The Christian Chicken and Civil Rights

The most recent post my wife wrote on TheLaneyStory.com…come check us out over there!!

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Linds here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-l-windmeyer/dan-cathy-chick-fil-a_b_2564379.html

I haven’t yet written a post like this because A) it’s a vulnerable thing to do B) it’s controversial and C) my personality doesn’t tend to gravitate towards the controversial. I was perusing Twitter on Wednesday and came across one of my old acquaintances. He posted this link about the Director of a college’s Campus Pride and gay activist befriending Dan Cathy, son of Chick-Fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy, with the comment, “we need more of this.” During and after reading the article I found myself feeling strange. I don’t usually linger over feelings but this one demanded my attention and even woke me up at night. Let me explain.

The article highlights that this Campus Pride Director, though he once boycotted Chick-Fil-A, he is now fast friends with Dan Cathy and even attended the Chick-Fil-A bowl as his special guest. My first thoughts were, “I am so glad that civil conversations between these two men took place and are still taking place. I’m a huge fan of people humbly approaching conversations in an attempt to understand people and discuss salient issues.” Really, I do fully support civility, decency, openness, conversation, and expressions of love and acceptance. I do believe that lasting change can be positively impacted by these types of civil talks. I think that’s where it started to get a little messy for me. I know several Christians who posted this article with the thoughts, “we need more of this.” And, I half agree. I think I get hung up on the notion of “can’t we all just get along?” Or, “let’s just all be friends.” This might make me sound like a bad person and I’m ready to face that, swallow that pill, and live in that reality but I have to say, I don’t feel compelled to share personal friendships with those who would oppose my civil rights at every turn. I promise I’m not trying to be dramatic, it just doesn’t feel right to me. If someone wants to have civil conversation, great, I’m game. If someone wants to reach out in Christian love, I’m a fan of love. If someone wants to be nice and accepting of people different from them, great! Me too! I’m just not going to get cozy and be friends. I don’t consider people who think differently than me to be my enemies, but I do consider them to be roadblocks, roadblocks to civil rights, roadblocks to history moving forward, and roadblocks to me personally.

I get a little bit feisty when the issue of gay marriage comes up sometimes. I know it seems like a hot media topic these days, but it’s also deeply personal to me. My wife whom I am not legally married to is the most lovely, beautiful, and important person in my life. She is not a news story, a political issue, or a line on the voting ballot. She is my wife. We committed our lives to each other before God, my family, and our friends and hold that commitment, that vow to be sacred regardless of recognition by the state. And, we are simultaneously being denied civil rights, not to mention over 1,000 benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples. It is a reality we face that if anything were to happen to one of us, God forbid, the other would have no legal rights regarding the “spouse.” If something were to happen to Steph, if she were to suddenly pass, her family could come, take her away, take all of her things, and burry her in some shit-hole in Texas without giving me a second glance. I’ve seen it happen to too many gay couples to be unaware of the reality of the situation. If you thought this very notion spills tears over my eyes while I write it, you’d be correct. We currently have to save up a chunk of money so we can talk to a lawyer, get counsel, and write a will to protect against this very thing. If you think it is painful to check the “single” box on forms I fill out because there is no “illegally married” box to check, you would be right. If you wondered how it feels to be stared at and to have the validity of our union and our commitment, represented by our wedding rings, questioned, it feels downright shitty. And, every year, thousands upon thousands of Americans vote to keep it this way. As stated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”

“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? …Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”

“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.”

I am unsure how to feel, think and act sometimes when difficult topics like this arise. I have a hard time with simple statements like, “we need more of this” as I’m not sure what “this” is. If it’s opening up conversations so that productive, civil communication can occur, I’m game. If it’s becoming ‘besties’ with someone road blocking my civil rights, I’m not inclined to acquiesce. We can get along as human beings, we can talk as adults, we can disagree civilly, and I will still remain profoundly affected by and in opposition of anyone who supports laws that degrade human personality. So, I’m sorry Dan, I won’t have my picture with you until we are celebrating my legal marriage and the granting of my civil rights.

 

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Wedding bliss

It’s just a little over a month now until our wedding. I can’t believe it’s almost here! We’ve spent so much time working on this special event together. I’m beginning to realize that our wedding isn’t just about one weekend and one special evening together with our friends and family; it’s about this whole process that we’ve been through since we got engaged last year.

It’s about the times that we’ve spent planning, dreaming, getting excited.

It’s about our teamwork and discovering what a great team we make in this process.

