What do you say?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say. No, let me amend that. Often it’s hard to know what to say. Like when someone loses a loved one and you’re not in the same place. What do you write? Email? Tweet?

Or when someone asks you to do something that you just aren’t comfortable trying or don’t have time to do. I think that’s when you are meant to use that 2-letter word that starts with “n” and rhymes with go. But I don’t always know what to say along with that oh, so difficult word.

Prayer times are hard for me, too. Especially at work. I find myself in meetings with team members who are willing to lay all sorts of stuff on the table. Deep stuff. Personal stuff. I am honored that they trust me with all of that. That they would trust me not to do the “holy gossip” thing and share the things that people have asked us to pray about. That they would trust me not to judge them or their families because of the difficult circumstances they share.

But here’s the thing. An organization like the one where I work is – well, homogeneous. In almost every way, but definitely in the cultural conservatism realm. What I mean is, my workplace is overwhelmingly peopled with…

  • Pro-life
  • Pro-gun
  • Prayer belongs in school
  • Christianity is under attack
  • Bible is to be read literally and quoted often
  • Mom at home and teaching the kids
  • Sinner’s prayer
  • Hell is real
  • One way to Heaven
  • Love the sinner and hate the sin

….sort of people.

I am not really with them on most of that. Though I do agree that…

  • God is sovereign
  • Jesus is God’s son and the most amazing display of God’s love we’ll see this side of eternity
  • The Holy Spirit empowers, emboldens and connects us with the will of God
  • Every person ought to hear the good news of God’s love for us and have the opportunity to begin a relationship with Christ that will transform the way they see and interact with the world.
  • As we become more Christ-like through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God lets us know what needs to change in our lives—what sins we need to lay down and not pick up again.

What happens, though, is that I hear God language that is exclusively male, I hear brothers and sisters of other Christian faiths described as nonbelievers, and I hear that God’s GLBTQ children are somehow less worthy of love than other sinners (followed closely by those who have had or support abortion). And as I hear these things – said or implied – I realize that I am in such a small minority that I don’t know how to speak out. I don’t know how to talk about my own past as something I am ok with – that I have trusted God to redeem and not simply as a “before-after” testimonial bullet point.

I don’t know how to talk about my child who IS that “sinner” they love so much that they want to pray the queer away. I don’t know how to ask for help as we struggle through gender and orientation and mental health and school messiness that is overwhelming most days. Because I don’t want them to pray it away… I want them to love us in the middle of it and trust that God made our kid extra messy.

I want them to see us as part of that incredible diversity that God created in God’s image…An image that is NOT male. And NOT female, but some amazing mysterious way of being that transcends gender altogether.

I want them to see with me that the overwhelming need of families like ours is to be assured that God has not abandoned us or covered us with a blanket of shame. Even though it feels that much of God’s body here on earth would rather that be the case.

I want to be brave enough to say these things aloud to these people who seem to really love me right now… when I seem to be mostly like them. Except for voting Democrat most of the time. I want to be brave enough that my job, my paycheck and thus my mortgage aren’t what keep me from saying all that is on my heart.

But for now, I hold them at arm’s length. Not knowing what to say.

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