In my last post, I wrote, "I felt perfectly welcomed at the first seminary (my mom's alma mater), but I felt wanted at the second. After much prayer and discernment, I made the decision to only apply to the second." I spent a lot of time praying over that, trying to figure out exactly how to describe that feeling. It reminds me of this article I read a few years ago. The author argues that "accept" and "tolerate" are not words we should use for our gay children; rather, we should CELEBRATE them exactly as they are:
"Every child deserves to be loved for exactly who they are, so I think it’s about time that we change how we talk about our gay children. Let’s abolish the words “accept” and “tolerate” and replace them with “cherish” and “celebrate.” When we cherish and celebrate who our children are, then maybe the scared gay kids in this country will stop worrying about whether their parents will “still” love them and will simply know they are loved unconditionally."
Last week in my spiritual exercises, I was asked to reflect on the beatitudes in Luke 6:17-23. My instructions read: "The beatitudes express the standard of Jesus. Enter into the event that is described. Be present and listen as Jesus is speaking. Allow his words to affect you. The beatitudes are not a list of what you must achieve before God. Rather they are a description of how God sees you when you have entered a deep relationship with Jesus." - Veltri
Let's face it: the beatitudes can be difficult to understand. Being poor doesn't feel like a blessing. Being reviled doesn't feel like a blessing. Is Jesus just trying to get us to stop complaining? Nope. Not at all.
Jesus was seeing the very people who felt unseen, who felt cast away. Jesus wasn't saying they were welcome, which in and of itself would have been a huge improvement. He was saying they were blessed...they were wanted.
I left my last congregation due to discrimination - some blatant, some subtle. As I mentioned in my last post, I am in the process of adopting a son who likes to wear makeup, paint his nails, and wear "girl clothes."* That makes finding a new church even harder, or so I thought.
I decided to give another local (Presbyterian) church a try. This church has been in the news quite a bit over the last couple of years. A large faction within the congregation decided to split from the Presbyterian Church (USA) over, among other things, the denomination's progression toward LGBTQ inclusion. A lawsuit ensued as they tried to take the building and foundation with them, rumors spread, miscommunication abounded, and a lot of feelings were hurt. That seems like the last place I would want to take a child who's still learning it's okay to be himself. But as I explained to DJ, Dumbledore taught us, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” I told DJ, "This church stood up to their friends and family for people like you and me."
On our third Sunday, DJ's Sunday School teacher told me that he feels honored to be a part of our family's journey. He even double-checked DJ's pronouns. A new friend said to me, "You are proof that we made the right decision."
And that's the difference. That's the difference between being welcomed and wanted, between accepted/tolerated and celebrated/cherished. That's what it means to be seen.
*Yes, we've discussed that clothes don't have gender, but society hasn't exactly adopted that viewpoint yet.