Saturday, February 4, 2012

A P.S. to Walking In

A post script to the questioning if we should be walking out or walking in....

It was something my husband and I discussed as we sat working on our puzzle after or team leader walked out of the room.  We wondered about something.

If there is such a reaction by christians at even the mention of the word "gay" or at anything having to do with it, what are we setting ourselves up for?  We are now the parents of teens - good teens for the most part.  We're proud of them.  When we were parents of toddlers, we pondered issues of toddlers.  We even thought over the "working mom/being at home mom" debate.  We had already made our decision on it, so we didn't need to think about it, but we did.  It was an issue that affected kids in the age our kids were.  I think we are now looking at teen issues in the same way... it is time to think about them and develop our thoughts because our teens are in this age - they will encounter these subjects, and we had better have thought about them, too.

What concerned us with the common reaction to anything "gay" by Christians was this:  What then happens when a teen has a question, a feeling, a anything?  What if a kid has a thought pass through his head.... who does he talk to?  If he or she can't talk to his parents or his youth leader or anyone at all in the Christian circles about this thought, "Why did I think that?  Why did I react like that?", who will he go to?  He will go to someone that is "safe".  Someone who doesn't react with horror and disgust.  That person will be someone he knows at school or on the internet.  That person will tell him, "well, maybe you are gay.  Gay people are born this way." 

We've reacted to the point that we are not safe to go to.  Instead of that teen being told truth in a loving way, "Thoughts come and go.  Having a thought pass through your head is not who you are, but it is something that happens.... thoughts come from things we've heard, seen, felt... and the devil would like to use them to tangle us up and get us off track.  I'm glad you shared that thought, because bringing them in the light takes the power away from them.  Let's pray, and then let's talk about how to counter those thoughts.  And let's talk again so you don't go through this alone."

Instead of that, we are pushing them away with our paranoia.

It is not that I believe these things, like homosexuality and other things aren't wrong, it is that I believe we need to be safe enough to talk to.  We will not ever communicate safety with hate and disgust.  Perhaps better with sadness and love.

It is similar to something we were all taught growing up.  Sex before marriage is wrong.  I still firmly believe that.  But it is more in how we were taught it.  Save yourself for marriage.  Be pure.  Don't be defiled.  There is a ton of words and phrases I could write out that would convey the messages that were common in the church as I was growing up, but those messages are painful, so I won't.

I was challenged and encouraged once by a man who sat at our breakfast table (after the kids left for school) discussing how he wanted to communicate this message that he still firmly believed in to his kids.  He said, "I don't want to communicate to them that a sexual sin puts them outside the grace of God or that they are damaged forever from one sin, while I still want to communicate sexual purity.  I just want to do it without fear and condemnation that leads them to hide their struggles from us and feel like their spiritual life is over if they fail in this area."

I sat stunned.  I had never heard this from a Christian before, but I needed to.  What healing is in those words!  We do need to communicate clearly and with conviction to our children, but it has to be more than the "stay pure, that is what God wants, and no one wants something second hand".  It has to be more than that.  We have to be able to communicate with our kids that it is ok to talk to us, that even their struggles and failures are ok to bring to us.  I honestly hope with all my heart that my kids stay sexually pure, but even a deeper desire than that they don't sleep with someone, is the desire that if they do, they come back to God and be forgiven and go on.  I would rather that than the fear and shame of a sin being so great that they walk away from God because they think He will never forgive them or see them as having the same worth.  We have to stop making some sins the unforgivable sins.

I am sure I could be accused of not caring or not placing enough worth on purity.  If I am, so be it.  Just because I care about one thing more than another thing does not mean I do not care about the first.  It just means the other is more worth to me.  I care about my kid's purity.  I care even more deeply about their relationship to God. 

Now I will tell you where my personal story interacts with these thoughts and why I value what this man said so much.  I grew up in the "stay pure, don't be defiled" environment as a child who had already been defiled.  Before I even understood what sex was, I was abused by some men who saw an opportunity to use a defenseless child.  The constant teaching of the church - which was well meant - was a constant reminder that I was not good enough.  I was defiled, and there was no getting that back.  "If people knew....."  (Which, by the way, was the same thing my abuser had said to keep me quiet, "don't tell, if people know, they won't like you.")   The very teaching that was to help us ended up hurting me.  When purity is valued so highly that there is never talk of grace, of forgiveness, of restoration,... this hurts children who have already been hurt.  When sexual sins are made so much of that they are taboo... much, much worse in comparison to other sins (how about greed, hate, backbiting, gossip, violence, stealing...) it says that these are only sort of forgivable.  You can be forgiven, but you will never be the same.

I think as a church we have to wake up and stand staring at statistics for a minute.  When I was growing up, it was said one in every four girls in America were abused.  Now they are thinking one in every three.  We can't just preach to the 2/3s.  We have to rethink our approach to this whole area of homosexuality and sexual purity so that we can teach it without damaging the already wounded.  We have to be able to tell kids that when they struggle and fail, we will welcome them with the same love and acceptance as Jesus does.  That there is sadness and grief in failure, but not a shunning.  Their value is in being children of God.

And honestly, I think when they grasp that, they will be less likely to sin, not more likely.

We can not hurt our wounded.  We can not push away our struggling.  And we can not hate our fallen.

Jesus never did.

Can we let these topics be safe to talk about in the church, in our families, in our friendships?  Love is still more powerful than hate or shame.

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