June is almost over. In just more than a week, half of 2019 will be behind us. I’d be remiss if I didn’t write something that’s been on my heart.
In the last decade or so, I have learned how little I really knew about so many things.
From politics to religion to parenting to marriage, I have experienced immeasurable growth in my willingness to search for truth, whatever it might cost me.
Namely, my own comfort in what I might have believed for a lifetime.
Our belief systems are fallible. Skewed by the environments we grow up in and the people in positions to teach us as impressionable children, adolescents, and young adults.
We often fear what is different, not even recognizing that the reaction of fear is rooted only in our most primal and unlearned responses. It is so often a lack of understanding that fuels our fears, not the reality of any actual threat.
I have been guilty of prejudice in my life. In my politics. In my religion. Following a hard line of narrow-mindedness that I felt completely comfortable in backing with my Bible.
Until I began to experience a great shift in the foundation I had stood on for a lifetime.
Two events in my life caused a “rebuilding”. A restructuring.
One, the loss of my childhood best friend.
Two, the return to formal education.
One of the events I chose. The other, forced upon me.
Both rattled me to my very core.
When Eric died, I felt very much like any last remaining shreds of my innocence died with him.
I had experienced pain and heartbreak before, but with this new found grief came new struggles. Doubt and uncertainty took the place of long-held assurances. Things that I once thought couldn’t touch me or the ones I loved became real. And I found myself navigating without a compass.
My faith remained. In tatters, but it remained. And I wasn’t at all sure how to rebuild it in the midst of the greatest challenges my mind and emotions had ever faced, both with my loss and with the necessity of opening my mind for the first time. If I was going to make the most of the sacrifices being an adult college student would require of me, I was going to have to be open to the possibility that I might be wrong about some things.
During this time, I met someone that shattered every norm I had known about religion, gender, and sexuality. A fierce liberal and passionate Christian, I began to sit under the teachings of a female, lesbian priest.
In one of our first meetings, I remember asking her if she had trouble reconciling who she was with her faith.
She said she did not.
She wasn’t insulted, or didn’t appear to be. Though maybe she should have been. But maybe she recognized an honest question from a genuinely confused and curious soul.
As I got to know her and her wife, instead of our differences, I began to see more of our similarities. And I began to form a huge respect for the genuineness I saw within her. She was one of the first people I had ever met in a position of religious authority that stepped on my toes not from questioning whether or not I read my Bible every day, but whether or not I was truly living out the grace and love of Jesus, and extending it, without conditions, to others.
She did that with her sermons. But mainly, just by being herself. Someone, I began to understand, she didn’t choose to be.
I drew closer to another gay friend during this time as well. Someone who is also unapologetically himself.
We became close enough that, when he and his partner became engaged, I was asked to speak at their wedding. And I did.
Later, I reconnected with a childhood friend who came out many years after we’d lost touch.
My circle of friends grew to include more and more gay human beings.
Soon, it was I that could no longer reconcile who I was to my faith.
For my final research paper, I wrote about Homosexuality and Religion. Exploring the topic from an academic standpoint while undergoing a transformation in my belief systems through new and rekindled relationships with people in the gay community was something of a watershed moment for me.
I continued to struggle with long held, legalistic and selective teachings from my past.
And in the end, I came to the realization that I had just been wrong.
Wrong about so, so many things.
If I was going to follow the teachings of Jesus, the ultimate authority on love, then I was going to have to make that my most important daily practice.
I find the Bible interesting and inspiring on many levels, but also recognize that the true “Word of God” was the One who has been there since the beginning of time.
“In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Now, when I hear people talk about “the word of God”, I think of Jesus. And I think of how His transformative love gave a voice to the voiceless. The oppressed. The outcast.
It is in that my soul has found a resting place.
You see, love really doesn’t require an understanding. Or a defense. Not real love.
By learning about homosexuality through a genuine curiosity and desire to understand, coupled with real, day-to-day interactions and building of relationships with gay people, both my mind and heart have grown.
I’m not who I was.
I am more than a disciple of religion. I am, by definition of “Christian”, someone who follows Christ.
When I began to walk in that, genuinely, for the first time, I began to understand the “persecution” that would entail.
And it came from, and still comes from, the same places it has since Jesus was crucified.
I cannot change the minds and hearts of prejudiced people with arguments and debate.
I refuse to justify loving people, as they are, for who they are.
I simply love them.
I stand by them.
Stand with them.
And where once my pride was in my own “understanding”, I now find pride in the fact that I allowed those cornerstones to be leveled.
Because I would have missed so much if I had stubbornly held to a false religion that only offered the illusion of real, resurrection-style love.
I would have missed knowing, really knowing, some of the most beautiful people God created.
I thank God for my destruction.
And I thank God for my resurrection.
And I thank God for my gay friends that gave me a chance to really love them.