February 20, 2009

Revisiting Forgiveness

Well, back in November of 2007, I wrote a piece on forgiveness and here I am writing about it again. Why, you ask? Because I find myself in the position of resisting forgiveness more than I have in a long time.

I wrote back then about forgiving mostly people that I didn't know or care about. However, I am finding that it's when people you love deeply hurt you that you are truly tested in your ability and willingness to forgive. Forgiving seems a lot easier when it's abstract.

Ah, but the Lord never said it would be easy to forgive, now did He? He also didn't say to only forgive those that don't know any better or those who aren't Christians. He said to forgive everyone.

The people who don't know Jesus completely get a "glazed over" look when you talk about forgiveness. They act like you're crazy to forgive someone for hurting you so badly. They want you to punch the person or slash their tires or something. Heard any good Carrie Underwood songs lately? Actually, if you've heard any amount of Country/Western songs, they seem to have a high proportion of revenge songs!

I guess it's times like these when I have to really look at all that I have been forgiven for. There are so many times I have let God down. So many times I've disappointed Him. He forgives me every time. He forgave me before I was born!!! Now, that's forgiveness. Wow.

It may take me a while to get to a place of total forgiveness for the hurts I've been through, but I am working every day to become a more forgiving person. I may not become all that I want to be in this area until Jesus comes back for me, but I'm certainly going to ask Him to help me to get as close as possible to this goal. It may not make a difference to the people who have hurt me, but it can only make me a happier, healthier person. That will make a difference to people I come into contact with.

Isn't that what matters most? Showing Jesus to a world who doesn't understand Him?

February 18, 2009

A journey toward more understanding with my parents

When I first came out 15 years ago, my parents were less than helpful. My mother said, "You KNOW what the Bible says!?!". Thus started the journey.

Over the years, my parents have become more and more understanding that this isn't a phase I'm going through. My sexuality isn't a result of their parenting skills. More and more, they have started treating Erica as a member of the family. This is something that I never thought would come to be! While they still maintain that they don't "condone" our relationship, they have begun to love us as parents should do...unconditionally.

Today was a beautiful example of that unconditional love. Recently, Erica and I have had a falling out with our church family of 10 years. It's been painful, to say the least. I phoned my mom yesterday to tell her what was happening and asked for her prayers for the situation. My dad, who doesn't call me often, called me today. He said he just wanted to make sure that I knew that I did nothing wrong and not to be down on myself for the failure of our relationship with the church. This is a gay-predominant church, mind you! My dad could have said that we didn't belong there anyway since they teach that being gay is okay with God. He could have said he hoped that I had come to my senses. He could have said a lot of things that would have hurt me. What he did do, though, was affirm my ability to discern God's best for Erica and me. What a refreshing and loving act! It truly touched me and I'm grateful that God gave me the parents He did. They are one of a kind.

I don't know what Erica and I will be doing as the days pass and we choose what church or fellowship we will be a part of going forward, but I do know that my parents will be supportive of our decision and will be there for us. It's a good feeling.

February 16, 2009

What Can Be Learned From T.D. Jakes' Son's Arrest?

From the Dallas News:

The son of Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter’s House, faces a charge of indecent exposure related to an incident in a southern Dallas park last month, Dallas police said.

Jermaine Jakes, 29, is accused of exposing himself in front of an undercover Dallas police vice detective at Kiest Park, near West Kiest Boulevard and South Hampton Road, on the night of Jan. 3, police said.

Over at Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway weighs in with a very thoughtful essay. Here's an excerpt:

Young Jakes grew up in a church that condemns homosexuality, and in a culture which is quite homophobic. People who don’t have the personal freedom to be out often turn to less legitimate outlets for sexual contact. In this case, a public park. The overwhelming majority of people who are picked up in these kinds of sweeps are those who claim to be heterosexual, and most of them are married. They are desperate to conceal their homosexuality, which is why anonymous sex in public parks is so appealing to them. Take away the need to conceal, and the public sex will diminish drastically.

This isn’t to excuse what Jermaine did, but it does explain a lot why he and others like him do what he did. I hope he takes this episode as the impetus he needs to break free from his trap. After all, what is there left to conceal now?

