The Uncomfortable but Necessary Process of “Sharing Space”

This summer I went to a concert on my birthday. It was mid-July and the heat and humidity made it sticky and hazy. The concert was at an amphitheater. In the past, any time I have gone to a concert at an amphitheater, I have just bought lawn tickets. It is cheaper to sit on the lawn and it can be a fun atmosphere too. However, this time I wanted a seat and I intentionally purchased tickets with seats under the covering (heading into my mid-thirties might have had something to do with that decision…even though I don’t like to admit it!)

We got to the event early and cooled down with a refreshing snow cone. We started to see the clouds rolling in and it looked like rain was on the horizon. We found our seats and I was so happy to have a chair and a roof covering our heads. When the concert started, the place filled with beautiful music and singing.

I had purchased seats at the end of the row so I didn’t have to feel squished or “stuck” in the middle. I felt pleased with my seat selection and was thoroughly enjoying the concert. And then…..it started pouring rain along with thunder and lightning….

I turned around and saw hundreds of people standing on the lawn with no shelter. I felt bad for them. But I must admit, I also felt a little prideful because I had made sure to purchase a ticket that gave me a seat under the covering and maybe if they had done that too, they wouldn’t be soaking wet on the lawn.

Within a few minutes, the ushers were calling the people on the lawn to come into the aisles under the covering. Hundreds of people filled the aisles and suddenly I no longer had an “aisle” seat. I felt pretty squished and crammed and I’m sure everyone else did too. It felt uncomfortable. They were all wet and dripping water everywhere. I was distracted from the concert and just focusing on how uncomfortable it felt.

And then I stopped and really looked around. I was having one of those moments in life where something simple or inconvenient takes on a deeper meaning and purpose. I felt like this situation was representative of how we should all treat each other. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, single, democrat, republican, handicap, mentally ill, poor, rich, strong or weak….we all deserve a chance to find shelter from the rain and the storm. It didn’t matter if people had planned ahead and purchased a seat under the covering. It didn’t matter that some might have thought the lawn ticket holders were “irresponsible.” In the moment, we all knew that sharing the shelter was the right thing to do.

I realized that sometimes sharing space is uncomfortable. The folks on the lawn were strangers to me, but we huddled in close to seek shelter. I think our world needs to stop fearing the closeness. We need to start embracing the habit of sharing our space (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually). We live in a world now where we are so used to locking our doors, closing our curtains, putting up our fences and closing people out. We are so used to staying within our circle of people that are just like us because it is comfortable. But doing those things puts blinders on our eyes. It creates a fear that people that are “other” than us shouldn’t come close. If we don’t come close, we can’t become stronger together. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, shelter is considered one of the most basic human needs for survival. If we can’t even offer each other shelter from the storm, how can we work through our deeper wounds, like trauma and division?

It makes me sad to think of how divisive our country has become. I challenge everyone to get a little uncomfortable and step a little closer to someone who is not like you. It might surprise you how much you can learn from each other and how healing that can be. Let’s be intentional about sharing our space. And let’s be honest, that space in the aisle wasn’t even “mine” to begin with!

So while we are at it, let’s drop all our prideful feelings of entitlement and just meet each other where we are at. We must stop the judgement. My judgmental thought was “if the lawn people had been more responsible and bought a seat ticket, they wouldn’t be soaking wet on the lawn.” Yes, that is true…but it doesn’t mean I deserved to have shelter and they didn’t. This judgmental thinking has suffocated our ability to be compassionate…it has also made us numb and desensitized.

This judgmental thinking says things like this:

“Well, if the black man would have just put his hands up and listened to the cop, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten shot and killed…”

“Well, if that cop wasn’t so poorly trained and racist, maybe he wouldn’t have shot the unarmed innocent black man…”

“Well, if that addict would just stop using and get it together, maybe they wouldn’t be such a mess anymore…”

“Well, if that gay person really loved God they would turn from their “sinful” ways and be healed…”

“Well, if that parent had just been watching their kid more closely, that accident wouldn’t have happened and their child would still be alive…”

“Well, if his wife had paid more attention to him maybe he wouldn’t have cheated and left her alone…”

And all of those statements sound like this…..

“Well, if that person would just listen to my view and realize that I know everything, then maybe we wouldn’t be having this argument…”

See what I mean about losing our ability to be compassionate? We stand back from a distance and make these judgmental assumptions that bring us all further away from love and freedom. Let’s come close again and share our space. Sharing space and coming close brings more understanding and we all desire to be understood. We all just want shelter from the storm….and lately in this Country; it feels like it has been storming for months.

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I AM GAY: The Church’s Response and How Love Wins Every Time

As the year comes to a close I find myself being introspective and digging deeper into areas of my life that I have tried to cover up and forget about. It hurts to uncover wounds and sometimes it is easier to ignore them. However, those wounds start to fester when not treated properly and before you know it they have spread throughout your body and created bitterness, pain, resentment and fear. It is time to clean those wounds and get my spirit well again.

