“For You shaped me, inside and out. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You as I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb. You see all things. You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb…” (Psalm 139:13-16).
Friday was National Coming Out Day for closeted LGBTQ persons to announce to family or friends their sexual orientation. I truly appreciate the empowerment that this day represents. However, my heart dies a little that we make people announce their sexuality at all. I think of the suicide and depression statistics, the isolation and rejection that agonizes people’s minds, the fear and panic that can overcome the nerves when someone must finally open up to another the vulnerable part of their being that makes them different.
The pastor of the church I go to often talks about redemption and restoration. He wrote a book that we use as a midweek class, Jesus’ Big Idea. The premise of the book and the class is that Jesus talked more about the kingdom of God than anything else. ‘Everyone gets to play’ sums up the theme of the book and Jesus’ take on God’s kingdom. I can’t express enough how much I want to see that worked out as true in our lives. My heart races when I think of a world that fully lives out that truth. I try not to give in to cynicism as the reality that we put conditions on people and God that Jesus never did unveils itself.
Today, in the spirit of equality and fairness, I’ve decided to ‘come out.’
I confess that I am part of the privileged class of WASP (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant). It scares me to admit that I haven’t used that privilege often enough to protect and empower those my powerful class dismisses. In my life I have said insensitive and repugnant things in ignorance, but acknowledge that wounds inflicted with good intentions can still be mortal. I beg forgiveness from my brothers and sisters for the times I let shame come over me and I remained silent. I am straight; but I come out today publicly that I endorse equality in civil rights for all, equal opportunity and treatment in Christian churches for all who follow the teachings and heart of Jesus, and am heartbroken over the treatment of any who do not fit what we in power have defined as ‘normal.’
Psalm 139 has been used often in the pro-life movement to stand against abortion. What kind of message do we send if we hold up that scripture for the unborn, but ignore that psalm for those already living among us? Today, I may be a minority voice in certain church circles, but I publicly proclaim with a humble heart that I do not have the right to make a blanket statement for any group of people how to live or how God’s glory is revealed through their lives.
I make this public confession with feelings of fear. I know I probably can’t know the full extent of the emotions that others in powerless groups feel when they make their confessions; but shame is universal to all of us. Knowing that I may lose even more friendships than I already have, I still must come out and stand alongside others who have lived in shame far too long. Today, I offer my privilege and power to the voices of people who have stood stripped down and treated like an issue instead of a person in front of their accusers. Today, I hope to begin to offer covering from the shame and humiliation and speak the words of Jesus when he dismissed the religious leaders accusing a woman caught in adultery by saying, “Let the first stone be thrown by the one among you who has not sinned.” After all of them left and the woman felt protected, Jesus asked her who was left to condemn her. She responded that no one remained. Then Jesus said what we all want to hear, “I don’t condemn you either.”
And I now hear my fellow Bible aficionados proclaiming that Jesus also said to her, “Go and sin no more,” making that beautiful story about a weapon to use against anyone we deem is ‘sinning’ instead of Jesus’ grace. So, I will briefly address this statement. This story isn’t confirmed in any of the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel. So, we’re not sure the story actually happened. If it did (and I so hope it did–I LOVE this story in the life of Jesus), what does Jesus mean by ‘Go and sin no more’? He has just announced to the religious leaders that only if they haven’t sinned can they stone this woman. Could Jesus have been making a little joke with her about the ones who try to condemn us? Or, could he have meant something like, ‘Don’t let choices in your life separate you from God’? Isn’t ‘sin’ that which separates us from God?
I don’t have the patience for the nit-picking theological arguments. But, I do know that I have publicly announced in my own stripped-down way that I do not have the right to condemn the core creation of people with whom God ‘approached even the smallest details with excellence.’ Today, I celebrate those with the courage to come out and throw off the heavy garments of shame–standing naked and unashamed before their Creator, letting God define their goodness, acceptance and value. I just get to be a part of the standing ovation and pray that our cheers are louder than the accusing voices.
Because we all should get to play.
Do you need to ‘come out’ on anything? What are your fears that stop you? How do you see Jesus protecting you from your accusers?