Let’s Lean in Close and Listen
Updated: Apr 29, 2022
On this day, I feel like I should say something instead of just staying silent. I would prefer to stay silent, however, because the moment I open my mouth about this I’ll be slapped with a label, shoved over to one side of the culture war, have my spirituality questioned, and be viewed with wariness (or pity) by certain people – and if you’re one of those people, you’re hearing clanging alarm bells right now. All good reasons to end this post here, but I’m trying to learn courage and this will be a good push.
I have gay friends. Some of them are out and others are still inside. Some are single, and some are married. All of them I love dearly. Right now you might be focusing on the first three sentences of this paragraph, but please listen to the last sentence. I love all of them dearly. Many of them I have known since college, so we have a long history of friendship that goes way beyond their sexual orientation. We have laughed together, cried together, and talked openly about what it means to grow up in a part of the world that isn’t friendly (and often cruel) to gays and lesbians. We’ve talked about God and church and I’ve watched their pain and witnessed the hurt they’ve endured at the hands of people who claimed to “hate the sin and love the sinner.” They aren’t fooled. They know that there are plenty of people who identify the sinner as the sin. If I didn’t have these friends, maybe I would keep my mouth shut about this. But I have these friends and because I love them I’m speaking out.
I’m tired of this war. I’m weary of those who claim to be defending God’s position against homosexuality. I’m done with hearing about battles and the things we must fight against. There is a line in a U2 song that says, “Stop walking God across the road like He’s a little old lady.” Can we? Please? I think perhaps God sheds tears over how little we love and how much we preach. In his essay titled It is Time for the American Christian Church to Surrender the Gay Marriage Fight, Apologize, & Share Love, Ian Ebright writes:
What would it mean to those individuals willing to share that being gay is all that they’ve ever known, if members of the church would respond by wanting to hear more of their story rather than rushing to tell them its the wrong story to have?
Could it be time to close our mouths and listen? Maybe our gay friends have a story to tell and we should lean in close and listen carefully. Are we brave enough to do the leaning in? And do we love them enough to hear what is being said? It’s amazing what happens when we listen. I have a framed quote in my office that says, “It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know.” The quote is attributed to Doris Bresnick-Perry who was born before the Holocaust in a small town with a large Jewish population in Eastern Europe. Maybe she knew something about slapping on a label without hearing the story.
It’s time to end this war. Time to stop shouting, preaching, and trying to help God cross the road. He’s already crossed it, far ahead of us. He’s leaning in closer than a heartbeat and listening to the stories of those He loves. And He’s waiting for us to catch up.