I’m always writing, even when I’m not writing. Things swirl around in my head. And I’ve had these two other blog entries swirling in my head for some time now. I even have pictures to go with them. And titles: Shameless and My Glamourous Life (spelled the British way for added grammatical glamour). Those two ideas have been waiting impatiently for their moments in the sun. But, as it happens, they are going to have to wait a little longer. Because at this moment, when I have a blessed few quiet moments to myself at the computer, I’m thinking of something else entirely. And only. It has pushed its way to the front of the line, demanding to be first.
I think it was Flannery O’Connor who said she never knows what she really thinks about something until she writes it down. Or something like that. Anyway, I can relate. I write to make sense of the swirl—for myself first, and then like Walt Whitman’s spider I throw it out there hoping it catches, that someone else relates, or is helped, or challenged, or made to think, or made to feel less alone. Anything, as long as the little gossamer thread catches.
So here’s what I’m thinking about. I have this friend in another state. She’s about my age, but way cooler than me. She looks like a model. She lives on this idyllic farm that could be in a magazine; it’s like P. Allen Smith’s place or something except with a white farmhouse. There’s a sweeping front porch that invites you to drink sweet tea and smell roses for hours, and a red barn. She does things like organic composting. Her husband is a retired Marine, all buff and grizzled, and they have three beautiful children. It’s like GI Joe and Barbie got married and had little clones. Seriously, these people look like movie stars. And their insides match their outsides, which is infinitely more important.
The two older kids are in college, busy being successful, doing internships and stuff this summer. The youngest just turned fourteen. Like my son Harper will this fall.
I got this message from her the other day:
So, yesterday was [her son’s] birthday party. 14. He invited about 15 kids over to swim, eat pizza and cake, and hang out. He spent 2 weeks of his allowance on a volleyball/badminton set to be sure everyone would be entertained. He knew none of the 3 guy friends would be allowed to come and they weren’t. 10 girls RSVP’d that they’d be here. He even double-checked the day prior to make sure their parents were going to bring them out.
One by one, the girls cancelled. Different reasons, but the cancellations kept coming until there were 2 girls left. He was so sad, embarrassed, and hurt. Cried buckets.
I was so thankful for the 2 girls who came and for the moms who brought them.
Not even sure why I’m sharing this. It just hurt my heart. I had the overwhelming urge to message those girls who call him their “best friend” and explain to them how real friends treat one another. But I was quickly reminded of their age and maturity level, and the fact that some parents just won’t put forth the effort to take their kids places.
Anyhow…he had a great time with those 2 sweet girls.
Thanks for listening. XOXO
This message hurt my heart too. And it could be a message from any friend who is the mother of a teenager, I suppose. We all go through those horrible times when our kids get hurt, feel dissed, left out, unloved. I’m not as nice or reasonable of a person during those times as my friend is in her message. My message would probably say something like, I had the overwhelming urge to kill somebody. But I was quickly reminded that murder is illegal. So I plotted other ways to bring about their demise without going to prison.
The thing that complicates this whole scenario, however, is that my friend’s son is gay. She doesn’t bring up that factor in her message because she doesn’t have to. We know why the 3 guy friends weren’t allowed to come to the party. And we can have a pretty good hunch as to why most of the girls’ parents wouldn’t put forth the effort to bring them. It’s been an underlying theme of my friend’s life lately.
You know what’s ironic? A few years ago problems like this did not exist. A few years ago her son knew he was different, but he hadn’t yet said the words out loud: Mom, I think I’m gay. It was those words that changed everything.
Swirl, swirl, swirl. So many thoughts in my head. What do I think about this, really? What do I teach my kids?
My friend Bernie once told me, when I was in a time of doubt, “When you don’t know the answer to something, go back to what you do know and work your way forward from there.” So here’s what I know. A few years ago my friend and her family were Evangelical Christians, active members of a local church. After her son came out they had to quit going to their church because of how he was treated–they were actually afraid for his health. They tried visiting other churches, but couldn’t find anywhere that was safe. So now they just stay home on Sundays or go hiking or something. They’re still Christians. Just not Evangelical church-goers any more.
In the past their son would not have come out so early in life, if ever. The world has changed. In what some people call “the good old days” homosexuality was illegal in this country like it was in England. He might have ended up like Alan Turing, the British mathematician who saved over 14 million people from dying in World War II, and was then arrested for being gay, put on hormone therapy, and committed suicide.
