Archive for the ‘religion and culture’ Category

OICKH61DFK“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other 

so that you can live together whole and healed.” James 5:17 (Msg)

I am thankful that God’s grace is extended to bigotry and hypocrisy because over the years I’ve been a friend to both. The human experience is not stagnant; it is influenced by our experiences, knowledge, and by a Creator that relentlessly pursues us through all the great times but particularly in our blind spots and valleys. I’m on that journey. My hope is that you will read the following post through the lens of mercy. I tell this story, not to spark additional diversity to a controversial subject, but to find a place of connection beyond my own experience. I don’t see the point of writing if it doesn’t bring engagement to hearts and minds—a shared human experience— one that connects my dot to yours. I am committed to sharing my thoughts without pointing the finger of blame at another person or group. Although I may believe that there are things that should shift in our society, culture, religious settings, etc., at the end of the day the change I want to see must start with me. 

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This is a story of an almost friendship between me and my hairstylist; I’ll call him Chad. Chad rented his own booth at a professional salon and was an excellent stylist. I was only 24 years old at the time. No matter how my hair looked when he started; I would be completely transformed by the time he finished. “Beautiful!” he gushed. I beamed. Chad had a gift of simply making people feel better through the expertise of using hair gels, scissors, and a curling iron.

Although Chad and I never talked about his personal life, I was fairly certain he was gay by pictures he had in his booth, a gold band on his right hand, and an occasional mention of a roommate. This troubled me. He was a top-notch hair stylist, yet I had strong convictions regarding homosexuality. I was fearful of putting myself in a position of being confronted with someone who was openly gay. However, I decided that as long as he and I never talked about it, and I didn’t know for sure, then I could continue having him style my hair. I know. This reasoning is close to ridiculous and certainly childish and selfish, but it’s where I was at the time.

When my second child was born I needed Chad more than ever. Due to the hormones of back-to-back pregnancies, my hair started to thin. It was terrible. I would lose fists full of hair daily. I could see my scalp and as a consequence felt terrible about myself. I remember sitting in the chair crying and asking him to help me. He listened with empathy and kindness while expertly cutting and styling to minimize the appearance of thinning. It certainly wasn’t just about collecting money at the end of a hair cut. He was a professional, yet he seemed to care deeply for his clients. After nine months to a year the thinning stopped, my hair began to thicken, and all was well–thanks to Chad and the Lord Almighty! 🙂

One year later I arrived for my appointment. I was in tears—again! My husband had filed for divorce. My wrecked hair mirrored my life. I remember sitting in the chair sobbing the story to Chad. He listened with the sweetest concern. My heart was breaking, but he didn’t let me leave that day until he did everything he could to make me feel better. I smiled at his kindness. He was a ray of sunshine in my storm. As I moved through the next few months that mental health professionals refer to as the crazy time of divorce, Chad was part of my life. Every eight weeks I would arrive for my “therapy”. He encouraged me as I grew stronger.

Time went on. Chad took great care of my hair and heart. I would imagine there are many hair stylists that have become friend, therapist, pastor, etc. They are certainly underpaid professionals, or at least that’s true for Chad. The last time I had an appointment with him was 15 years ago. It was my wedding day. I had met someone, fell in love and, of course, wanted Chad to work his magic! He did not disappoint! I left happy, beautiful, and ready to walk down the aisle to a new life of discovery and love. As a wedding gift, Chad did not charge me for the hair cut. It was a sweet and surprising gift! He hugged me and told me to–GO GET MARRIED!!

After I married, money was tight so I didn’t go back to see Chad. It was five years later when I saw him again. I was waiting to be seated at a local restaurant. Sitting at the bar with Chad was a man. Chad’s arm was casually draped around the gentleman’s shoulder. So, it‘s true, I thought, he’s gay! As I mentally noted this, Chad’s eyes met mine, I glanced away as the hostess announced that my table was ready. During a moment of decision, I walked straight past Chad without any recognition of him—not a smile, a wave, or a sound…

The silence of that moment is a constant roar; it won’t be quiet.

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I have changed my mind and do not view people who are gay through judgment and condemnation but through the lens of love. I pray they will view me the same way along with plenty of grace and mercy. I don’t live with fear any longer and am honored when God gives me new friendships. I’m sorry that I caved to my own insecurity of what a “good girl” looked like and acted passively-aggressively. Never mind that Chad had walked with me through good and bad times for five years of life experiences. If I was to continue in my “good girlness”, I felt I could not, at least openly, be his friend. So, I walked with the halo of Angela into a plastic world where gayness is kept where it should be…closed off to the world…to love…to friendships…and especially to “good girls” like me.

I realize that there will be those who read this with polarized opinions. My intention is not to stir up debate but to create a bridge of peace for anyone living in a closet … whether you are gay and fearful of how people will react or, like me, apprehensive of the consequences of loving others as your love yourself.

My confession is genuine. My heart is open, and while I don’t want my voice to be loud, I do want it be heard. Our earth time is too short to keep secrets. I confess my fear, pride, and selfishness to you in hopes that you will join me in this conversation as I voice my heart for those who are marginalized. I place no blame for my actions on society, culture, family systems, or church. It’s easy to want to shift the burden of responsibility, but in the end it was my decision to walk arrogantly past Chad and his partner. I may have been feeling “godly”, but my actions need not be confused with God. He is love.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:16-21.

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