Reconciliation: the responsibility of wives too

So a perfect church is not a thing.

You guys, I wish it was a thing. I sit in the rows of my imperfect church week after week after week, and will it toward perfection. But week after week after week, I am confronted with the reality that perfection within these walls just wont ever be. It is a goal that we will never reach. This isn’t to say I shouldn’t try to do my part to get us there. This is to say that perfection isn’t possible for anyone this side of heaven.

Not to mention that perfection is a super subjective term. My idea of a perfect church would likely make my grandparents pray for my salvation. So there’s that whole garbage heap to wade through when we are talking about this topic.

By perfect I don’t mean it has the very best music. The most comfortable seating. The most engaging preaching, or the best weekday activities. None of that.

I just mean that it is the most like church when God’s kingdom finally and fully does come to earth for good. Meaning that from the pulpit we never hear anything that damages. Meaning that it’s leaders don’t ever unintentionally push people away rather than welcome with an open embrace. Perfection in the sense that hope is always perfectly instilled and perfectly realized within it’s walls, where regardless of skin color, gender, socioeconomic background, qualifications… whatever… we know we are God’s children, and we are important and loved and valued just like everyone else. Just the way God love us all.

And its so frustrating, to be a woman in an imperfect church. I’m sure it’s frustrating to be lots of things in an imperfect church. But the only thing that is hard for me is to be a woman in an imperfect church. It’s my claim to pain. So that’s a lot of what I write about. A lot of what I talk about too for those who are unlucky enough to get trapped in deep conversation with the likes of me. I can be… how to say… INTENSE.

But whatever. i’m alright with it.

Anyway.

I was at church this morning and the preacher was talking about bitterness and about how to let it go. I love this topic. Because God has done so much work in me, through this process of releasing bitterness, so seriously. It’s my holy jam. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says forgiven, because I care so much about reconciliation and forgiveness. It’s a very big deal for me.

And the preacher was knocking it out of the park like he normally does. Just saying all the right things in all the right ways. But then he paused to get serious with us for a moment. And he turned the topic to marriage.

Right off the bat I bristled. Part of being a woman in an imperfect church I suppose, but marriage is so loaded for me. I bring a shit load of baggage with me every time I enter that church building. Lots of the suitcases are named marriage. So to brace for impact when marriage is preached from the pulpit is a knee-jerk, and one that I am pretty okay with to tell you the truth. Some great, giant, gaping wounds I’ve had to heal from have come at the hands of the church’s preaching on “godly marriage”.

You guys, guess what he said. That the job of reconciliation within marriage falls on the shoulders of the husband.

I  nearly yelled, “I object.” But he’s on a big screen, so it wouldn’t have done any good, and it would have been totally and completely weird anyway. I did message my friend that very moment, and she asked me what I was going to do about it. Piss and moan was my response. Aka blog about it.

Why do I object you ask? Lot and lots of reasons. For starters, in my own marriage this is not how it happens. Sometimes my husband reaches his hand across the bed, and sometimes I do. Neither of us are very good at it, but I’d say we split this duty, and it makes sense. Sometimes I feel a heavy weight of misery, and I want to throw things across the house. And he breaks the spell by bringing us back down to earth with a kind word or a gentle reminder. And sometime the opposite happens. We carry one another in this holy responsibility, and we stay humble in this way also.

But there was a time when our marriage was in such turmoil that neither of us was concerned at all for reconciliation at all. We walked around in a haze of anger and resentment, blaming one another for the pain and hurt we felt. And at that point in time when my marriage was going down the shitter, who do you think began the reconciliation process? It was me. (Don’t pat me on the back yet. I had less to do with it than you might think.)

I remember laying in bed, and begging God to change him. I don’t know how many nights in a row I prayed that. Let’s just say it was a good long while.

Then there was the night when God had had enough of my whiny ass, and he finally spoke to my request. He said in a slightly annoyed voice, “Maybe you should stop worrying about him changing and change yourself. You’ve got plenty of issues to work on.”

And I was all, “Oh.. um.. I guess you’re right.”

And that’s how our marriage was saved. I just quit blaming him for my issues, and didn’t even worry about his issues (and there were many). And on my good days I still don’t worry about his issues. We just carry on, and bear the load of our own responsibilities and find grace for when the two overlap and cause harm to the other.

So how damaging for the pastor to get up in front of thousand and thousand of married couple and say, “husbands, the job of reconciliation falls to you.”

