“Victory is not won in miles, but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.” – Louis L’Amour
I’m amazed at all God has done this last year. I share what I’ve discovered, along with my takeaway, and hope it speaks to you as well.
- Being in the minority is not easy. When I came out as an ally, I dreaded the reaction of my Christian friends. In fact, when God nudged me to reach out with his love to the LGBTQ community, I burst into tears! Not because I did not want to reach out as he asked – I did – but because I didn’t want to lose my standing with people I’d known for so long. That seems pathetic now – who cares?? It’s like being shunned in junior high for wearing the wrong shoes. It’s a ridiculous basis for judgment! But there it is, the human condition. Sometimes it hurt when people “unfriended me,” but not nearly as much as I’d thought. Also, it was way worth it to relate to what many of you face every day. To hold the minority opinion among your peers can be difficult and scary, but you must stay true to yourself; you will find new friends.
- People lose perspective on the gay issue. Christians consider themselves magnanimous when they say, “Being gay is a sin like any other sin.” They consider it generous not to consider this a sin that will send you to hell. But, as Exodus proved, being gay is not something you stop. To deny one’s orientation denies intimacy, companionship and joy. It asks something no one has any business asking another. It’s more accurate to view rejection of LGBTQ people as a sin unlike any other sin, because it is self-righteous judgment and pride, the only sins Jesus blasted anybody for. Here and here. Self-righteous judgment and pride are a choice.
- God provides in unexpected ways. When my daughter Annie transitioned to grad school, I was privileged to spend six weeks with her in New York. (Can I just say, how awesome is six weeks in New York?!?) I knew I would be there for Annie – what I didn’t know is the seclusion would enable me to write these new blog posts, far from those who would think I’m wrong, or even dangerous. I did not know how important that seclusion would be, but I couldn’t have done it otherwise. When you venture on a new path, including self-discovery, it’s much easier if you lay aside all the doubts and misgivings of the naysayers. Better to give yourself time before you have to deal with others’ endless scrutiny.
- People’s reactions reflect them, not you. You probably already know this, but in the moment someone is reacting, or judging, it’s easy to forget their reaction is not about you. I spent many hours on the streets of New York, in the crisp spring air. (Did I mention how I feel about New York? Oh yes, I think I did…) I always feel free in New York – unencumbered by expectation. I can be exactly who I want, exactly who I am, with no thought of judgment. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? If the prevailing opinion in your neck of the woods restricts you, know that is only one point of view, not shared by everyone in the world. If you can possibly get away for a time, it might give you a chance to stretch your legs and spread your wings.
- God sustains beyond what I could have imagined. I got several emails and messages that challenged my new direction. I answered them well, I thought, but they took their emotional toll on me. Several times I asked God to confirm, once again, that I was hearing him. (Anybody who knows me knows that the last thing I want to do is lead people astray.) But the beautiful thing is that every time I questioned this new direction, God would bring a sweet little email or phone call from someone at their wits’ end who’d found hope through my blog of God’s all-embracing love. Those tender-hearted people sustained me through that time. When you are all done and falling apart, ask God to carry you. Let God adjust your course as needed, and don’t watch the naysayers. Instead, look around for the kind ones who encourage; you will find strength there.
- God kindly protected me. One brave church friend back home checked on my while I was in New York. We chatted a moment, and then she said: “You’re kicking up quite a bit of dust around here with your blog!” She declined to say more, but I could imagine the conversation – the raised eyebrows, the downright certainty of how off the deep end I’d surely gone. I was grateful that God had graciously kept me out of all that. It’s hard to go forward and watch your back at the same time. Who needs it? Later, in snippets, I discovered other Christian friends who were now hostile to me and this message. But God revealed those fractures gently, and protected my heart all the while. Rejection is often painful, but not always as painful as you expect, and just a close supporter or two can minimize the impact of the detractors.
- To focus on the naysayers costs valuable time and energy that I don’t have to waste. I took time to answer challenging comments or emails from people, because I considered it valuable to provide needed insight. God showed me what my husband had been telling me: those conversations are not the place to focus – cut them short. Give clarity or understanding as needed, but don’t siphon away energy to people who did not really want to hear my perspective; they were not my audience. It took a while to grasp, because I thought surely, if we could just talk about it, they could come to understand my internal logic, even if they did not agree. Only after a while did I grasp how draining and unproductive those interactions really were. Don’t waste time in fruitless discussions, but follow God’s lead to guard your time and your heart. Those who are “not your audience,” who don’t support you but only pull you down – let them go. If they ever come around, they can always call. 🙂
- Transgender issues are completely out there for a lot of people. They may have gotten their heads a little bit around gay lesbian, possibly even bi—but “trans” just makes no sense to them. This does not have to be a problem. We can simply allow others to tell us who they are. We can believe them and be okay with it. That’s all it takes. Our job as human beings is to love each other and help protect each other, so we can live in peace.
- It’s easiest to conform, until it destroys you. The more I learned what true Christianity is about – um, Christ – the harder it was to fit the modern church, which emphasizes conforming behavior instead of trusting Christ. I kept parts of myself quiet, the parts that didn’t conform, and didn’t want to. And it grew increasingly lonely. So… I mustered my courage and followed God’s leading… to a church community where I get to be myself, 100%. I will never go back to less than 100% myself. A group that requires conformity for acceptance is not a group worth belonging to. Better to be 100% you – including your orientation – than shove parts of you down.
And the last two are the most empowering of all…
Though I always had compassion on the LGBTQ community, I did not understand the risk of simply living out. I am highly privileged and not persecuted in the least. But my small taste of rejection shows me the astounding courage necessary to be LGBTQ. I tremendously love and admire you who live there. Your living at this time is no accident, because things are changing and you are part of it. Be at peace! To be called to be an LGBTQ person today is a unique privilege, and if there’s any way I can help you personally, let me know.
Finally, I have learned that this is right. The more I learn, the more I pray, the deeper I go into the Bible, the farther I travel on this journey, the more I come to realize that I am indeed on the right track. We are on the right side of this issue. We are on the right side of history. This is the truth of Jesus. This is the heart of God.
I’d like to hear what’s happened for you in this issue over this last year, as well. Please comment and/or write me what this last year has been for you—as an LGBTQ person, as family or as the church. Or simple observations you’ve made in the community at large. I’d love to hear from you!