“Who are you?”
What a silly question. I know who I am. I suppose the better question is do I show you or him or fuzzy-eared Jim who I am. It’s an awful risky thing to do you know. And to further complicate things, I change. Constantly.
It’s not a drastic or dramatic thing like jumping into an icy river naked as the day you were born. Shocking! It’s more like a subtle change similar to the Delaware River which I am fortunate enough to live by. Everyone should be fortunate enough to live by a river. Sometimes it rises to staggering heights and spills over, flooding everything an angry brown. Other times it is so low you can walk clear to the middle of it and marvel at the smooth gray slabs of stone underneath. Sweet Earth. But regardless of the exact state it is in, it’s still the river.
A couple of months ago I dared to show my very best friend a part of me. That day the metaphorical river was overflowing with a muddy brown. I was terrified. But I needed to show her the part of me she did not know. Relationships are built on honesty, right? Or at least in theory they are supposed to be. I also wanted to be honest with her because I felt she had a right to full disclosure. She had a right to know how I felt about something that was contradictory to an incredibly important belief she held, a belief that was a huge part of her life.
You see, this woman who I love with all of my heart and soul, who has inspired me and supported me and loved me since we embarked on this adventure of friendship, is in an intimate relationship with my other really good friend who happens to also be a woman. She supports gay rights and gay marriage and transgender rights. She is very into rights for everyone regardless of their sexual inclinations or gender identification.
That is her life.
She is such a good, good person.
But I disagree with her on some things, important things. And I felt like a fraud keeping it hidden. So I took a deep breath and I showed her the hidden part of me at the risk of being rejected.
Homosexuality has never rested well with me. There has always been an uncomfortableness, a sense of something being off-kiltered. In my ideal world things would be simple, things would be defined, compartmentalized in a very neat and straightforward way. Blue would be blue and up would not be down. A pot would be a pot.
In my mind, a man and woman are compliments of one another, the yen and the yang, a complete and perfect balance. So to have two men together or two women together, it feels unbalanced. Although honestly, with the rate of promiscuity, infidelity, and divorce there is very little balance to be found. Throw in the pervasive violence and the whole world is a flippin insane asylum.
So I expressed this to her because she has a right to know who her friend is, who the person she is confiding in is. She has the right to choose whether or not she wants to be friends with someone who feels contrary to the way that she feels about something so personal and so important.
I also needed to express it to her because I believe the Bible, which in my mind is the word of God, indicates that homosexuality is a sin. Of course the scriptures can be and are interpreted in incredibly different ways. I have friends from all different branches of Christianity and they all have beliefs derived from and supported by scriptures, and those beliefs are contradictory, so who’s to say?
Next I had to confess to her that I did not believe it was right for any Christian authority to marry gay couples because I believe the God does consider it a sin. Would I protest gay marriage? No. I do believe in gay rights and if two women, like my friends, want to be married and it has been legalized, then that is their right. But Christian leaders have an important responsibility to be stewards of God’s word.
But again, the scriptures have many interpretations, so who’s to say?
I knew confessing these things to her might be the end of our friendship. The thought made me cry. I really did love her. So much. But I also was tired of hiding because of the fear that I would be hated.
There is a definite risk of being stereo-typed, labeled, and having words put in your mouth if you disagree with certain issues. Homosexuality and abortion are two major ones. And that has happened to me.
As soon as a person learns you have different beliefs they stop seeing you. They forget all of the things they love about you – your good heart, the laughs you’ve shared, all of the memories you’ve made together – and they only see hate. They see hate where there is no hate, just a difference in beliefs.
But my friend, that body of goodness, did not reject me. Her eyes did not see hate where there was no hate. Her ears did not hear words that my mouth did not speak. She still saw me. And she still loved me.
Though homosexuality and transgenderality do not rest easy with me, I am not here to push my beliefs on anyone. In the end, everyone has a right to live a life according to their conscience – not my conscience – but their own.
Honesty is a wonderful thing. And it is truly a gift when you can share it. What I am learning is that life is not just about agreeing and being of one mind. It’s even more importantly about disagreeing and still being of one heart.