What about wives who have husband who will not seek reconciliation no matter how awful things get? And what about wives who attend church on Sundays alone without a believing spouse? They’ve just been handed a reason to be hopeless. If it’s really their husbands job and their husband won’t, then what can they do? Just remain in bitterness unreconciled until their marriage dissolves or until they die? And why did the pastor hand wives a free pass? Because I promise you, God is not handing out that free pass.

If you are a wife, and you are not seeking reconciliation with your husband, even if your husband isn’t seeking it either, you are accountable for that. And the choice to remain in bitterness is a sin. And I know it can feel really good to misplace your sin upon another, but just don’t. Your husband has plenty of sin to sort through, as do you. As we ALL do.

And the only person God’s going to accept you misplacing your sin upon is his son. Jesus. Not your husband, even if your pastor says so.

I don’t want to make light of how difficult marriage can be. Until the advent of teenagers within my home I would vehemently say to any and all who would listen, “Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done.” Now raising teens and being married are neck and neck, but you guys, marriage is so freaking hard. And the act of reconciliation doesn’t just happen overnight for a marriage that’s been unhealthy for a long time, but someone has to start the process. It could be a husband. It could be a wife. But however it happens in your life, I promise, it will be some of the most profound and holy work you’ve ever done. So don’t wait. Start the process now, and God’s Holy Spirit that is living in your very body will aid the process. You won’t be sorry.

As for imperfect churches that preach imperfect messages, that sometimes impart hopelessness, and sometimes encourage a disownership of sin… I don’t even know. She means well, this broken body of Christ. And reconciliation will be complete one day.

Until then I’ll just keep showing up. And keep pissing and moaning. And keep loving wives, and husband, and singles with the love of Christ, until I just can’t anymore.

Maranatha.

That time I judged speeches for the FFA

 

Black Leg will kill your cows. If you don’t vaccinate your cow against black leg your cow could get it, and then… almost certain death follows, and pretty swiftly. Once your cow dies from Black Leg, you need to bury the corpse 6 feet under the ground, or burn said corpse so it doesn’t spread. Like a freaking zombie or something.

This makes me wonder how difficult it must be to either bury or burn a cow corpse. Think of the hole. The size of a small swimming pool I’d imagine. Think of the smell. Like… steak on the grill, with a little funk maybe?

Yesterday, I spent the day judging the impromptu speeches for the Kentucky Capitol City Future Farmers of America Regional Competition. When my friend’s son asked me last night to judge I was all, “That sounds cool, and interesting.” He took that as seriously as a signature on a binding contract. I was going to judge, and there would be no cold feet.

So I woke up yesterday morning, dropped my baby at my friend’s and headed to Henry County High School. Then I rode a bus to Midway University, for an afternoon of farm-talk surrounded by future farmers in navy corduroy jackets.

It’s been years since I’ve ridden a bus. It is literally the same as it has been since I began riding buses at the age of 6 or 7 or something like that. They look and feel exactly the same. A variation of blue or gray flooring, blue or brown pleather seats, windows that slide half way down when you pull those two little clips. Seems like buses would advance with the times, like cell phones or televisions. But no. They remain a relic of the days of their creation, changing, very little. This brings me a weird undefinable comfort. When the world rushes toward the next great thing, buses do not. They remain steady and unchanging as the east wind. What a relief that something in life is dependable.

Where was I?

Ah yes. Black leg. As I stated earlier, I was tasked with judging the beef speeches. (I thanked the Lord many times for predestining me for the beef speeches instead of the lawn and turf speeches. Small blessings and all.) The entire time I wanted to make bad beef jokes, but resisted the temptation with no small amount of effort.

And the speeches started, and it was just painful to watch. It brought back all those awful high school anxieties I had relegated to my distant past. Wasn’t being a teenager hard you guys? How did we even make it through?

I guess the same way everyone does. And the same way these poor impromptu speech deliverers did. On sheer force of will.

Speech after nervous speech delivered in front of me and my co-judge, who actually farms and is actually involved in FFA, and actually knew what the hell he was doing. And the speech topics were interesting enough (the first couple of times anyway) but even more interesting was watching teenagers figure out how to manage the fear responses they had.

The poor kids did not manage well. Lots of umm’s and and’s, and shaking hands. One poor dear actual got winded beginning of her speech. Another one went on so many random disorganized tangents that I bit my cheek not to laugh at the sheer absurdity of what was coming out of her mouth (“beagles need vaccines” and the like). One chick feeds her cows their own warts as way to build their immunity, which upon hearing, caused such a violent reaction within me that they had to revive me wth smelling salts (I kid, but it is vile no?)

