Loving people is a deep ocean, as treacherous as it is beautiful. Navigating through the peril of those who stand against us, a daunting task of great proportions. Between sunset skies, there are those who would drown us, silence our voices, and abandon our cry. The people who should care the most, are at times the ones who care the least. It’s everything we can do, keeping our head above water, to not lose ourselves in the wake of hate. Love is as dangerous as the seas are blue.
It’s ok to want to give up, as long as you don’t do it. The love that is supposed to win, often feels like it’s losing—people determined to misunderstand, as much as they refuse to listen. The riptides of rejection, pulling us from everything that feels secure, something inside of us is slowing dying, we sense it—hope, faith, love, a struggle to remain human. Walls going up, the shades closing, curling up in the fetal position as we pray for the world to go away.
The day we give up on loving, the purpose of our living, that will be the day they win. It’s a fight, it truly is, but I still believe, with the anti-LGBT people in our lives, love still wins.
I’m not perfect, I have a long way to go, but here’s what I am learning. Five ways to win at loving the anti-LGBT people in our life.
Choose Relationship over Debate. As an affirming, advocating pastor, people want to debate me. Having spent exhausting hours on this endless treadmill, I’ve learned to press the pause button and point to relationship—pushing out a chair, inviting them to the table. Not for a circular argument-fest, but for what could be a transforming conversation. Each of us growing, if in nothing less than our understanding. I can tell you, nobody has a heart-change through debating, it’s only through relating.
Find me a person who is anti-LGBT, and I will have found you a person who likely lacks true, humble, authentic connection with this community. Freedom from bigotry doesn’t comes from knowing a new idea, but from knowing a person, newly. Information, creeds, and beliefs find their heart changing power, only in relationship. It’s the face to face, soul to soul interaction that causes one to truly ask the question and seek an honest answer, “did I get this wrong?” It’s a daunting task to influence a heart to which you aren’t connected. Know your stuff, but where you can, choose relationship over debate.
Love from a Distance. Caring for ourselves, protecting the well-spring of life within us, all deeply critical to our capacity to give love. In the face of those who are against us, sometimes, the best we can do is to survive another day in order to love again on another. Nothing can be more toxic, more skin melting than the fallout from those in our lives who are anti-LGBT. Pulling the pin of “coming out” as a person, pastor, advocate, or a parent can be met with huge explosions. In all things, give yourself the permission to love as you can—a little, or even in moments, not at all. At times, giving grace isn’t measured in the love we give, but in our stopping short of expressing the opposite. If that means creating space, create it. Turning off the phone, a vacation from social media—there is a difference between freedom from love, and freedom for it. Don’t stop loving, rather find sanctuary in loving from a distance. Doing so, is completely acceptable and honoring, even if it doesn’t feel right, and leaves others disappointed. We can only do the best we can. What measure of goodness or sharing of self we have to bring at any given moment, should sit in our hearts as being sufficient.
Grieve the Loss of Expectations. You thought they would “get it” but they didn’t—thought they would listen, but they aren’t. You thought they would love you anyways, but they won’t—thought they would come for the wedding, but they aren’t. You thought your ministry would survive, but it couldn’t—thought they would still value your friendship, but they don’t. You thought you could still go to church, still serve in ministry, but you can’t. Family visits, dinners at the table—so much will never be the same—never ever, again. These are the dreams, the hopes, the inner expectations we hug that are so hard to release. If only things were different, if only they would reconsider, if only they could see.
Letting go is different than giving up. It’s emotionally freeing yourself from the pain of expecting from someone what is fairly owed to you that they cannot or refuse to give—going to the well, over and over, only to come up dry. The decency that humans should be, is the decency we often don’t receive. It’s a process, a tiresome journey that doesn’t find resolve overnight. Accepting their rejection is the hardest—surrendering the impossible quest to change their mind, perhaps even more difficult. Yet, love finds its apex of fruition, its most challenging expression, when we love people where they are at, not where we wish they would be. Don’t give up hope, but let love emancipate your heart from being ruled by expectation.
Eat First. The psalmist discovered that the power to love our enemies comes from first sitting at God’s table and eating—feeding off His delight, affirmation, and pure love for our lives. It’s only there that we find enough soul supply to never hunger or thirst again—to have a sure sense of self that our enemies can’t suck dry. Accepting His acceptance is the bullet proofing of our hearts from all rejection. Don’t you dare pull up a chair to anyone’s opinion in an effort to feed your identity, value, worth, or affirmation. Taste and see that God is good, and His goodness is in all that His hands have made, you included.
We help people to win in response to our lives when we remove from them the burden to be the source of our self-love and worth. To be connected to the tubes that feed our self-talk is a sure foothold all our enemies desire. The truth is, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, a plan, or a scripture to justify. We are who we are, by God’s exclusive design, and the haters can simply take it or leave it—what we believe or how we choose to live it. It would be great, it’s what we deserve, but their lack of approval, respect, and fairness doesn’t define us, nor should it leave our souls in a state of starving. We are whole and complete, apart from those who say we aren’t. This is the power of the table, from which we sit to face our enemies—full, quenched, sufficient, worthy, fully loved and fully alive, and therefore capable of even loving those who stand against us—not looking to be fed, or vulnerable to their leeching, but to contribute love where we can.
Keep the Light On. We live in a dark world, blanketed by darkness. Ignorance abounds. Hate, the breakfast of many Christians and the religious. Even still, never give up. Remove that card from the deck of possibilities. Keep the light on. “Motel-6” people, even if it hurts.
If God can change my mind and heart about all that is LGBTQ, anything is possible. Maybe, just one day, they will reconsider.
It’s not easy. Refuse to write people off, be brave enough to hope—to spend time in the land of the waiting. You will surely become a better person in the process, even if they never do.
Homophobic people who say stupid, horrific things… love them anyways.
Anti-LGBT people who are determined to misunderstand… love them anyways.
Bigoted people who want their cake and eat it too, keeping you from enjoying any… love them anyways.
Rejectors who kill with their eyes and destroy with their head turns… love them anyways.
People who should listen, but refuse to even hear… love them anyways.
Christians who completely malign the heart of Jesus and fail to manifest Him… love them anyways.
Family whose job it is to love you the most, but resign to caring the least… love them anyways.
Friends who once declared to forever walk by your side, but now have left the building… love them anyways.
For if the world is going to change, love will have been the reason—not just love, but your love and my love, specifically.
Be brave, love bravely.
The Light is still on, love still wins.