Tag Archives: Redemption

Gay Parents or No Parents. What’s Better?

holding-hands-380x252Like being a hair stylist or a bar tender, when you work in retail cosmetics people tell you their stories. It’s amazing to me sometimes how compelled people seem to be to talk when I have them in my chair. I’ve had people weep, spill their deepest secrets, and talk all kinds of crap about their next door neighbor. You get used to it after a while.

Last week I had an interesting one. I say interesting for several reasons… I was working with a woman who I guessed to be nearing 60. She was a kind, soft-spoken woman who struck me as being a little overwhelmed in her surroundings. It was no surprise to me at all when a conversation about her skincare turned into a conversation about her daughter who was going through a divorce. She felt her daughter was making a bad decision and was concerned for both her child and her soon to be ex-son in-law, whom you could tell she loved very much.

After that she went on to lament how the world was changing. She took a long glance around the store I work in and then quietly asked if I work with many gay men. It’s important to understand that I live and work in a small town. This small town is pretty liberal in its views– to an extent. But at the end of the day it’s still a small town and the majority of the people here are senior citizens. I replied that yes, having been with the company for nearly six years I had worked with quite a few gay men. She commented on how places like my store and salons always had lots of gay employees, and then with a look of plain confusion admitted that the gay men who’ve cut her hair had always done the best job. I was doing my best not to chuckle and agreed that I’ve had many male co-workers who are amazing artists.

I could see in her face that she had more to say and just about the time I thought she’d decided against it she stepped closer to me and her thoughts just started pouring out. She told me that she is a social worker and deals with the placement of foster children. A lot of her job has to do with monitoring how a child is doing in their foster home and sometimes seeing to the details of adoption when the fostering goes really well. She was particularly concerned over a set of parents she would be meeting in a couple of days, gay men, who were fostering a little girl who had been removed from a heartbreaking abusive home. It was clear without her having to say the actual words that her moral compass dictated that she believe there was no way that this gay couple could be good parents for the little girl, the trouble was that all reports were to the contrary. Everyone she spoke to who had visited the couple couldn’t say enough about how much these men love that little girl and how well she was doing in their care. There was nothing but praise for their parenting.

As she spoke I could see the battle going on in her mind. Her face showed how she was weighing her genuine desire to see children safe and happy against her understanding of truth.  Right and wrong as she understood them were colliding in a way she didn’t know what to do with and were causing her to pour her heart out to a sales girl in a makeup store.

As I listened and wrestled with my own questions I felt compassion for this woman and grateful that she was wrestling too and not just making hard and fast decisions. Once she’d finished talking I asked  for myself as much as for her, “You said the little girl came out of an abusive home, can we trust God enough to believe that it’s better for her to be loved by two gay men than to be abused by a straight couple?”

In the moment I had forgotten where we were, that she was a client– we were just two people having a conversation about very real things in our world. As soon as the question was out of my mouth, however, I remembered and I was a little nervous that this was a little more than she’d bargained for out of her trip to buy cosmetics. Fortunately her response was one of gratitude, relief even. Maybe she just needed someone else to ask the question, I don’t know, but we both walked away liking one another better and with something to think about.

I’ve been thinking about it for a week now, actually I haven’t been able to get it off my mind.

It’s interesting to me that the conversation happened at all. If she’d have gotten pretty much anyone else in the store to help her and had that conversation the chances high that she would have offended them. So I just wonder why, knowing nothing about me personally, she felt safe to talk? I can only assume that it was God.

I haven’t been able to get that little girl off of my mind and a couple of nights ago as I was thinking about her and the whole situation God brought a new question to my mind.

“I can use all things for good. Can you consider that maybe I am using the love of two fathers to teach my child who I am?” 

I can’t imagine being a little girl in a world where the mother and father you are born with aren’t the anchors of love and safety they are meant to be, but instead are the cause of pain, fear, and abandonment. It is humbling and powerful for me to realize that maybe for the hurt she has suffered, the love and protection of two fathers is exactly what she needs.

I believe in a God who can use all things for good. Because He is God.

This understanding doesn’t change my ethics when it comes to sexuality, but it does change my heart for the way that we, as followers of Christ, view the bigger picture and how we relate to other people. Whether or not that gay couple adopts that little girl, they have made an impression on her life for love. What will it say to her about God as she grows if His followers are dead set on condemning the people who showed her kindness and protection when she needed it most? The answer to that question bothers me.

