Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
The past few weeks have been completely unremarkable.
Nothing much has happened out of the usual. Things have been fairly quiet and calm. Not a whole lot of action or adventure. It’s been kind of strange, but incredibly restful.
I’m kind of getting recharged, I guess. A nice, quiet season to just be.
I’m liking it. I feel like I’m thriving, resonating with the silence.
It reminds me of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – the part where Digory and Polly get to the Wood Between the Worlds.
I’ve got a vague feeling that I’m about to jump into a pool, though, so I’ll enjoy this quiet while it lasts.
Of course, there’s no telling if I’ll be heading to another world or simply getting my feet wet. (If you get that, I love you.)
But I’m all in regardless!
Tears and fears and feeling proud,
to say “I love you” right out loud.
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds;
I’ve looked at life that way.
Oh, but now old friends are acting strange,
they shake their heads and tell me that I’ve changed.
Well something’s lost and something’s gained
in living every day.
It’s amazing how much of my thoughts are caught up in daydreams of a future in which I live a life very different from any forseeable path that I’m now on. It’s kind of like the movies, actually. Some sort of sudden disruption as I go about my routines and my like will never be the same. Drastically altered circumstances, plucking me out of life and transplanting me into a different one. Something more, uh, important? Exciting? Glamorous?
And in the last several years, I’ve realized that the more I escape into those daydreams, the more miserable daily life gets in reality.
So tonight I’ve gotta shake it off, and remind myself that this – life, today – is the story. This is it.
The gospel doesn’t rip me out of my story and transplant me into one that I like better.
It radically reorients me to the story I am in.
So, Papa… help me to engage.
So I’ve realized lately that I’ve gotten rather frustrated with myself and the way I live life as a Gay Christian.
I believe firmly and thoroughly that being gay and Christan is as natural as being blonde and male. (I’m both.) I believe that the gospel should be good news for a legally married gay couple and their kids just as it would be for my sister, her husband, and their three kids. Etc, etc.
I firmly believe that the church of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom of Heaven, should be leading the way for the world in the areas of love, reconciliation, forgiveness, repentance, and social justice for all of humanity.
But I don’t live this out, and it shows. My local Christian community shows it, too. I don’t mean to beat anyone up by talking about this, but rather to illustrate my point:
The church I grew up in currently has at least two leadership families with LGBT young adult children. And both families – both influential families – have remained officially and publicly vague on the entire affair. Sure, rumors are flying around like crazy and everybody knows. But what’s actually happening, really? How is the gospel being lived out? Where is the Spirit of the Living God taking these two families on this journey through this issue that is highly relevant in today’s society that we live in? The community doesn’t know, because it’s all being handled quietly. Privately.
And yes, I can appreciate the need for privacy in such a delicate matter. (After all, one of the kids is me!) But after a point, once everybody knows and things have dragged on for a few years? Once the individuals and families involved have come to terms with the situations and thought things through and there’s been ample time? Still, silence reigns. On this issue that the modern church is dying to address? Silence. We’re looking the other way in an area where our churches and our nations (do you ever watch the news?) is dying for conversation.
Now regardless of what you think the Church is supposed to believe about this whole thing, and regardless of how you envision God moving in the area of homosexuality in our world, the fact remains that this is a huge opportunity to live openly and authentically in our communities. It is a huge opportunity to open a dialogue about one of the most pressing and obsessive issues of the modern North American church: homosexuality and Christianity. Homosexuality and equality under the law. Homosexuality, period.
It’s a golden opportunity to allow the Spirit of the Living God to transparently transform us from the inside out. To surrender our feeble, sinful need for control and facades and show our culture and neighbors the power of the gospel, in a way that makes our Heavenly Father’s heart burst with pride and joy.
It’s a way for the Church to be restored to cultural relevance and significance in the real, practical lives of millions of people who have written Christ’s message off.
Can you imagine the power that a church reformation would have in this society? Christians, known to today’s youth as those people that hate gays, publicly and openly acknowledging that they’re right there with everyone else? They’ve got gay kids? They’ve got gay adults? That they need to integrate these human beings into their religion that professes to be all about a God that is love?
