Paying Attention

I’ve been on a journey into a new world of people and thinking, a group that I previously thought of as “others”.  It’s the LGBTQ community, of which my daughter has become a part of since she came out. The good news is that I’ve found plenty of Love in God’s storehouse that overflows for all.  The bad news is that I’ve had to confront a lot of things in myself to get there.

Well, actually both of those news stories are good.

There’s a special kind of challenge for a kid who grows up suppressing something they discover inside themselves, with few role models.  I’ve had to ask myself how I’ve been a part of her pushing this further down rather than bringing it to the light, allowing wholeness.   There were some precarious times in her life, where deep secrets manifested as depression, and we need to be able to talk about these things.

I keep coming back to this definition of integrity, which is the state of being whole and undivided.   When a kid feels like they need to choose between their church and themselves, they will only choose their church for so long.

Integrity: the state of being whole and undivided.

Our polarized world seems to present only those strongly for or strongly against, but there are a lot of people in the middle, and thankfully I have found God in the middle too.  In fact, God has become much bigger to me as my experience has broadened because I’ve found God is already where I didn’t suspect.

Having a gay child stirs up a lot: accepting my child’s journey, defending my child’s journey, grieving the future I imagined, questioning long-held assumptions, and rebalancing the scales of rightness versus relationship, to name a few. And along the way, wondering if I’ll be forced to choose between my church and my family.

I confess I’ve spent too much of my life trying to mold the world to my own narrative, as if by my thoughts alone it would just work a certain way. I’ve spun arguments around beliefs – whether you’re born with it, whether it’s an identity versus a desire – and once my beliefs are buttressed I’m more likely to think of it as a settled issue rather than a person’s journey.  (see my post Studies or Stories)

A wise person pointed out, “the longer we are separated, the more we think negatively of each other”.  Speaking to the church: I would encourage us to reach out, to present love, and to listen to the LGBTQ people we know around us and in our midst.  And I say “present” (the verb) because “the church” doesn’t have the best reputation of caring for the LGBTQ community, so we probably need to go out of our way to demonstrate that we love and see God’s image in our LGBTQ friends.

It’s not enough to just quietly hold that we love all.  Or to imagine that people coming in the doors will just feel the love.  We must pay attention to, listen to, and seek to understand those we want to love.  (For a palpable example of this go see Greta Gerwig’s beautiful new film, “Lady Bird“, whose key moment asks about attention and love, “Don’t you think they’re the same thing?”)

I wouldn’t expect that our conversations need to include some upfront statement of beliefs, rather, just listening.  It could be the usual life conversations, punctuated by questions you might ask anyone (“how did you two meet each other?”).  If the discussion gets there, this question may be helpful, “What’s something you wish your straight friends understood?”

There is nothing in the gospel message preventing us from listening and empathizing with those perceived to be different from us – quite the opposite.  One group of people is like any other who need love and are working through the wounds from feeling different, alone, and often rejected.  There can be anger as this is worked out.

Above all is a search for a place to belong. How I wish more churches could be that place.

If we’ve received a great love, it is our joy to share it with those around us.

♦ weekendswell ♦

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You may also like my article, The Haircut: “She was beginning to look more like a boy, and wanted to go further.”

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