It’s been a month!? Goodness! Well, yes, it’s summer, and I’m trying to enjoy it and be productive with some goals at the same time. So here I am.
Yesterday was a very interesting experience for me. Early in the morning, I checked a Facebook notification for a friend and saw that she had posted this:
This rather encapsulates how I feel about my faith and the subject of the human sexuality spectrum. So I commented on the post: “Yep! That’s exactly it for me.” I didn’t think there would be much more to it than perhaps a comment like or two. But then another friend whom I have known for about ten or eleven years replied:
So I do have a follow-up question that is something that I’ve been dealing with lately. While there is no judgment, does that mean you still think that being gay is necessarily a “bad trait”? For example, you wouldn’t judge thieves, but you wouldn’t promote their behavior as positive and godly. Any thoughts?
I immediately knew in my soul that this was one of those situations that the Bible talks about where Christians need to be “prepared to give an answer”. I replied that, after I dropped my little girl off at daycare, I would sit down so I could answer her question thoughtfully and properly. And I did. I thought about it all through the drive to school and during my time at the gym afterward, drafting up responses and making notes of a Scripture that came to mind. Finally, I was able to sit down and arrange my thoughts into the following response:
Okay. Here I am. Honestly…your question is something that I have struggled with thinking through sometimes. However, after thought and reflection, I cannot bring myself to a “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality. I just can’t. I can’t tell someone that I love them or that God loves them but, in the same breath, call them wrong. I have done too much wrong in my own life to pass judgment. Do people do things that are wrong? Yes, we all do. But if I’m so busy judging or telling someone their faults or, as you put it, bad traits, there’s no room left to love them or for them to BELIEVE that I love them. I am not God. I don’t know His mind. I don’t know the minds of any other person on this planet. I am not called to judge. I am called to love. To love all of someone. Do I want to help people grow in life? Yes, I want to encourage, support, and help them in that growth, whatever that may mean for them. I will love and pray for them, no matter what.
What immediately springs to mind (and sticks there) for me is John 8:1-11 and I’ve quoted it below.
“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” ” (New Living Translation)
Jesus didn’t condemn this woman; He didn’t judge her. He said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t lay her sins, whatever they may have been, out before her. He doesn’t tell her what’s wrong with her or bad about her. No. He just told her that He didn’t condemn her, to go live her life and do what’s right. In the same way, I will not condemn someone. I will not lay what I, in my fallibility, think are their sins before them. I am called to love and I will love and love and love. I will do what I can to help those I come into contact with to live the best lives they can in the spaces they are in. I have been so deeply loved in my life, have met and known and loved so many amazing people from all walks of life, but I have also seen what damage and pain and separation condemnation and judgment can cause. Such things are not of God and I will not perpetuate such pain. The Church is called to love God and love others. This is most important and it is what I have built my life on and will continue to.
To be sure I answer your question, no, I do not think that being gay is a “bad trait”. Some of the greatest people of faith I’ve ever known are gay, and I will thank God for them from the rooftops and point those who need love and prayer and counsel to them all the time as people of God and some of the deepest, strongest, and most loving Christians I have ever known. Thank you for asking and making me think, love.
I am called to love and loving is what I will do.
Last weekend, I listened to speaker Bill Hybels talk about passion. One of the questions he asked was, “Where does your passion come from? A beautiful dream or a holy discontent?” I was more than a bit fascinated by the phrase “holy discontent”. Can discontentment be holy? Then Mr. Hybels explained. Sometimes our passion can come from a complete and utter discontentment with the way things are, along with an inability to leave things the way they are. We simply must do something about it, so our passion is born in and borne out through this discontentment.
I realized that I live in a state of holy discontent. That is where my passion wells from. I am utterly discontent with how much of a lack of love, mercy, and grace there is in how people treat each other in our world. I cannot let things stay that way. I see people hurting, pieces of hearts broken off, cracks gaping in souls. I cannot let things stay that way.
I cannot let those who are hurting remain in their pain alone without holding their hand and telling them that they are safe to feel as they feel.
I cannot let those with broken hearts suffer without knowing that they are loved, cared for, and considered worthy.
I will not let those with gaping souls go hungry without telling them that God calls them good, wonderful, and beloved. And so do I.
My passion for hearts, my soul for people, is born out of a holy discontent. I believe that God has allowed this particular seed of discontent in my soul with the aim of fueling me to fulfill the purpose for which I was created: to love big. God has filled me dissatisfaction in seeing the lack of love in the world, and He pushes my heart to offer it. Day after day, as much as I can: love, encouragement, mercy, and grace.
There are people who walk around each day, dear ones and strangers, with broken hearts, cracked souls, and empty eyes. People who think themselves failures, unlovable, alone, and bereft. People who are suffering, and I cannot stand it. The heart that God has given me yearns to see souls, people, dear ones, strangers, live loved.