This is a challenging place to be in, it’s a challenging way to force myself to think, and yet, I have to. I have to believe that we can do better than we’re doing.  I’m not suggesting that we give in, or that truth doesn’t matter.

We need to be careful to focus on individual people, not categories and labels. There is no universal solution to a problem based on categories or labels, only individual solutions to individual problems based on individual people. It is a lot harder and messier, but it is the only way to be loving. In the thick of things it’s easy to lose sight of the actual lives involved. I see it happen all the time– a lot of Christians seem to want to think that because only families made from married heterosexual couples are “real” families and so all of the pseudo “families” out there can’t possibly have real bonds to one another and we become disconnected to their real human feelings, we don’t empathize with the fact that from where they’re sitting it sounds like we’re determined to tear their families apart. When we make a habit of categorizing people and giving them labels instead of relating and engaging with the people, we dehumanize them and justify treating them as though they have no feelings.

We also need to consider that if we’re going to be opposed to a solution, such as gay couples adopting and fostering when there are SO many children who need safe homes, then we have to have an alternative solution that we personally help make happen. We have no right to kick and scream when gay couples foster and adopt when we aren’t doing anything ourselves to solve the problem of parentless children. Remember, “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for Me.”  The problem it’s easier to fight other people’s solutions than to find them ourselves, and I think in doing that we’re missing the entire point.

Through it all we can’t lose sight of truth, which means actually and actively seeking it. It’s hard work, it means not only investing in our relationship with God, but being invested in relationships with others and it will cost us everything we have, but it’s worth it. The problem with our culture is that people want everything to be not only black and white, but black and white all the way down the column–  If you think same-sex attraction is a sin then you’re anti-gay marriage, anti-gay fostering and you don’t want any gay people (even chaste ones) in your church. Likewise, if you think it is ok for gays to adopt then you can’t possibly believe what the bible says about sexuality and that you must completely condone homosexuality. The thing is nothing, not people, not issues fits into these black and white standards and we miss what God is actually doing when we try to force them.

What it all comes down to is that we can’t allow a desire to affirm the good in a bad situation turn into a willingness to let what is merely good not be better. We have to let what we believe speak through our actions, we have to know what we are for and then give our lives for that, rather than sitting back and raising hell about how other people have sought to meet needs in the world around us. This is where we find the balance in truth and love, when we take responsibility instead of casting blame, when we choose to find reasons to relate instead of reasons to draw a line in the sand and choose sides.

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Video Tuesday : Grace Abounds

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Lessons from Les Misérables

I love Les Misérables. The movie, the musical and of course the book. Some might call it an obsession but whatever people might think I am not ashamed. One of the things I love about this story is, it’s a story about God’s grace and the effect that grace has on our lives. Also it speaks to us of the chance we are given to know God in a deeper way by joining Him  in the work He is doing in others.

At the start of the story you see the convict Jean-Valjean taken in as a guest by the Bishop of the town. The Bishop invites him in when no one else would, gives him a place to sleep and food to eat. Protection for the night. Even though Valjean is taken aback by this act of trust and compassion he still cannot help himself and decides to steal from the bishop and take off. The next morning he has been caught by the police and brought back to the bishop to answer for his crimes, he has told the police that he was given the items he stole but of course they do not believe him, he is a convict.When the police present Valjean’s story the bishop does something no one would have expected least of all Valjean. He tells them Valjean has told the truth, that indeed he did give him the silver and what’s more he is upset that Valjean left so early and forgot to take the candle sticks as well. After all they were worth way more than the sliver . After the police leave Valjean can do nothing but stand there amazed. The Bishop draws near to him and says

“ Jean Valjean,my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good.It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

In the movie adaptation the bishop says

“ With this silver I have bought your soul, I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred and now I give you back to God. “

Now do I believe we have that kind of power in another persons life? Yes and no. I know that it is not any power in me that could bring about change and transformation in another, only Jesus and the Holy Spirit can do that. But I do believe that God calls us to sacrificially love others and the change that can happen is often not only in the one we love but in us as well. If you look at this story, because of the Bishops willing act of sacrifice on behalf of one lost , Valjean is changed and goes on to demonstrate that same kind of sacrifice for others. And with each sacrifice he is changed over and over and becomes more of the person that the Bishop affirmed in him that day. This is why I believe God allows us to be a part of what He is doing in the world. He doesn’t need us, but because He is a God that longs for relationship He wastes nothing and uses everything to draw us closer to Himself.

