Just this week, a hurricane has hit my home state, a virulent racist who committed terrible crimes was pardoned from receiving any consequences, transgender people were banned from the military, and North Korea launched a missile. Then, in the face of this, a huge (if unsurprising) list of evangelical leaders released the Nashville Statement, a horrific, homophobic statement that is the antithesis of the gospel of Jesus.
It’s been a year since I got home from the Race, moved across the country, and thought my life might get a little more normal. I thought this would be the year of staying still. The year of doing dishes.
But there’s too much to hold in my arms.
Instead I have been wandering through the borderlands between doubt and faith, wondering if the space in my chest I call Christianity can be reconciled with justice, truth, love. Gospel.
The last time I went to the dentist, he asked if I bite my cheek. On the inside of my lip there is a calloused place, a worry stone where I clamp my teeth when I get nervous, which is often. If I don’t stop biting there, it will harden and never heal.
This is not the blog I should be writing today. I should have something intelligent to say about the Nashville Statement. I should write about the very real consequences of homophobic theology on the lives of queer people.
But it feels like there is nothing else I can say that will change anyone’s mind.
If you can’t affirm the humanity of LGBT people, you can’t see how homophobia and racism go hand in hand, and you can’t see how white supremacy leads to neglect of the poor, and the orphan, and the widow, and the refugee, and you can’t see how theology kills in myriad ways but from the same demonic root. Start from anywhere you want: a labyrinth always leads to the same place.
Instead, I can only talk about what I learned. This year I learned just how fragile my arms are, how a still body doesn’t make a wandering heart any better.
I worry about a lot of things.
I worry about whether any of The Youths hear me. I worry about being a lesbian in leadership at a church I don’t know very well, in a place I don’t very well. I worry about my car flying off the I-90 bridge into Lake Washington.
I worry about my appearance, especially in the South, especially that I look too gay. I worry about what I’m going to do, after this new year is over. I worry that I’m called to ministry and I’m doing the wrong thing by getting an MFA instead of an MDiv right now. I worry that I’ll never change the mind of a single person I love, someone who might love me but not what they think is my sin.
Texas is a place that fits so strangely now: when I’m home a strip of me feels exposed, a tender place I’m used to keeping covered.
In August I drove up and down the highway with the people who know me best, the bright gold sunset streaking orange across the sky, my body rolling over the blacktop somewhere between our Texas towns, somewhere between who I used to be and who I am still becoming. My friends’ cars smell like plants, like leather, like motor oil, like the decade’s worth of memories we have between us. Like home.
This is what I miss, in Seattle where the air never smells like mesquite smoke.
What did I learn this year, that I never did in Texas? How to dress in what I like. How to drive a car while crying. How to make good coffee. How to kiss. How to cook for sixteen. How to talk to one very specific group of teenagers, maybe, on a good day.
In this year, I lived with three other people and left our town only a handful of times. From the bed I slept in almost every night, I memorized the sound of Jon and Timothy’s doors closing, and how Hilary breathes when she sleeps. I drove to the same place every Sunday with two dozen donuts, rain or shine, and tried to listen as much as I talked.
What else did I learn? The tender place that feels so vulnerable in Texas is who I am when I feel comfortable in my own soul.
Here’s the good news of the gospel: Jesus has still died and been resurrected, for me and for many. God is still God, not John Piper. And God is love. God’s very essence is love.
This is a lesson all the travel in the world has taught me, from sunrise over Victoria Falls, to Peruvian mountain tops, to cold, salty seawater in the Pacific off the Olympic Peninsula, to the night sky over Texas after a storm clears, when it feels like the whole universe is close enough to touch.
So my queer body, my anxious mind, my wandering soul: I am holding on to that one bright hope.
God is a seed, I wrote around this time last year. I still believe that. I learned how to nurture the soil this year. I learned how to let my heart be a garden in which God can grow.
I will water my garden with the tears I shed for my LGBTQ siblings, and I will wait for the Spirit to move. This year I will reap what I sow.