It’s about listening, listening to each other’s dreams for this wedding and bringing them both together to create something that feels beautifully like “us.”

It’s about God’s strength. A lot of this process has been really difficult for me since I’m a real family girl and none of my family will come to our wedding. This has been a huge hardship for me, but it’s also been an amazing place in which we’ve seen God’s strength rise up in us. (And many blessings have rained down on us as God has gifted us with some amazing people who are excited to celebrate with us!)

It’s about building quality moments that we can treasure forever. Just beginning with the engagement memories and continuing with the many moments we’ve spent dreaming, planning, talking together as we address save the dates and invitations or getting excited when one of our decorations comes in the mail…it’s just been and continues to be an incredible catalyst for learning, growing, loving, and joy in our lives.

I can’t even wait for the actual event! I’m determined to remember all the wonderful things that have led us to that point, and spend a little bit of time rejoicing over all of them on that day. :)

sick

I’ve been sick since Friday. It’s not fun at all. I still have a fever, sore throat, sinus issues, and low energy today. I’m pretty sure this bug needs to move on!

Thankfully I have most of the week off of work anyway! What a great time to rest. :)

I’ve been thinking about peace a lot these last few days, praying for peace, imagining a more peaceful me. Even the thought of peace makes me feel more peaceful. It’s easy to be a person who experiences only moments of peace every once in a while. After all, my world is a hectic, busy, complicated place (not all bad, mind you, but it does have its moments like any other). Peace seems like wishful thinking sometimes. But, I am praying for and focusing on surrendering my heart to peace, the peace that passes all understanding. Because I really truly want to be the most peace-filled person you’ve ever met.

Have you thought lately what having real peace and lots of it would like in your life?

Not the absence of difficulty or business or challenges, but the presence of peace in all of those things.

Lord, fill me to overflowing with peace!

dark day

You know what? Making sense of people’s actions and stupidity and mental processes is a waste of time. The more I think about stupid things that people I know have done or are doing, the more baffled and pissed off I become. Yet, it gets me nowhere.

The more that I think about stupid things that people I don’t know have done or are doing (like that idiotic insane person who did so much damage in Aurora last night), the more overwhelmed and afraid I feel. But, that also gets me nowhere (and, frankly, it threatens the idea that I will get anywhere).

It’s a good thing that figuring out why people hurt other people or make stupid decisions is not in my job description. In fact, God said:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3: 5,6).

Today is a major exercise in this concept for me. I want to think judgmental thoughts about people I know who are doing stupid things; I feel prone to fearing so many things, especially going to movie theaters; I feel tempted to feel annoyed with everything and everyone.

But when I read the verses above, I feel a little bit of the tension melt out of my chest. My desire to fall into unhelpful and even hurtful thoughts lessens. When I keep reading it over and over, I realize just how important it is to let go. I can’t figure the world out; I can’t figure people’s decisions out; I can’t lean on my own understanding. It gets me nowhere.

Trust is what I truly want. Surrender. Hope in His love. When I put my eyes on Him, my dark day gets a little brighter.

there and back…again

What a whirlwind weekend we had in Georgia this past weekend! We drove through the little town in Georgia where we met and used to live, hung out with my brother in the Georgia mountains, spent time with Lindsey’s Grandmama, and did a whole lot of wedding celebrating with Lindsey’s sister, Allison, and friends and family. It was crazy and busy and fun.

And, wow, what a difference a camera makes. :)

The boys are glad to have us back home, and, after a couple of busy months centered around traveling, it’s nice to relax into the fact that for the next 3 months until our wedding, we’re just going to be home, working on stuff, resting, soaking up our summer. We have some great things planned! Baseball games, white water rafting, picnics and fireworks and fun. AND…we’ve got a whole 2 weeks blocked off to become completely immersed in the Summer Olympics! :D Can’t wait!

Traveling this past weekend helped to put several things in perspective for me.

First: Seeing where we used to live reminded me of how far we’ve come, how faithful and wonderful God is, how amazing it is to be where we are in life now. Our short drive through the town brought closure to some things and an incredible sense of joy and thankfulness. That place used to play a huge part in my life (and most of it was not pleasant), but now it has been laid to rest in my past. I can take the good things from it (and, man, seeing our old house was so good! All the wonderful memories together!), but I can also know that I’m not living the hard, hurtful parts anymore; I’m not held captive by those things; I am free to live, free to love, free to move forward, free to believe in God for good things and great purposes for my life.

And it’s awesome!!