This continuing condemnation and rejection is toxic. It entraps people who don’t experience the safety of being true to themselves. As long as that continues, there will be more Jermaines making the news. Jermaine screwed up. He’s responsible for what he did. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel bad for Jermaine’s humiliation. He’s not only being humiliated locally where this sort of exposure is normally limited, but his humiliation is nationwide. And that national exposure is strictly because of who his father is, and because of the message of exclusion and condemnation his father preaches.

Which is why I don’t feel sorry for T.D. Jakes. Those are his chickens he’s seeing in the morning paper, each and every one of them coming home to roost.

While I do have some sympathy for T.D. Jakes (it hurts to see your son arrested, regardless of how much your actions may have been a factor), I think Jim makes some excellent points. When people are taught that actually living in the life that God gave to them with their sexual orientation is evil, they often aren't going to grow up the most well adjusted people and act out in a destructive manner.

Hopefully both of the Jakes' can learn the importance of a person not denying who they are and finding their place in Christ in the process.

February 15, 2009

Talk About It

One of the best things GLBT can do to gain acceptance is to tell their stories. Some of the best people to do that with are ones we see every day. Don't take my word for it, though. In conjunction with Freedom to Marry Week, here are two essays written by GLBT activists which support that view.

First, here is an excerpt from Scott Davenport, the managing director for Freedom to Marry:

.....every time I met with someone new, I had to establish a relationship – and ideally an open and authentic one at that. What better way than to share what we have in common, and more often than not that was having kids.

However, as soon as I talked to a new team-mate about my children’s latest escapade, he or she would ask about my wife. The first time this happened, I was flummoxed. Somehow it had slipped my mind that the other person didn’t know I was gay. What to do? Well, I think the first time I just hemmed and hawed and adroitly shifted the subject.

I knew, though, that wasn’t what I wanted to do. Instead I developed a patter if asked about my “wife”: “Oh no, I’m not married. I’m gay. My partner and I have been together 17 years and we have two kids – a daughter who’s now in 2nd grade and a son who’s in Kindergarten.”

The first time I tried this, it came out a little shaky. My colleague stopped for a second (while the mental wheels turned in her head!), and then gave me a big smile and said, “Oh that’s great. Wow 17 years – when did you meet?” And then we went on and got to know each other some more. Somehow, that flood of information – and the fact she could make sense of it all – defused what could be a difficult situation. More importantly, she felt pride in her reaction, and I felt good about being authentic.

After a while, it got easier and easier, which also mattered for me, as these situations always seemed to come up when you least expected them. The honesty also meant a new colleague could trust me, and maybe most importantly, by putting a human face on being gay and being a gay parent, I had chipped away at homophobia.

Ultimately that’s the lesson here. Being honest about who we are and telling our stories – even when we least expect to and even in the workplace – builds a connection in people. That connection tears down walls and builds support. It’s also how I know we will ultimately win the freedom to marry.

Here is an excerpt from James Hipps, editor of Gay Agenda:

It is the responsibility of LGBT employees to help their straight colleagues create a more supportive work environment for everyone. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. For one, don’t conceal your personal life. If you speak in a matter- of- fact manor about your life, then others will take that cue and be more comfortable discussing it as well. You don’t have to be overbearing about it, simply repeating the same name during conversation helps people catch on. You can also help break the ice by placing a picture of your partner on your desk. Seeing a photo of someone gives your co-workers permission to talk. Also initiate conversations that will open up to you answering questions about your partner. Ask your co-worker what they and their significant other did over the weekend. When asked in return, take the opportunity to answer openly and honestly. Opening up dialogue always helps to put people at ease.

It’s important for you to remember, what other’s say about you is really none of your business. If a co-worker wants to speak poorly of you, especially because of your sexuality, they will. The best remedy for this is to lead your life so no one will believe them.

If at all possible however, do be out at work. It will ultimately make your life easier and help the LGBT community as a whole gain acceptance and inclusion. Until we are a nation that sees all people as equal, it is up to us to help everyone learn and understand.

As I've written here before, I don't believe anyone can be all that God wants them to if they do not live honestly. Jesus is real and wants His children to be real. I hope these two essays help show GLBT people how to go about that and why it is so important, not just for the indivdual but for the GLBT communtiy as a whole.