I recently stumbled across an old e-mail to a former pastor years ago. We’d been engaged in conversations about “same-sex attraction,” typically at coffee shops where we exchanged pleasantries before he launched into interrogation-style questions designed to root out the “sin” that, in his mind, I so obviously struggled with:
What was your relationship like with you parents? Were you sexually abused? Are you sure? Have you asked God to change your attractions? Have you asked God to open your heart to opposite-sex marriage? Why do you sit with such-and-such every Sunday? Are you attracted to her? So-and-so told me they saw you holding such-and-such’s hand, is that true? Do you ever watch porn? Do you masturbate? Are you telling the truth?
The e-mail that I found in my inbox was a note that I’d sent him after one such meeting. I opened it up, recalling how terribly he’d treated me, and I was struck by something I didn’t expect: The entire e-mail oozed with a kind of charity that hurt my soul to read. The woman who wrote this e-mail had so much grace and patience and kindness for this man, when he had so very little, if any, to give to me.
I say it hurt my soul to read because I don’t know if I have the same reserve of grace to write e-mails like that anymore—the kind that drip with understanding toward a person who continues to wound you. His response to my e-mail was like most of his others: curt and accusatory. Yet somehow, I kept going at it with this pastor and that church—for years.
It wears at you.
Every indignity that you weather with a smile, every accusation that you deflect with a calm word, every assumption of guilt that you patiently forbear. You hold your head high and hope that one day it will all get better.
But it wears at you.
Someone I’ve known for over ten years sent me an e-mail a few months ago wishing me luck as I “traverse the circles of hell.” Someone else I’ve known for even longer demanded that I explain my sex life in detail because they apparently have a right to such information if I say that I’m a lesbian and “claim” to be celibate. Recently, a friend of mine stopped responding to my texts and phone calls, but I can’t decide if I’d rather they’d just told me to go to hell in the first place.
It wears at you.
The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) released a new “pastoral” statement on sexuality and identity last week in which they determined that gay people can’t call themselves gay (not surprising), can’t call themselves “same-sex-attracted” (huh?), but rather must call themselves “Christians who experience same-sex attraction.” The statement was so ridiculous it bordered on Orwellian. Pretty soon we’ll be using “newspeak” and only permitted to think “goodthink.”
It wears at you.
This past year, on the anniversary of a particularly bitter betrayal, I went out to the beach and howled at the waves. Sometimes it feels like there’s no more grace left to give. That woman who wrote those tactful e-mails? Used up. Her weathered remains all cracked and dry.
Learning Who Deserves Our Time and Energy
I can’t go back to being that woman who wrote that e-mail to her pastor years ago. The thing is, I don’t want to. People walked all over her, and that’s no way to live. At the same time, however, she did teach me a valuable lesson. It’s important to be charitable, yes. But who we choose to receive our charity matters just as much as the charity itself. There’s no sense in giving grace upon grace upon grace to those who trample all over it.
Don’t cast your pearls before swine.
It’s a tired saying, but we don’t always take it to heart. A lot of us know how to give our pearls away, but we don’t know who to give our pearls to. It’s the difference between getting chewed up and spit back out versus seeing our efforts produce good fruit.
When it comes to our treatment in the church, too many of us waste our tears on people who don’t see our value. It leaves us impoverished, with nothing left to give but the clothes on our back. And after that, our mental sanity.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Don’t Cast Your Pearls Before Swine
In the process of writing my book this past year, I decided it was time to stop casting my pearls before swine. In some ways, this was a product of needing to decide just who my book was for. And I realized that I could tie myself up in knots trying to write a book for the types of people who insist on Christian “goodthink,” or I could write a book that reaches the people who are legitimately interested in listening and learning and making the church a better place.
I decided to write a book for the latter. They are the ones who are building a better Church, and they are the future. They’re not sitting up on their high horses wagging their fingers at the gays. They’re down in the trenches helping us find a better way.
What’s more, these Christians are multiplying by the day. Disaffected by Trumpism, burnt out by the culture wars, and disgusted by the sex abuse crisis that shows few signs of ebbing, these Christians are shedding the poisonous theology that has borne so much bad fruit, and they are searching for the Gospel instead.
And they are the future.
Writing to these Christians is a life-giving experience. I’m no longer extending a beleaguered hand to people who will slap it away for the ten millionth time. Instead, I’m extending my hand to those who will take it—and the process is healing for me as much as them.
And here’s the thing. There are so many Christians who are willing to join us in bettering the Church. The loudest voices proclaiming death under the guise of “pastoral care” are loud because they know their position is flawed and they can see their days are numbered. They might be the ones still in charge of many pulpits, but the tides of power are shifting.
Change is not just coming. It is here. It is happening.
Change Is Here, and Useless Statements Won’t Stop It
Thinking back to that woman who wrote that e-mail to her pastor years ago, I do think she had one thing right—reaching people with grace and charity is crucial. She was just trying to reach the wrong people. There’s no sense in wasting our tears on people who don’t want to be reached.
“[E]vil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse,” Scripture says, “deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed” (2 Tim. 3:13-14b). Indeed, it should come as no surprise when the same people who have set themselves against us dig their holes even deeper. Scripture warned us it would happen. It changes nothing of our standing in the Kingdom of God.
What’s more, the rest of the Christian world is watching. They see the injustice we face. Our allies are growing day by day, and the tides are shifting regardless of the meaningless statements that denominations continue to release. We will simply continue in the Gospel that we “have learned and firmly believed.” And as we do, more Christians will join our cause. Together, we will build a family of believers that includes all people.
And useless statements won’t stop us.
One more thing…
I’m getting ready to release my first book this year (!!). As a brand new author I need to have a strong presence across my socials. Would you mind giving me a follow on Instagram and Facebook below? It would mean a lot to me. I’m already pretty active on Twitter, but I need to buff up my other platforms (I only just created a FB page…so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!). Click on the icons below to give me a follow. Your support means the world!