Finding Jesus at Gay Pride

DSC_0001I’m remembering our time at Gay Pride in Cincinnati this afternoon, and all our amazing volunteers who made the day such a success.  Was it really three whole weeks ago?  It was.

Gay Pride is one of our regular events at LOVEboldly.  We go in hopes of emulating the Jesus we love.  We go to hang out with the folks who are the least likely for church-folks to hang out with, to offer our friendships and love, to show kindness to those who have, perhaps, only been met with God’s anger or condemnation.

I’ve been to more gay pride events than I can count now, but this year was different.  Just two weeks prior to Cincinnati Pride, a man had entered a gay club on Pride night in Orlando and killed 49 precious folks like those we knew we’d be hanging out with.  He wasn’t a Christian, but many have conjectured that his killing rampage was religiously-motivated and, whether right or wrong, many have wondered how conservative Christian theology is much different than that which inspired his actions that horrible night.

Would LGBTQ+ folks even want Christians around at Pride, this year? Or would we just be a reminder of past pain and hurt experienced in religious communities? Would LGBTQ+ folks even want Christians around at Pride, this year? Or would we just be a reminder of past pain and hurt experienced in religious communities? Could we blame them if they were angry, if they lashed out?  Would our presence be healing, or would it just pick at an old scab that was not yet healed, causing deeper scars, more bad blood between us?  Would our hopes of helping bring healing to our divides or just inflict more hurt?

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Monday Musings: Why I Hate Being Mistaken For A Lesbian

“Do you have ‘tendencies?’”

             “You do like men, right?”

                             “So…are you, you know, a lesbian?”

As Executive Director of LOVEboldly, I am sometimes mistaken for a lesbian, and these are all questions I have been asked (directly or indirectly) in the past several months. It seems logical for most people to assume I at least have “tendencies” (their word, not mine) towards the same sex because of the work I do.  Adding to the “suspicions” could be the fact that I’m single and I just happen to live with my very best friend (another female) and, the two of us are very open about our very platonic, but deep, love and appreciation for one another.

For the last few years I have had numerous conversations with folks who have inquired about my sexuality and have even had to assure a man or two that yes indeed, I do like men and no, he is not about to accidentally get caught dating a lesbian if he takes me out.  I like men. It just so happens that muscles, testosterone, five o’clock shadows, and foot-in-mouth syndrome all really do it for me apparently.

There is one reason alone that causes me to really, truly, deeply despise being mistaken for a lesbian and it has nothing to do with a misguided sense of pride in my heterosexuality nor a fearing that my femininity, morality, or character is being called into question.  I hate being mistaken for a lesbian because those who do so demonstrate a very sad truth: that we have become so terribly self-consumed, self-interested, and self-protecting that we must assume that anyone interested in helping someone is doing so for their own personal gain.

No, I’m not a lesbian.  I just love Jesus, and I love those whom he loves. 

Every time someone mistakes me for a lesbian because of the work that I do, I am reminded that the world has grown to believe that true self-giving, sacrificial love that doesn’t serve a personal gain just doesn’t exist anymore. So, of course, I must be a lesbian or else, why would I do this work?  True compassion and goodness towards others has become an outlandish notion in our hedonistic, self-absorbed culture.  I see it held within the disbelieving eyes of all who struggle to believe that I really am straight.

Sacrificial love is exactly the kind that Christ demonstrated for us, and it’s exactly the kind we are called to.  When people ask me why I do this work as a straight Christian my answer is always the same: I do it for love of God.  He loved me sacrificially, so also must I love others sacrificially, and lay down my life for them.  The man who washed Judas’ feet stood nothing to gain save further humiliating himself in front of his betrayer – yet he did it anyway for love of God and love of his neighbor, even his enemy.  This is how we are called to live.  We do what he modeled not because of what we gain, but because He has done it for us first.

Someday perhaps people will be familiar enough with this kind of bold love that they won’t automatically assume that I have ‘tendencies’ anymore.  Until then, I suppose I’ll just smile to myself every time I have to reassure someone that muscles, testosterone, five o’clock shadows, and foot-in-mouth syndrome still really do it for me.

Who is it, what people group is it, that you hold nothing in common with, yet towards whom you can seize the opportunity to selflessly serve this week?  This is what bold love means: serving others because we are called to obedience, no matter whether we anticipate gaining a stitch of self-reward from it or not.

