t get me wrong, I knew going into this that it would be an uphill battle, that not everyone would agree with me, that some would think I’ve lost my marbles, and that perhaps, I may even lose some relationships through it. I have struggled, and I do mean STRUGGLED, for years, with this reality, and with God, frankly, over what he thinks, and how that should influence my actions. (That last struggled is in all caps and bold with good reason – sleepless nights, days and days of journaling, praying, grappling, researching, etc.)
A few months ago, I finally came to the spot where, in a time of prayer, crying and pouring my heart out to God, I laid it at his feet, knowing full well what I risk in taking on this issue – perhaps my closest relationships, perhaps my reputation, perhaps some people’s view of my character, perhaps everything. And God spoke to me, which broke my heart even more (not surprising, he tends to have that softening effect on me). He said, “Heidi, even if you were to lose all of that, you would only know a fraction of the pain and loss that so many in the LGBT community have experienced.” HEART. SHATTERED.
So many have lost things like that because of their sexual orientation – their friendships, their family members, and people’s view of their character. Some have lost their homes. Some have lost their churches. Some have lost far more than I could ever stand to lose. So I couldn’t just sit safely by in my comfort zone. I had to do something.
My heart and my prayer is that I would always be open to correction – I know I don’t have it all figured out. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard when you realize how much you’re risking. And it certainly doesn’t mean that criticism is always easy for me to take. I do think some people have expressed some valid concerns. So I want to address them with you this week.
- I have not really clearly shared my goals for all of this (although, I’ve attempted to allude to them through the posts).
- I have not really clearly shared my approach and strategy for how to achieve these goals (although I’ve attempted to do this somewhat vaguely through my posts as well).
- I have not made “a stance” or even addressed why I will or won’t take a stance.
- I have been perhaps a bit heavy-handed with Christians.
I value feedback. And I think the above criticisms are pretty fair. So this week, I am going to work towards remedying these concerns. I will be tackling #1-#3 in individual posts over the next several days, but will start with #1 (my goals) today. Part of the problem is that I am still forming some of this, so I’ve been reluctant to share too much detail about #1 and #2 up to this point. But I am glad to share with you what I have figured out so far…don’t hold it against me if I tweak things along the way.
Before I continue though, I do want to say about #4 that I’m sorry if I’ve pushed too hard. It was not my intent. I have been trying to challenge and push us out of our comfort zones, because I think the LGBTQ community has been profoundly hurt by the way Christians have dealt with this issue. I know that neither side has dealt with things perfectly and that both the Christian community and the LGBTQ community could be better at dealing with one another in love. I was just pushing at Christians first because, as such, we are to live our lives in ways that honor God, and I don’t feel like we’re always doing that well with these issues. I don’t want Conservative Christians to think I am calling on them to sacrifice their convictions because I am not. (More on that later). I’m merely saying that our approach needs some modification. Keep reading my posts this week. I will be touching on this concern more.
But one thing at a time…my goals first! In order to set the stage for explaining what I’m doing and how I’m doing it I think it’s first probably very important that you know why I’m doing it. So I thought I should share my story with you. Fasten your seatbelts – this post will be longer than most of my others.
I grew up in a conservative Christian home. We didn’t really talk about people who were gay. It was just understood that they’re different. They’re strange. And maybe a little untouchable (although I’m sure it was never my parent’s intent to communicate that). I came in contact with a few people who were gay over the years and heard a few sermons and discussions on the issue that I found interesting, and then one day, God dropped me smack dab in the middle of the gay community. It happened like this. After a bout in youth ministry my husband and I decided to move up to Pennsylvania, which is where I grew up, and so we did – with next to no money. Literally, I think we had 50 dollars to our name on moving day. We moved in with my mom, and immediately started searching for jobs. I went to the mall one day and applied at just about every store I could think of. At the end of a long day, I walked out of NY&Co vowing that it was my last stop for collecting applications (I think I was up to about 15 at that point). As soon as I stepped out of the store, I paused. There was a store that looked interesting across the way and I thought, ok, I’ll go for broke, one last stop. I walked in, feeling rather droopy by this point, and inquired at the checkout about job openings. The man at the counter just looked at me for a second in disbelief – I think his jaw literally hit the floor. He was devastatingly understaffed and at that moment trying to write the schedule, all the while losing his mind because it was Christmas time and he didn’t have enough help. He asked me a few questions about myself, offered me the job on the spot, and boom within a week I was working there. Coincidence? I think not. The man’s name was Thom. The first impression I had of him was that (1) he was hilarious (2) he was gay. (It was kind of obvious). Over the next few months I fell in love with Thom’s heart – he became one of my best friends. It was Thom that ushered me into the gay community. We’d have debates for hours on politics, gay rights, religion, and the like. He answered all my dumb questions about the gay community. He’d roll his eyes at me and give me “the look” but he was always glad to help me shake off that “conservative Christian bubble”. I’ll never forget the day I asked him when he knew he was gay. He looked straight at me and said, “Heidi, that’s a ridiculous question. When did you know you were straight?” I just laughed. “Good point,” I thought.
