I’ve had a post drafted for weeks about what it means to be the body of Christ and live in true community, but I just haven’t felt like it was ready for public consumption. Every time I’ve gone to hit the publish button, it still seemed like something was missing–like there were words still hanging on to the tip of my fingers that needed time to get out. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, along with some happenings in my own life, I’ve been thinking about community and the state of our society non-stop for the last several days. How did we get to where we are today? What will it take to reverse these trends? What is a true community? I thought that I’d just finish my draft on community to help process my thoughts, but then I received an email from an old friend yesterday that changed my course.
With her permission, I’m sharing a portion of it:
I’m sure you’re surprised to hear from me after so long, but there’s something I need to share with you. I remember telling you a long time ago that one of my favorite things about you was the way you said “I love you” to your friends. It was never a flippant “love ya” or “loveyoutoo” or “ditto”. I always got “ditto” from my dad growing up, but you always said it with intention: I love you. You made me believe I really was loved, without condition. I could be such a jerk (ahem…..especially when I wasn’t taking my medicine…..sorry!!), but you loved me anyway. I asked you once how you loved so much after having such a crappy life, and you said it was because God first loved you.
So what does that have to do with why I’m contacting you now? I know I disappeared and stopped answering messages from my friends back home. I regret that I lost your friendship in my running away. But after watching so many people mourning the loss of life and innocence in CT on Friday, I decided that I need to start living my life out loud instead of in the shadows. I guess I’m starting with you because I can still hear you telling me that you love me, and believing that you meant it, and I’m still hoping it’s true. God wouldn’t want you to hate me, right?
I’m gay. I live with my girlfriend. I’ve known that I identify as a lesbian for a really long time, but I thought I could get over it or something, and I knew it was against my Christian upbringing. I’m still trying to figure out how all of that works together, but I know that this is who I am and I don’t want to be anyone else. When I tried to change, I wanted to kill myself. I almost did kill myself actually just recently. I had stopped taking my medicine for a while because I thought I could do without it, and it’s so damn expensive. Anyway, life got to be too much to handle and I just wanted to die. So I made a plan to do so, but then the CT shooting happened and something in me woke up. I don’t want to live scared anymore. I want to tell my dad that his daughter is a lesbian. I want to go back to church and see if I still believe in God. I don’t want to seek out only gay friends because I think they’re the only ones who will accept me. Life is so short and I’m afraid of wasting it.
So that’s what I wanted to share. It feels good to say it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still terrified. I guess it’ll take time and a lot of saying it out loud before it feels normal. I’m just hoping that I run into a lot of people like you, who really live what they say they believe, and not a lot of people who want to stone me. You do still love me, right?
The first thing I told my old friend when I responded today was that, yes, I do still love her. The second was that my heart aches over the fear that has enveloped her for so many years. We live in a broken world. I know that and have felt its effects as much as anyone. The Adam Lanzas and Timothy McVeighs of the world didn’t reach the depths of depravity that they did by living in a perfect world. My mind can’t even begin to comprehend how they got to the point of mass murder, but I know that they were horribly broken. I have no idea what it would have taken to change the course that Adam Lanza chose, but I know that my friend says she just couldn’t take being shunned any longer. And the more we shun those who don’t believe as we do, the more we argue over politics and religion, the more we hole up in our ticky tacky boxes and neglect to live in true community with the people around us…the more brokenness we create.
I don’t know all of the answers. I know very few answers, actually. I know that I long with every fiber of my being for all of the sad things to come untrue. And I know that that’s only going to happen when God Himself restores the brokenness. Until that time, I know that we have to start living in true community. We have to start loving selflessly and caring for the least of these. The body of Christ has to start acting like it. Christ would not be on Facebook starting another debate–He’d be out there in the community, being love and truth and light. It’s time to wrap our arms around the hurting, mourn with those who mourn, and grieve with them over their losses–not to rant on Facebook about how the government can pry your guns from your cold dead hands. It’s time to put your gun down and hold the hand of a girl who was thinking about committing suicide because she’s gay. Or the boy who suffers from a mental disorder. Or your weird neighbor who is estranged from everyone. It’s time to change course.