Did “Love” really win? My thoughts on the #SCOTUS ruling in favor of Marriage Equality.

Today, June 26th, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States gave its long awaited ruling in favor of marriage equality. This news comes as a huge win for the LGBTQ community who have been longing to be seen as equal citizens under the laws of this country.

When I first heard the news this morning, I cried happy tears along with so many who have been hoping for a day like today. I began reading through my Facebook newsfeed to see so many posts on the ruling with phrases such as “Love wins”, “Love finally wins!”, “Love has won!”.

But I was quickly reminded of so many civil rights laws that have come to pass throughout our country’s history and the struggles we still face today. My thoughts went to Charleston, SC, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Martin, Brown, and the list goes on and on. My thoughts went to the exploitation of women and movies such as 50 Shades of Gray that send messages that objectification of women not only is acceptable, but if you let a man use you for long enough, things might turn around. And how so many women are hindered in and outside of the Church simply because of their gender.

And I remembered that laws don’t equal love.

This is a huge day for the LGBTQ community. And I celebrate with them as they revel in the rights that have now been bestowed to them under the Federal Government. But Love hasn’t won. Not yet. I think about the future and while I hope that discrimination and prejudices will disappear, the realist in me says that there is still a lot of work to be done. And the work has very little to do with laws, petitions, and protest signs. The work has to do with how Christ followers will choose to move forward.

The issues we are struggling through as a country are not new, but because we live in this information age, online platforms have become speedy avenues for voices (and arguments) to be heard. The Church has made headlines over the last few years as she struggles, herself, to find where she stands on racism, violence, prejudice, etc. The debates over what God’s Word “really” says have been charged, controversial, polarized, and at times ugly. But here’s what I know to be true.

1. The story of the Israelites demonstrates how laws can change behavior, but have little effect on the hearts of men.

2. Every decision a Christ follower makes is somewhat (if not fully) based on their picture of God. Ask yourself this: “Who do I think God to be based on how I am living out my life?” “Who is God?” We know from many passages throughout the New Testament that God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Everything we see in Jesus from how He ministered, loved, befriended, to who He rebuked and why, to His willingness to go to the cross shows us the true nature of who God is. Do our lives and the decisions we make reconcile with the One we claim to follow?

3. The Kingdom is a Jesus-looking God raising up a Jesus-looking people. (Yeah, I stole that one from Greg Boyd.) Real change happens when Kingdom people get out there and shed their own agendas and put on the Kingdom agenda. And the Kingdom agenda is to live and die like Christ- loving our neighbors and enemies all the way to the point of death if necessary.

This ruling will increase the tension among Christ followers who find themselves on both sides of the debate. But Jesus prayed for unity among His followers. Church, it’s time to really get to know this Jesus-looking God. When you read about Jesus in scripture, who do you see? How did He treat those on the margins? What kind of character did He demonstrate as He preached, broke bread, laid hands on people? How do we reconcile hatred disguised by our political agendas with the person of Jesus?

I pray that this will be a turning point for the Church. I pray that the Kingdom would come and that we would love others the way Christ showed us how. He said that the Father loves like the sun shines and the rain falls. The sun and rain shine and fall on all people of all backgrounds, skin colors, sexual orientations, genders, ages, etc. The sun is always there, the rain will always fall. And Jesus said that if we love the way the father loves, we are living as true children of our Father in Heaven.

Walk in Love today.

Advertisements

on faith.

Yesterday I was sitting in my Doctor’s office waiting for her to come in to see me. I have been to the doctor’s office more times in the last year than any year ever before. I am not a scheduled person, so appointments and check-ups are rarely on my radar. I’d rather be doing anything than visiting the doctor. But this year has been different…

I have been very open about my struggles with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. For the last year, I have battled fear and worry daily. I would love to share my whole story, but it would take up too much space and I want to talk about something else. The main points are as follows:

-I made some major life decisions to correct and turn from some unhealthy things happening in my life last summer.

-After taking some necessary, but extreme measures to get my life back on track, my mind and body started to go down hill.

-After failed attempts to go to counseling, I decided to try medication.

-The medicine sent me into a complete nervous breakdown. I was waking in fear and nothing could calm me down. I couldn’t be left alone and I couldn’t leave my house.

-I stopped the medication and began taking Xanax daily for my anxiety.

-While the Xanax has helped, I have never returned to my old self.