Monday Musings: When I Have to Practice What I Preach

I decided I didn’t like the name Wisdom for the Week.  It was bulky and pretentious and altogether non-pithy.  So after being absent for a few weeks (dreadfully sick – dreadfully, dreadfully, sick have I been), I am back.  With a new name.  And a new bounce in my step.  And hopefully, health that will have some sticking power.

Introducing…Monday Musings.  Here’s this week’s Musing straight from the brain of Yours Truly:

I firmly believe in the importance of not taking myself too seriously.  For this reason, I regularly have a good laugh about this work I’ve chosen, the glamorous life of bringing people together who will get disgusted at one another, and then helping them to be nice to each other.  It really is delightful, but it can also be extraordinarily stressful.  The most laughable moments are the ones where I myself have to practice what I preach, and I don’t know how to – or if I do, I don’t want to.  Reconciling with the proverbial ‘other’ is part of what God calls us to and I love the results, but the process is really rather annoying.

It is unusual for me to have to work at wanting to reconcile with someone.  To a fault, I don’t hold grudges.  I love peace and harmony, which is, of course, why I decided to adopt a cause where those two qualities are almost always impossible to find.  (Again, time to laugh at myself).  But there are always exceptions to the rule, even for good-old-harmonious-me, and there are two grudge-worthy people in my life – two people that when I consider having to reconcile with them, my stomach turns into knots and I think I might have to vomit.  Or run away.  Or have a panic attack.  I’m sure you know the feeling.

There’s this foreboding sense I have that someday, I’m really going to have to practice what I preach.  Honestly, I am waiting for the day when God sets me smack dab in a situation where I am presented with an opportunity to reconcile with even these folks, because, as I said, this is my life.  It’s funny like that.  If God ever calls me to go through that gut-wrenching work, I’ll reference this post and tell you all, with much dismay, that I was prophetic.  In the meantime, I seem to be getting some good practice with all kinds of folks that remind me of those two in various smaller ways.  Maybe this is reconciliation boot camp I’m in?  Perhaps.

Here’s the truth: Reconciling is hard work.  Freakishly hard work.  It’s a balancing act which oftentimes feels next to impossible.

The process of establishing boundaries which protect, truthfulness that destroys inauthenticity, and boundless grace that restores life is only one that God has perfected.  It’s tricky.  This idea of convicted civility, as Richard Mouw puts it, is nice and pretty as a theory.  It makes you feel warm and fuzzy, inspired and excited as you read about it, but making it a practice of your life is not so “tie it up in a bow” pretty.

Sometimes we’ll disagree on the borderline between honesty and hurtfulness.  Sometimes we want someone to extend mercy and kindness to us and instead we meet with unapologetic truth telling.  Sometimes our timing is off – we misinterpret what the other person needs or worse, sometimes we just don’t care. The fact is, sometimes we will just disagree on what is true, right, and good.  And when we disagree, it’s going to sting.  So how do we live in the tension of “someone might get hurt” and still not act in ways that are hurtful?  How do we avoid harming one another in the midst of disagreement?

When common ground can’t be established, default to letting the other person know (either through your actions or words) that you are for them.   You might disagree with him/her, you might even be hurt by what they’ve done, but be for them.  Root for them, if even from a distance.  I am convinced there is a way to humble yourself before another, serving them kindly and compassionately, even those who have defiled or violated you.   There is a way to serve those who have hurt you without lessening or violating yourself.  I’m still stumbling through what this looks like, but I think it’s possible.  I have a good model.  After all, Jesus washed his betrayers feet.

It’s because of Christ’s example that I’m reminded of something.  Those folks, the worst ones, the terrible ones – even they are the beloved of God.  I have to pray this.  I have to say it out loud sometimes when I’m struggling the most to forgive and reconcile: “________ is the beloved of God.”

And so are you, dear ones.  So are you.

I talk about reconciling and sexuality and faith every day, and I answer people’s questions about these things constantly.  And sometimes, I listen to my own advice and wonder how to put it into practice.  But sitting in the midst of the questions and the mess, I feel like I’m becoming a little more like the True One.

What about you?  Whose name do you need to put in that blank, remembering that they are one of God’s favorites?  How can you serve even your enemy this week?