On the whole it just made me want to hug them all. And tell them they did a fantastic job for even having the guts to step out of their comfort zone and deliver an impromptu speech to begin with. What gumption! I am so proud of them!

The most distinguished speech of the day was a boy with disabilities and a heavy speech impediment.

Before I go any further let me admit something right away: Though I have been around disabled people my whole life, I am sadly undereducated on the issue. I don’t know the proper way to feel about people with disabilities. My tongue does not know what sentence structure or words to use when talking about people with disabilities that bring them the most respect. Am I being patronizing or dismissive with the way I talk, think, or feel? Is it more polite to acknowledge or ignore an obvious disability? If I screw this next part up, please meet me with grace, and please, please, please leave me feedback. I don’t want to stay ignorant.

Also, I’m not trying to start any beef. (I CAN ONLY HOLD BACK FOR SO LONG OMG SORRY.)

But anyway, there we were expecting to hear the same nervous rambling about black leg, and scours, and pink eye, but he picked a different, more difficult topic altogether, which perked my ears right up. He then proceeded to deliver the most soundly prepared and well thought out impromptu speech of the day.

And the whole time I was just floored. Because his level of excellence was just so far above the rest of the competitors, and he was disabled.

This caused so much turmoil within me. Was I exaggerating how well he did because I felt sorry for him, and subconsciously wanted him to win? Did I expect him to do worse from the get-go because of his disability? Should I feel sorry for him to begin with? I don’t imagine he wants my pity, and I don’t even know if he deserves it. I imagined what an amazing speaker he could without a disability that effects his speech then immediately felt guilty. He was doing fine with his disability, and he really doesn’t need to be “fixed” does he?

In short, I was a hot mess inside my head.

Afterward, it was about all my co-judge and I could do not to give him a standing ovation on the way out, and once the door finally closed we turned to each other and nearly burst at the seems to collaborate on how much we loved the speech. We talked awkwardly in half words about his speech impediment being a non-factor (“You can’t hold it against him, you know. I understood all of what he said anyway.” I nodded wondering how to be appropriate in this strange place I found myself, and took a little solace in the fact that my co-judge didn’t know either.

He won first place. Honestly. We didn’t skew the judging in his favor because we felt sorry for him. He honestly and handily beat all the other students, by virtue of the fact that his was really the only well-organized, entirely engaging speech of the day. He made eye contact with us nearly the entire time. His notes, which he glanced at maybe once a minute, served as gentle guidelines helping him flow from one topic to the next with ease. He actually taught me a different way to think about beef cattle, which is the point right?

And on the bus ride home, I came to terms with the fact that I have a long way to go when it comes to relating to people with disabilities. Maybe we all do. Where do we go from here?

Part 2: Change is a grassroots type thing.

I think the beauty of this whole redemptive thing lies in Jesus’ model for disciple making. Which is actually the very thing I am learning about in that church leadership class.

Jesus didn’t spend all of his time with the masses. In fact, he spent the vast majority of his short time in ministry with a few guys who were a hot mess.

What are the implications?

That change within the church walls can happen subversively. I don’t need an ear of influence to begin turning the tides of hatred. I just need an ear. And said ear does not need to have it all together. In fact, my pulse quickens when I meet people who have cast off their Churchianity, and are living genuine real authentic lives that are full of sin, and screw-ups, but also full of pursuit, and repentance, and humility, and humanity, and love.

Because plastic people who have no time to learn an outside point of view are a waste of my time anyway. I’ll be banging my head for decades if they are my focus, and I’ll get elbowed out in the end anyway.

If the result will be the same, why not take the most effective route, with the real live people, with real flesh and blood, who hear stories, and take them seriously.

Duh, Blaire.

Maybe the pall of hopelessness is lifting, and maybe the perspective is shifting exactly the way it needs to.

My sister, who is a mom of 6 got to hear about the teenager in front of the mic who wanted to commit suicide, and tears welled in her eyes, and spilled over, and rolled down her cheeks. It broke her heart to think she might have at some point taken part in a dangerous theology that might have contributed to a child, feeling like suicide was the best option.

Did I mention she’s got 6 kids? Kids who will bring this issue home with them one day, and she may not have every theological thing worked out perfectly, but she will be able to tell them the story of the boy with a tie around his neck. And she’ll expect them to make certain mental leaps about the humanity of gay people. And she’ll pray that she raised them to be part of the solution, and not the problem.

My dear friend has 8 kids, and she got to hear the same story. And her heart broke too, because she has a teenage boy, and teenage girls, and no teenager should ever be so hopeless that they want to kill them self.