This brings me to my doctor’s visit yesterday. I have been agonizing over this decision for months, but I finally decided to ask her for more help. I finally decided to try a new medication.

I cannot tell you how scary it is to put your mind into the hands of a small blue pill. A pill in a class of drugs which has failed me already once before. What am I doing?

On the wall hanging in my doctor’s office is a picture with a quote. I sat there yesterday, curled up in the chair and read this:

“Faith is not thinking God can. Faith is knowing God will.”

Um, excuse me? I beg to differ!

For anyone out there battling with faith and doubt and worry and anxiety and all of the “what ifs”, hear this. Faith is not a measure of how certain you are. If it were than it wouldn’t be called Faith…it would be called certainty. I have no idea how my body will react to this new medication and I am scared!!!!! I am scared because I tried a similar medication already and it broke me. It left me in a pool of tears, doubts, worry, and misery. And do you think I didn’t pray that it would be the answer I was needing? My husband and I prayed everyday to no avail.

The truth is that we have few guarantees in this life. We are guaranteed that God loves us and we are guaranteed troubles. We are guaranteed sunshine, but we are also guaranteed rain. And it’s not God who is controlling or manipulating the hurts and losses in our lives. No, its the result of a broken world. A world infected by darkness, evil, and violence. And we go through fire sometimes. For many it feels like the fire will never end.

I think about my friends suffering in chronic pain, or those who are unable to have a baby. Those who have lost loved ones. And those who, like me, seem to have lost their umbrella.

So what is faith? All I can say on the subject of faith is that for me it means I keep taking steps forward. I might have days of standing still or stepping back, but when I am being faithful, I know it means being brave, keeping my focus on the One who never leaves even when the rain just keeps pouring down. It means doing things afraid sometimes.

This morning I woke with the usual fear rushing through my body. I sat up, grabbed my husband’s hand as he prayed for me and I swallowed that first little blue pill. I took a step. And as tiny as that step might seem, it was a pretty huge one for me.

We shall see what tomorrow brings…

Yesterday was my Birthday, but today is my Rebirthday!

Today is a marked day for me. One year ago today I decided to change my entire life. One year ago, I decided that I wanted my marriage to be more than what it was. I decided I wanted my life with my kids to be more than what it was. One year ago today, I looked at my gaunt, lifeless, battered self and decided I had finally had enough.

The thing about making the right decisions in life is that what follows isn’t always a reward. In my circumstances, this day marked the beginning of a long journey towards health. I had no idea what kind of undoing lay ahead and this year has been the scariest year of my life.

There are times in our lives when we find our security in unhealthy things. These things can be habits, people, misbeliefs… And I had found security in all of these in one form or another. I was headed down such a path of destruction, but was blinded by all of the misleading notions I encountered along the way. I was dying. I was dying physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was hurting and hiding and on this particular day, I decided to change my course.

When I came face to face with all of the ugliness going on around me and how I contributed to the destruction, the overwhelming waves of pain and guilt were almost unbearable. I have lost a brother, my mother, and have experienced loss on all kinds of levels. Nothing compares to what I have gone through over the last 12 months of my life.

But as things die, space for resurrection is made available. And this is my resurrection story… Today is my Rebirthday!

By nature, I want quick fixes. I am not patient. I cannot stand mundane tasks or any amount of time spent on anything that seems meaningless. From the get go, I tried to fix everything in my life at once. I quit smoking, carved out quality time with my family, purged my whole house (and I mean crazy-person purging), signed my husband and I up for marriage counseling, and also tried to get myself back into counseling as well. All of this within a couple months’ time span.

I eventually hit a wall. I had started experiencing panic attacks and this led to a full blown breakdown. My life literally came to a screeching halt. I couldn’t leave the house, couldn’t be left a lone, and I was afraid ALL of the time. Panic was rushing through my veins from morning to evening. I suffered from nightmares and insomnia and there were moments where suicide seemed like a good back-up plan.

My only option was to slow way down. I have never lived such a slow life. I couldn’t read books or even watch T.V. It was just too stimulating for my body to handle. My husband worked from home for about four weeks and my life consisted of allowing time to pass before I could fall asleep and watch more time pass tomorrow.

I eventually honed in on my kids and home life. I had to face some fears if I was ever going to give them the life I wanted them to have. It’s crazy how fast time flies and how slow it can be all at once. While my days were long, the realization of how fast my babies were growing was hitting me in new ways. Days seemed like years and years seemed like minutes.

