Definition of a VALENTINE
a sweetheart chosen or complimented on Valentine’s Day
a : a gift or greeting sent or given especially to a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day; especially : a greeting card sent on this day
b : something (as a movie or piece of writing) expressing uncritical praise or affection : tribute
This year, aside from my boyfriend, I want to single out my gay friends on Valentine’s Day, and this is why:
I know I’m not the only one who cringes with apprehension every time I see or hear someone start a sentence with the words “As a Christian…,” because I’m afraid something is about to be said with the intention of placing that “Christian” above any of us that would support equal rights for gay people. I have witnessed people being “Leviti-cussed” out so many times that calmly pointing out the legitimate reasons to leave Old Testament arguments out of current issues just doesn’t seem worth the effort anymore. Some people do not want the inconsistencies of their world view brought to light.
End of story.
I was raised Christian, and I do not consider myself far from the values that upbringing instilled in me. In my life today I practice honesty, patience, compassion, respect, selflessness… but I fall short. I fell very short a few years ago in the throes of a pain pill addiction. Admittedly, this turn of events in my life follows a period of questioning and then renouncing my Christianity, as the gods of partying and “experimenting” took definite primacy throughout the turbulent period of my early twenties. After many consequences, and with my tail tucked between my legs, I turned my will and my life back over to the God I knew in my days at Christian School. But God did not take the form of Sunday mornings, Bible study, or mission trips to Africa. He took the form of encouragement from my best friend Angie, who happens to be an openly gay woman.
“Openly gay” may not accurately describe her. Angie is obviously, naturally, and irrevocably gay. In my drinking and partying days, I made several friends who happen to be gay, and the memory of the Bible saying that homosexuality is a sin fell into the same category in my mind as the idea that we should own other human beings as slaves, Santa Clause is real, and I should immediately find a husband to obey. But in early sobriety, everything was surreal and deja-vu-like, and I found myself not really knowing what to believe. Fortunately, I had people around me saying that if I wanted to change my life I was going to have to try and keep it simple, and simply put, I wanted to be like Angie.
Angie had also struggled with drug abuse and she was turning over a new leaf. She was so certain that it was the right thing to do, and I was certain of nothing, so I followed her lead. Every time I thought I was ready to give up on my sobriety, Angie was there, pulling me out of it, pulling me forward. We met several more people on our journey, and for whatever reason, a lot of them happen to be gay. Together we learned to admit our need for God, participate in our relationship with Him, look at what makes us less useful, and be effective members of society. In this new life I came to feel closer to God than I ever had before. For the first time I was able to translate my love for Him into how I behaved in my life and how I treated my fellow human beings. Others who had the same experience continued advising me to keep it simple. On the gay issue, I asked myself these simple questions:
Do I think God makes mistakes?
Do I think God blessed me with the right people along my path back to Him?
Do I think He did so to save my life?
Do I think He means for me to love them as I would want to be loved?
Do I think I am in any way better than any of them, regardless of whether they are gay or straight?
Absolutely not. Such an idea cuts me off from God.
I do not claim to know why God has made this my path. But I want to keep it simple today. I want to to trust God, clean house, and help others. And sometimes my gay friends need help. Sometimes they need support.
I think sometimes they need a Valentine from someone that says, “Hey, I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that you’re in my life, and I definitely don’t think that anything about you is a mistake.”
I have referred to myself as a Christian less and less since getting sober, and it is both because I had to take my relationship with God out of the small box I had it in order to remain both sober and happy, and because there have been several “Christians” in my life that I have no longer wanted to be associated with because of their hurtful words or actions.
I cannot be effective as a follower of Christ’s teachings (the ones of love and tolerance), if I am constantly using my beliefs to be apart from rather than stand in the Light with my fellow human beings.
Now, I am more likely to refer to myself as a child of God, a lover of His teachings and a student of the lessons He would put in front of me to learn. Not too long ago, I was removed from a Facebook page for alumni of the Christian school I attended as a child for being on the wrong side of an argument for our openly gay classmate to have his wedding announcement alongside others in the alumni newsletter. Since we would not stop protesting, the school removed the Facebook page altogether. They told our gay classmate that he had fallen short of the glory of God, as many of us do. And even though some might say that there’s several ways to look at it, the bottom line is that it was hurtful. So this Valentine’s day tribute also goes out to Josh. He was my paperboy once. He works with troubled youth and he is a pleasant member of society. I am happy to count him as a friend today.
I LOVE GOD.
And I love what He has done for me and the people He has sent to help me, both gay and straight. I cannot change my story or what God has done for me to fit into an ancient rule book that is rarely followed but constantly weaponized. And the more I feel God’s love and see evidence of it working in my life, the less I find it necessary.
Happy Valentine’s Day: Angie, Mikel, Miles, Chase, Trena, Ellen, Rhonda, Shannon, Gwen, Trish, Pam, Tabby, Andrew, Ashley, Jennifer, Jana, Julie, Becky, Erin, Zach, Matty, Josh, Lindsey, Kyla, Brian, Haley, and David.
I know there are several people that would tell me I need to look at you as “sinners,” if I count my self a follower of God’s word. But my God has presented you to me as sweet hearts in my life and I accept ALL that you are! It is not my place to say that something about you is fundamentally wrong. I know you because you have been vulnerable enough to let me see you as you are. I know each of you have goodness in your hearts and love for God in your own ways just like I do, and because of it, you have enriched my life. Many of you have helped to heal wounds within me. So I hope just reaching out this Valentine’s Day can be healing for you a little bit too, while we live in a world that persecutes what you are. Today I don’t want to argue with the people that would criticize me for loving you completely. I just want to include you in my thanks to God for giving me your companionship, in the form of this tribute, this Valentine.