Did I mention she has 8 kids?

These are two people, who do not have all the theological answers. They are learning about Side A and Side B and they are learning the verses attached to the issues, but they are far from having it known.

But what they do have is a broken heart. And children to lead.

And just like that there are 16 individuals who have a shot at genuinely loving LGBT people. And all I did was tell a story and get out of God’s way.

Man, It feels good to be a gangster.

So rather than engaging the establishment (Jesus never did that. It’s a cultural construct to think that that would be my first step) I will engage the “unimportant” and let the work of Christ spread like grass roots. Because it will. It always does.

 

Part 1: A month since the GCN… Here’s how things are going.

So I’ve been back from the conference for about month now.

What has changed? Well… not a lot.

I am hypersensitive to the issues. I find myself thinking about gender and sexuality more carefully, more intentionally, realizing that what’s presented isn’t always the truth about things, and if I am to advocate well, I best not close doors before I even realize they are opened.

I am coming to the most painful of realizations: I am surrounded by people who are hurting the LGBTQ community without even realizing it. And what’s worse is that in doing so they think they are honoring God.

This is not news. I knew this before I went, but I am just a perpetual optimist (and a perpetual cynic…don’t ask me how that combination exists in one mind.) I thought I would come home to find lots of open minds and gracious hearts. I just knew I’d come home to rampant curiosity, and that discussions would be easy. Readily available.

But that’s not really what’s been happening. The most well-meaning people stay on the comfortable outskirts, dismissing it as a problem that isn’t really theirs, but promising that loving is always the highest of priorities.

This isn’t ideal, you know. It definitely isn’t the worst thing that could be happening, but it’s just more of the same. Nothing changes when this is their answer. And I’m not condemning anyone, because there are certainly problems that I am just too busy or just not that interested in finding out about. I get it. This is safe, and no one gets hurt this way.

But it’s a rut we find ourselves in when Kingdom Come actually comes, and we don’t really want to take the time or expend the energy to realize it fully.

What else…

People love to compare sexuality to a myriad of random sins. Again, I knew this, and I have actually been guilty of this in the past, so I get it, but now that my mind has turned the corner it can’t go back, and I just don’t get what I was thinking back then.

No. Being gay isn’t comparable to being a murderer, a pedophile, an alcoholic, a pornography addict, a fill-in-the-blank… it just isn’t. We are comparing a person’s sexuality to a host of deviance, and not only is it incredibly harmful (if anyone compares me to a pedophile no matter what sin I may be exhibiting or am being perceived to exhibit, I may take them to suplex city. I will at the very least cry and yell) it makes no sense and it’s not helpful.

Sexuality isn’t developed like a nasty habit. It isn’t a temptation that Satan is drawing a person into. It isn’t a weakness of character. EVERYONE has a sexuality that develops around puberty. Lots of people are straight, and some are gay. On the contrary, nobody wakes up as a teenager and has a raging alcohol problem, or a porn addiction. It just isn’t the way that works.

So seriously… if you want to engage in discussion that ISN’T inherently hurtful, perhaps cut that from the script.

And as always..

I’ll never stop being shocked and amazed at the amount of people that still think being gay is a choice. I hang my head here, you know? Because my brain no longer computes when the conversation goes here. What do I say to it? I’m asking. There’s a comments section, and I’d love input.

I had a rousing discussion with a couple of women in a church leadership class I am taking (not because i’m in leadership… mainly because I am a shameless fan girl who annoys people until I get to take the classes I want to take.) It went miserably you guys. Both of them think being gay is a choice.

Which should have been clue number one that I should have stopped talking long before I actually did stop talking. And I will not lie, when I finally did stop talking I was walking away from the lunch table with hot angry tears streaming down my face.

Partly because they were so certain about their point of view, that they didn’t even have room to hear my point of view. That is angering to a person like me. I just feel so very strongly about things, and when I reached the wall they had built around their hearts I banged and banged and banged my head against it. Which was dumb, but I almost felt out of control.

I just kept thinking about the stories. At the conference.

One guy who I would guess could not have been older than 20 got up in front of the mic and told us all how scared he was to talk. I am so glad he found the courage, because I play his words on repeat in my head.

“I had a neck tie tied around my neck and the other end was tied to my clothes rod. I wanted to step off the stool because I wanted to know how it would feel for all the pain to just be over.”

