Originally posted on June 9, 2012
I have so much doo-doo going through my mind right now that I don’t think my fat sausages can keep up on the keyboard. I may jump around a bit, but I’ll try to keep everything as concise as possible.
First of all, I’ve been dying to write something serious for a while. But starting serious and staying serious is impossible for me. Seriously.
Secondly, I’ve been sitting on a plane with three hours to kill on our way to Iowa for my 20 year reunion. The kids are with me. I intended to use this time to write something for the “Serious Reese Stories” category of our blog, but I’ve had complete writer’s block. I hate that. Usually I don’t have a problem knocking something out, but this time has been different.
Until this precise moment. But I need to backtrack now.
I will start my story back to right before I wrote the above four paragraphs. You know, frustrating writer’s block, can’t think of anything to write, feeling inadequate, etc. So I said to Self: “Emily, just let it go. Something brilliant will come to your mind. Just close the computer and forget about it for now. Oh also, Emily, you should go to the bathroom. Your back teeth are floating.”
I hate using airplane bathrooms. I get that gaggy feeling in the back of my throat just thinking about it. The Mile High Club? Hell to the no. That will never happen in my world. But since my colon cancer issues, I don’t hold back when it comes to using the loo anymore. I bite the bullet and overlook my airplane bathroom hang-ups. My bladder overrules any misgivings that I may have.
Thomas needed to go also, so we walked back to the Water Closet together.
There was an older gentleman sleeping behind us, head back, mouth wide open; there was something funny about it to me. It took every fiber in my being not to stick my finger in there, doing my darndest to keep away from the sides of his teeth or lips. (I pictured the game of Operation, where my finger would get zapped if I bumped the sides of his kisser, attempting to pull out his uvula.) Thomas saw it, too. He knew what I was thinking which is why he sped up. My kids are leery of me, even on an airplane. I guess they should be.
So anyway, we were both standing at the back of the plane, waiting for the person ahead of us to finish relieving himself, when we became witnesses to a very disturbing (but all too familiar) conversation between two of the female flight attendants. I knew exactly what they were talking about right away. I knew, because I used to talk and think just like them.
My heart sank.
“You know, I always just love the sinner but hate the sin.” You could tell that she was really getting on a righteous roll. The other flight attendant was obviously in agreement.
“Yes! Yes! Exactly! I mean my own brother is one of them. He claims he was born that way, but we’re all born with the desire to sin and make choices.” She paused and touched her heart. “But I still love him. I just hate his sin.”
“Oh, I know what you’re saying! You know, they have conferences and camps that people who struggle with… homosexuality [she whispers, as though it really matters at this point]… can attend and get help with their problems. I mean, they really work!”
First thought: My son, whose dad is gay, is standing right here you self-righteous bitches!
Second thought: Should I step in and say something? I hate confrontation. Will it even do any good? (I was like a deer in headlights. I couldn’t react at all.)
Third thought: Oh my God. I have said, thought and acted this way 10,000 times myself before Devon’s Big Reveal. I honestly used to be them.
Fourth thought: These ladies are such idiots. They don’t even realize how much they could be hurting someone who is affected by this issue because of their loose tongues.
Fifth and Final Thought: The memory of a time that the church Devon and I attended must have hurt Devon tremendously.
I am ashamed by my past judgmental and prideful thinking. The only positive thing about it is that I can understand where people are coming from who aren’t as enlightened as I am now. The following story is based on actual events, with a few of the names changed to protect certain people. Ultimately, I’m protecting ignorant people, as you shall see, but to be fair, they don’t know I’m writing this.
[Side note and slight qualification: Many of you may have limited experience with the Christian church. You may have a difficult time understanding the lingo I will be using. I hope you will forgive me for speaking Christian-ese in my story.]
So here it goes.
When Devon and I first got married, we started attending a wonderfully strong, biblically based, non-denominational church. We both grew by leaps and bounds there spiritually. It’s difficult to look back today and know that even then Devon struggled with his homosexual desires. He seemed so happy, so hungry for God’s Word. We both strove to live our lives to love God and to know Him more. We read the Bible together, learned how to implement godly principles into our own relationship and desired to live our marriage as we felt God would want us to. We were both in love with God and in love with each other.
The thought that Devon tried to fight against the “sin” of homosexuality during that time in our lives never would have crossed my mind in a thousand years.
[Second and hopefully final side note: After Devon’s Big Reveal, I did indeed learn that he had attempted to get help from a Christian organization called Exodus International. This was during this amazing spiritual growth in our young married life. Organizations that can help “fix” homosexual issues are for another blog entirely.]
I will move on with my story.
