These are polarizing times. Opinions become hardline stances and it can be difficult to see past the opinion and see the human behind it. I believe that we, as divinely loved children, should be on the front lines, making overtures of kindness. We need to be initiating and drawing others into safe places of conversation, listening to the stories of those different than us. There is a time to debate and there is a time where the grandest gesture is to sit at the table and pray that God would open our eyes to see His beloved.
We can follow and unfollow anyone we want on social media. We can listen to news sources that confirm our bias. It is easier to push away any opinions that differ from our own, than to actually sit with it. I read an article recently that said people are more likely to disagree with a written statement, than they would be if they heard the actual words coming from someone’s mouth. As important as the written word is, we cannot see the person’s expressions or hear their heart as clearly as when we are right there with them. I’m not saying it is always easier or that we always agree, but so much can be misunderstood in writing. It’s one reason that, although I really don’t like talking on the phone, sometimes I get so fed up with miscommunication through text (What did he really mean by that? Ooh, wait, how did that come across?) that I have to pick up the phone to clear it up.
This idea of an overture, of initiating those conversations, has been made clearer to me the last few years. Back in 2004, my oldest brother came out as gay. I was just wrapping up my first year in Mongolia when I received the email. It was such a vast array of emotions, the biggest one being deep grief at how things would never be the same between us. The summer before I left, we had spent basically all our time together. Christopher had always been a kindred spirit and best friend. I knew going back, that my family life would be completely different, that my parents would be wrestling with how to respond. I didn’t even know myself how to act around him now.
I wish I could say that we handled it perfectly. We didn’t. There was much hurt and the relationship felt broken and possibly too wounded to repair. How could we reconcile our beliefs with his lifestyle? In a way, being overseas made it a bit easier. I could go on with life and not think about it too much. But it wasn’t okay. My brother was estranged from our family. There was anger and bitterness that we did not know what to do with. And so we did what many “good” families do in these situations—nothing.
Fast forward ten years. My husband and I had just moved back to the United States, and it felt like ignoring the issues was no longer going to work. Not knowing if my other family members would be supportive or not, I flew out to New York City to spend the weekend with Christopher and his husband. I didn’t know what I would say or do. I didn’t know how he would act. Once we got past the initial awkwardness of not having seen each other in years, we sat down for supper at a Korean BBQ and he just started talking–about the hurt and the pain that he had experienced, about our response. And it was hard.
And then he said something that completely floored me.
He said, “You know, Danielle. I know what you think, and I know what you believe. But it means so much to me that you would come here.” And that’s when it clicked for me. Of course he knew how important my faith was to me. But what he didn’t know was how much I loved him. That one moment changed the trajectory of our relationship once again. I was free to love him. So simple, right? But sometimes so hard to get to that point.
This past fall after years of not being home, Christopher walked into our home with his husband and their daughter. My parents and my other brother’s family and my family still hold fast to the doctrinal truths of Scripture, but we have been freed up to love in ways that seemed impossible fifteen years ago. We finally have a family picture with every single family member in it, and I cannot begin to tell you how huge that is. It brings me to tears.
And so I want to encourage you today. Maybe you are known for your strong faith, but are you also known for your love? Are you known to be a bridge for those who need someone to fill that gap? Who can you sit down at the table with today?
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but I have not love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-3