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.

Leading with Love

I’ve experienced so many emotions over the last couple of weeks as I poured over the news of the murdered men and women in Charleston; the validation of the ACA by the Supreme Court; and the announcement of marriage equality. In the midst of all that, I watched Out in the Night, a film about four young black lesbians from New Jersey who were jailed for defending themselves from attack, and read Dream Things True by Marie Marqhardt, a young adult novel about a young woman in the United States illegally since being brought here from Mexico at the age of two.

With all of that swirling around inside me, I just want to focus on the celebrations for a moment before we all head back to the work yet to be done.

The eulogy by President Obama for Reverend Clementa Pinckney was powerful. If you haven’t seen it, please go hear it for yourself.

I am so pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the ACA. Too many people have not had the safety net that this insurance measure provides. It may not be perfect, but it is better than the nothing that we have had for those who do not have insurance through an employer. That system just doesn’t make sense. As long as you are healthy enough to work–and are working a substantial enough job that insurance is provided rather than three or four jobs that don’t net you any insurance–you can have insurance. But get sick enough for long enough, lose your job and all of a sudden, just when you need it, no insurance.

And then came marriage equality. It was such a wonderful feeling when I heard the news. Not being able to marry someone I love has never felt like a big loss for me personally. But for many people I know and love it has. Despite my lukewarm feeling toward marriage, this ruling filled my whole body with joy. For far too long, the way love and desire works inside me has been deemed an abomination by my government. Not any more. It is interesting what an impact that has on a person–being different and welcome, versus different and tolerated or even rejected and deemed as not being worthy of basic rights. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure equality–and welcome–across the board for all who live in this country. We aren’t done, and won’t be until it happens. With love leading the way, it is bound to.

One of the most heart-warming things for me around the marriage equality celebration was seeing how many of my straight friends were celebrating the SCOTUS decision. Many of them were friends from my childhood or college years that I have had no contact with outside of Facebook since. Mixed in with my joy for this is also a sadness. My choice to slip silently away rather than risk being known–and possibly embraced in full friendship–has robbed both my friends and me of richer relationships. I owe each person that I never personally came out to an apology for not seeing you accurately, for not trusting you to love me and make room for me. I also owe you an apology for projecting my own inability to embrace myself fully onto you.

You all look beautiful in rainbow.

Black Lives Matter

When I heard the news that nine people had been murdered in Charleston, SC, last week, I was riding the bus home. As I sat next to strangers, I was overwhelmed with grief. At our Sunday morning service, we a spent a moment in silence after the name of each person was called and their picture shown on the wall. Taking in those beautiful faces, knowing that they are no longer here with us, I felt the loss again.

It is time for us to say “No more.” No more violence, no more fear, no more refusing to see the value and beauty in every person in this world.

What can one person do? I am surely not the only one who has asked this question. I am surely not the only one who has felt too small in the face of so much. Perhaps I cannot change the world, but I must change myself–and that is no small thing. When I skirt around the edges of despair at just how huge this problem is in our country, I keep coming back to LOVE. We have got to breathe through our fear, our despair, our anger–whatever it may be for each of us–and see with the eyes of love.

Last month, Natasha Ria El-Scari spoke at CSL about living the Science of Mind principles in the face of racism. One of the many things she shared that touched me was her story of being shoved by a white man at the gym where she was exercising. He had clearly gone out of his way to do it. She followed him and asked him why he had. At first, he denied having done anything. She held firm and calmly replied that it was clear that he had, and she asked again what had led him to behave that way. He finally apologized and she accepted it. To us Natasha said that she was aware that there are two acceptable ways for a black person to address racist acts–one is to pretend it didn’t happen and the other is to go into a rage. Neither works for her. If she remains silent, she becomes complicit with the act of racism. If she responds with rage, she is dismissed. Either way, the behavior itself remains unchallenged. Her approach, instead, is to “get all up in people’s faces with love.”

Speaking up has always been my struggle. I have not known how to address things that felt wrong to me. Stuck between two choices–fly into blaming, shaming, righteous mode; or remain silent–I have not spoken. I feel in the turmoil of my soul that my silence–our silence–makes it possible for horrendous acts of violence against black people to continue unchallenged.

Natasha offered a very clear alternate path. Love wants to speak through me. I may not feel that I have the power to change the world, but I can open my mouth. I can set my fingers to write when my throat won’t loose the words inside me. I can let Love speak through me. Doing so will change the world.

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.

Prayer Control Freak

It has occurred to me over the last couple of weeks that two seemingly disparate phenomena in my life at the moment significantly inform each other.

In last week’s post, I talked about my tendency to take on the emotional care of other people–like I know what they need. So I’m working through that (once again) at the same time that I am immersed in a series of classes at CSL that have me looking at God and prayer. It strikes me that I’m just a jumbled mess around both of these things–in basically the same way.

I have participated in too many relationships as if I were God Itself–the wound savior; the source for people’s happiness. Sometimes I have taken on people’s pain because I could feel them wanting something that, quite possibly, they were not even aware of wanting, and sometimes I have taken it on because I wanted something from them. This was the only way I knew to be worthy of a connection.

So here I am grappling with all this stop-caretaking-people stuff at the same time that I am studying prayer. Damned if I haven’t fallen into the same trap with prayer. I’ve been going at it like I am responsible for making the thing that people desire to experience manifest for them, instead of just getting to the heart of it and holding my knowing on the truth that it is theirs already, just waiting for them to choose it.

I still haven’t gotten this all figured out: caretaking/loving in regards to people; knowing/willing in regards to prayer. But it occurs to me that one of the obvious lines in regards to people is listening. Just listening, no fixing. It is time to trust the people I am engaging with to find their way (or to find somebody else who is happy to oblige them by doing the caretaking they are after). Finally, there is trusting that my own value has nothing to do with how well I take care of other people’s needs, with how well I anticipate them so they don’t even have to ask. The truth is that all I could ever be is the band-aid that keeps people from really seeking out the healing that is available to them from Source.

So here’s the deal. I am going to get to the heart of both of these issues, and when I do, I am going to suck in the biggest breath of freedom you ever saw, and laugh and laugh and laugh.