And once you hear a story like that, you just don’t recover. It’s never a question of choice ever again. When a teenage boy stands terrified in front of an audience of 1500 and says to us all that he was so downtrodden by the church and his parents refusal to accept him because his sexuality isn’t what they wanted, that he would almost rather die than face another day, a dam breaks open. The rage just doesn’t stop.

And these women sat across the table from me, and said, “I would suggest that there is a deeper heart issue going on there.”

(That’s the part where I just lost it.) So desperate were they, to maintain their carefully woven narrative of how things are supposed to happen, that they were willing to write off his entire testimony as a “deeper heart issue”. Not to mention my experiences spending a weekend with 1500 gay people trying their hardest to follow Christ. They just knew so much better than me, and the suicidal gay guy they had flippantly diagnosed with “a deeper heart issue”.

And this is what drives people from the church. I’m not talking about just gay people. I’m talking about all people. If the people in church leadership are hellbent on defending their interpretation of scripture, and if they know so much about God (who in scripture claims is so far beyond our comprehension that our best attempts are vain) that they refuse to take your very own life experiences seriously then why…. why would anyone want to bring their stories to a church?

No one would. And no one will.

And we sit around and mope about how we are losing this generation to the world, but that’s not what is happening.

Church, we are forcefully pushing a generation out of our doors into a world that probably won’t listen either, but at least it won’t judge. And at least they get to be human in the world. The alternative, Churchianity, requires a constant front, that looks a lot like our best attempts at faking perfection. It’s impossible to maintain, and it’s unhealthy. The world looks mighty tempting given the perceived options.

And is our certainty about things so important that we are prepared to send them all to hell?

That verse about the millstone.. it’s not written for the world. It’s written for us church… we, who idolize our unwavering commitment to what is “clearly stated” in the Holy Text, so much so that we neglect the very people that the same Holy Text commands us to love.

Most of all I feel overwhelmed and there’s a pall of hopelessness settling in my soul. My lunch time discussion with two women in church leadership has me utterly dejected. How will I ever make headway as an ally if I can’t even successfully communicate my heart to those two. Especially if this is the status quo where I find myself.

How long before more church leaders find out where I stand, and how many of them will respond the same way those two did? How long before I am asked to be quiet? How long before am I elbowed out of having a chance to talk to anyone at all?

I went to the Gay Christian Network Conference… Here’s what I learned.

I don’t really know how to lay this down on paper for you.

This is too foreign, too uncomfortable for so many, that very likely whatever I end up leaving in this space will get misunderstood, glossed over, dismissed, ignored.

But maybe… who knows… some word or phrase will have some sticking power. A dart of truth that leads to some internal reflection, inspiring a hunger to go deeper, to learn more, to cast off the antiquity of damaging tradition, to dismantle the idol of certainty. If not, that’s okay. But just maybe…

Last week I went to the Gay Christian Network Conference.

And I’m pretty sure that it would be a more efficient use of my time to tell you what I didn’t learn and do at this conference. Because I could write a book… Write. A. Book… about the stuff I learned. Things about myself. Things about the Body of Christ, and where she is strong, and where she is failing so desperately. I learned about humanity, and that an issue is always just an issue until you meet the people, then it’s not. I learned so much… so so much about grace, and beauty, and about how pain is purifying, and how it cuts away all the garbage that keeps us from God.

So when I showed up on Thursday afternoon, I showed up to a group of people who had hurt far worse than myself, and far worse than most of the people that I know. And when I introduced myself and began to wade through all the small talk usually required in order to form relationships, I quickly realized that I didn’t need to. They were raw metal, having been refined by the holiest and most painful of fires, and hungry for connection. We were all ready to dive into relationship, and we knew with absolute certainty that the recipient of our story would treasure it, and protect it, and hold it as dear… even more dear sometimes, that we hold it ourselves.

I showed up on Thursday, and unbeknownst to me, I was showing up to the type of community that God intended for His people.

And i’m not new to church. I have been going to church and participating in church communities for about 95% of my life. I’ve been to women’s conferences, and christian conferences, and leadership conferences. But when I got to the Gay Christian Conference, and engaged with this community of believers, it was as though my soul woke up from a long slumber and recognized glorious sustenance. The meaning of community. God’s true intent in creating us with the hunger to connect to one another, finally being satiated.

I don’t know why in this space it felt so much more right than in every other space I had ever been in. I think it has something to do with the desire to know and be known, and the common pain that was being overcome in the very act of gathering together.

But you guys, the gay Christians. They get it. They know what church is supposed to look like. And that’s not to say that individual gay christians leave the conference to the open arms of similar communities. On the contrary, the opposite is most likely true, but for that long weekend once a year, they commit to being the church more radically and accurately than every other place or group of believers I’ve ever been a part of.