In this post from a few days ago Katie talked about how God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation and I believe this is what it can look like. Our actions affect the world around us.The Father is inviting us to join Him in what He is doing in the lives of those around us as well as growing in our relationship with Him.

We are Christ’s ambassadors , 1 John 4 says “ No one has seen the face of God, but when we love each other God’s love is made complete in us” How could we not take every chance to show that to the world? But maybe a  better question is , how could we allow ourselves to be vessels of God’s love without being touched and changed by Him? I don’t think it’s possible.

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Wholeness is brokenness owned and thereby healed. – Sister Barbara Fiand

Great Quote!

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The Compassion of Jesus.

Just a little Brennan Manning for you tonight. Shared with me by my wonderful friend Ricky. (thanks man!) Listen, be blessed and share with the world. The Compassion of Jesus.

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Great quote of a quote

I’ve been re-reading Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust, A Raggamuffin’s Path to God .I love everything that Brennan Manning has written, but this is one of my favorites. During this season of my life I feel like his words in this book are keeping me sane. Anyway,  in this post I wrote about not dissecting our lives into the parts that are pleasing to God and the parts that we want to leave behind because Jesus came to make all things new, and it’s our life as a whole that brings glory to God when we live in redemption.  This morning I read a quote Brennan Manning used in Ruthless Trust by Henri Nouwen and I wanted to tack it onto my thoughts about redemption…

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives– the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well was the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections– that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.  As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift from God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

 

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Redemption…

I wanted to write this right on the heels of Kristin’s last post… When she sent it to me several days ago I found that it went right a long with some things I’ve been thinking over.

These past several months I’ve found myself really meditating on the concept of redemption and what it really means.  There have been several catalysts to this line of thinking for me, part of it’s been my own life and some has been the lives of those around me.

What I’ve realize is that as individuals and as a church we don’t seem to have a very clear understanding of what it means to be redeemed. We talk about it as though we do, but our actions say something different about what we actually believe about redemption. I found that in my own life I held the belief that God loves me in spite of [ insert long list of imperfections and failures]. But when I read what the bible says about how God loves me and more specifically about redemption, my “in spite of ” list seems to stand in contrast with Truth. I’m constantly trying to dissect myself from my past in order to be presentable and usable by God, all the while scripture is telling me that God not only loves me whole, he wants me with my broken pieces.

Whoa… hold on a second…

One of the definitions I found for the word redeemed was “To restore the honor, worth, or reputation of…” and then looking to scripture I see Corinthians 5:17  “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Revelation 21:5 “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And it hit me like a ton of bricks.

The blood of Christ makes “all things new” not “makes new things”. This means that what Jesus did on the cross, the very act of redemption, restored value to all parts of our lives, including the things that Satan meant to destroy us with. If we spend our lives trying to live in spite of our pasts, we are missing half of the future God intends for us. It’s not through our attempts to be good and pleasing to God that He wants to bring glory to Himself (not that those things don’t matter). It’s our weaknesses and failures, made perfect by His grace, that God will use to move mountains. So we must not try to be someone in spite of our mistakes, the someone God intends to use was born of those mistakes. I know… it takes a minute to wrap your brain around, but it’s true. You would not, could not, be the person God created you to be without having had to live through the specific mistakes you have.
Alanis Morissette wrote a song called “Everything” the chorus of which says and I quote:
You see everything, you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which you can’t relate
And you’re still here
And then Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
How is it possible that Jesus, Paul, and Alanis Morissette are all on the same page but the Church is disqualifying people based on their pasts?
Part of the brilliance of our Creator is that there is no mistake too great for him to give value back to. As individuals we need to take hold of the Truth of redemption and let our whole life be a witness to the power of Christ.  And as a church we must stop standing in the path of redemption because of fear. We need to learn to recognize it and move with it instead of against it.
-Katie
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