Over the next several months and years of our friendship, Thom invited me into his community. I was hungry to understand. I asked hundreds of offensive questions, listened to dozens of heartbreaking stories of people I met, befriended dozens of gay men, and got really, really confused. I started wondering how to be Jesus to this community of people who, one after another, shared heart-wrenching stories with me about the pain and struggle and difficulty they endured as they came to grips with their orientations. I was heartbroken. For the next several years after meeting Thom, I scoured book after book, reading, asking questions, searching Scripture, researching, praying, praying, praying, praying. Praying more. Praying harder. Crying. Questioning. Questioning everything. Praying more. That journey started roughly 3 years ago and it has been devastating. And beautiful. There is one simple thing I have come to from all of that thinking, praying, crying, and questioning, and this is it: God loves this community of people with the same unbridled, passionate, drop everything and run for them kind of love that he loves me with. And we, as Christians, haven’t always showed them that kind of love. And that, to me, is really, really sad.
I know I don’t have all the answers. I’m guessing you probably don’t either. But so many people in the LGBTQ community have not felt God’s love. And to me, that is a travesty. I think it’s so unfortunate when anyone, no matter who you are, and what you are dealing with, feels far from God’s love, or has been told that they are not qualified enough to receive it. Qualified enough! As if any of us are qualified to receive God’s love! Oh, heaven forbid that we return to a place where our works are what earn us God’s love. But no, praise be to God, he has given us something far greater, the message of Jesus, his unmerited favor, his unearnable love, given freely!
There is some commonality between us. Even if you don’t believe in the God I do, you probably agree that all people deserve to be treated with dignity, kindness, respect, and love. Conversely, even if you believe in God and that he condemns homosexuality, you probably agree that even gays and lesbians (and everyone in between) should be allowed to receive God’s gift of grace. But then it comes down to this big, ugly, painfully divisive question. A question that I’ve been asked quite a lot this past week.
What is your stance?
Since I’m going to address that question later this week, I’m not going to delve into that just yet. Instead, I want to share with you the answer to the first question above (what are the goals?) now that you understand where I’m coming from. So here you go!
My goal is to continue within the LGBT community to:
- Love and serve them in such a way that they sense God’s love, strongly, through our interactions.
- Love them in such a way that in personal relationships we can share our opinions, beliefs, and convictions with one another freely, without fear, and commit to continuing the journey towards truth together.
- Engage in relationships with them where I can challenge, and be challenged, by people (even people I may disagree with) to pursue God and truth more passionately, more consistently, and more fervently.
- Help Christians and churches to do all of the above with the LGBTQ community as well.
- Help the LGBTQ community come to a place where they trust Christians enough to be able to do #1-#3 with the Christian community.
I’m not sure that came out exactly the way I want it in the end, which is why I haven’t shared it yet. But hopefully you catch my drift. I basically want to tear down the walls between our communities, and encourage people in their pursuit of God (or truth in general if you don’t believe in God – in the end, I think it’s the same thing since I believe God is Truth). I think this wall tearing down action will start to happen if we can foster and provide safe places and relationships to engage the issues.
How I will go about achieving that is a separate story, which you can read later this week. I hope you will come back to hear it. I want to end each of my posts this week with saying the same thing:
First, I do not know everything. In fact, I hardly know anything. So I’m just trying to stick to the basics: loving like Jesus loves.
Second, Conservative Christians – you probably think I’m being too “non-committal” LGBTQ – you might think I’m not driving a hard enough stance for your full acceptance into society, the church, etc. To both of you, I say, I’m sorry if I have offended you. I had anticipated it, but I don’t revel in it. I’m just a person and I will fail you. But I hope that you know that when I do, I’m sorry. I will just keep trying to do the right thing the best I know how. And trying to love the way Jesus did. I hope I get at least some of it right. I’ll keep on working on it. Just keep coming back!
Keep the faith! Much love!