“Life is constant rewriting and revision. It’s a good thing I like to edit.”
Not too long ago, I said this to a friend in response to his sharing a picture with me on Facebook. The picture was a quote admonishing that great writers aren’t necessarily great first-drafters but great rewriters. My friend asserted that the quote was applicable to a great many things in life and I find that I must agree. I have found my life and my very self to be in a constant state of re-evaluation and revision. From my sense of self, to a more personal understanding of my faith and calling in life, to my relationships, friendships, and the way I relate to others, amongst other things.
Over the past three years, I have been able to observe some pretty intense shifts in society: some notables are states legalizing same-sex marriage, the resurgence and redefinition of the feminist movement, and the cases for and against religion. One of the hottest button topics of late, though, is sexual orientation. Whether you are hereto, homo, bi, or trans (sexual or gendered), American society has become largely more open and accepting of your orientation than in the past. This is a pretty significant cultural shift. But, as with just about every major cultural shift – from a heliocentric solar system to the abolishment of slavery to women’s suffrage – it is not without its share of battles. The world is so loud with voices crying for acknowledgement and others rising in anger and protest (on both sides) that I do not know where my voice fits or if it should even be heard. Writing this, it’s scary for me because I know the chances of it backfiring and those angry voices, whichever side they may come from, growing louder and becoming directed at me, my intention notwithstanding. But hear me now. I am not here to comment on the politics of or rights for differing sexual orientations. I am not here to talk about civil unions or marriage or legalities. That is above my pay grade. I am here to talk about people.
When I was a young girl growing up in a deeply conservative community, there was no such subject as sexual orientation. Nothing deviated from hetero on that score, not to my limited knowledge, and no one discussed anything ‘other’. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school and afterward that I had friends who were willing and felt comfortable enough to be open with me about such things. Right now, I would dare to speculate that a good third of my current friend base would classify themselves as belonging to a sexual orientation other than hetero. It was an entirely new experience for me and I found myself woefully unprepared. I did my best to observe these individuals and tried to listen closely when they spoke about their lives growing up, their decisions, and their lives now. As a Christian, I grew up hearing sermons about and reading the passages that speak against homosexuality, yes. But, also as a Christian, I am reminded that it is not my place to make judgment calls on other people’s lives, the state of their souls, or their relationships with God. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”[i] I know what it is to be disparaged against, to have the choices I have made or the way I live my life judged and found wanting by others, for the sheer reason that I choose to be a Christian. Therefore, I try to uphold my friends, any friends, whenever I can. Not with shouting or with soapboxing, but with an acknowledgement of their wonderful qualities as a person.
I have friends of faith, friends of purpose and drive, friends of talent and heart. I have friends who are brilliant people and far outstrip me in intelligence. People who have helped, loved on, and cared for me when I needed someone most. They have sat with me – online and in person – and kept me company all day when I was on bed rest at the end of my pregnancy. They have brought me adorable gifts just to see me smile. They talk with, listen to, and encourage me when I am in need of a gentle, kindly heart. I have friends who are blessings in my life.
Their sexual orientation has nothing to do with this.
Their humanity does.
Their willingness and desire to have an impact for good in this world does.
One of my dearest friends, a young gay man, is one of the first people I call or text when I am in a rough spot and in need of prayer. He is one of the deepest men of faith that I know, and I often find myself humbled by him and his joy in life and constant work to learn and grow closer to God. I cannot tell you how uplifted I am by his presence in my life.
I know who I am, I know what I believe, and I know what my calling is: to love others. How can I be faithful to that calling if I am judging someone behind my words and actions or seeking to change them through our interactions? That’s simple: I can’t. Will we agree on everything in their lives or in mine? Nope. That is part and parcel of being humans with free will. However, I believe that the question of sexual orientation and its role in the acceptance or denial of people has become a wedge in a faith whose greatest calling is to love others. These are people with lives and families and faiths and convictions, hearts and souls, and beautiful ones at that. They are my friends, my neighbors. Divine appointments do not come in a simply-wrapped box but with all the trimmings and trappings of lives lived in a myriad of ways. One’s sexual orientation or choice of lifestyle does not change their humanity or their need for love, patience, peace, support, faithful friendship, kindness, and relationships in this life.
Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and second only to that is to love your neighbor like your own self.[ii] I wonder just how many people wouldn’t have to walk through life with shattered hearts and battered souls if we held to these two all-important principles, regardless of color, race, philosophy, orientation, or creed. My parents used to tell me, “You might be the only Jesus that people ever see,” admonishing me that the way I live my life and the way I treat others will speak louder and more broadly about my beliefs than anything else. If God is love, then it is our responsibility and duty to share that love and light with others, no matter who they are. Anger and hatred and separation only produce more of the same. We are not to judge others or claim to know the inner workings of their souls or the mind of God. As I said before, that is above our pay grade. But we have every duty and reason to love them as God loves them. So I ask, I beg you. Let’s treat each other like human beings, because that is what you are. Bright, brilliant, soulful human beings.
Melissa Snyder is an introvert with a flair for the dramatic in her writing. She is a wife, mother, compulsive writer, voracious reader, and fierce defender of Imagination. She has been writing stories since before she actually knew her letters, developing stories that she would tell herself aloud while drawing. She likes to write about faith and self and emotion and society and hobbies, as well as revealing the myriad paracosms that inhabit her mind. These paper bullets of the brain live in her blog and on Facebook where she endeavors to write about life and Imagination boldly and share honestly. As a first-time mother, she is also recording her experiences, memories, joys, worries, and, yes, even whines in her Mommy-blog at I Have a Forever.
[i] Matthew 7:1 (NIV)
[ii] Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)