***

Do you know how bad we’ve hurt these people Church? My husband and I sat in a crowd of 1500 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people, and their allies, and heard story after story after story of pain inflicted in the name of Jesus. Parents who would rather their child be homeless than to work through the reality that their child might be gay through no fault of their own. Churches telling long-time members that they were no longer welcome. Pastors losing their congregations, after extending an olive branch of love to a gay member. Droves of broken people, who have been taught that their very existence is something to loathe.

This is our fault. This is not their fault.

And the most beautiful part of this whole thing, is that even though we have heaped mountains of pain and suffering upon this people group, even though their lives have at times been defined by overcoming the hatred thrown at them in the name of “love”, they have Grace. God’s Grace.

Let that settle in your heart. Let God’s upside down Kingdom settle in your bones.

These people who we’ve beaten to death with our unwavering doctrine and our lofty theology, who we’ve cast out of our churches and families, who we refuse to even entertain, are effectively saying, “That’s okay. We won’t do the same to you. We refuse.”

***

One morning, after worshipping God together with hands raised, the speaker took the stage and her war cry, her unifying message was, “Lay down your weapons. Open your arms. There may be disunity within the Body of Christ, but we won’t contribute any further. We won’t do what they’ve done to us”

What would it look like if we adopted the same battle cry? If our cry changed from, “You’re ruining our ideals of marriage. You are an abomination,” to “We’re sorry, forgive us. Let’s figure this out together.”

Maybe the church would stop driving an entire generation away from it’s doors, and from the arms of Jesus. Maybe the homeless rate for LGBTQ teens would go down. Maybe the suicide rate for LGBTQ people would go down.

Maybe we could learn something about humility and grace. Maybe we could start looking more like the Bride of Christ.

I am not here to redefine your theology on this topic. Notice how I added none of my own convictions, or argument for any beliefs whatsoever. The only thing I am asserting is that God loves gay people. Just as much as He loves you. And if you read the Bible we defend at any cost, even sinful ones, you will see that we are supposed to love them too. My hunch is that were Jesus alive right now along with the lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and the poor, He’d have people from this marginalized community in His fold also.

Who are we to correct Jesus?

***

Let me close by confessing that I grew up afraid of gay people, and that fear motivated me to do a lot of dumb, sinful things, to the very few gay people that I came in contact with. This haunts me. Who walked further from Jesus because of my misguided “love” that looked like arrogance? Where would they be had I had open palms, and no expectations, had I trusted God with the Holy work of conviction, rather than thinking it my job?

If I have learned anything in 28 years of trying to figure out my faith it’s that I know nothing. So many times the Lord patiently dismantles my certainties and makes the comfortably, beautifully gray. And I am okay with this. Maybe it’s time for the church to let in a little gray too. Just maybe.

To the LGBTQ community, Christian and otherwise: I am so sorry. Please forgive me. I know better now. I will do better now.

To my brothers and sisters in the Church: Might I suggest that we approach this issue with humility, and open mind, and a soft heart? No matter what beliefs we prescribe to, God is still the God of love. Hateful acts done in His name are worse in His eyes, than the accusations we level against the LGBTQ community, I promise. Also, this issue will always be just an issue until you engage it. So might I suggest you get to know some gay people? Not just one, because one person is never a sufficient spokesperson for an entire group of diverse and unique people.

If not that is okay. I am done trying to tell people how to be, so do whatever you want to do. But God grows us when we do hard things. Uncomfortable things. And if your goal is to grow near to Him, discomfort is a great place to start.

The Confederate Flag Flies in Sulphur

The sleepy town of Sulphur has all the amenities one might need to live happily. These amenities include a post office that stays open for 2 hours a day 5 days a week, an ice shop that hasn’t been opened in at least seven years, and an old farm house converted to apartments. As you can see… we are kind of a big deal here in Sulphur.

The ice shop is lacking and the post office is a little bit of a joke, but the apartments are awesome. I’ve never been inside, but it would be the type of place I’d want to live if I weren’t a homeowner. The appeal comes from the red tin roof and wrought iron fence with red and yellow accents. Also the balconies and porches are the exact type of thing I can envision myself spending basically all my time sitting on.

Whoever lives upstairs likes flags. They hang them from their balcony. For a long time they flew an American flag, and a Gadsden flag (a yellow flag with a snake on it that says, “Don’t tread on me”).

The other day the upstairs tenant added a Confederate flag with the word “redneck” sprawled across it.

