Have you ever looked into a person’s face and felt truly needed?
Sometimes, I look into the face of another person who definitely needs me in some way, but the need itself is unspoken, unfamiliar, uncomfortable—or out of tune with the time and place—and instead of addressing it, I move on to what’s next, feeling something like regret. Have you ever done this?
Recently I met a young woman who spoke about being openly bisexual and devoutly Christian in an unaccepting environment.
She talked about being cornered by those she had worshipped with, and she told me about the day they demanded an explanation from her: how could she be attracted to other women yet consider herself Christian? She didn’t have to tell me that she was afraid.
The preacher in me reared up, but this wasn’t the place for a sermon. I was honored to direct her attention to Believe Out Loud—where evangelicals, Catholics, progressives, mainliners, Unitarians and so many others are empowered to work for LGBTQ equality; where she would find an extraordinary space of welcome and faith; where perspectives drawn from many points under the rainbow paint what it means to be LGBT and made in God’s image, and that painting is vivid and beautiful. I hoped she’d tune in—hoped she’d receive the welcome of her faith together with her sexuality and begin to consider it a birthright. I hoped.
For two days afterward, my chest hurt and my ears rang with the young woman’s story—the preacher was fighting hard to get out.
And then, the same young woman stopped me to say hello. I looked into her face and saw the need there, but I couldn’t face it—couldn’t sing the song I needed to sing and she needed to hear, even though my inner reverend had been revved up for 48 hours, scaling the notes. My ears stopped ringing and my chest went hollow as I searched myself for guts and gusto. I didn’t find them that day, my second chance. I moved on to what was next, feeling something like regret.
Today and until that Day when all people know each other and ourselves to be what we are—beloved as we are made under the rainbow of the holy promise and presence—the one articulated over and over again in our sacred stories, in our dancing, literature and music, in our best personal aspirations, in our irreducible inner light—today and until that Day, when I see need in the eyes of my queer sisters and brothers, I’m going to let that preacher come out, to believe out loud, even when it’s uncomfortable—even if nobody around has ever heard the tune.
How could those who deliberately refuse to love strangers and neighbors as themselves consider themselves Christian?
This is our challenge throughout the Bible (Lev 19:18, 34; Deut. 10:10; Matt 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9-10; Gal. 5:14)? Our love is God’s love, and our love is God’s work—the work God desires, and the work God does (1 John 4:7-8). Nothing and nobody can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39).
Anybody holding up the ultimate articulation of presence in all tenses that is God’s name (Ex. 3:14) has a special opportunity to get it that this rainbow thing is no accident. The flag we fly is holy, its borders transcend borders, its message is God’s own, as are we all, all of us—wanted, beloved as we are made, under the rainbow (Gen. 9:12-17).
Two words embrace the need I saw yet failed to meet in the young woman.
Two words preach the full sermon I’d write if I spent days pouring through clobber passages, translations, prayers—two words spoken sotto voce, the words my friends at Collegiate printed on our T-shirts for Pride, may they fly the rainbow in our hearts when we’re alone as much as when we’re with ones we love, when we’re held close as much as when we’re cornered and afraid, they are holy words, they are: Love. Period.
Photo by Angela Jimenez Photography