September 2008


I didn’t think that I would ever do this. I thought that I would keep it all inside and learn to live amongst those who, if they were completely honest, think that my lifestyle is reprehensible. Still, after Clay Aiken took that brave step forward to receive loads of cash to pose with his newborn child and admit what was really the best kept secret in America, that secret being that he is actually, no fooling, gay, how can I selfishly keep silent about my own truth?  That’s why, after 30+ years (or should I say nearly 40, well, over 35 sounds best) I need to share with the world that I am a proud, heterosexual woman.

 

Wow! The weight that is lifted from my man-loving shoulders is huge. It’s my duty, isn’t it, to proclaim my preferences to the masses, and I do so with no shame, with no remorse, regretting only that it’s taken me so long to come out of the massive shoe closet to seek the camaraderie of those like me. And I believe with all of my heart that there are many like me who have chosen to keep silent. I just want them to know, no matter how hard you’ve tried to hide it — Clay was vigilant– you can’t deny how you feel or who you love.

 

I remember when I first knew that… wow, this is hard… that I liked boys. I was 3, and I was sitting on my back porch with Gordy, my next door neighbor, watching our siblings play kickball. They wouldn’t let us play because we were too young, so we sat mischievously (yeah, it can be done), scheming to see how to get in the game. Finally, I took him by the hand, marched out to the center of the yard, turned to face him and kissed him square on the lips. That’s when it all changed, for me. (Probably for him too, as his wife once told me that he used to talk about his time with me fondly before they got married.) But I digress…

 

I knew then that my life would forever be different, that I would be a woman who liked the company of men. I was going to be one of those teenage girls that hung posters of guys like Scott Baio, Sylvester Stallone, New Edition, Sean Connery and Jerry Orbach on my wall (although I did also have a picture of George Michael on my wall…). I was going to see movies like Be Cool just for a glimpse at The Rock, and buy the New Kids on the Block CD because the guys were hot (well all of them except that weird looking one). I would buy Meet Joe Black because Brad Pitt looks great in a tuxedo, or watch Mo’ Better Blues over and over again just to see Denzel play that have mercy trumpet.

 

Oh sure, I didn’t flaunt my heterosexual tendencies. I played women’s basketball and actually was quite fond of the menswear fashion trend in the 80s. I even had the Wonder Woman Underoos! But at the end of the day, the middle of the day, really any part of the day, I dig dudes — always have, always will.

 

I’m not ashamed. I’m no longer afraid to come out and say, “I’m straight, that’s great, get used to it.” And for those who don’t understand or agree with my need to be this way, all I can say is that I was born this way. I couldn’t change if I wanted to, and make no mistake, I don’t want to change.

People have asked me if I’ve told my family. I’m happy to say that I did, over 35 years ago, and they accepted me and who I was from the start. Having a loving and supportive family is a one big reason that I feel like I can make this public admission.  Believe me, I know that not every family is strong enough to deal with heterosexuality and all that encompasses relationships that involve a guy and a girl, especially when the girl is their daughter. My family and friends have been great, and I really do appreciate their openness.

Clay said he decided to come out of his closet because, “I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn’t raised that way, and I’m not going to raise a child to do that.” To be completely honest, that’s the reason I didn’t want to hide my heterosexuality any longer. I don’t want baby Clay to think it’s okay to lie or hide things either, so I’m telling the world, I like men – big ones (especially :-p), skinny ones, light ones, dark ones, chocolates, nillas, butterscotches, caramellies, mocha mints, salt and peppers, all of them — well not all, but most of them. I don’t like them too young because I’m not up for all the training, or too short for other reasons, but you get my point.

Anyway, now you know, and soon everyone else will once the photographer gets here. After all, everyone has a right to know, right?

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for” (Jeremiah. 29:11 MSG)

Who wouldn’t like that verse? Seriously, that is a great verse, not just because of the sentiment but because it takes all worries and planning out of our hands and into God’s. I love that verse, but if I’m completely honest (a terribly annoying habit of mine), I haven’t always found contentment with that verse. It’s hard to, really, when events within and beyond our control seem to be the only events present, and they’re not particularly enjoyable events. It helps to look at the verse in its proper context.

