I Am In Love.

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You will never know the purest love you can give a person, until the day you hurt because they hurt. You genuinely want them to succeed in life and be free from all the chains that keep them from being happy, whether you are in their life or not.

-Shannon L. Alder

This week’s horribly timed “Nashville Statement” came on the heels of devastating flooding in Texas, just behind the gut wrenching events in Charlottesville. I, a straight, Christian woman who is planting an inclusive and affirming church, ache for my friends and family. As the transgender military ban also continues to scoot across my Twitter feed, as lines are drawn by government and church officials, I wonder why the moral imperative to be this decisive at this moment. Why the rush with so much else to crowd our minds? I wonder where love has gone, if it was ever there, or if love has been reduced to flippant statements with no teeth, no grit. When the stakes are high, will we stand with our marginalized friends? Do we have marginalized friends? Do we know what it means to honor and defend, not just because Jesus would, but because we want to?

I am in Love.

I am in Love with my gay friends – my gay men, my brother, my fellow pastor – Aaron Bailey, my kids’ friends. I am in Love with you. You brighten my day with your wondrous smiles, your generous spirits, your kindness towards me and mine. You are a shining beacon that enlivens me to my very core.

I am in Love.

I am in Love with my lesbian friends – all of you in my church of present, all of you in my church of future. I adore the way you care for me, the way you look me in the eye and probe to make sure I am telling you the whole truth. I love how you invite me to your homes and honor me with your presence, kindness, and hospitality. I love how you share your wisdom and shelter me from the majority of your pain. You are treasured and cherished by me.

I am in Love.

I am in Love with my transgender friends. Paula Williams – words cannot describe to you my gratitude for your presence in my life. You are a beacon, a guide, a hope for all who have the privilege to bump into you. Your spirit of generosity and mercy is palpable. Your journey is an open book, for all to learn. You have admitted your former male privilege and confessed your cluelessness and privilege.  It is my great joy and challenge to work alongside you, being mentored by you, supporting you.

I am in Love.

I am in Love with my bisexual friends. One may never know the difficulties you face because of the assumptions we make, because of our binaries.

As a Christian, the greatest work I have done is reconcile myself to the work of inclusion, the work of welcome, the work of mercy and justice and compassion. And my greatest work has been to question and challenge what it means to say “I love you.” Never should “I love  you” come with a “but”. If you are inclined to say “I love you, but…” please don’t speak. Hold your love for another time, when the “but” is gone, when the “but” is resolved and dissolved. There is no “but” in love. If there is a “but”, it’s not love.

As lines are drawn, I choose to err on the side of love. I choose to seek a person’s humanity, to seek to understand another’s experiences, another’s daily existence. I choose to listen and learn and challenge my assumptions and stereotypes. My life is rich because of my LGBTQ+ friends. I am honored by your inclusion of me, by your welcoming of me. Thank you for your remarkable love and generosity to my family.

Made in the image of God, each and every one of us is loved. Each and every one of us is deserving of love. We are escorted to the Table, invited to greedily consume the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. All of us together, in one community, as one body.

There is no room for anything that is not the generous offering of total inclusion. Brokenness is the story of humanity, not relegated to certain groups. And we are offered a life of wholeness, abundance, welcome and invitation.

I am called to pastor. I am called to love. I am called to declare boldly the beautiful work of grace in my life, the remarkable wonder of hope. Today I am here to tell you, there is good and restorative work happening in the Church. There is a movement – a breathtaking expression of unabashed love and respect.

I am thrilled to be a part of this work. Please know how very loved you are by the people who are seeking Jesus, by the people who love God with all of their hearts, souls, minds and strength. Please know you are welcome in my world, to my table, into my home.

I am in love with you.

*As a Christian,  if you support LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church, here is a statement from Christians United. I invite you to add your name to the growing list of supporters.