Love has brought me to an impossible place. This is the place where–through the cracks in the hardened asphalt of my heart–healing is breaking out. It is a place of weeping and contrition, a place of apologies, a place of not looking away from the poor and of examining the ways I’ve caused harm instead of healing.
Last week, I went to my gay neighbors and I wept. I requested their forgiveness for the ways I’d hurt them.
It was an apology three years in the making. I caused the hurt. I threw the first stone. I supported Prop 8 and everyone in my neighborhood knew it. I had my yard sign, my talking points, my righteous anger.
My “righteous” anger hurt, alienated and divided my neighbors.
I caused harm.
I came to regret voting yes on Prop 8. I began to see the ways I’ve contributed to an oxymoronic Christian culture that says God loves us and hates us simultaneously. When I have a split-personality view of how God loves, then I have a split-personality view of how TO love.
I don’t know how others do it, but I simply cannot love and hate at the same time. So, I started choosing love. Not in some abstract way, but in concrete, tangible demonstrations of love. I started showing love–in small ways.
You know, little things like smiling, stopping to chat while walking my dog, friendly waves when I passed. I let my guard down. I stopped acting from a place of fear and defensiveness. I opened myself.
It took some time–almost three years of quiet, little gestures of love. To my shame, I had done more damage than I imagined.
Last week, the time was finally right. I was walking my dog Darby (a dog, incidentally, has taught me more about God’s love than a bazillion sermons) and stopped to chat. My gay neighbors are expecting a baby and we talked about baby stuff for awhile. And then…I just said it. I said I needed to ask their forgiveness.
And I started weeping. I no longer need to appear Strong And Right. Love has freed me to let others see my vulnerability. I apologized for hurting them and asked them to forgive me.
They forgave me.
They embraced me.
Lastly, here’s a comment from one of my regular readers–Scott Morizot, a Christian whose compassion has inspired me so much in recent years. I think his perspective from yesterday’s post on “True Tolerance” was profound:
I will note that Christians are not called to tolerate others. (I mean actual tolerance, not the newspeak “true tolerance” in the posted video.) We are commanded instead to love.
I can tolerate another politely from across the room with a tip of my metaphorical hat. I can have my sphere and they have theirs. I might engage their views and ideas, but safely — from a distance.
Love, on the other hand, demands much more. In order to love someone who comes into my life, I have to let our separate little spheres collapse. I have to enter their reality at least enough to know them well enough to begin to understand what I could possibly do that would truly be for their good.
There might be little I can do at a given point in time or there might be much, but I have to actually do it or I have not loved that person. It might be that all I’m able to do is sit silently and offer the one in pain my presence. Being present is not a small thing and is sometimes the appropriate action. But love can demand much more, up to and including our lives, as even a cursory review of Christian history reveals.
Love is a much, much harder and messier thing than tolerance. But if you’re not able to truly love the other just yet, tolerance can at least be a start. –Scott Morizot