The sun is setting a little later in the evening, but it sure is cold out. It must be Lent.
Given that, I think that we, as LGBTQ Christians, need to take some time to examine our theology of loss.
Let me give you a thought exercise: You are thirty years old. You have been a soldier, a CEO, a grave digger, had every sort of experience and adventure. You’ve been around the world. You look around see your friends from high school, from college, from the Army, and where are they? They’re married, they’re having children, they’re buying houses, they’re settled in the world.
You, on the other hand, are splitting time between your mom’s house and your 21-year-old brother’s house so neither gets tired of you hanging around. Maybe you do a little contract work, maybe you even have a part-time job. You apply to between three and seven jobs a day, and maybe you get an interview every couple of weeks, but if we’re being real you’ve got nothing permanent and not much hope of permanence.
You’ve become the kind of person who uses all those amazing abilities and leadership skills you developed out in the world to avoid offending your brother’s 20-year-old business major housemate with your sloth.
And hey, it’s not like you’ve done nothing.
You’ve worked with your community to make a handful of concrete changes in the world. You’ve dated some amazing and attractive LGBTQ folks. You’ve had your moments in front of the eye of the camera, telling your story to the world. You’ve been the first person like you to hold some position.
That’s all in the rearview now. What does any of it mean when you’re sleeping on a couch?
So much of LGBTQ Christian theology is focused on acceptance, on combating the message that we’re sinful, that we shouldn’t be the people we are. I’m certainly not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with being gay or trans, but what does our theology have for us after the rainbow flag waving celebrations are over when you still can’t find a job? What about when no one wants to date you because you’re a broke transsexual?
What can theology offer when all the big picture progress in the world doesn’t mean you’re ever going to have a safe, comfortable life?
I’ve been reading the history of the first world war over the past couple of weeks, and one point the author makes over and over is that because we, by and large, only have the narratives of the people who got out alive, it is temptingly easy to ignore the millions of young men who were ground into nothing between those trenches.
Where is Christ for those who drowned in rain-filled shell holes or had their lungs burnt out by mustard gas? Where is Christ for those squads of men wiped out all at once when a shell fell into their dugout?
I suppose the grimness of reality is no secret. As St. Paul said in Romans 8, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly eagerly awaiting our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
As the saint talks about the redemption of our bodies, I can’t help but think about the redemption of our lives.
Not just some moralistic reorientation, but our lives being made into good, useful things—things with meaning, things full of love. When you’re stuck, how eagerly do you await your life being something with meaning?
How eagerly do you await the time when you can go to sleep at night beside someone who loves you, sure in the knowledge that you’ve done a solid day’s work, that you’ve built something that will last into the future? You say to yourself, “When will God put me to work?”
The saint continues, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God forknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Well that’s terrifying. It is something to hear that the Lord God Almighty has a plan to make you into a homeless truth-teller who will be tortured to death by the state. What do we do? Do we resign ourselves to being without houses, without husbands or wives, without children? Can we accept that the love of God is simply better than those things, that because God loves us we don’t need them?
Lord, where will we find the strength for that?
The saint tells us, “If God is with us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” He continues:
Christ Jesus who died- more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I guess that’s the answer. I guess that it doesn’t matter what we face or what we loose because no fortune, no earthly love, no family will ever increase or decrease the love that the Lord has for us. No matter what comes or what fails to come, no matter how our hearts are broken or what horrors we face, Christ will not leave us.
All of the ugliness and lies the world can dump on trans people, Christ is more powerful.
All the cold and loneliness, Christ can overcome it. All the bleak future, Christ can light it.
Oh Love, give me the strength to stay faithful to you.
Photo via flickr user Al Crompton