A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop to teach church leaders how to love the LGBT community. I was reminded when I avoid and condemn LGBT folks, I have no chance of sharing Christ’s love with them. I was reminded I do not need to approve of the choices of a person who identifies as LGBT (I don’t approve of my own choices half the time), but I’m called to accept them. I learned though some believe it’s contradictory to the gospel to love LGBT folks, showing them love and acceptance actually fulfills it. Although I knew most of this, agreed with it and want to love the gay community, there’s a problem.
When I watched Johnny Weir during the Olympics wearing nicer women’s clothing than me (and looking better than me) or when I encounter a loud male barista talking effeminately, I’m uncomfortable. I’m not around many LGBT folks, don’t have many gay friends or family and it’s not something I grew up with. I know some reading this will stop reading here because you don’t like my honesty.
But when we fail to be honest, we fail to relate, learn and grow.
When I was getting my education degree and encountered gated parking lots, barred windows and patrolled elementary school where I taught in the inner city, I was also uncomfortable. I grew up in northern WI with nine-hundred white people (except me, my mom and brothers). I wasn’t uncomfortable teaching in the city because I was racist, I was uncomfortable because I was sheltered (and still am).
Being uncomfortable isn’t the problem. Staying there is.
So I’ve been asking God once again to help me love. Despite our best intentions, desires and hopes, we are human. I know I should love everyone, but I don’t. Heck, I can’t even love people who are too nice, happy or smile excessively. I also know Christ knows my heart. He knows I want to love people who are different from me or who I just don’t understand. So, I’m asking God to help me love LGBT folks – loud or quiet, flamboyant or subtle.
While vacationing in Arizona last week God answered me. I saw several gay couples, baristas and families while out eating, hiking and sight-seeing, but this time I noticed moms instead of mannerisms. I saw couples instead of choices. In seeing our common humanity, I suddenly became more comfortable. When, without even thinking about it, I asked a gay couple in the Grand Canyon if I could take their picture for them (it’s hard taking a selfie with that expansive beauty in the background), I knew God was helping me love.
Who do you want to love? Your in-laws, husband or gay cousin? Whenever God answers my prayers to help me love others (and He always does – though often slowly and painfully), I ironically find it easier to love someone else He wants me to love like He does, too.