Reflections on #Pride for #RLCPride

I am a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church, and for the first time, this year we are participating in Indy Pride and our theme is #RLCPride: Respect, Love, Community. As part of #RLCPride, I am reflecting on something very uncomfortable for Lutherans: Pride. There's a passage in the Bible where the apostle Paul reminds Christians that none should be boasting - except about Christ. Because everything we have, everything we are, everything we will be is a gift from God. We earn none of it, we can’t take credit for any of it, so who can be proud? But regardless of this, I’m forging ahead and admitting: I’m proud.

I am proud to be gay. I am proud to lift up the extravagance of God’s love shown through me. I am queer - and most churches still believe that’s sinful (or at least the result of sin). Yet God has used this part of me, the very part I grew up believing to be evil itself, to change everything in my life. To renew and deepen my faith. To draw me closer to God. To keep pulling me back to God.

After ignoring, running away from and struggling with God, it was my objectionable sexuality that God used to flip on a light and reset my perspective. In trying to come to grips with being gay - yet still wanting desperately to somehow be included in God’s love - I had to face that I was totally at God’s mercy. I could not earn God’s love or prove my innocence. I couldn’t make myself right with God. I needed love that didn’t have to be earned. God’s love, extravagant and undeserved, changed everything: the gospel, the law, what it means to love, what it means to follow Christ. What it means to be Christian. I am no longer a Christian DESPITE being queer. Thanks to God’s love, I am now a Christian because I AM queer.

As part of this reflection, I re-read a story I wrote 15 years ago. It’s about the first time I fell head-over-heals in love. I can still feel the power of that love, welling up inside, hurting so badly. And when I read the story, I can still feel it. Desperate, fearless, hoping beyond hope that somehow the love I felt could survive.

As proud as I am to be an example of God’s extravagant love, I am NOT proud of my journey. It’s a mess littered with mistakes. Selfish, self-centered, willful, leave-me-alone-God kind of mistakes. The story takes place in the midst of that littered trail of mistakes. It’s when I was still afraid of God. I believed differently then, consumed with fear, measuring myself against laws to determine how to please God. I wrote the story in 5 days immediately following the events described in the story. When I named the story “Rupture”, I thought I was being clever. I had no idea how true it was - that my whole life was rupturing. Tearing part, exploding into pieces, burning everything to the ground.

Looking back from 15 years, I ask myself, “What if I had just been honest?” Instead of lying and covering up, what if - even knowing with absolute certainty what the outcome would be - I had just told my family the truth. “I think I’m gay.” “I don’t want therapy.” “I don’t want to be turned straight.” “I don’t know what it means for my faith yet.” “I’m falling for this sweet and funny guy.” “I really want to go to New York to meet him.” “I love him so much it hurts.” “I want you to meet him.” What if I had said THOSE THINGS out loud? What might God have done with me, with us, with our lives?

Maybe we could have had a conversation about love. About first loves and first dates. About patience, self-control and safety. Maybe the conversation would have come full circle back to Christ’s love and how that love shapes and guides us.

But maybes and “what ifs” are just that. The past, littered with mistakes, can’t be changed. And if I am honest now, there are parts of that weekend in New York 15 years ago that I would NEVER change. That love for another person, fearless and hurting so bad - I can’t imagine my life without that being a part of it.

Reflecting after 15 years, I ache when I read this story. I wish I could pluck the love - raw and transformative - out of this story and drop it into a beautiful, praiseworthy epic where the protagonist isn’t a liar, isn’t selfish, isn’t consumed with fear. Where that love blossoms and thrives and transforms. Where it changes the protagonist into a good guy, with a story to inspire.

But maybe it’s good I can’t change this story. Life is messy and love isn’t some isolated element. It’s mixed in with the ugly and undeserving. And God is also down in the muck, riding in the overheating car, wrapped about us as we fall apart, sharing our inexpressible ache. God hurts as we hurt others, follows after us as we run away. Crawling under the rock where we’re hiding. Taking our hand and coaxing us back out, back into the light, back into community.

Sitting here, drying my eyes, and trying to wrap this up, there are a few things I keep on learning, again and again. Things our kids need to know, that we need to model, that churches need to lift up. We need to foster an environment where these things work:

  • Don’t lie. Lies don’t work and secrets tear us apart. Be authentic, be honest and tell the truth. Even if it wrecks your secure life - and it often will.
  • Trust love. Follow wherever it leads, even when it goes against all logic, doctrine and conventional wisdom.
  • Don’t avoid God. God created you, God loves you, and unlike humans, God is not looking for a way to condemn you.
  • Confess your screw-ups. We all make a mess of things and hurt people along the way. Sooner than later, we all need to own up to the mess we’ve made, the hurt we’ve caused and ask for forgiveness.
  • Be proud. God has created you to accomplish God’s purpose. You are uniquely designed and purposed by God to complement all of God’s other unique creations. Shine bright.