The not-so-distant past was just slightly friendlier. I was born in 1972 and have friends whose struggle to come to terms with their homosexuality includes drug and other addictions, failed marriages, and suicide attempts (one was successful, if it can be called that). It would seem to be a sign of progress that my friend’s son was able to recognize and articulate his situation as a young adolescent. Hopefully he would be able to avoid the soul-draining labors other generations have endured and arrive quicker and more safely at a place of peace with himself and others.
We’re living in a world where this kid is rejected by his church. Where parents are unwilling (afraid?) to take their children to his birthday party. Where he feels judged and isolated not because his family is undesirable, or he’s unkind, dishonest, dangerous, or stupid, but because he’s gay.
Which leads me back to the question first posed by one of my gay friends when he came out to me: Given the way our society treats gays, if homosexuality was a choice, why would anyone choose it?
There will be people I love who will read this blog and shake their heads and maybe be disappointed in me. That’s okay. I figure most people are doing about the best they can. Including me. I certainly don’t have all of the answers. I’ve written things in the past that make me shake my head now and I’m sure I may change my mind tomorrow about things I think today. I hope that’s growth. At least that’s what I choose to call it.
Back to what I know. I know the Bible contains verses that lead people to believe homosexuality is a sin. I also know it says not to criticize the government, women should wear head coverings but not jewelry, and men are allowed more than one wife at a time. There’s also what can be construed as acceptance of slavery. It is interesting to me that there can be a list of verses a mile long that we choose to interpret in their historical and cultural contexts, read as figurative, or outright ignore, in order to defend our own behaviors, while we simultaneously hold fast to verses that condemn other people. It’s a natural thing to do. And so hypocritical.
The truth is that people who say they follow the Bible to the letter are lying. Maybe they truly believe they are but those who are Bible literate know that no one can. It’s impossible. There are too many seeming contradictions in that library of 66 books. So what is a Christian who cares about the Bible–and believes it is sacred and holy–to do?
Perhaps we need to go back to the basics. Stella went to a real Sunday School class today for the first time, since she is a new graduate of the nursey. Afterwards, she brought me this paper:
It’s her rendition of what is fun to do at church. It seems that her favorite things to do at church, in her words, are “eat” and “be with Jesus.” The verse she learned was “God loves me” from Psalm 86:13. Pretty simple. I remember my friend telling me about when things were simple for her son as a child growing up in church, before he came out as gay. He loved going to church, seeing people, singing songs, and learning about Jesus. He believed God loved him. And he loved Jesus. None of that is simple anymore.
When I was in my late teens I delved pretty deep into Bible study. I was always pontificating around the house about something new I was learning. I enjoyed knowing all of the answers to Bible trivia and telling my Sunday School teacher parents obscure things. At one point my mother got annoyed with me. She said, “You know, Bible scholarship is great. But what you really need to work on is the basics. Jesus said there are two things that really matter: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. I have found that these are hard enough to keep a person occupied for a lifetime. Once you have mastered those I might be more interested in listening to you tell me who the grandfather of Methuselah was.” (It’s Jared, not that it matters. My mom was–and is–so wise.)
So here’s what I think, and here’s what I’m teaching my kids. The Bible is sacred and holy. We love the Bible. It was inspired by God but written and translated over time by people. Teachers and preachers and other imperfect people like us interpret it today and sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong, because parts of it are difficult and confusing. We must approach it humbly. No one has it all figured out.
But the most important parts, the basics that Jesus said mattered most, are not confusing at all. They are simple enough for anyone to understand. So any time I come across scripture that seems to take me away from loving God and others, I assume I’m misunderstanding that scripture, and I try to focus my energy back on the basics. Maybe I’ll understand some of those confusing verses someday and maybe I won’t. Like my kids’ Granny told me a long time ago, it doesn’t really matter. The basics are enough of a challenge for a lifetime. Click To Tweet
If there are kids like my friend’s son in my town, I hope they invite us to their parties. I hope they know we’d be honored to come swim, eat pizza and cake, and hang out. After all, these are our neighbors. This is Christianity 101. I probably will not play volleyball or badminton because I am not sporty in the least. But my husband and kids are. They will definitely want to play while I sit by the pool and get a tan. And I bet Jesus will be there too.