Christians and the LGBT dilemma: a plea for honest dialogue

I can’t believe I’m writing about this.  I kind of wonder if a lot of Evangelical Christians in my generation are afraid to say anything either way about all of the same-sex marriage discussion going on…and I wonder this, because I feel it too.  I’m afraid of offending people, and I am afraid of being misunderstood.

So let me start by saying a bunch of disclaimers (that will at least make me feel better, haha).  No matter who you are reading this, I value and respect and am interested in your viewpoint.  There is a reason you believe what you believe.  Also, no matter what my personal convictions are, I do understand why people are fighting for same-sex marriage, why people are celebrating because of the recent Supreme Court decision, and why people might view opponents as judgmental or narrow-minded.  Any of these perspectives probably come from real-life experiences that are valid and important.

But what I wish more people understood is that even though our postmodern culture cries out for more and more autonomy and less and less authority, there are other ways of seeing the world.  There are many people all over the world — young and old alike, rich and poor included, Christian or not — who truly believe in an authority that is higher than humans.  And for those of us who ascribe to such convictions, it means that whether we understand it or not, whether we like it or not, we are faithful to this authority and we believe that somehow following it brings about good, trusting in this thing that is higher than even our desires or understanding.  Unlike the voice of our culture today, we believe in an absolute truth.  Maybe to some that is arrogant, but ironically, in my experience, submitting to a truth that’s bigger than me keeps me in my place.

And this is where I find myself today.  I know people even within Evangelical Christianity have different views about this issue.  But what I’m really asking for is not even the right to impose my beliefs on others or to be forceful in how I express them.  I’m simply asking for the right to believe what I believe without feeling judged.  I’m asking to be known as a person before being labeled for my beliefs or opinions — something I think people on all sides of these issues long for and deserve.  I too feel so much grief for the injustices experienced by the LGBT community, especially for the hatred and anger expressed in the name of Jesus. This reality does not change. I am happy for the positive movements towards grace and equality.  But when I read scriptures and seek God and consider what I know of Him already, I honestly cannot shake this conviction that there must be some other solution than to rewrite how marriage and family are designed to be.  I humbly submit to this, even if I don’t fully understand.

As you may have noticed, this belief system still does not assume any kind of political viewpoint.  I guess to me, that’s not what’s most important. Policies and culture and all of that will inevitably change, and I don’t feel strongly about it all one way or another.  (If you do, great! Live out your beliefs authentically and unafraid!)  Politics to me has become a way to divide, to perpetuate stereotypes and false assumptions.  All I know is, I have experienced the power and love of Jesus in my life, and I am simply doing my best to hear His voice and follow, that others might know Him too.

So I don’t know about you, where you stand on the same-sex marriage issue.  I’m not going to try to persuade you in words to see the world like I see it.  But I am pleading for honest dialogue and for a renewed interest, concern, and love for people of all different backgrounds and perspectives.  Behind every viewpoint is a person, and behind every person is a story.  Let’s learn to listen first.

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My (re)lenting heart: living life in the blank space

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This year, I gave up sweets for Lent.  And you know, the hardest part hasn’t so much been refraining from chocolate and ice cream and cookies (though I do, I do, I do love chocolate!!).  The hardest part has been knowing what to do with the empty space.  So many times, I want to go and find something else — anything else — to eat and make me feel full again.  Not dessert? Fine.  Popcorn will do.  Or fruit.  Or pancakes…

But God has been reminding me lately, that it’s in the space that things happen.

And it’s funny, because that’s sort of where I am in life now too.  I think living overseas has wired me for constant change and stimulation, and I find myself waiting, looking, hoping for the next big “adventure” to be revealed, or the next dream to pursue, the next challenge to embark on.  Lord, will You send me out again?  Or will I get married and start a family?  Or will You open up new opportunities here, where I am?

And finally, after running around and getting nowhere, I’ve realized that God is simply calling me to be.  To live wholeheartedly where I am, and to trust Him to carry out His purposes.

It’s so easy to get caught up, filling that space — filling my stomach when I’ve had enough to eat…filling my days with pointless activities and appointments…filling the silence with noise and distractions — when God is calling us to receive from Him what is better.  Why do we fill ourselves up on things that don’t really satisfy, when God is holding out to us the choicest of foods, the richest of fare? Man, I don’t want to miss out on that.

This week, I read about Elijah and that time when he journeyed up a mountain to seek after God — feeling desperate, hungry, and alone.  He thought that God might be in the “big” and “exciting” things that passed by, in the earthquake, or the wind, or the fire.  But God wasn’t in those things.  Nope.  Elijah found God…in the silence.

It’s in the space that God speaks, that hearts are moved, that circumstances change.

So as we wait…for breakthrough to come, for prayers to be answered, for dreams to be fulfilled…as we wait for our next meal or appointment or “adventure”… may we have soft and open hearts, ready to listen and receive from Him.  May it be in the blank space that we find rest and satisfaction for our souls.

Wineskins and sunsets: the danger of going back to what we know

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The strangest thing happened to me today.  There I was on the 101, windows down, soaking up the sunlight, catching glimpses of the ever-beautiful California coast. It was glorious.  And after a very full (and very fun) weekend, I thought, why not stop for a bit and catch my breath by the ocean?

So I turned into a beach I’d never been to before, only to realize, I don’t know these beaches.  I don’t quite know what to expect.  Is it a good beach?  Do I pay?  Where do I park?  And since that sort of thing kind of bothers me, I turned around and decided to stop at the beach we always go to, the one closest to home.

But right before I reached the exit, these HUGE, dark, thunderous clouds came rolling in out of nowhere!  Stupidly, I kept heading toward the beach, only to run into this mass exodus of disgruntled tourists trying to escape the storm.

As pitiful as it sounds, I was so angry.  It was perfectly sunny the entire drive up to that point.  I had already pictured myself, toes in the sand, watching the sun set over the waves, reading and praying and having my own wonderful little moment.  I said to God (only half-expecting any response), “Please, tell me there’s a point to this! Is there something You’re trying to teach me, here?”

On my way back home, I became annoyed with myself.  I thought about my tendency to go back to what is safe, and known, and predictable…and how sometimes my fears simply get in the way of what could be better.  (Oh, if I had only ventured on when I stopped at that other beach…)

It reminded me of some things God has been revealing lately…about how scared I am of making bold decisions…about how hesitant I am to step into things I know God has set on my heart.

As I pondered all of this, the words old wineskins came to mind.

Old wineskins?

Old wineskins.  Jesus said that if we pour new wine into old wineskins, it will make them burst and ruin the wine.

And then it hit me.

Sometimes, God does something new in us, and it’s a big deal.  It changes everything.  Maybe it’s a new conviction, or a new calling, or a new revelation.  But instead of walking fully into it, we find ourselves going back to what we’ve always known, trying to take what is new and fit it into what we’ve always done and who we’ve always been…and it doesn’t really work for us anymore, and it stifles the new work God has begun, and it causes us to miss out on things that are better.

I don’t want to miss out on any more sunsets because I’m afraid to explore unknown territory.  And I don’t want to mess with what God has made new by going back to my old ways of doing and being.

Lord, give us the courage to follow Your lead.