Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another Way (LGBT)

"And, having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they went home another way."  Matthew 2:12.
The World Conference of Friends took place at Kabarak University, which is a 4-5 hour bus ride from Nairobi.  On the bus ride there, I admit that was tired and over-stimulated, so I put my headphones on and slept for most of the trip.  Fortunately, the person sitting next to me woke me up to see some of the sights, including the Rift Valley and a chapel built by Italians during the second world war.

On the way back to Nairobi after the conference, the driver went a different way, and we got to see several things we had not passed by on the drive in, including a tea plantation and various parts of Nairobi.

Since getting home from the conference, I have spent a lot of time walking.  I don't have the energy to run as much as usual, so I have been walking in the evenings in addition to on my lunch break.  Salem is gorgeous this time of year―everything is in bloom.  I keep meaning to take my camera along with me.

One evening when I was walking in my neighborhood, I felt a nudge to take a different path than I usually do.  I am a creature of habit and tend to stick to the same routes, but I felt like God was telling me to go a slightly different way.  

But then I saw that I would have to pass by a bunch of teenage girls if I took the other path, so I ignored the nudge and continued on my way.  The nudge stayed with me though, so on my way back, I gave in and went on the other path.  Then I saw it: a beautiful, flowering purple tree―one of my favorites―that would have been directly visible from the other path.

It often takes something big, scary, or life-threatening to make us choose to go a different way, but I believe that sometimes God wants us to change just to show us something beautiful.

About 15 months ago, I (fairly quietly) came out as bisexual.  Responses were supportive, skeptical, and chagrined (or some combination).  I am grateful for the people who supported me; it hurt when people I loved told me that I had strayed from God's path.  The skepticism was understandable: I had always identified as straight, sometimes quite adamantly.

[SIDE NOTE: In my defense, when I wrote way back in 2008 that I was "as straight as humanly possible," that was intended as an inside joke for my friend Andrea, because it is something she used to say about me in college.  I knew that she would read the post and she knew that I was attracted to women.  I had no idea at that point that my blog would last so long or that it would reach such a wide audience!]

Since coming out, I have (also fairly quietly) been on a lot of dates with both women and men, which has been pretty fun.  I am still single, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I still have things to learn from being single than my orientation.  I am loved by many and I have lots of relationships that are important to me.  I know that I would not have the same energy to put into those relationships if I were focused on a primary partner.

As I mentioned in my report, there was some controversy at the World Conference when the the epistle by Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns was taken down.  The first time I heard about it was when it was raised in early worship.  My immediate impulse was to leave the room, because I didn't want to deal with other people's emotions around the topic, but I knew that walking out could be misconstrued.  Instead, I sat down on the floor for the rest of worship, trying to stay grounded.

Although the issues came up throughout the day, Friends mostly addressed them in their home groups, which I missed.  But that night, as I was waiting in line for dinner, a Friend asked me if I had a good Bible verse to respond to the passages saying that homosexuality is a sin.

When people ask me this question, my immediate response is no:  Proof-texting doesn't work.  For anyone.  Pulling out another Bible verse to respond to attacks is never going to change anyone's position.

After giving it a little more thought, I said that I only had one verse:
"By their fruits you will know them."  Matthew 7:20.
This is not original to me, but I am not sure where I got it (possibly Liz O?).  The point is that it is only by waiting to see what kind of fruit these relationships bear that we will know whether they are good or not.  The Bible also tells us that
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law."  Galatians 5:22-23.
It takes a while, but relationships do bear fruit.  And we can be changed by them; I know this experientially.
  • It is because I had friends in high school who were out as gay and lesbian that I came to believe that their love was not a sin.
  • It is because I have worshiped and worked with transgender people that I understand a little better the struggles that they face.
  • It is because I had brave examples of how to live faithfully as a bisexual that I was able to be honest about my own sexuality.
But this is not a one-way street.
  • It is also because I have relationships with people who honestly believe that homosexuality is a sin that I know those people are doing their best to live Godly lives.
We can change.  I have seen it.  It takes relationships and love and time.  

And then, suddenly, you see people who formerly voted for an exclusive definition of marriage at Williams-Sonoma, buying something off the registry for their friend's daughter's lesbian wedding.  Not because they have changed what they believe, but because they love their friend and her daughter, and they want to celebrate with them.

Maintaining a position is easy; relationships are hard.  But that is the work.  And I have faith that we can all go home another way.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for this eloquent post, Ashley.

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  2. Dear Ashley, This is an excellent statement! Thank you. As we move from speculation to actual experience with and knowledge of those who are different from us, we see God's spirit at work in them and their relationships (or not). I've seen enough fruit to be convinced. At the risk of "proof texting", I would offer I Corinthians 7:8-9 as helpful. Paul, in his prissy way, suggest that we would all be better off to remain celibate, as he is(!). However, for those of us with strong sexual drives, it is better to find a partner and marry than to be consumed by our sexuality. Amen. Since we now know that sexual preferences are innate (from God), this admonition should apply to all, not just heterosexuals is some infer from Paul's perspective. At least, this has been very helpful to me in understanding God's presence in my own sexuality.
    Thank you for being faithful.
    Yours supportively,
    Joe

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  3. Dear Ashley - thank you so much for these compassionate and faith-filled words. It brings me hope and joy (and challenge) to be reminded of the transforming power of relationships.
    Rita

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  4. For those of us who believe that homosexuality is a sin I think you have hit the nail on the head. What we are confronted with is do we love our neighbor even when we believe they are wrong. I have learned the hard way that it is important to keep communications open with those we love in spite of our disagreements. I have also learned that it is more important to love than be right. How to love the members of this althernative life style is the difficult question those of us who's faith you might consider weak have to ponder. I find that for me love is letting people know what I think is the truth while at the same time doing what I can to help them get through this life with as little unnecessary stress as possible. Not an easy task and not one I have always been successful at.

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  5. Beautifully put, Ashley. Love on.

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  6. You're cool. Thanks for the thoughts.

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