This isn’t a discreet decision on the part of the tenant. The apartments are literally the first thing you see when you enter Sulphur. The flags are displayed prominently. For all to see.

When I saw it my first thought was to channel my inner Bree Newsome. Then I realized I don’t have any climbing gear. I also don’t know parkour. I also don’t have the guts to just trespass and climb up the dudes balcony to swipe it because shotguns.

But it was such a disappointment. That flag hanging so prominently in my little town. Unashamedly.

The dialogue surrounding the issue of the confederate flag is loud. And repeated over and over. If you are white person and you like the confederate flag there is a strong chance you say things  like, “It’s about heritage, not hate” or “It’s really not about race. I am not a racist.” There is also a chance that you have been trying to rationalize the entire civil war as nothing more than a southern desire to secede from the United States (which is confusing when you see the Confederate flag next to an American flag. Hello, contradiction. Welcome to the show). That’s part of it, but a very big reason the south wanted to secede in the first place is because they didn’t want the north telling them they couldn’t own slaves.

In reality, if you are white, and your people have been in America for a while, especially the southern states of America, chances are you have a heritage of racism. You could be like me, and have a heritage of not only racism, but also of slave ownership.

That’s right. My ancestors had slaves, and a plantation. I hope that they were nice. I hope they freed their slaves before the civil war. But chances are, they were just like most other slave owners in their day, treating slaves as property. Dividing the families of their slaves so as to keep them subjugated. Handing out lashes, and branding the faces of runaway slaves. Doing unspeakable acts of evil against a group of being created in God’s image.

And in reality if you are black, and your people have been in America for a while, especially the southern states of America, chances are you have a heritage of slavery. Your grandparents a few generations ago were likely enslaved by rich white people who depended on free labor to make a profit.

And i will never know what having a heritage of slavery feels like. I won’t ever know the pain that it causes.

I can hear you white people now… “Slavery was generations ago. That shouldn’t be a crutch. We all have the same opportunities in this day and age.”

I went on a tour of the Laura Plantation in New Orleans, Louisiana. Our tour guide was awesome. He went into great articulate detail about everything we were seeing. And the mood was light and fun while we were in the house. Then we went to tiny corrugated tin boxes in the back yard. They were split down the middle with a wall. These were slave quarters. A family of slaves had a space no large than the smallest bedroom in my house in which to do life.

Our tour guide explained how things were for slaves back then. Then he switched gears and started telling about a tour he gave not so long ago. A black man approached him, and introduced himself and his grandchildren. He then said he was so glad that the plantation started offering tours because he had always wanted his grandchildren to see where he had grown up.

That just shook me. It’s so easy to spend your days in America not really understanding how far away the past actually is. And sometimes what you think is ancient history is actually just a couple generations ago. In the case of the civil war it was over in 1865, just a tiny little 150 years ago.  Segregation ended in the 50’s. That’s practically yesterday.

So is it any surprise why this is a real modern-day issue for the African American community? Why wouldn’t they want the confederate flag down and gone? To them it means humiliation, and pain, and families being torn apart, and women being raped, and their people being branded and used like livestock. It means oppression. It means slavery. It is about their heritage, which includes slavery and hate.

If you are white, maybe it’s we time to quit defending ourselves. We are part of the problem if we can’t look at our shameful past honestly and own it. We are naive if we think the effects of slavery and segregation ended when they did. If that were the case grandpas wouldn’t taking tours of slave quarters so their grandkids could see where he grew up. Maybe it’s time to apologize for our ancestors actions.

Maybe it begins here, in this space.

I am so sorry. I am ashamed that my ancestors could look upon your entire race of people with such callousness and used your people for financial gain. It was wrong. So wrong, and there are no justifications. I know that something as diabolical as slavery doesn’t just disappear overnight, and the the effects are far-reaching and profound. Racism is now a part of the American every day, and it’s so rote and common place that when it’s pointed out, white people ignore, and rationalize, and place blame on the victims of racism rather than the offenders. And that’s not okay.

Please be patient with us white people, and please help those of us who want to fight with you know how to do so.

One final word to my white readers… If none of this resonates with you, then let me package it differently. Pretend like your sister was a victim of domestic abuse. Every time her husband would beat her he would use a baseball bat that he kept in the hall closet. Say that one day she finally escaped her life of domestic abuse, and moved in with you to begin the process of getting back on her feet. Say your husband keeps his softball bat in the hall closet and every Monday when he goes to his softball game he walks to the hall closet and gets his bat out. Regardless of the purpose of your husband’s actions, your sister is going to be triggered. She might start crying and get really afraid, and it will definitely be a hindrance to her recovery. What should your husband do? If he were a jerk, he could explain himself very loudly over and over again, about how his bat has nothing to do with domestic violence, and about how he is not abusive. He could callously tell his sister-in-law to get over it, and keep the bat in the closet, saying things like, “If you don’t like it you don’t have to watch me get it out.”

