I Love You But…

Let’s be honest, there is always going to be something we don’t like about our friends and family.  No one is perfect and we all have flaws, but what I’m interested in is how we love people despite their imperfections.  I know it must be possible because I’ve felt it; I’ve experienced genuine love from people who knew my flaws and failures. Sometimes it seems like this is a result of ignoring or overlooking these seemingly small issues and choosing to see only the good in people.  Other times it can be accomplished by choosing to see flaws as quirks or alternative life choices instead of deep moral failings.  That’s not what I’m talking about, though, because people can tell the difference.  People know when there’s a silent “but” at the end of your “I love you.”

I think a key component is realizing that you can’t really love someone if you are overlooking their flaws.  Turning a blind eye to something potentially harmful isn’t love and neither is harboring anger and judgement and simply avoiding the topic.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying to just modify your feelings, thoughts, beliefs etc. in order to make space for other people’s hangups.  This is where the difficulty lies; as with most things, I think the key is hidden somewhere between the two extremes in some mythical middle ground.

While I wanted to discuss this in a more generic way without relating it back to LGBT stuff, I think it’s important to note that in many cases, the “agree to disagree” approach just isn’t sufficient.  When the topic is something external and relatively innocuous, this may work, but when talking about something as personal and emotion-laden as a person’s sexual or gender identity, a key aspect of who they are as a person which touches nearly every aspect of their past, present, and future, simply agreeing to disagree often times just won’t cut it.  I think they key to this conundrum might lie in our definition of love which my pastor always describes as “willing the other person’s good.”  If you are truly and honestly seeking the best that God has for your friend or family member, you should be able to convey your disagreement in a way that doesn’t make them feel attacked, ashamed, rejected, or insufficient.  You should be able to make it clear that this minor point of contention is nothing when compared with the overwhelming affection you feel towards them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this has been a tough piece to write, primarily because the questions it asks are at the heart of the conflict that has raged within me for the last few years: the place where my desire to love like Jesus meets my futile attempts at living as a righteous child of God.  Matthew 5 concludes with the impossible directive to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” and that is a command I have tried to take very seriously in my life despite the fact that I’ve never been anywhere near achieving it.  However, I think it is also important to note what is said just before this, a reminder that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” That’s God’s way of showing His love for us: no matter how badly we’re failing at living up to His standards, He set a flaming orb in the sky to give us heat, and life and light and He causes droplets of moisture to condense in the air and fall down on us to our delight and dismay. Wherever we are on that continuum from perverse to perfect, we all experience the same rain and the same sun.

Familial Support

I’m always inspired by the stories of young gay people who come out to their Christian parents and find that, though they may be resistant at the beginning, their parents love them enough to see them through the difficult journey of figuring out how their faith and sexuality fit together.  I sometimes find myself wishing that my mom’s reaction had been more in that vein, that she had told me she would stand by me no matter what.  That if it came to choosing between me and her faith, that she would choose me.  At the same time, it’s a tough spot to be in.  I do believe that God should take the highest place in our lives and I believe I would always want her to put God’s desires above her own or my own like a modern day Abraham and Isaac, but I do wish that it was little bit of a harder decision than it seems.  I wish that part of her wanted to choose me even if that wasn’t her final decision.  I imagine that’s probably a selfish desire; we shouldn’t ever want to be more important than God in another person’s life, but at the same time, it would be a nice feeling.

I was reminded of this topic after listening to a podcast interview with Matt Jones where he talks about his parents’ reaction when he told them he was gay.  At first, they were very upset by it and took him to a counseling to help fix him, but I was moved to tears when he describes how, after a particularly intense session, his dad went back to the counselor and said, “If I were gay, and I heard you say those things that you told my son, I would go home and put a gun to my head and that would be on you.”  To me, that’s conveys such a strong desire to protect and I wish that I felt that from my parents sometimes.  Maybe it’s because I waited so long to tell them and was fully an adult by then and not a child needing comfort.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t cry or really show much emotion beyond some nerves.  Whatever the case, I wish my mom’s primary concern at that moment hadn’t been for my eternal soul, but for her hurting fearful son sitting in front of her, even if it was just for that one night.

I do want to be clear about something, though.  My parents are wonderful people.  They love me and they did an awesome job raising me.  They instilled me with a healthy sense of self worth and regularly made sacrifices to give me the best life they could.  They raised me in the church and modeled a life of strong faith in Christ.  In fact, I believe the reason that I am who I am today, the reason I’m (relatively) well adjusted while so many other gay people growing up in Christian homes commit suicide or end up on the streets, is because of the strength and love my parents showed me.  They weren’t perfect, but I love my parents with all my heart and couldn’t have asked for more.

Expectations, Desires, Hopes, and Fears

After finding Julie Rodgers’ amazing blog which opened me up to so many thoughts and feelings that I had never had before, I was inspired to start a place where I could write down some of my experiences and, hopefully, help people who are going through something similar take solace in the shared experience just as I have with Julie’s site.  I’ve been planning to start writing for a week or two now and I even started a quick outline of somethings to write about, but never got around to it until the events of tonight spurred me on.

Like Julie, I grew up in the Church and eventually found myself struggling between my beliefs and the romantic feelings I had towards those of my same sex.  Also like Julie, I have decided that these feelings are not part of God’s plan for my life and have chosen to remain celibate.  However, unlike Julie, I still cling to the hope that somewhere down the line, there will be a woman I can fall in love with and marry and spend the rest of my life with.

Those hope rose higher than they had in a long time when I was setup with the friend of a friend and we actually had a real date (the first I’d ever had).  I was ecstatic that the date seemed to go well and we agreed that we should do it again sometime.  But as time went on and more and more plans fell through, my hope started to wain until tonight when they were put to rest.  I finally received confirmation that she’s not interested in a relationship and that’s that.

I’m glad she was honest with me instead of letting me hope and wonder and bounce around between a dozen different emotions.  I really do believe that it’s better to know than to be kept in the dark, but at the same time, there’s still a crushing sense of sadness and despair that comes along with it.  I feel like I was given a finite amount of hope regarding my romantic future and every time something like this happens, a little more of it drains away.  In addition to the pain and hopeless I feel each time a potential relationship doesn’t work out, I also feel bad for the person on the other end being put in the uncomfortable position of ending it.  After each time something like this has happened, I go through a period where I tell myself that if it’s in God’s plan, it’ll happen and I just need to be patient, but after some time has passed, I start to think that maybe I just need to put myself out there and it’ll happen.  I really wish I just knew for sure what God had in store for me.  I definitely have a preference, but I think, at this point, I would rather hear a definitive no than to wallow in this constant place of not knowing.