Last week one of my best (and most conservative) friends from college came to visit. She’s married now, and she and her husband moved to another state in the same region where I moved for grad school. I visited her at spring break, and now she’s visiting me.
We had a lot of fun. We talked about life and faith and memories. We visited museums and browsed through stores and ate delicious food and played board games. One night, we went for fro yo, and we talked about the whole me-being-gay thing. I had sort-of-kind-of come out to her in March, but at that point I was still so shell-shocked and terrified about the whole thing that it was mostly just “I think I like girls, and I’ve discovered that might actually not mean I’m demon possessed. Discuss.” I had told two other friends and had poked my nose into the progressive church I now attend a couple of times (and feared The Wrath of God (TM) both times). Now, things are different. Now, I have been attending my church for months. I help out at the twice-monthly soup kitchen. I go to young adult outings and small group meetings, and the pastor even asked me to help out as a liturgist during a service last month. I saw a therapist for two months this summer, and we talked through a lot of things. I can say “I’m gay” or “I’m a lesbian” without having to take a fortifying breath first.
I could tell that my friend was not comfortable with the changes, but she listened anyway. She asked good questions and apologized several times, concerned that she might have said or asked something offensive. I was incredibly, painfully honest with her about things including how I had come to realize I was gay and how conflicted I’m feeling these days about whether or not being in a relationship with a woman would be okay with God. She promised to pray for me and with me, and I walked away from our time together feeling like the conversation had gone well.
Then, yesterday happened. Yesterday, when I was sleep-deprived from a work function that ran much later than it should have and had to be at an early meeting downtown, I checked my facebook only to discover . . . The Letter.
In summary, my friend has been praying for me and feels like she is obligated to explain some things. God still loves me, and she doesn’t know why he made me gay, but scripture is clear that God does not bless relationships between members of the same gender. Also, my church is a bad influence on me, and the peace I feel about attending there is a lie from Satan. She believes God has awesome things planned for me and that this is Satan’s way of keeping me from those things.
The note was written as lovingly as possible, given its contents. I have always had enormous amounts of respect for this friend and for her walk with God, and if I was going to trust all of this from anyone, it would be her. I know that she cares for me and wants the best for me, but . . .
If she hadn’t brought my church into it, I probably wouldn’t feel quite so defensive, but it’s hard to hear someone tell you that the place you’ve finally found a home isn’t good for you. Yes, there are some flaky people there who believe weird things, but I come from a Pentecostal background, so I’m not sure I would recognize a church without a few flaky members who believe weird things. Yes, it’s very different from what I’m used to. Sometimes I worry that it’s a little Jesus-lite. Sometimes I worry that they’re too touchy-feely about sin and grace. Sometimes I still wonder if I’m going to get struck by lightning when I walk through the doors or choke on the communion bread or something equally dramatic as a sign of God’s displeasure with my attendance there.
But it’s also the most honest church I’ve ever been too. It’s also involved in the community in a way that I think would make Jesus smile. Yesterday, after early morning midweek worship, the pastor and everyone else who could stay took colorful “Welcome Back” signs over to the local elementary school to cheer on parents and students doing drop-off for the first day of school and then to deliver the backpacks and school supplies they’ve been collecting for a month. Someone hugs me every time I walk through the door, and the pastor constantly wants to know how I’m doing and what she can pray with me about.
So, crazy church aside, what about the rest of the message?
I acknowledge that the traditional interpretation of scripture does not allow for same sex relationships. I’ve read the more progressive arguments, and I’m honestly not convinced. (Yet???) I feel like they offer reasonable doubt, but not a definite answer. So, I’ve spent months waffling about the issue. Waffling and reading and praying angrily while I wash dishes, because God won’t give me the green light.
I told my friend last week that I’m not ready to hear a “no,” and I’m really not. Because “no” means I’ll never get married. It means that in ten years when my friends are starting to celebrate significant anniversaries and worry about how their kids will handle the transition from elementary school to junior high, I’ll still be alone. It means always coming home to an empty apartment. It means never having someone else to make dinner or vacuum or return the Red Box movie. It means doing things alone or being the third wheel, because already many of my friends are in long-term relationships. It means never being a mother or facing single-parenthood.
Maybe if I were close to my parents, this would be easier, but my family is highly conservative and fairly dysfunctional. I haven’t come out to my parents yet, but my father once refused to speak to me for two weeks because I changed my e-mail and facebook passwords and refused to give him the new ones. (This was when I was 19, by the way, and lived most of the year at college, two and a half hours away from their home.) There’s a real chance that we won’t speak for a long time after I tell them that I’m a) gay and b) attending a church with a partnered lesbian pastor. So giving up on the idea of a relationship means giving up my long-held secret hope that someday I would have awesome in-laws who would be the kind of family my own parents were unable to provide. It means being the tag-along friend at Christmas and Thanksgiving or eating Chinese take-out and watching movies by myself on those days. It means never having a safety-net when I’m sick or something goes wrong with my car or I lose my job.
And I just can’t help but be angry about all of that. I’ve cried so much in the last two days that it’s starting to feel ridiculous. I read Sarah Bessey’s post today and got mad about it all over again. Her “in which love looks like” posts always make me cry, but this one . . .
“I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago, at the Village Inn with a day-old bagel and terrible coffee at dawn, how he would have loved me so beautifully and fully, so crazily and completely, so ordinarily extraordinary. Look at us, living our lives together. Everything has changed, everything will continue to change, but we will still be here, in a car, kissing like teenagers over a lifetime of stories shared. Look at us, in the middle of our marriage.”
How could I read that today and not cry? And I mean awkward, loud, sobbing, ugly crying.
I have loved God since my sixth birthday, when I prayed the sinner’s prayer for the last time, and I know that he is always with me. But sometimes, God is not enough. God can’t take out the trash. He can’t cuddle with me during the sad parts of a movie. He can’t hold my hand when we walk together. He can’t laugh at me when I cheer at the tv screen when Eowyn kills the Nazgul. He can’t cheer along with me. God will never look at me the way my father looks at my mother. He will never surprise me with flowers or empty the dishwasher or plan a birthday part for me. He won’t come get me when my car breaks down or help me make a grocery list.
I don’t understand why this has to be so hard. I don’t understand why I would be asked to give so much up. This feels cruel in a way that I don’t want God to be. I mean, if I was going to be permanently single, why couldn’t I have been an asexual, aromantic? And honestly, it’s hard to accept “this is God’s will for you” when I know that my friend is going back to her lovely, two bedroom home and her wonderful husband and her kind, supportive parents.
My mom and I had an interesting talk last week about Job. She insists that the book is basically about the futility of asking God “Why?” I think that actually makes a lot of sense, probably more than anything else I’ve ever heard about Job. But I think it’s important that God doesn’t come to Job in chapter 6 and shut down his questioning. Instead, God allows Job to talk things through. God allows Job to process his loss and grief and shout all of his angry questions at the sky. Then, when Job is basically out of things to say, God starts talking.
So for the moment, I am thankful for God’s patience. I am grateful that he gives us time to process. I am grateful that he doesn’t give us answers until we are ready. I am grateful that I have friends who are willing to let me wrestle with this and be angry and sad. And I hope that we get to chapter 38 in my personal book of Job really, really soon.