I’m Everybody Friendly
I was recently asked via e-mail if I was LGBTQ friendly. It wasn’t clear on my website and the person wanted to know before making an appointment with me for spiritual direction whether or not I was going to reject them right away. They likely thought I would. It broke my heart to read their question and explanation of why they had to ask it. I could sense their pain as they searched the internet for someone who would accept them as they are. In considering how to answer, I wanted to honor their question with the hurt and frustration behind it, while at the same time, conveying to them the truth that what your sexuality is does not matter in relation to your worth, not to God and not to me.
What I came up with after some careful thought was the simple reply, “I’m everybody friendly! LGBTQ or not, it makes no difference to me.” The answer went over well, but, months later, their question still rings in my head. For several years, I have been a part of a Quaker yearly meeting that has been talking about this very issue and it’s a contentious one to say the least. Though we are not alone in this as an organization, I know many are asking themselves the same questions; it is the one I am in the middle of and the one where many friends I care about also reside. That we are arguing about it and gravely hurting people along the way makes me want to sink to my knees on the floor and weep. How could we, who supposedly have dedicated our lives to knowing God, the giver of love, be so unloving to the people around us who exemplify the very God we claim to celebrate?
Trying to Speak to Everyone – Including Northwest Yearly Meeting
In past years of yearly meeting, I’ve spoken on the floor of business meeting for this community while not stating my conviction outright. I usually saved that for the less formal meetings held later in the evening between the young(ish) adults and the elders. But this person’s question has made me realize that by not being completely open with my heart, that I am still hurting those I care about. I’ve wanted to be able to speak to everyone, to try and be welcomed everywhere but I am learning more and more that it’s not my place to be quiet in order to move around freely. That freedom comes from inside. My ministry of love is with those on the outside edges who have been pushed away or who have walked away because their questions are not honored in a more traditional church setting, whatever that looks like for them. My place is to stand in the wilderness and give water to the thirsty and rest for the weary. I want to be there for people who are no longer satisfied with a theological box, who are longing for more than what they’ve been given. And so I’ll openly be there with a glass of water, a comforting blanket, and a good talk no matter who they are.
What I still don’t understand is how so many people can write off such a huge segment of our humanity because of a label. This can be applied to race or gender or any number of characteristics, but none of the labels can ever begin to describe the soul, that eternal light and energy that is so breathtakingly beautiful to behold. I can’t imagine looking away from it let alone shutting it out. I think of my family and friends, many of whom are lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered. They are among the kindest, most compassionate and loving people I have ever known. God just oozes out of them and their light is so dazzling, I feel happier and more at peace just by being in their company. They have often been the ones to welcome me in when other people with more traditional beliefs left me out. Why would we ever want to degrade someone like that or label them as a lower class of person let alone close the door in their face? Let the light in! It does not matter who you’re attracted to or what gender you identify with. You are dearly loved. God loves us all. We are all equal – of equal value and equally delighted in by the Divine.
After one business session at yearly meeting where I’d spoken on this issue at the microphone, a woman came up to me during the break, thanked me for what I’d said, and wanted to introduce me to her partner. It was a great honor I will always treasure. She was so courageous. Having people like them and the person who asked me this question in the first place know they can come to me and that I’ll honor who they are and who they want to be with God, that I will do my very best to love them with Divine open arms, to be present with them, is why I’m writing this. Thank you for making me take a good look at my choices, at what I choose to write and speak about, and for honoring me with your vulnerability.
Correcting the Oversight
I now feel sorry for all those other people who wouldn’t have met with the one who e-mailed me because they missed out on getting to know an incredibly beautiful person anyone would be extraordinarily lucky to know. But not too sorry, because that means I get to enjoy knowing the light of their spirit. After all, while this person’s sexuality may not matter to me or to God, who they are – that means the world to the both of us.
To correct this oversight of not stating my convictions clearly, the following has now been added to the spiritual direction page on my website:
“As a companion on your journey, I will hold our time together and what is said in the utmost respect and confidentiality. I will create a safe and prayerful space for you to rest in and will hold you up in prayer before, during, and after our sessions together. In that spirit, as every part of who you are is beautiful and an expression of God, including, but not limited to, your religion, sexuality, and race, I welcome, fully embrace, and will hold safe whatever makes up the unique gift of you in this time and place.”