Or…. He could ask her how to help her cope. He could move the bat somewhere else. If he wanted to go above and beyond he might even find another sport to play. Because even though he isn’t a violent person, the bat is innately not a violent object, and he would never abuse her, he loves her and cares about her recovery. So he’s going to change some part of his actions.

To you the confederate flag may be so far removed and separate from anything that has to do with race, but no matter what your purposes for owning, flying, or supporting the confederate flag, it is a hindrance to our black brothers and sisters. You can be callous and insensitive and keep flying it. Or you can ask a African American person if your actions hurt them, then change accordingly. If you are a christian you are responsible for your actions anyway, not just to fellow human beings, but also to God. So choose your path and your actions wisely.

Sidebar: Since the writing of this blog the flag has come down. It wasn’t me. Whether the dude upstairs had a change of heart, someone in Sulphur made some mischief, or the landlord told him to take it down, I am relieved. I don’t want my town to be defined by that flag.

A letter to me, but maybe you need to read it. And scratch out my name. And put yours in.

Dear Blaire,

I know you think that you lack value. I know you feel unimportant, and like you are basically doing nothing with your life. Please don’t listen to that part of you. It comes from the enemy.

The truth is…. You are LOVED. Your are Valuable Beyond Measure. You are MINE.

You keep screwing up, and that is okay. As long as you keep bringing it to me, there will always be grace for whatever it is. I know there are some things that you can’t seem to beat. That is okay. I don’t give you challenges that are packaged in neat wrapping complete with hand tied bow. I give you actual challenges that are hard.. Fiery even. Don’t let that come as a surprise to you. Do NOT be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through. This is important work you are doing. It makes you just like my son, when you commit yourself to beating these trials. And at the end… you will have joy. Wonderful Joy.

You think you were doing better before you changed your occupation, but the truth is that you weren’t. Life is a progression, and outwardly the evidence says otherwise, but every challenge, every new adaptation, every new internal crisis of identity, faith, value, is growing you closer to me. And it’s making you purified. Like gold in a fire, the impurities are rising. And when they rise I skim them off the top. It’s a process sweet girl. It hurts, and it’s oh so confusing for a person like you, but trust me. I have a more efficient mental process, and I am privy to All Knowledge. Which is kind of a big deal.

I know you feel alone in your thoughts and in your beliefs. But remember? We already battled through this, you and I. We have been there, done that. So stand firm. Don’t let the enemy take back ground we’ve already won. And have you ever been the kind to go with the status quo? No. I didn’t create you to be that way. I created you to challenge, and rally, and love on the marginalized and the forgotten. So do that. Loudly. Without shame. The only opinion that matters is mine. Remember this, more than you remember most other things. The only opinion that matters is mine.

You’re a Momma now. And might be again soon. And this work… I can’t say enough good about it. You have such an amazing chance to show Silas, and Evan, and your other babies just how much I love them. And you’re doing a good job. Don’t listen to the enemy. He will try to convince you otherwise, but you are doing good. You are making me so proud. And at the end of the day if your house is dirty, but you have loved your people then you have done good, GOOD work. The material will always be secondary to the immaterial. Things like faith, hope and love reign supreme over things like swept floors, clean counter tops, and done dishes. Please, please, don’t forget that.

My sweet sweet child. The bottom line, most important thing of all is that I love you more than you can even fathom. I love you more than all the human love in the world combined. There is nothing… no height, depth, angel, demon, force of nature, fill in the blank… that could ever keep me from loving you. I sent my son to die for you sweet girl. Would someone do that lightly? No. They would only do it for the greatest love imaginable… my love for my children. My love for you.

You have got this. You have my Holy Spirit, so you have so totally got this. Don’t forget to talk to me about it. I am always here. Always listening. You and all your problems are tied with everything else in the world as most-important-thing on my agenda. I don’t have to pick. I’m good like that. So please don’t forget that I will bear your burdens with ease. And in return I will place upon you a burden so light you can scarcely feel it.

I love you. I love you. I love you. Were I to transcribe my love for you on paper the world could not hold its vastness. So never, ever forget…. I LOVE YOU.

God