Second: Lindsey and I make a really great team. No, it’s not the first time I’ve noticed, but watching our teamwork in action this past weekend was great for both of us. We navigated fairly smoothly through the entire weekend (literally and figuratively), and we stayed connected and encouraged each other and enjoyed ourselves! Only Lindsey and I really know the amount of challenges we had to face in the midst of all of this, and I came out of the weekend feeling even stronger and more grateful for our relationship and the many things we are constantly working on and learning about life and each other and how to live well.

This was serious quality over quantity living, people! :D

Third: God is just amazing. I know that, all the time, but I love it when circumstances in life just showcase Him in all His grandeur in my life.

What a blessing. :)

I’ll post some pics of our weekend in my next post!

Understanding

I read a definition of the word “understanding” on Google today that said “perceive the significance of something.” In other words…become aware of the importance of a detail, a story, a feeling…

Understand.

Yesterday, through some hard work and tears on my part and my sweet fiance’s, I came to the realization that I’m not the most-skilled person when it comes to understanding. Perhaps this is because I’m a pretty caring-good-at-listening-and-helping kind of person (the kind of person who’s been told too many times that he or she should be a counselor…), but I’m also a pretty anxious-needs-to-constantly-have-a-handle-on-what’s-going-on kind of person. Somehow these two parts of my personality combine to make me a overly intuitive caretaker who tends to keep everything at a certain distance in order to maintain control.

Can you picture it yet? ;)

So not quality living, people.

But yesterday, God really opened the eyes of my heart to be able to see this issue for what it is in me: Fear, and its abundance in my life, has produced a lack of understanding in me. I mean, if you think about it, fear has a way of turning a helping hand into a controlling one; of turning the act of listening into an act that is only performed by the ear and the brain, not by the heart; of turning a sensitive, intuitive spirit into a hyper-vigilant, overwhelmed spirit.

True understanding cannot exist in those fearful places.

True understanding happens in the heart.

Fear shuts down the heart.

In Prov 2:2 it says “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding.” And, if fear shuts down the heart, then no wonder I have problems with true understanding! Where there is fear in me, there will be no true understanding. When I consistently embrace fear over true understanding, I am unable to truly see and know those around me, to truly love them the way the need to be loved, to truly trust those who are trustworthy and protect myself from those who are not.

Without true understanding, I am unable to live and love in the way that my heart truly desires, the I was truly made to live.

The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper. Prov 19:8.

Prosper sounds good.

Especially because fear just makes me feel more and more like a shriveled shell of a human being.

I want to prosper.

Wisdom is supreme. Get wisdom. Yes, though it costs all your possessions, get understanding. Prov. 4:7

Sounds like quality over quantity to me.

Lord, give me more understanding! I want it. I want it badly.

Anniversary of sorts

Today is the one year anniversary of my “coming out” post. In honor of my journey (and others journeys), I decided to post it again.

A year later I am reflecting on the amazing love and constant presence of God in my life. I am so thankful for my now, fiance, and soon to be wife, Lindsey. She and I are living a blessed life, learning, growing, changing, hoping, loving, pursuing each other and God with all of our hearts. I am so thankful, so so very incredibly thankful, to be in the hands of my loving God. He is my everything. Thank You, Lord, for receiving me even when others forsake me, for loving me with the incredible love that You do, for growing me, for never leaving me, for surrounding me with Your everlasting love. I will keep seeking You, always. Thank You for Lindsey; she is an amazing gift. Thank You for courage to be myself and for the love that always catches me, always holds me. May Your love hold and woo others like me, Lord. Build the bridges. Show us Your love.

Here it is…

“On Being Gay”

There isn’t any really easy or clever way to begin coming out as a gay person. Something happens inside of a person at some point (hopefully….if God is moving him or her forward in life) where living as 2 different people doesn’t work anymore. The secret life of a gay person becomes harder and harder to maintain. The dual desires inside, the private thoughts and struggles and joys just can’t stay in anymore. Hiding isn’t fun, but as a gay person growing up in a Christian environment there isn’t any choice but to hide. Really, let’s be realistic….one could always argue that I had a choice to tell somebody at 12 years of age when I was majorly crushing on a girl on my basketball team (ok, totally obsessed with her). One could argue that I could have told somebody that if I saw a guy and girl walking down the street it was the girl I was checking out. One could argue I could have told somebody that when I stumbled across a lesbian movie on HBO it clicked in me in a way I knew it wouldn’t for all the other women in my life. One could argue that I could have told somebody when I started falling in love with a girl and I knew it. I had someone tell me once that they believed I would tell them if I was struggling with same sex-attraction. But let’s get serious, when you grow up knowing that being gay is one of the worst possible things you could be, then you don’t even think to tell people things like that. You cringe inside, close your eyes, look the other way, justify that you’re just admiring how skinny said gorgeous girl is, and most of all repeat over and over to yourself, “I’m not gay, I’m not gay, I’m not gay.” When you are unhappy in every relationship with a guy you’ve ever been in, you tell yourself that you just think too much, that it’s not the right guy, that you just need to be a better person…closer to God…read lots of relationship books so that you can understand men and be a great girlfriend and eventual wife…stop stressing so much and just enjoy yourself in a “normal” relationship. And then at some point, you get tired, it gets to be too much. Gay or not, living with a huge secret, living as two different people inside, drains you in ways the human heart can’t go through and stay whole and healthy.