Everyday I would wake up and do the same things. Every few weeks, there would be a slight move towards progress, but it never seemed fast enough. I wanted to be back to my normal self so badly, but the only thing that would get me there was time.

Sitting here now, I can see my growth in leaps and strides. I am not completely myself yet, but I am better. My marriage is the best it has ever been. My kids and home-life are full of joy. And I have a strong support system full of amazing friends who have loved and cared for me over these last few months. Even in the pit, I have found things to be grateful for.

Now hear me, it’s not pretty. My life isn’t wrapped in some beautiful packaging with a neatly tied bow. It’s messy. And my husband and I still fight and my kids get on my nerves and sometimes dinner doesn’t get made and the pee on the floor in the upstairs bathroom stays there a little longer than I would like, and the list goes on… But that is real life.

And I still get scared. Everyday is a battle, but the battles are being won more than lost. I think when my life fell apart, my prayer was usually that the battle would go away. “Not today, Lord. I am so tired.” But you never taste victory by walking off the field. And in this case, that wasn’t even an option. And so, I am learning to arm myself. I scan my environment constantly and I am ready to kick fear in the ass. And most of the time I win.

What I have come to realize the most through all of this is that even when we make the right choices, even when we choose to do what is in the best interest of others, to be transparent, suffering should be expected. I lost A LOT over the last year. My friends, my church…and my mind. We aren’t promised a life without suffering. In fact it is pretty much guaranteed to us. But we are promised rebirth, renewal, and transformation. Our suffering will never be in vain. God doesn’t waste it. He works in and through it.

So Happy Rebirthday to me, to my marriage and family, and to the start of my Resurrection Story.

Supreme Court, LGBTQ, Rights, and do Kingdom people have a voice on the matter?

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am one of “those” Christians who supports the LGBTQ community. My journey into affirming same-sex relationships began about four years ago. I had just left a very conservative Christian church due to Spiritual Abuse and my Faith was barely hanging on by a thread.

Because of this abuse, I was suffering from severe loneliness and had been for some time. And because my Faith was all but gone, I decided to step outside of what I had thought to be true and attend a church which was not so conservative.

During this time, an old high school friend and I reconnected on Facebook. As we began to catch up we engaged in a few back-and-forth messages where he disclosed to me that he was gay. He was reluctant to tell me this piece of news because he knew I was a Christian and he had been cut off from some of his other “Christian” friends. At this point, I was still believing that homosexuality (defining the terms was completely off my radar) was sin. Essentially, to identify as LGBTQ was just wrong.

But now it was personal and as most of us know, our understanding of God, Faith, and Scripture usually come into question when the ideas we have in our mind don’t seem to line up with reality. And they should. What I thought was a simple, cut and dry issue-“the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”-became so much more complex…because this was my friend. This was my friend being brave. This was my friend trusting me with who he was to the core of his being. And I knew that this identity was attached with years of pain, hiding, and mental/emotional torture.

Christians disagree on the biblical interpretation of the few verses that mention the word ‘homosexual’. And I am perfectly okay with Christians disagreeing on the meaning of these words. What I am not okay with is when Christians disagree on how to love members of the LGBTQ community, particularly when they stray from the example we have in Jesus and begin protesting funerals with obscene and hate-filled signs, when they refuse to bake a cake, and when they insist that “rights” deemed by the state are only for those who believe in the Bible.

I cling to the Anabaptist tradition of Christianity which believes that Separation-Between-Church-and-State is essential to following Jesus. This belief is lived out in many ways and not all Anabaptists agree on how to live this out. But we tend to agree that it is something that needs to take on a form in some way throughout the lives of Christ-followers. With that said, I have chosen to opt out of the voting process. I find that placing my hope in any system that isn’t moving the Kingdom forward is simply false-hope on my end. You can read more about my position on this issue here. But because I live in a world where I am on mission to bring the Kingdom (God’s ideal for His creation), I am constantly faced with the tensions of the social-climate I am surrounded by.

These tensions beg the question: what might be the Kingdom’s voice; what hope or offer can the Kingdom bring to this world and the conflicting realities we live in?