Imagine the power of a Church so pubicly and transparently facing reality!
We can do it, and we can do it by embracing conviction and diversity.
And when I say we can do it I really mean we can start it. And when I say *we* I really mean we LGBT Christians. We’re the ones that can affect change. How can I shatter the isolating facade in my Christian community? By stepping up and saying, “Hi. I’m Ethan Thomas. My dad’s an elder here. I’m a gay Christian. I know most of you know that, but I thought I’d make that public and official. Rumor no more!”
Obviously, there’s probably a better, more loving way to jump-start an open and transparent dialogue, but can you see my point? I can do it.
We can do it. Like Moses demanding God’s people be let go, we can demand that God’s people be let go from this grip of self-control that we cling to from a well-meaning desire to honor God, but the end result of it is just to co-opt God’s gospel and to refuse to allow the power of Christ’s blood transform us.
Two ways of embracing this goal have been on my mind lately, as I said. Conviction and diversity.
I’ve lately come to the conclusion that we live in an atmosphere in which it’s considered a bit crass to speak with conviction. I mean, sure, our parents and their friends can, but us? We’re young, and part of a generation that doesn’t like to offend. Sure, we can speak with passion, but to actually speak with conviction – to be convinced and declarative of it – seems to be a no-no for the socially acceptable norms of, especially, the Progressive Christian circles. (And let’s face it, if you’re identifying as any sort of LGBT Christian, you’re kind of lumped into the Progressive circles regardless of theology.)
See, when we hear something declared to be true, it tends to remind us far too much of the more conservative Christian communities, and brings to mind for many of us a collectively negative experience. Thus, we shy away from declarative statements, even when they’re tied to some of the most authentic and Spirit-infused truths we are able to conceive.
I’m frustrated with my lack of actual conviction, so my new path?
I declare that my being gay and Christian is a-okay. I declare that my being gay and Christian and having a same-sex relationship is a-okay.
I believe those things, so I declare them. Unabashedly.
My invitation to the conversation swirling around LGBT Christians is to get declarative yourself. Break the silence. It’s fine to be uncertain, sure. It’s fine to take time to figure that out, sure. There’s a time and a season to be still and let your convictions form. A time for just you and God to figure out just what the hell is going on. And then there’s a time and a season to own up and jump in.
I think, under the guise of loving others well, that many LGBT Christians have failed to own up and jump in. (I know I have. Don’t want to upset people. Don’t want to be a stumblingblock. Others just can’t handle that information; you don’t want to love them poorly by revealing yourself, do you?) As a result, the greater Christian communities fail to accurately and appropriately guage the depth and veracity of the situation. Issues are not talked about or considered because there’s no one to talk about them. Churches approaches to LGBT Christians are not reviewed because no LGBT Christians brothers and sisters are stepping forward to engage them. And because there’s a general, awkward silence from their elders, the LGBT Christian youth continue to exist in small, cramped, terrified corners, thinking they’re alone.
The status quo that we’re so infuriated with continues because we allow it to do so.
Own what you believe about your sexuality and your faith. Own it and jump in. Right in your community.
And yeah, it may cost you something. It may suck. There may be ramifications – awful ones. But I’ve thought long and hard about something lately:
When I was twenty-three, I was enrolled in a semester-long discipleship and leadership program. I was the only gay kid there, and I was right in the middle of the flip-flop between thinking that maybe I could one actually *be* gay – like, have a partner – and thinking that perhaps God had me called to life-long celebacy. We visited a church on a Sunday, and the sermon was on the meaning and importance of Godly marriages. I was so discouraged and disheartened that it must have showed, because our leader pulled me aside that evening and took me for a long drive. As we crept through the icy, winding roads of the Adirondack mountains, I lamented to him that I wish I’d been born another hundred years in the future, or another hundred years in the past.