So there was a season of denial that was easy. It was easy to repeat my mantra over and over whenever those feelings came up, “I’m not gay, I’m not gay, I’m not gay.” I figured if I never paid too much attention to that part of me, repeated my mantra if that part of me scared me too much, and never thought about or acted on being gay, then I would be fine. I dated guys….any time a guy excited me it was because it felt so amazing to be wanted, to have someone pay attention to me. I told my parents I didn’t even want to date my first boyfriend, but when he told me how much he liked me, I changed my mind, and dated him for a year. Every time I ever felt attracted to a guy was because I had some fantasy in my mind about said guy that hoped he would be some sort of protection from the shit in my life and a way to feel beautiful, wanted, and validated. When I hit my 20’s things started to get harder. Every one was getting married. My desire to get married, to even be with a guy was getting less and less. At 23 I met a girl who would change my life forever in more ways then I ever imagined. I knew I was falling for her when she would text me and my stomach would do flip-flops and my breath would catch in my lungs a little. She would text me before 5am in the morning when I was on my way to work, and I knew she was thinking about me. Not thinking about me like any of our other friends, but really thinking about me. I started repeating my mantra more….”I’m not gay, I’m not gay, I’m not gay.” When she asked me (innocently as I needed a place to live) to move in to her second bedroom, I was overjoyed. I was already at her place constantly. We were the best friends that two friends can possibly be. We fit perfectly. Being together was as natural as breathing. I knew in my heart that I would always be with her….that she was my forever. Gay or not, I knew it would be me and her till we die. I was relieved to be able to say that I would be living my life as a single girl with my best friend, and our companionship and compatibility would go on forever. I would never have to worry about the hardship of dating another guy or (the worse thing in my mind) marrying one. It was a great set-up because she didn’t want to date or marry any guy either. She wanted to do life forever with me as much as I did with her. And there we were. People would ask me about our relationship, and I would say, “we’re just 2 single people who have decided to do life together forever.” Our lesbian friends laugh at us now. “How could you not have known,” they ask. The truth is the more I did life with her, the more I did know, but I believed if I never told anyone and never acted on it then it wouldn’t be true about me. I believed if I kept it all in then I wouldn’t be gay. God had different plans.

Yes, I’ve been gay for a long time. Yes, denying it didn’t make it not true. Yes, I spent years lying next to her fighting my sexuality all by myself. I never even told her how I felt. I got angry when people would suggest it or ask us if we were gay. I got angry because I was terrified she would get afraid of what everyone thought of us and leave me. I became very good at explaining our relationship in all the right terms so as to answer all the questions, quell the gossip, and calm the fears….my own fears just as much as everyone else’s. When we moved to Denver it was a relief because we didn’t have to deal with small town people and politics. We didn’t have to worry about being seen together anymore, or anyone asking us if we were gay, or people gossiping about us. We could form relationships starting over. Most of our friends in the town we were in in Georgia had already turned their backs on us because we “acted too gay”. We had already suffered so much judgment and rejection and gossip. We were so ready to start over. But being gay didn’t stay in GA where I left a bunch of judgmental people and terrible memories. (minus my school friends, they didn’t seem to care how “gay” she and I appeared…thanks guys)

In fact, the reality that I am gay was becoming more and more evident to me. I kept trying to keep the lid on the “box” inside myself where I kept my secret, but one day God ripped the lid off and threw it away. (I still can’t find it…) It was like all those years of hiding, all my ability to keep it in, was gone. I couldn’t hide anymore. It wasn’t even possible. One of my very best friends, Zack, asked me a question that changed my life and made everything pretty clear to me. He said…if you didn’t have her, would you want to be with another woman? I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would, and I finally acknowledged to myself that I am gay. And I finally acknowledged it to God. Then I began the journey of trying to figure out how I was going to stay alive.

