Friday, May 18, 2012

The Way of Love....

I have been thinking a lot about what happened in North Carolina last week.  I have to admit that the whole debate of civil unions and gay marriage has been a difficult issue for me to navigate through.  I feel caught between two worlds.  In one world, homosexuality is often seen as a sin above other sins.  There is a fear that if society accepts homosexuality it will open a gateway to all sorts for evil and will be the downfall of life as we know it.  And although you hear, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” I really don’t see much of that happening.  So, I feel ashamed.  Ashamed of my fellow Christians who put forth an attitude of distain or even hatred.  Ashamed of myself for the times my own heart has been judgmental and condemning . 
Then there is the other world I live it.  A broken world, with imperfect people, attempting to find their way. A world where people are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit.  This world is complex and messy.  There are few easy answers.  Honestly, it is in this world that I feel the most safe and free to figure things out.  There is an acceptance that I have rarely felt in the Christian world.  And so, I feel torn.  I live with this tension.  I am trying to find the balance.

As I ponder these things, I am beginning to find the balance I seek.  A middle ground of sorts.  Although I do question the morality of homosexuality (something I am in the process of reevaluating,) I do not question that their civil rights should be any less than my own.  Our country was founded on this very notion and everyone should be treated with dignity, respect and equality, regardless of differing codes of morality. I don’t want the popular majority to be able to vote to take away people’s rights.  The ramifications of that could be disastrous.  I have no doubt that everyone engages in some behavior that other people find morally wrong.  Do we want to go down that road? Tit for Tat? If we do, I think it could get pretty damn messy.

So I find myself in a strange place.  A difficult place really.  Sort of stuck in the middle of a war.  A war in which I can’t fully align myself with either side.  A place where I often fear I will be misunderstood.  It can be pretty overwhelming at times.  Then I think about Jesus.  About how I am to love others in the same way I would want to be loved. And things become a little bit clearer.  I want people to accept me, even if they don’t agree with me.  To understand, that I am in a process.  That it is not my intention to hurt anyone as I wade through the difficulties of figuring out who I am and where I belong.  I want people to be patient with me.  So, that is what I want to give others.  Love.  Acceptance. Understanding. I want to dig down deep and grab on to the courage that will allow me to love in ways that others may disagree with. And I am hoping that others will respond in kind.  That they will be able to love me deeply, for who I am and where I am at.  I hate to use a cliché but I really do think ‘love is the answer’ to this difficult debate.  Without it, I fear we will only draw battle lines and devour one another. 

So, I choose Love.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Wedding Night

Recently, I have been doing some research on the Purity & Abstinence Movement.  And by research, I mean a talk show and a couple of You Tube Videos.  I find the topic fascinating. Even though I think waiting is a great idea, religious groups can get downright bizarre when it comes to purity and virginity.  Unfortunately, it can have a damaging effect on young men and women.  Although there were many damaging aspects in this video, I want to focus in on unrealistic expectations. There is this idea that the first time you have sex, it is going to be an amazingly, wonderful, spiritual, experience.   That God is going to reward your efforts and bless you with a perfect wedding night.  I am here to tell you, that is a load of crap.
As a fairly young teen, I had decided that I was going to wait until I was married to have sex.  I am not exactly sure why I came to this decision but I did and was determined to make it to my wedding day.  And I did.  Sort of. Kind of.  I guess you would say that I was a Technical Virgin.  For those of you unaware of the term, it is someone who has engaged in everything BUT intercourse.  Now, my husband on the other hand, was a virgin in the truest sense.  We somehow managed not to corrupt him to ‘technical virgin’ status before we were married.  So, our honeymoon was interesting to say the least.

We were under no delusions that everything would go smoothly.  We expected it might take the whole honeymoon to actually have sex.  This was a generous time allotment in our minds… we really didn’t think it would take that long.  On our second night, in a quaint bed & breakfast in Maine, we declared that we hated sex.  This sentiment was expressed in conjunction with throwing a book called, “How to get your sex life off to a great start” across the room (Yes, we brought a sex book on our honeymoon). As we sat on the bed, our frustration with each other became obvious. We accused each other of being the problem.  I thought he was ‘too rubbery’ and he thought I was ‘too tight’.  I think there was some truth to both.  After our confessions, we decided that the pressure we were putting on ourselves, was probably not helping.  Technical sex eventually happened, although I am not sure when.  It had to have happened somewhere between the summer of 2000 and the summer of 2002 when I found out I was pregnant with Nick.

Many, if not all, of the couples who remain virgins until their wedding night will experience similar challenges.  Having sex for the first time, whether it is on your wedding night or with your boyfriend in the back of his Dad’s pickup truck when you are 17, is difficult.  It is awkward and often painful.  You are bound to feel self conscious and embarrassed.
The teens in this video need to know this.  They need to know what to expect.  That good sex takes time.  It takes communication.  It takes work.  And that waiting doesn’t exempt  you from that. That God does want to bless their marriage and sex life, whether they were able to kept their virginity intact or not.  

If these young men and women have people in their lives who will shoot it straight with them, who will be honest and open, then maybe they will be able to truly enjoy the wonderful gift of sex that God has given us. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On Faith

We recently left our church.  A church I had been a part of for 20 year and my husband his entire life.  We met  there. Married there.  Had our kids there. To say it was a big part of our life is an understatement.  It has been a gut wrenching process.  Although the reasons are varied and many that brought us to this place, for me, it began 2 years ago with a book.  A book that has changed the course of my faith and life forever.

The book  was called,  “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” by Wayne Jacobson. It challenged my thinking in ways that were scary and liberating all at the same time. It brought to light my preconceived notions about Church, about faith and how is lived out, about control and trust.  As I read this book, something was awakened in me.  A longing for something other than what I was experiencing in my Christian Life.  There was that point where I knew I either had to pursue the yearnings inside me, or put the book down and return to the status quo I had been living in.  I was on the fence.  On one hand, I felt like God was whispering in my ear, “ Kathy, I have something I want to show you, a place I want to take you.  There is so much more.  I want to show you a different way.  But you have to step out of the safety of the box you are living in.  That neat, tidy box that you think keeps you safe.  I am so much bigger.  I have freedom to offer you that will blow your mind.  Grace that never ends. ”  And on the other hand, I was scared.  Scared of where it might take me and the upheaval it might cause in my life.  You see, thinking outside of the box is not okay in the culture I live in.  Free thinking and questions are generally not encouraged in the Evangelical community.  They like the black and white.  The neat and tidy.  Questions bring you into the gray… and gray is not good.  Gray complicates faith because it makes you see the complexities of people and life.  Things are no longer simple and a bible verse can’t fix it all and make it go away.  So, they don’t want you asking questions or thinking.  And if you have the courage to continue to ask the question, you get labeled.  You become one of “those” people who’s faith is weak, watered down, just making God what you want Him to be.  I have to admit, that is how I use to see people until I became one of them.  To be honest, I really like “those” people.  I feel free to ask questions. To think.  To dialogue about taboo subjects.  I don’t have to have it all figured out. I am allowed to be me.

I have to say that I feel like my faith has been ripped up into 1,000 pieces and thrown into the wind.  Somedays, I am excited.  Excited to see the things that are unhealthy or untrue be blown away and for the healthy and good things to settle on the ground. Other days I am overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed by the process  and the uncertainty of how it will all work out.  But I know  this is where I need to be.  Resting in the process, in the unknown, is anything but easy.  I try to remember that each day is another step in this faith journey.  So, whether excited or overwhelmed, I am going to try to enjoy each day and try not to rush the process.  And hopefully, one day, I will be able to pick up the pieces, put them together and see a beautiful picture.