I want to help others breathe a little more easily and deeply.
I want to respond with grace, gentleness, truth, and love.
I want people, you precious people whom God has made, to know that you matter, you are significant, you are beloved, and were created with a unique purpose in mind. Yes, each of you. You are here on purpose.
My passion is not one that is big (well, it is–to me. But not like attention-getting big, I mean.). It is not one that is loud, will make me famous, or maybe birth a movement. I do not lead workshops. I haven’t written books. And that’s okay. I do what I do. I post, I call, I listen, I write, I pray, I hold hands, and I give hugs (and mugs of coffee/tea/hot chocolate). These are small things, but please don’t underestimate the small things you can do. They can effect monumental change in a person’s life and soul. I am living proof.
What is your passion in this life? Where does it come from? Are you working towards a beautiful dream or are you striving to change the source of your discontent? And, yes, these things that you see wrong with the world: that is indeed a holy discontent. Perhaps you feel that your passion is not that big. Not big enough for people to pay attention, not big enough to make a difference. Please, hear me when I tell you this: it is! Your passion is big enough. The small things you do are big enough. The steps you take in your passion are big enough. Yes, they are! Keep dreaming, keep doing, keep stepping.
My passion is born of a holy discontent. A discontentment with a world lacking in goodness and love. I want to find it, highlight it, give it, infuse it. I want to change the world. I want to see love change the world. I want to be a love that changes the world. Let love be the overwhelming response to and result of my holy discontent.
Today, I was asked, “as a favor”, to change out of the cute little capri pants I had on and into my jean skirt. To clarify, nothing was showing. I had a Peter Pan collar top that left covered my bust, decolletage, and shoulders and came down over the waistband of my pants. The capris were dark denim and came down past my knees. The reason I was asked to change? So I could meet the current principal of my old school–where I will be giving the commencement address on Friday evening–and “avoid any conflict” that might come from me being seen in pants. I did it; I changed. I did it because I don’t live here anymore. I don’t have to live with these people and their talk and their (more-than-sometimes vicious) gossip. She (the person who asked me) does and I want her life to be as easy as I can help to make it. But, honestly, I’m angry. I am angry and disappointed. Not at the person who asked me but at the fact that she felt like I had to be asked to do this. I am insulted by the very idea that my worth or the validity of my faith or my respectability could be compromised by an article of clothing. Could be questionable in the eyes of someone who has never even met me, simply because I showed up in their presence wearing pants instead of a skirt. The idea that anyone’s clothes determine their worth or respectability, especially when you don’t know them. This, frankly, angers me to a degree that I cannot quantify.
What I put on, what I wear, is not me. Now, I know all about first impressions so don’t feed me that line. This isn’t about first impressions. This is about me not being Christian enough when I wear pants for people who have known me all my life but obviously know nothing about me or who I am at all. It makes me angry and makes me sad that this has Not changed in thirty-plus years, and I refuse to be that kind of Christian! I refuse to deny someone’s worth or faith or right to be respected because she wears pants or he wears a skirt or they wear whatever they choose to wear. What I put on is not me. What I do, how I speak, how I act, how I live out what I believe. That is me. A woman came to Jesus with her head uncovered and used her hair to dry his feet after she anointed them with the dearest and most expensive thing she owned. Did he scold her for coming to him dressed immodestly? No! In fact, he told the others with him, who started berating her for “wasting” the perfume, to leave her alone because her sacrifice was heartfelt and true and made out of love for him. Somewhere, somehow, I think that woman knew in her soul that Jesus was going to go through something terrible, and she refused to let him experience pain without knowing that he was loved. Her lack of hair covering didn’t matter; her actions did and still do.
You cannot judge someone heart and soul by their clothing. You cannot judge their intelligence, their gentleness, their faith, their belief, their convictions, their journey, or their capacity for kindness and love based on what they wear next to their skin. What clothes our outside does not matter. In fact, in the New Testament, Colossian 3:12-15 says:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
I believe that we are all holy and dearly loved. We are all beloved of God. What makes a person important, what makes them indispensable, what makes who they are valuable and valid is how they have clothed their spirit, not how they have clothed their body. How that person over there dresses doesn’t make them any less of a person, any less capable of kindness and compassion and love and care, of courage and determination and strength. You haven’t seen how they live their life. Don’t judge them in this one snapshot moment because of what you haven’t seen. Please! The fact that I wear pants on a regular basis as well as skirts and dresses doesn’t make what I will have to say to these graduating students any less true. It doesn’t make my testimony any less powerful. And it doesn’t make me any less respectable, any less worthy, of a person. And it definitely does not make me any less of a Christian.
If you judge me unworthy or less than just by looking at me, then I would dare say that it’s possible that you might have a much bigger and more serious issue than a 33-year-old woman in pedal-pushers.
Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of this year’s Lenten season, the 47 days (yes, I am including Sundays) between what is commonly called Shrove Tuesday, “Fat Tuesday”, and/or Mardi Gras and Easter Sunday.
I am a Christian and yet I have never really celebrated Ash Wednesday or Lent for that matter, not since I left Cayman and the required chapel Wednesday services behind with grade school. Honestly, Ash Wednesday and Lent were never really explained to me, not in a way that I recall or, if they were, remember understanding. This year, however, I have felt a heart leading to concentrate on the Lenten season and, more so, to participate in it. I am giving something up for Lent this year but I am keeping it to myself for the most part. The only person who knows is my husband and I am at peace with keeping it that way.
I am also following along and reading through She Reads Truth’s Lent study through their website, starting, naturally, with Day 1: Ash Wednesday.
Several points jumped out at me as I read through today’s lesson:
- Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance.
- The ashen cross on the forehead is an outward sign of both repentance and hope.
- On Ash Wednesday, we admit our limits and acknowledge the brevity of this life.
Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance. It is a day when our mortality is to be foremost in our minds. That is a hard thing to consider: mortality. The fact that, some day, our lives will be over and the world will spin without us. “Remember, mortal, one day you will die.” Those would be hard words to hear, even whispered from a soul I love, respect, and trust. As a Christian, they are a reminder to me that, even though my bones will be dust someday, I have hope in a life beyond death. “Still, even for those in Christ, these words are a sober reminder that only Jesus’ death and resurrection could pay the wage of our sin and reconcile us to our Maker (She Reads Truth).” To remember ourselves as mortal is not an easy thing but it remembering that we are only on this earth for a short time makes what we do with that time all the more important.
The ashen cross on the forehead is an outward sign of both repentance and hope. I have never had the ashen cross drawn on my forehead, and I definitely didn’t know that, traditionally, the ashes are made from burning the palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday. I vividly remember Palm Sunday as a child. I remember walking into church with my friends, waving the palm fronds and leaves as we marked the celebration of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem just before Passover and His trial and crucifixion. To see the ashen cross on the forehead as a sign of both repentance, a desire to draw closer to God, and hope, the hope we have in the love and sacrifice Jesus made for us, is remarkably poignant and heart-striking to me. It’s like candlelight in a dark room, enough light to see to take the next step. And then the next after that.
On Ash Wednesday, we admit our limits and acknowledge the brevity of this life. Acknowledging my limitations can be very hard for me. Admitting that there are things that I cannot do, outcomes I cannot affect can often leave me feeling helpless and useless. But that is not the truth. The truth is that I need to lean on and let God be God in those moments and situations. My job is simply to obey and do all that I am called or led to do; God handles the rest, that is His job. Human life may be brief but I have seen God bring about amazing things through people who dare to admit their limits, give their work and what they have into His hands, and see what wonders He will work with it.
So, as I go through this Lenten season, my goal is to strengthen my connection with God. To be more intentional about spending time in the quiet, listening to and for Him. To see what I am giving up as a step to a better path, to look for grace in the situations that arise (the giving and receiving of it). To acknowledge my limits, give the Lord what I have, and get out of the way.
At the 2015 Global Leadership Summit, one of the presenters was a gentleman by the name of Horst Schulze. Horst Schulze–a man of adorable demeanor, inspiring passion, and an endearing German accent–is the founding president and former COO of the Ritz-Carlton group and currently chairman and CEO of Capella Hotel Group. He is intensely passionate about what he sees as his mission: caring service in his industry.
“You are partially defined by the work you are doing and by the reputation of the company you work for.”
If I am defined by the work I am doing, then how am I defining myself and how am I affecting the reputation of One I work for? Is my life, my work, living up to the reputation of the God I claim to work for and serve?
Over the past few years, I have had some people tell me how surprised they are by my desire and determination to live out Jesus’ command to love God and love others. No rules or conditions, just to love. What dismays me is that this experience brings back to me again and again just what a reputation does the Christian religion have for people to be so surprised by a Christian choosing simply to love. For it to be such a surprise for me to try to meet people as they are and show kindness and grace and love, the same that has been shown to me. It’s obviously a reputation I don’t like. I don’t want the reputation that belongs to the religion. I want the reputation that belongs to Jesus. I want my work to define me as a lover of God and a lover of people.
I shall try to see if I can put my other thoughts and musings from this past weekend into words but, for now, I think this is a good place to start.
Some people would probably say that a “good” Christian doesn’t question God. Well, if that’s the case, I’m fine with the “good” left permanently off any description of me as a Christian, because I most certainly do question God. However, it might not be in the vein that you are expecting. I don’t question God and cry out, “Why is this happening to me?” No. I did that before and I got my response, so that’s not a question I need answered anymore.
No, what I ask is: “Why is this happening to them?”