The source of the wounds… Well, it is not that I am gay and that I am a believer in God. The source is the response and actions of “Christians.” I’m not interested in getting into a theological debate, but I just need to share my real life experience with this.

Over the past 5 years I have been on a journey that I never predicted for my life. I was a passionate Christian who spent all of my days seeking to do God’s will. I also fought constant feelings of not being good enough and feeling the weight of condemnation because I always had some kind of weakness that made me feel unworthy. I spent a lot of time seeking my own fulfillment, self-promotion and worth “all in the name of God.” The church is rampant with these characteristics. And really, I’m not here to put others down about that or bring condemnation; it is actually only natural and part of our humanness that we develop those kinds of characteristics.

Through all my years infiltrated in the Christian community, I never quite felt like the church was a place to be real about yourself…to show the good and the bad. It was more of a place to put on your mask and show your bright smile and your passion for God so others would think that you were so godly. I had a few cherished friendships where I could be real and bare my ugly shame and guilt and work to overcome my weak areas……but other than that, the church was not a place to come to get well. If you showed your true struggles, you were at risk of becoming cut off or demoted from a level of leadership or just not considered as godly.

Anyways, back to my experience with Christians responding to me being gay. I have never previously experienced rejection or disappointment in the way that I felt when I shared that I am gay. I had spent my life pouring so much love and faithfulness into my friendships and I never thought that I would lose these friendships. Yes, in some situations I was probably the one that initially pushed away because I was afraid of the rejection. But others just downright told me I was going to hell and felt like they were the mouthpiece of God and had the right to say that to me. How does instilling fear and shame into others make them want to change or respond positively?! I will never understand this tactic.

The hardest part of this journey (other than losing people that I considered dear friends) has been the fact that I have let other people’s responses separate me from God. I have treated others words as if they were God’s words but I was greatly mistaken. How can any other human being tell me what my relationship is with God? How can any other person determine how God is going to respond to me or what He feels about me? The audacity for other’s to think they are on the same level as God is just mind-blowing. But I used to do it as well so I understand. I cannot and will not let other’s determine that for me anymore. I am a child of God and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves me just the way I am. He is not scared or offended by my love for my wife. In fact, he rejoices over us and He has blessed us with this love and commitment for one another. I know there are some “Christians” that are cringing at these words.

I have had people tell me that my relationship with my wife is just a “counterfeit” from the devil. I think it is counterfeit in their minds because the kind of love I have with my wife doesn’t FIT in their small-minded boxes. I truly believe that LOVE is LOVE and God is LOVE! It really is that simple and yet so many try to complicate it and over spiritualize it.

I think the ones that struggle the most with this are the ones that are still striving and believing that their works for God are what win them favor and makes them superior. This cultivates pride, which also stirs up condemnation against everyone who isn’t living up to this unattainable standard. It is a vicious cycle that is covered in selfishness and never the type of relationship that God envisioned with his children. God is the ultimate Father and he does not require or desire this type of dictatorship or perfectionist relationship with His children. He desires to delight in us, to rejoice in us and to bring good things to his beloved.

Overall though I must say that so many people have embraced my wife and I and showered us with love. We are so grateful to have parents and family who love us with no strings attached. We cherish those who treat us as fellow human beings and not some detestable abomination. We are all just the same. We all fall short and are in need of a Savior and thankfully we have one that reaches out His hands and welcomes us with no questions asked.

The ones who have turned my heart toward God again have definitely NOT been the ones that have sent me various scriptures to try and bring me out of the “lies” and show me that God hates the gays. It hasn’t been the ones that have repeatedly said they are “burdened for me” and worried about my salvation. It hasn’t been the ones that have just shut me out completely and never spoken to me again. It hasn’t even been the ones that say “they love me but hate the sin.” All of those kinds of people create an “us vs. them” mentality and they always put me on the losing side.

In contrast, it has been the ones that wrap me up in their arms….the ones that have not been afraid to get close to my “messy and controversial situation.” These are the ones that have been like Jesus….when he wasn’t afraid to go over and touch the leper to make him well. The ones that have stood up for me and protected me from other people’s accusations and reminded them to “check their own sin before they throw the first stone.” I am so confident that LOVE WINS EVERY TIME!!! I’m not saying that everyone has to agree with me being gay, but I will say that the ones that let their love for me overpower their own personal beliefs are the ones that have made my defenses fall and melt in the knowledge that God loves me too. The ones that let their own walls down and searched for their own truth in this matter rather than just following the church’s rhetoric like a mindless zombie. I have been embraced by love and by those who have been the hands and feet of God. I am so grateful for the fearless few who have been there for me in this way. I know God has used them to restore me and give me the strength to seek Him despite not being welcomed in most of “His” churches.

Throughout this journey I have concluded that these are the truths that God sings over me:

Nothing can separate me from His love

He is for me and not against me

I challenge anyone reading this to let your religious blinders fall to the ground and consider what love can do.  “Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.”