in the Shadows
by Lori Heine
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender love all too often languishes in the shadows. It is treated as if it is shameful. That people Christ has called to teach the world about love so often lead the way in shaming our love shows how lost many so-called Church leaders have become. Since they have forgotten what love is, they can’t remember who God is, either. Anti-gay Christians claim that they don’t hate us, but they can’t regard the very way God created us to love as evil and expect us to believe they love us.
Nor can they teach us anything about love. Human beings learn love by experiencing it. In fact, it can’t be learned any other way. Nor can it be adequately defined in words. If we don’t get it, we can’t give it.
This is why there are so many single people in our community. And it’s why so many of us say cynical things like “Why would we want to get married, or even commit to each other, and screw things up like the straight people?”
People who claim that there’s something so wrong with us that we cannot love are revealing what’s wrong with themselves. They’ve tried to withhold love from us – each other’s, their own and even God’s – because they don’t know love themselves. Again, people need to get it in order to give it.
The first thing to realize about God’s love is that no one can deserve it. Love, of any kind, does not have to be deserved – if it did, then it wouldn’t be love. God loves us not because of who we are – any of us, gay or straight – but because of Who God is. That capacity exists in all of us created in God’s image, however imperfect or deeply-buried it may be. It is the belief that anyone must deserve love that keeps it from being given or received.
Access God, and you access love, because God is love. The truth of who God made us to be can indeed set us free. I believe LGBT people have a special capacity to love, once that realization is awakened within us, because we have a greater appreciation of what we need when we’ve been starved of it. Love does the giver as much good as it does the one to whom it is given. Those who do not love are starving themselves, and those who find it hard to love were born in poverty in a world where there is always enough and God made it to be shared.
America has a big problem with marriage, and the social-conservative scapegoating of gays only distracts from the solution. This country has a problem with marriage because it has a problem with love. Many people hide love in the shadows because they have no idea what to do with it. Make no mistake about it, these would-be theocrats obsess over certain sex acts – which they seem to have an endless fascination for imagining us doing – not because they are more comfortable visualizing love than sex, but for exactly the opposite reason. They have no problem visualizing sex; it is love they find too icky to imagine.
When those of us who have been starved of love realize, at long last, that it is God’s gift to us, too, we often cherish it more than anybody else could. Those gifted with something they never had before – but for lack of which they had been slowly perishing – deeply appreciate it when at last they receive it. And, of course, they have to value it enough to know they need it, and to want it with all their hearts. Who better to share the gift, to invite others to that feast, than we?
In the twenty-first century, for God’s love to emerge from the shadows, our love must come out into the sunlight, too. It is not a troublesome, embarrassing side-issue that should be nervously swept aside by church councils afraid of controversy. It may very well prove to be the central issue of the Christian faith in this age. Those who enjoy God’s great banquet will not be the people who glut themselves without even tasting the food, brutishly push others away so they can hog the table and stuff themselves until they vomit. They will be those who waited hungrily for so long, banished in the shadows, until God called them into the light.
The best evangelists are always those who know God’s love firsthand, and who have experienced God’s grace as the gift it really is. God may be calling us to do great work for “Him.” As has happened so often before in the history of the Church, the first may become the last, and the last may become the first.
© 2010 Lori Heine
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