To answer this question in regards to marriage and the LGBTQ community, I think a good starting point would be to examine marriage from a Kingdom point of view. Marriage is a covenant made by two persons to live a life of Faithfulness, Self-Sacrificial Love, and Commitment to one another. This covenant is one of the last remaining covenants we as Christians celebrate and take seriously. I think that if more Christians understood what exactly a “covenant” entails, marriages within the Church would be flourishing. This covenant is a picture of the relationship God has with His people. It demonstrates the “giving up” of one’s rights in order to love and care for the other. Christ-followers are in a covenant-marriage with God when they choose to surrender their lives (setting aside their own agenda) in order to bring the Kingdom to this world.

It’s interesting to me, how subverted the idea of covenant has become among the North American Church. Once Christians grabbed a hold of the idea of a “Christian” nation (which doesn’t exist) we began to cling to our rights rather than sacrifice them. Our merge of Faith and Politics has disrupted the very essence of how we were intended to demonstrate Christ’s love to the world. It is by laying down our rights, picking up our cross, and following the road of suffering that we show the world the kind of love Jesus extended when He gave up His rights, picked up our cross, and suffered on our behalf. This is the length that God was willing to go to in order to bring us back to Him. And when you think about it, it’s mind blowing. It’s beautiful and contagious and attractive and out of this world…and it is also our calling to do the same.

Ouch! Tough words. They are especially tough when living in a society founded on Independence, Individual Freedom, and which birthed the attitude of entitlement among us. But Jesus showed us a different way to go:

Philippians 2:6-8:

Though he was God,[a]
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
    he took the humble position of a slave[c]
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 

It’s pretty clear that entitlements and rights were not a part of Christ’s mission. Instead, He entered into solidarity with us, with our sin, with our suffering and hurts, with our second-class-citizenship status; and continued to manifest the Father’s love all the way to and through His death on the cross. And we see all throughout the New Testament that suffering is part of the package deal. Both Paul and Peter talk about suffering in their letters to the early church, and there is something about suffering that cannot be separated from the call to bring the Kingdom. They just go together.

The promise is that our suffering will not last forever…but that discussion is for another time. The question now, is how can I (a non-political participant) enter into solidarity with the pain my friends in the LGBTQ community have had to endure due to the right of “state” marriage not being afforded to them? I have a few thoughts:

1. While it was practical and beneficial at one time for the state to determine marriage (mainly in protection of women and children), it does not seem to be the role of the state (from a Kingdom perspective) to hold such authority. Christians believe that it is God who joins us together (Matthew 19:6). He determines marriage and we take our vows before Him. Therefore, while the state may continue (the Supreme Court Ruling is still out) to not recognize same-sex couples as “legally” married, the Church can and (in my opinion) should recognize couples as “covenantally” married; welcoming same-sex couples and affirming the covenants made before God.

2. An option for us heterosexual couples to consider as we enter into solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, would also be to abstain from “legalized” marriage, but rather allow the Church (community) to hold us accountable to the covenants we have made with our spouses before God. Somewhere in our fallen human makeup, we gravitate towards laws, rules, and boxes. We find safety in knowing that a law protects us from the consequences of those who break them. But this goes directly against the very idea of covenant. These legalities reduce the covenant of marriage down to a mere legal contract. Contracts are lists of rules and stipulations signed by two parties which essentially bind them to each other. The requirement for getting out of the contract is simply based on one or both parties not adhering to a stipulation. Furthermore, if one or both parties become unhappy, we can simply search for loopholes.

A covenant, on the other hand, is not just the ceremony of taking some vows (although important and beautiful in-and-of themselves), but it is a daily choice we make to take on the committed, faithful, and other-oriented posture we find in Jesus. It is not a matter of slavery, or being locked-in. Each one is free to leave, but that is the point. Cross-shaped love is not coerced; it is a self-giving, self-sacrificial choice to love and care for the other.

By leaving the state out, however, we leave behind the rights that come along with “legal” marriage. This sends the message to the LGBTQ community that they are not alone-that we are willing to take on the same suffering out of free will. The freedoms in which they are not afforded, we can freely give up on their behalf. This is what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. It is to use the freedoms we have been afforded in order to benefit others. It is to no longer cling to the “things” (promises, freedoms, possessions, etc.) that this world offers and instead cling to the promise of the Kingdom.

There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom and it’s time Christ-followers search for alternative ways to live this out in the here and now. I think this begins with the Church choosing to no longer seek hope from a worldly system, but rather seek first the Kingdom of God.