Leading with Love: Part 2

Last week I celebrated. This week I am looking at the more difficult things I encountered around the marriage equality decision. I find myself struggling to find the words to describe how it feels to see friends on Facebook express their dismay that marriage has been deemed a right for everyone. In my experience, the polite-acceptance-despite-this-being-an-abomination-to-god has caused more harm than the violence that comes at those of us who are gay or transgendered. It’s fairly easy to blow off the ugly venom from the likes of Fred Phelps. He’s an extremist that gives gay people a good name.

Far more damaging are the subtle silences and disapproval that come from those who love and like us as individuals. Very often their words are framed as “God’s word.” You all matter. Your quiet disapproval goes inside too easily, it carries too much weight. I know because have taken it in–until way to recently. I have agreed with you and wished I were worthy of your love–as if your love were more legitimate, more important than my own. You have the power to harm and you have used it–with or without understanding the impact you were having.

I haven’t always known how to hold my heart open and make room for those who do not see as I do. If I didn’t shut people out in righteous anger, I slipped silently away to protect myself from anticipated pain. I have struggled not judge those with whom I do not agree, to figure out how to share my experiences of how what they have expressed has impacted me. I have excised my voice to keep peace, to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

Writing my blog posts in the aloneness of my living room is my first step toward speaking instead of disappearing. If I can break my silence in silence, perhaps I will find the ability to speak directly to the people who posted the things that struck me in the heart.

So here’s what I believe. To say LGBTQ folks are unloved by God is harmful. Invoking “God’s judgment” when it is really just a person’s own, takes a huge toll on those of us who have felt the longing to be a part of God’s love. Being straight is not a choice. Neither is being gay or bi or trans. Embracing those who are–or refusing to–is. Many Christians and other people of faith have claimed that being gay and choosing to experience the beauty of the love and sexual expression that grow out of that is an abomination to God. Just as many people have seen LGBTQ people’s right to marry as coming into alignment with the love of God.

What I want is for the people who are comfortable in their belief that God has no room for the LGBTQ community to go within and struggle with their beliefs as we have struggled with ours. We had to create lives of meaning and joy in the face of being told nearly everywhere we turned that we had no value. Some of us couldn’t do it. We have lost so many precious lives to drugs and suicide; we have lost too much light to lives lived in the shadows. We need you to go within and really know that your beliefs have the power to devastate the lives of LGBTQ people. You have a choice. You can make a difference. Use your power for love.

I’m Going to Get This

I just hit my phone. That hurt. I’m frustrated. My blog post sucks. My phone won’t clear the notification it just received. I hate having my phone hijacked by . . . whatever makes it not work like it’s supposed to work. Siri was not one bit helpful. Right at the center of all that turmoil is a text from a friend inviting me to her kid’s graduation – in four hours.

I immediately went into guilt, like I was bad or wrong for not rearranging everything to make room for this very important celebration. I felt stuck between one obligation and another. I’ve been working so hard to clear this pattern of mine to protect people from their own feelings–of inadequacy, disappointment, not mattering enough–as if it were essential to their well-being, as if my actions had that kind of power. With one little text, I was sucked back into trying to prevent feelings that I was presuming would be gnawing away at someone else.

As that first burst of “fix-it, dammit,” washed through me, I stopped for a moment and just let myself breathe. I felt what I was feeling and left off on the judgment. I realized I was disappointed for not being able to attend the celebration. In truth I realized that, in addition to judging my own reaction, I had judgment about my friend “putting me in this situation.” I also saw clearly how I do not automatically lead with what I am feeling; my initial awareness is of what other people “must” feel.

It occurred to me in that pause that I had options. I could continue to be upset about the conflict between attending the graduation and my previously scheduled plans or I could simply recognize that attending wasn’t a possibility and move on without getting all riled up. If I got really esoteric about it, I could even feel grateful that I was being provided an opportunity to gauge my progress–or the lack thereof–on my goal of creating a new pattern in my brain (and heart) for living my life. I could take it as a gift of awareness with the accompanying opportunity to renew my focus on making that change. Any of these options would be okay. But then, really, so would being a total whack job, blaming other people for my feelings, and punching my phone.

Surrendering to the Pissoff Within

Don’t ask what the world needs–do what makes you come alive.
​​​​​​​​-Howard Thurman

I sometimes have to get really out of sorts before I realize I need to change something about the way I meet the world. A few weeks ago, I dropped into a pretty big funk before I realized how much I pattern my life around tending to what I perceive are the needs of others. I’ve run into this pattern repeatedly and I’ve done a lot of work to create a different one. Yet the old pattern snaps back into place like a stretched rubber band when it is let go.

Last week in our Science of Mind Principles class, I created a prayer to stop feeling responsible for other people’s emotional wounds, to stop responding to the pull I feel in my body when I sense someone wanting something of me that I don’t want to give. This is a messy process. I have to feel that people do not matter to me so that I can cut myself free from these patterns. I have to get all righteous about how I’m being invaded, how no one sees me (waa fucking waa) so that I can turn my focus to what I want. I have to get people off me psychically so I can breathe.

I pulled friends, colleagues and family into this movie even though they had no idea of the supporting roles they had been cast in. It didn’t matter if they fit their roles perfectly. It didn’t matter if they were speaking completely different lines than the ones I was feeding them. What mattered is that I surrendered to the chaos and anger swirling inside me; that I breathed through the shame, embarrassment and guilt that I felt; that I chose me; and that I made a change that needed making. For me.