After a couple of years of growing together in our married relationship and with the Lord, I started serving as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator. The pastor’s wife, who taught and led the teaching and entire ministry, needed a number two person to serve as an administrator and back up teacher. I was honored and flattered to serve in this capacity. Because I was deeply in love with the Lord and ministry to people, I wholeheartedly said yes.
As that year moved forward, the pastor’s wife fell into a temporary but acute illness. I was called upon to fill in as a teacher. The pastor’s wife, Marina, encouraged me to choose any topic I wanted, even if it didn’t follow along with the structured teaching of the particular book of the Bible we were studying. It was quite a challenge for me, but with fasting and prayer, I felt led to teach about something that had always touched my life in some way.
That topic had to do with homosexuality. How ironic looking back on it, don’t you agree?
Ever since being involved in female athletics (in college as a basketball player and coach), I had become increasingly sensitive to lesbian topics. As a strong Christian believer, I was forced to come to grips with “loving the sinner, hating the sin.” In women’s athletics, it seemed to be easier for women to be out with their lesbian selves because it was simply more acceptable there. It was an easy place to be a lesbian.
Many of my good friends and comrades on the basketball court were wonderful people, who also happened to be lesbians. This caused a conflict for me between 1) the people that I loved, respected and relied upon and 2) my understanding of God’s Word and what He says about the sin of homosexuality. Instead of rejecting my friends all together, because it was nearly impossible to be around outward “sin” without condoning it, I formulated in my mind a way to reconcile the two: I would love them in spite of their choices (because according to Biblical teaching, homosexual desires and actions are a choice) and still hold firm to my beliefs. I wholeheartedly believed that I was just as equal of a sinner as they were, but in other areas. If God loved me anyway, He loved them anyway, too. It didn’t mean He was okay with their sin, though. He wasn’t okay with mine either. The totality of Scripture, without taking anything out of context, supported my thinking.
My older friend and mentor since high school, Nancy, had been a lesbian. Nancy still struggled with it at various times in her life as an adult, and openly shared her stories of past weaknesses and victories with me. Nancy was an on-fire and mature Christian and led people to believe in Christ simply by her testimony of God’s forgiveness and love for her. She was very transparent in her experiences, and her life was an inspiration to many others and me. Because of my experiences in women’s athletics and my relationship with Nancy, I felt very equipped to discuss openly and honestly a godly view of homosexual struggles with others. I wanted to take the opportunity to bless others who may be struggling with the message of love from God for all people and the victory anyone can have over sin in general.
[A third side note: That was my background with homosexuality issues. Of course, I was living with a gay man at the time; sleeping with him and having kids with him even. I will never again think that I have an awesome gay-dar. A sub-third side note: My dear friend Nancy has finally officially come out of the closet and is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. I am so glad she’s in my life.]
Once Marina, the pastor’s wife, asked me to teach in her stead because of her illness, I diligently researched, wrote, prayed and prepared my lesson. I chose not to focus per se on just the sin of homosexuality, but instead focused on the themes of general sin, grace, mercy and forgiveness. After preparing everything, I spoke to Marina and ran my outline and ideas by her. She approved.
My night of teaching went off without a hitch. In fact, I killed it. Several women in the crowd came up after the evening was over and thanked me genuinely for being bold enough to speak out about the topic in a loving and non-confrontational way. One woman said that she herself had struggled in her past with lesbian issues and she felt loved and welcomed in our church because of the lesson I had presented. Another woman appreciated the topic because her brother had come out of the closet and she had to face loving him and being strong in her stance against sin. It was refreshing to this woman that the topic of homosexuality was presented in light of Christ’s love for all of us. His death and resurrection didn’t exclude homosexuals. Repentance was the key for all who confessed any type of sin to God.
Now, hold on to your shorts people. I’ve been explaining all of this for a reason. Here comes the most tragic part.
Little did I know, that during my teaching time, the Associate Pastor’s wife (Elaine) was in the crowd that night, completely incensed.
The next day, I received a phone call from Marina. Marina stated in very clear terms that Elaine was extremely concerned about my “lack of balance” in using scripture to somehow portray that God looked at homosexuality as the same as other sins.
“Concerned” was putting it mildly. Elaine was actually enraged.
While I would have liked to believe that Marina wouldn’t sell me out, she did it anyway. I had reviewed the basics of the lesson with her beforehand, she had approved of it, and I had received amazing feedback. I had been very careful not to use just any one scripture in particular, but to use all of scripture to present a balanced approach to God’s love for all people. Never once did I say that God thought homosexuality was okay with Him. The scriptures I used were clear on that. I didn’t use any of the typical liberal interpretations of the Bible regarding homosexuality being okay with God. I just wanted people to know that through Christ, love, forgiveness and righteous daily living were possible.
That apparently wasn’t how Elaine had viewed my teaching that night.