“Because,” I explained, “if I lived a hundred years ago, this concept of sexual orientation wouldn’t exist as it does in our society. I’d likely have a wife because that’s what you do, or not have a wife and be called a confirmed bachelor. I’d not be torn in the in between where there’s a possibility that perhaps it might be okay – like, God-okay, to have a husband. Because what if I choose wrong? What if it’s NOT okay, and I go for it, and I wind up in big trouble? Or what if I lived a hundred years from now when it’s not even an issue anymore! What if, in a hundred years, Christians are all saying, ‘Can you believe that people used to think that God disapproved of gay marriage!’ And then they’d shake their heads and say, ‘Well, what do you expect? Not long before that they also used to think that God forbade interracial marriage, you know.’ I mean, if there’s a future where my struggle is void, and the church fully accepts gays, why couldn’t I just be born then?”
I was frustrated and feeling extremely sorry for myself, and stared out the window for quite a long time. Finally, OFL (Our Fearless Leader) spoke up. First, he wanted to make clear that he didn’t really think that one hundred years from now gay marriage would be okay in the Christian community at large, but more importantly, he stressed that I was not born in a different time period, during different rules and understandings.
I was lived right now, right here, in this culture and in this time. God put me here, and God doesn’t make mistakes. Not even mistakes in a person’s sexuality. Now OFL wasn’t sure what that meant for me or my future as far as how my sexuality would play out, but he didn’t believe that it was an accident anymore than my being born in 1984 was.
But I’m here, perhaps for such a time as this.
And it may cost me tremendously more than I can fathom just now to own up and jump into the conversation regarding LGBT Christians in the church, but God knew what he was doing when he formed me: Ethan, gay, male, born to a Christian couple in Northern New York with a passionate belief to raise their children up to love God and his gospel; to teach their children to engage in their communities.
Perhaps me owning up and jumping in is exactly what our Heavenly Father is hoping I’ll do. Perhaps by doing so, the Spirit can move more deeply and holistically in my communities. Perhaps, even though I may never see it, the Living God will use the ripples from my splash to bring about a change in his people that I influence that more accurately reflects his Kingdom. Perhaps if enough of us do the same, we may see a North American church that actually is known for our love, and not for our hatred of homosexuals.
So my plan it to own it, and it’s my advice to you as well. Tell ’em your story, give ’em your convictions, and let them and the Holy Spirit do with that information what the Living God will do.
Allow for conviction in your spirit.
My best friend in the whole world is not convinced that a same-sex relationship is something that God is okay with. I am a gay Christian that aspires to a same-sex relationship before God. We’re still living and loving well together. Love covers much, and with the Living God there’s grace for even the most polar-opposite beliefs. I have full faith that Christians can exist and thrive in an environment where both people from my camp and people from my best friend’s camp can declare with conviction their beliefs and – here’s the kicker – submit them to the Heavenly Father.
The House of the Father is big enough – and secure enough – to allow for diversity. God’s big enough to handle it. He’s not worried about cramping, or arranging seats at the table to avoid confrontation, or anything like that. Now I can’t claim to be an expert, but I *think* that there’s a great system that allows us to approach the Father’s table with hearts that ask him to flow in our disagreements:
Submit to each other in love. Remember who each and every one of us is, and to whom each and every one of us is accountable.
I’m a child of the Living God, beloved and treasured by him. On the last day, it’s before him I’ll stand and by him alone I’ll be judged. He’s not going to ask you for your opinion on me before he makes up his mind. He’s not going to ask me about you. So I’m going to allow the Living God, the Holy and Everlasting One, to be just that to you and me.
I’m going to live authentically with the Spirit of the Living God, softening and firming my tongue and stand as each situation calls, in accordance with the love and unity of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Well, at least that’s the ideal. I’ll mess it up, of course, but God’s big enough to handle that too.)
So I invite you to join me, softening and firming your tongue and your stand as we all crash our lives and convictions together in this crazy process called life together; living and loving well. Through owning up to my convictions, and jumping into life with other people, and submitting that shared life to the transformative and authoritative power of our Heavenly Father, I think we’ll honor the Kingdom that he’s bringing about. Fights? Undoubtedly. Scars? Naturally. But we’ve got a Papa big enough to tend to those, and invested and engaged enough to mediate us into a united (not uniform) body.
If we’re willing.