Truth is I’m still walking through this, trying to sort it all out, figure out where the lines are between loving and care taking in any given situation. I’m determined to get free from this. Maybe someday I can do it more gracefully. I would love that. For now, I am grateful to my supporting actors. I hope you do not know who you are. After all, it ain’t about you.

One Cold Shower

Last Sunday CSL-KC started a new book of the month: Experiencing Spirituality, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. One of the stories from it that Dr. Chris told us was about a woman who had commented to the Rabbi that she didn’t need all these spiritual practices, that she felt spiritual all the time. The Rabbi responded that the next time she felt spiritual she ought to go take a cold shower then go do something kind for someone. The story made me laugh as I thought about the people like her that I have known.

Today Chris talked about how coming to CSL and getting inspired and being all “Namaste” is the easy part. It is come Monday, when we are faced with living our spirituality, that the rubber really hits the road. Well, being a precocious type, I did not wait for Monday last week. In fact, I hit the road face first before Chris even finished his sermon. It wasn’t much past the point at which he quoted from the book, that I needed that cold shower.

I was sitting there all Namaste and stuff, enjoying the sermon, when out of the corner of my eye, I felt this violent gesture. It was a get-your-ass-over-here-you worthless-piece-of-shit type of gesture. Here’s the thing about me: I’m kind of skittish around violence. And a bit judgmental. In my defense it’s my way of trying to get the violence up off me because it sinks into my bones so fast.

Before I could even consciously register what was going on, my mouth was open just wide enough to allow these words to push through: “That was rude.” Being precocious, I got almost immediately that my comment was just as rude, and coming from a place of judgment and superiority with the intent to diminish. I felt embarrassed by my reaction. Very quickly I shook off the shame I felt and started thinking about what might lead a person to act in such a way. It hit me that there might well be reason to be kind rather than judgmental to one who did.

I thought about some of my own past behavior, some of it very similar to what I had just witnessed. I don’t like it when things are not going well and I feel responsible for their execution. Sometimes I have a little meltdown, anger spurting out of me like I’m helpless to stop it. A desire to perform your duties well is a good intention; maybe that was what was up in this case. Kind of hard to fault a person for wanting to do a good job.

I thought about the people who have met my bad behavior with compassion, those who refused to treat me as if I deserved to be cast out or diminished. My world has never changed when my bad behavior was met with judgment or censure or superiority. It changed when someone looked past the stuff that may have touched their ire or judgment to my heart as I was having the meltdown. That kind of love opened me up. And still, I forget to do it for others sometimes.

I could not really say what Chris’s sermon was about last week, but I can tell you this: it was powerful. I’m off to have a cold shower then to see what kind of kindness the world might need.

Reclaiming God, Reclaiming Ourselves

“We’re very clear in our teaching. We believe every single person born on this planet is created by God out of love . . . in the image and likeness of the Holy One. And so our struggle to understand and accept gay people is a human problem, not some flaw or error in God’s creation. ”

Dr. Chris Michaels, Senior Minister, Center for Spiritual Living-Kansas City

When I was a little kid, I was totally into God, but it was made clear to me that God would never be into me. When I got that it didn’t matter how I lived, I was doomed because of who I was, religion lost its grip on me. I got a bit blasphemous. I loved turning Christianity’s words against the espousals of its adherents. Turns out saying stuff like, “We are all made in God’s image, therefore we must all be divine,” not only felt deliciously scandalous, it took root in my consciousness and became my new belief system when I wasn’t looking.

I did not know that I was gay back in high school. Even though there was nothing and no one in my environment talking about homosexuality out loud, I can remember a couple of things that popped up through “the sleep and the forgetting” of my childhood. Once in junior high, I called a boy a “fairy.” I have no idea how that word came to me; I have no idea how I knew it was bad. I had no idea what it meant. But there it was–that word and not some other. Even younger I remember seeing two high school girls blazing anger at each other at a ball game and I knew that the intensity of that exchange revealed a relationship that went beyond simple friendship. We know without knowing.

We have always had ways of finding each other. I remember going to the Art Institute in Chicago to see the Gauguin exhibit in my early 20’s. A girl of about 10 was at the sink when I came out of my stall. I recognized her right away. My friend said something to me as she exited her stall. The girl glanced up in the mirror and saw her. Then she looked over at me, then back again to my friend. Then she nodded her head in confirmation of her own knowing, already aware of her place in the secret club.

Dr. Chris’s quote above introduced a guest speaker that Sunday who talked about being gay and knowing it from a young age. It was only later, in junior high or high school that she got that what she felt made her different from most of her peers. Fear and shame took hold, leading her to pray to God to “change her heart.” And that is exactly what happened. She woke the next morning knowing that she was exactly who she was supposed to be, and that was fabulous.

Now that is an answer to a prayer. I am claiming it for myself. I’m claiming it for everyone who wishes they could believe it. We are exactly who we are supposed to be, and we are needed here, as is. It is time to abolish the secret club and make our home in the whole wide world. It is time to stand up and celebrate life, love, community — a world where every one of us living in it knows without a doubt that we are at home wherever we are, that we are deeply loved, and that we are beautiful. This is a God I am grateful to have met.