I became extremely upset during my reprimanding phone call with Marina. Marina may have reviewed and Okayed the lesson beforehand, but she was throwing me under the bus that Elaine was driving. Did other people feel the same way that Elaine felt? Marina never indicated this to me, but she spoke in general, sweeping terms about my lack of preparation and discernment. I felt horrible to the core. I didn’t understand why my teaching was apparently wrong.
It was further explained to me like this: I should have mentioned the verses in the Old Testament found in Leviticus 20:13. In that verse, it is explained that any person who commits a homosexual act should be put to death.
This is not surprising, people. There were many things in Biblical times that caused a “sinner” to be put to death. How about “cursing your father and mother” (Leviticus 20:9)? Or the one no one wants to talk about: committing adultery (Leviticus 20:10)?
So, according to Elaine, because of this one example in scripture, along with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), God looks at the sin of homosexuality as worse than other sins. While that particular sin may hold worse consequences in the Old Testament compared others, what about the totality of scripture regarding the fact that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)? Again, it’s not like I said during my teaching that God wants homosexuals to live in open sin, free of guilt and consequences. I simply showed that we must love all people as God does. We shouldn’t place ourselves above homosexuals or judge them differently than God does. If I had used the two scripture references that Elaine had alluded to, I would be judging, not loving and would be condemning, not offering forgiveness.
Ultimately, as a disciplinary consequence (which was how Marina phrased it) for my indiscretion of teaching erroneously the truth about homosexuals and the punishment they apparently deserved, I was instructed to publicly apologize to the Women’s Ministry the following week and correct my stance on homosexuality.
I was really upset, obviously. I felt wronged and powerless to do anything about it.
I spoke to Devon immediately about the situation. Looking back with what I know now about him, it had to have been horrible for him.
He was supportive. I could tell that Devon held back on showing all of his anger toward those who had wronged me. He tried to encourage me to simply get through it and not feel bad for what I had done. He honestly felt like I hadn’t done anyone harm and felt that Elaine was over-reacting and making something from nothing. I could sense that it took everything in him to not call the husbands of the drama-queens and scream at them for how everything was handled.
Keep in mind that in the unwritten teachings of the church, it was expected that the leaders of the church would make decisions and not be questioned. Both Devon and I were fearful to do anything to upset them.
But looking back, how did this whole thing affect Devon at that time in his life? If he had felt hope at any point that his homosexual struggles were being overcome with God’s love and compassion for him, this condemning episode with Marina and Elaine completely quashed his ability to have victory. Had I only known! Had the people in our church only known!
In the end, I did go through with the apology. I really don’t remember how it went. I remember feeling numb and embarrassed and hurt by those I trusted. How had Devon felt? It makes me ill. How could he ever possibly trust those we were close to from our old church? My guess is that he couldn’t. The freedom he needed to be transparent, forgiven and supported in a non-judgmental atmosphere was stomped on.
That’s the end of that story, but now I need to wrap up the fall out from the two ignorant bimbos outside of the bathroom for you.
Thomas went to the bathroom, went back to his seat, I went in and did my business, and when I came back out the flight attendants were busy with the passengers.
When I got back to my seat, I was feeling guilty for not sticking up for Devon, for my kids and for everyone who has to deal with judgmental twats like those two ladies. I needed to deal with Thomas for sure first, though. “Hey, Thomas, did you hear anything that those two women were talking about while we were waiting in line?”
He paused, thought for a nano-second, and answered. “Nope. I wasn’t listening. Why? What were they talking about?”
And so I did what I thought was best. “Nothing. I just wanted to know.”
He’s just a little boy. The boy part is key. He was probably thinking about his Pokemon game and couldn’t think about more than one thing at a time. Most grown men can’t do that, either. All was good in his little world.
I, on the other hand, had something brilliant to write for my “Serious Reese Stories” section of our blog.
And now that I’ve finished, I just want to wrap up my long-winded droning by saying a couple of things:
1) Readers, believe whatever you want to believe: religiously, socially, morally, physically, etc. Seriously. However, think about your fellow participants on this planet before you open your pie-hole and hurt someone who may already be hurting. You never know who may be listening to your words and take them to heart. Just like that bullshit that happened when I had to apologize for my lesson on homosexuality. That hurt Devon. Devon, I know you’ve already forgiven me for that one. I guess I still need to forgive myself.
2) Love people for who they are, what they are and who they will become. Don’t love them so they’ll change into something that makes you more comfortable or fits better with what you believe. Contrary to our narcissistic natures, people don’t exist solely for our purposes and pleasures.
I truly had to learn these two things the hard way. Maybe you will, too. But because I’ve learned it, I’m definitely going to redeem myself and speak up about it when I get another opportunity.
…Especially the next time I’m on a plane listening to two ignorant snags wax eloquent about what they think they know and have no experience in the subject matter.