The children of Israel were in one of their not so great situations. They were living in exile in Babylon, and they were living under oppression, but God told them to (essentially) live like they were free. He told them not to let their lives stop just because their current circumstances were less than desirable. He says in verses 5-7, and 10:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…” This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place…”

Imagine living in a space that is so far from what you want, from what is comfortable, from how you thought you should be living, and having God tell you that not only will you continue in that space for some period of time, but that you need to learn to get comfortable in that space for said period of time. Clearly, that instruction would have met with a curious and confused little black girl! I think if presented with that instruction, my brows would have furrowed, my hips would have moved to one side, and G-fab Reese would have made an appearance (well, as ghetto fabulous as I’m capable of being… showtunes and all). That call to be better than our circumstances dictate is contrary to all human reasoning, really. Even if we’re able to keep from complaining, it seems like doing anything even remotely productive would be challenging at best. It’s so easy just to sit and wait idly until circumstances, rather, until God changes our circumstances to something our minds determine to be “better.”

But when you know the circumstance isn’t going anywhere for, uh… 70 years, idle waiting, not to be confused with patient waiting, is not the answer, the call or the solution. It’s kind of like God is saying, “I know you don’t like it, but it’s all for a purpose. I’m going to surprise you.” And all you can do is obey Him, knowing that He knows what He’s doing. This is the essence of faith, and faith has its own rewards.

He goes on to say in verses 12 – 14

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. [b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

That’s probably my 2nd favorite part of the passage, verse 14 especially. He knows we’re in a banished, exiled state of being, rejected and shamed, but He promised to bring us back to our Jerusalem, “the place from which I carried you into exile,” the place where we once felt the greatest peace and security and strength. I suppose that my Jerusalem is actually Jerusalem, the place where I felt the most serene in recent years. My relationship with Him was so clearly defined and the closeness to Him brought about a renewed spirit, energy and overall purpose in my life. But like Peter, I took my eyes off His eyes, and I started to sink. Gracious God that He is, He pulled me up, bringing me back to “the place.”

So for me living in that space like a free person has meant a letting go of so many things, and in recent weeks I have let go (FOR GOOD) a host of situations and relationships. It’s meant a good deal of deleting and discarding — phone numbers, email addresses, emails, pictures, memories, and beliefs. It’s meant coming to the understanding that moving forward cannot be contingent upon answers and apologies, that knowing the whys and why nots doesn’t change the what is. God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven, and I have such a better appreciation for God’s plans for my life now that I’m out of (or at the tail end of) my exile, and that appreciation came only after I had accepted God’s call to let go and live in that space.

He did, however, allow one why to be revealed to me recently. I could have learned this information several months ago when a friend of mine wanted to share, but God knew that my heart would not have been able to handle all that comes with this knowledge in relation to my situation. Instead I learned less than a week ago that the one who really escorted me through the door to the darkest period in my life has escorted another young woman through an even more life altering door, and he handled it in a less than stellar manner. I have nothing but sympathy for the mother and child, but I praise my Lord in heaven that He spared me this fate. When I told my Nikki about this turn of events, she cried because she immediately saw the hand of God in my life. God had to rip me from a difficult situation aggressively to keep me from putting myself in a similar situation, because I wasn’t going anywhere otherwise! And I sat in the exile doing little to move on until very recently. But now I see clearly that I have a hope for a future that I had actually given up on what seems like 70 years ago.

(This is not to say that God no longer has plans for this new “family”, it’s just not a future that has anything to do with me.)

I think about my future so much these days. I think about God’s mercies new every morning. I think about my changed heart. I think about what real love looks like, feels like, acts like, and I smile knowing that my future isn’t, thank you Jesus, in my hands at all. God’s got it, and He’s revealing it bit by bit to me, cautioning me to wait expectantly on Him and His timing, all while I learn to live in this space. He knows my heart, my hope and my future. What could be better?

There is a wonderful woman in my life going through cancer. She had a tumor rapidly growing in her abdomen, and she was in horrendous pain. The doctors insisted she have surgery to remove it and several parts of her body directly affected by it. She was also told that she had to have chemotherapy for any hope of long-term survival. The tumor that had grown in her abdomen in 3 weeks was the size of a football when it was removed. She’s now preparing herself for the chemo, which, at best, will make her sick while it makes her better. She says her experience is to teach others how to go through struggle, to give praise in the midst of pain, and not to question why. Throughout everything, she’s done nothing but give God glory. She’s ready for whatever He has in store for her.