You have to understand that the prospect of finally acknowledging to yourself that you’re gay is more difficult than you can ever imagine unless you’ve been through it. As a straight person reading this, you may think that the world is becoming more progressively open to gay people, but if that is your belief then you watch too many movies and tv show comedies and dramas and you spend way too little time realizing what it’s really like in the world for a gay person….especially a gay Christian. First I had to determine what being gay as a Christian meant to me before I could tell ANYONE I was gay. God is everything to me. I couldn’t turn my back on him just to be in the kind of relationship that straight people take for granted. God had already been planting seeds of love in me though. About a year before I acknowledged my sexual orientation to myself, I met a man named Andrew Marin and read his book called “love is an orientation”. (I would suggest reading it…no, it’s not “pro-gay”…it’s really a book about love and loving.) It made such a huge impact on me. I realized that to be a child of God is to be loved by God, that to be a child of God means that He is continually working in you to do His will and creating you into the masterpiece He has planned you to be since before you were born. This was a great comfort to me. I knew that my being gay wasn’t new to Him, and that he wasn’t shocked or disappointed that I was finally acknowledging it. I realized that it was Him pushing me to be authentically me. That it was Him asking me to be honest with Him, myself, and others….truly honest….for the first time in the 14 years I had been hiding the gay in me. So I started doing a lot of research. I started reading what people have to say about being gay and being a Christian. I told Zack what was going on (he was very accepting no matter what), I told another friend what I was dealing with (she told me I had to make a decision whether to glorify God with my life or not). And this is where I was…does God accept me? Or will I cease to glorify Him if I live as an openly gay person.

I secretly researched these things when she wasn’t around. I knew I had to fight the battle on my own….I had to decide what the direction of my life was for myself…I had to come to a conclusion about my sexuality and my relationship with God on my own. I had many heart-wrenching conversations with God. I prayed, I read, I talked, I emailed people that I didn’t even know who have done research of their own and asked for their point of view. One of these emails changed my life forever. I happened on a CNN article about a pastor in Denver (of all places) who is a straight evangelical and leading a church that believes that people can be gay and Christian. I emailed him immediately. Pastor Mark (at Highlands church in Denver) emailed me back the very same day. His email was full of understanding and love. We emailed some and he connected me with other people at the church who helped me see God working in a way I had felt and seen for a long time, but had never actually seen it lived out. I emailed another gay ministry asking for a mentor, and I was connected randomly (but we all know it was God) to the co-pastor of Highlands church, Jenny, whose story changed my life as well. I knew what God was doing, and I knew it was time to come out to the person I was hopelessly in love with.

We hadn’t ever done anything sexual, anything “gay”. I knew she was gay too, but I didn’t know where she was in her process of acknowledging it. So, I faced the task of coming out to her knowing fully that she might tell me that we couldn’t live together anymore and that she needed space from me. It was terrifying. I remember sitting in the bathroom crying my eyes out, knowing I had to tell her, knowing I couldn’t go back anymore, knowing the lid to my secret box was gone, knowing I could lose the person I loved more than anything. I thought about it being better to die then to live without her. I thought about God having a plan for my life regardless of her response. We were supposed to be getting ready to go to a bible study together. I came out of the bathroom and walked through the living room with purpose…she was coming out of the kitchen, ready to go. I told her I needed us to stay home tonight because I had to talk to her. It took a long time, and I cried a lot. But I knew there wasn’t any going back. I knew who I was. I knew who I wanted to be. I knew that God loved me and that His blessing was on me even as a gay person. I knew it was time to start being the me that I am. And I started with the person that needed to know the most.

Some of you already know that my courage gave her courage to face herself too….to start her own journey of reconciling being gay with her relationship with God. Some of you know that that led to us acknowledging (over time) our mutual love and feelings for each other, and committing (again) to do life together forever this time as a couple. A couple who believes in the ridiculous love of God, and His unconditional grace, purpose, and acceptance for us as gay, as people, as gay people, as children of God. For those of you who don’t know, this is my heart in text for you to read. God is everything to me, I’m in love with a beautiful person, I’m working on living as the whole person I am, I am changing and growing and becoming more and more of who God wants me to be, things are hard and things are amazing, and I’m gay.

I just have to say…

It’s so hard to plan a wedding knowing that the family you love so much won’t be there.

It’s hard having an incredibly blessed life and partnership and not being able to share the joy of it with the family you grew up in.

Build the bridges with your love, Lord, we all need you so very much!