Don’t ask me how I jumped from Netflix banter to this. Ah well.
I recently read in a Time Magazine article what I’d basically known already- that more and more people are challenging not only traditional views of gender roles, but redefining gender identity itself while simultaneously expanding definitions of sexual preference. (There’s a mouthful.) There are now literally hundreds of ways to describe your basic identity to the world.
Grab the remote and pause while I make one thing clear: this blog post will not be about hate or defining morals. I’m writing as a mother who has put all her crazy hope in Jesus, yet struggles with the chasm between church and the world that “God so loved.”
I’m surrounded by these gender and sexuality issues lately and I’m never short on thoughts, in case you haven’t noticed. But I’m hoping these letters give you a window into what’s most on my heart.
To my three children, who will certainly grow up in a different world than I did, let me tell you what I hope for you. I hope, first,that you will never believe that you can be or do or say anything that makes me love you less. Trust me when I say that no matter what identity you believe about yourself, your identity will always be loved, Loved, LOVED. There’s no escaping that, so don’t weary yourself running from me, please. And as much as I crazy love you, I believe the God who made you and died for you will never find you less lovable either. May your ultimate identity be His. Loved. Child. No strings attached.
Second, I want to warn you about labels. Your whole life people will label you: some good things, some negative. Smart, dumb, fat, skinny, too girly, not good enough, goody-two-shoes, quiet, loud, silly, and on and on. The world will tell you what you’re good at, and what you’re failing at. Who you should be, what you should study in college. And at the end of the day you’re probably going to want to tell everyone to shut up and let you define yourself. I don’t know, but maybe you’ll feel boxed in by gender or sexuality labels as well.
Whatever the labels, let me tell you this: If you’re looking for the perfect label to set you free and make you feel like you belong, you’ll probably never find it. I’m not even saying your label will be wrong, but if what you’re really looking for is validation for your worth, it won’t change with your label. Your worth is tied into your identity, yes, but your most fundamental identity is “loved” and, Sweetie, there’s no greater worth for us clay pots than to be loved by the Potter that dreamt us up. And that goes for the people you might want to label too- you can never label anyone else’s worth up or down, so please don’t try.
And if you must label yourself, never let that label divide you from others who “aren’t”. We get ourselves into a lot of hate and mess this way.
I hope you’re stunningly “you”,that you walk in confidence and purpose, and that you care more about how you can love and serve the world than whether the world validates or negates your labels. Because if I haven’t said it enough, we all just need the label of “loved”.
And that’s where I’ll end…with all my love,
Now, to the church,
not only my own in a tiny pocket in CT, but to the larger church out there, I have a few words for you. For us, really, because God help me, I’m not where I should be. I believe in a Jesus who came not for the healthy but for the sick- and to be honest I think we forget that He was including everyone in the “sick” category, but we like to make distinctions. It seems Jesus was more baffled by the stubborn “righteous” than those that the religious turned away, and in His love He died for everyone, regardless of age, race, gender…or any labels we might find ourselves under.
I believe we want to accept everyone, but let’s face it we’re awkward at best and cruel at worst. In our fear of “condoning” what we don’t understand, we elevate moral standards over a love that covers thick. If we’re afraid to engage with any person with beliefs we don’t understand or agree with, we simply draw a deeper and deeper line between us and them. In fact, we often perpetuate the idea that it’s only OK to “come as you are” if you plan to change who you are in the very near future. This is damaging to those within the church, even, who are afraid to be exposed as flawed and vulnerable. (Except we all are.)
And if we’re pointing fingers at the sheer number of new labels people are identifying with, perhaps we should point that finger back at ourselves: I was shocked to read recently that there are thousands of Protestant church denominations. Even if the estimates are high, the truth is that as the church has “progressed” we’ve actually become more fragmented by disagreements than united under God. The bottom line is that we know better than anyone that it’s easier to divide and relabel ourselves to find value and identity with those who think similarly than to live in the messy tension of community with people who don’t always agree.
But what if we were called to be just that? The messy tension of a community of people who don’t always agree…but surrender our right to be right to the greater work of God’s Grace and Love. Maybe that sounds oversimplified and watered down…but its also possible we complicate simple things.
Can we be that messy church? If Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, can we at least look people in the eyes and recognize the glint of the image of God in them? Can we at least listen?
Thanks for listening to me, anyway.
Carrye (Major Work-in-Progress, but LOVED)