That’s how Christians are supposed to handle pain. This I understand. It is not, however, how I handled mine, but I thank God He’s been so gracious and patient with me. For me, well, I’m including writing as my way out. That’s how I describe much of my writing these days, and this post will be no different. The truth is simple, and the simple truth is that I was hurt by people and circumstances, I hung on to the pain a little too long, and I’m moving on…now. I would have loved to have healed and been able to move on long ago, but I allowed the pain of the minor and major blows against me to infect my life, which caused more damage than perhaps necessary. Wow, that really is simple. Actually, I can make it even simpler – I didn’t trust God to be all that I’ve known Him to be, and I fell into the mother of all ruts, depression, etc.

Sure, the details aren’t pretty, and I’m terribly sorry about that, but that’s what pain looks like, and Christians, of which I am one, need to stop judging one another for how we each deal with pain, and instead help one another through the pain with the Word and prayer and all that good stuff we learn on Sunday mornings and on radio shows and the books we read. Yes, watching someone go through stuff without any sort of grace (or minimal amounts) is ugly, especially when we have seen a better side of that person. And yes, behaving as the worst part of ourselves is so contrary to the way God instructs and guides us to be that it’s actually embarrassing. But what happened to loving my neighbor as myself? How often do we look at how we handle our own pain? Ride in a car with someone in hurry when there’s a backup due to an accident. We go absolutely nuts on the road because we might be late for dinner or a movie or whatever. Meanwhile, someone else has just had an accident!

I can’t say enough how much I appreciate Stephanie W’s words to me – sister to sister – about my need to forgive. That’s what standing up for Christ and what showing the love of Christ looks like. That’s what being “there” for someone looks like. Maybe her words were off the cuff in her mind (I don’t know), but God used her to light a fire up under my hind parts, and I know in my heart that the hand she held out to me was the hand of Christ reaching down into a pit I was settled in, and her voice was the inspired by our Lord to say, “You don’t have to stay here. Get out! It’s not pretty in there and you don’t have to stay.” That means something. Aren’t we Christians supposed to be the hands and feet of Christ?

The Word talks about doing the difficult thing in Luke 10:29 and following.

“…so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[a] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[b] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” NLT

Maybe it takes a relative stranger to have any impact at all. Maybe that’s why we travel the world to minister to people thousands of miles from our homes, when there’s a broken person across the street. How could anyone be trusted to care for people on the other side of the world when we aren’t willing to care for people across the street without judging them first? And what is it that we think when we see them in a state of brokenness? Is it easier to understand the brokenness in a foreign language? Or maybe it’s that the pain of our right next-door neighbor looks a little too much like our own pain.

Christians have such a bad rep these days. So much is going on in churches and around the world that makes Christians look like the worst of all offenders. We are better than that, though. We are pushing people out of the church doors and away from God, and we have no care or concern for the brokenness we’ve created and caused. We have to stop, and stop now. And we need to stop making excuses for ourselves and stop omitting parts of the Word for our own purposes. We need to turn our eyes back upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face.  We need to believe in His power to change hearts and lives. We need to get tired of sitting in that space that looks exactly like the space without Him, because if we get too comfortable, there’s a world of pain to be had.

What I hope comes from my experience is that eyes are opened to the future, not the past. Nothing can change what has happened, but we can change what we do, how we handle people, pain, experiences, etc. in the future. If we can stand in support, even when we’re not in agreement, we can help in the healing process. If we can accept that sometimes words really are enough, and that silence isn’t always golden, we can help in the healing process. If we choose to listen to a friend and NOT gossip and judge afterwards, we can help in the healing process. If we can understand that it’s enough to have someone pray for us even if we don’t actually hear them do it, we can help in the healing process. If we can choose to forgive before things get way, way out of control instead of waiting for some sort of apology or mea culpa from people who sadly are not self-aware enough to apologize for bad behavior, we can help in the healing process. But most importantly, if we can see God in all of His greatness and realize that it’s all about Him, we can be healed.