Sorry Seems to be in Order...

Over the past several months, I’ve attempted to share bits and pieces of my experience transitioning from Darryl to Ellie. And while I feel that there is so much to be said and so many things to talk about, I also felt that it was important to take some time and publicly apologize. All along the way, in my quest to be the “perfect Christian,” and have it “all together,” people were hurt. I’m sure that there are still people who are hurting to this day. And then there are people who never even knew of the resentment and pity that I carried in my heart for them. Today’s post is for you. But most of all, today’s post is for the person out there who is struggling with their own identity and what that means for where they belong in not only the Church, but God’s plan.

I think the point is best illustrated in this anecdote provided by Rachel Held Evans in the book, “Searching For Sunday:”

“It all started when World Vision, a humanitarian organization I had long supported and even traveled with, announced a change to its hiring policy allowing people in same-sex marriages to work in its US offices. In response, conservative evangelicals rallied in protest, and within seventy-two hours, more than ten thousand children had lost their financial support from cancelled World Vision sponsorships.”

“Ten thousand children.”

“To try and stem some of the bleeding, I joined with several other World Vision bloggers to encourage my readers to sponsor children or make one-time donations to the organization, which was reeling as church after church called to cut off funding. We had raised several thousand dollars and multiple sponsorships when the CEO of World Vision announced the charity would reverse its decision and return to its old policy against gay and lesbian employees.”

“It had worked. Using needy kids as bargaining chips in the culture war had actually worked.”

That’s when it hit me.

As I sat there, crying, shaking my head at how Christians can be so cruel, I heard God remind me - I have been no different. I happily stood in line with other hundreds of Christians at our local Chick-Fil-A after their president affirmed the idea of traditional marriage, all the while disregarding the real hurt that my LGBTQ+ friends were feeling, and reassuring myself that it was all in “support of free speech.” I cheered with my Biola community when their accreditation was upheld over the ability to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and faculty. I grew angry when I watched people lose jobs, friends, and more over the Prop. 8 battle. All without taking into account the real people whose lives they were affecting. Without taking into account the idea that many of the people we were rallying against - the people who desperately needed the hope that real Christianity gives - were going to be so damaged and hurt that they would never darken the doorway of a church. Without thinking that lives and futures were being affected.  But hey - I had my tribe around me, right?

I get it now.

Theological stances are wonderful in theory - but when we fail to take into account the very real people behind the issues we’re debating, we aren’t any different than the men who dragged the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. Yes, Jesus may have forgiven her, and she may have left grateful to be alive, but you can also bet that there was still much hurt and healing that had to take place for her to even go near the temple again.  To trust in God to be there to protect her.  Yeah, Jesus showed up that one time, but... what about the next?  And while we aren't threatening to stone people to death, that mentality - that thought that lingered in the hearts of the men.... we can't know what they felt after.  Did they feel remorse?  Or did they feel animosity that Jesus had call them out?  Did they say in the quiet of their heart, "Okay, Jesus, you got us this time, but we'll get her the next time..."?  I just ask, because if I was honest with myself, that's where I've been.  What about you?

I guess I didn’t fully understand the implications of that until I was standing here in this space. Asking church leaders point blank, “Would I be welcome here? I mean, I know that God embraces people from all walks of life, but… I also know that His people doesn’t always. Is this somewhere I can belong?” Oh, it was so much easier when I could hide my true self and my issues. This? Well, I can’t hide it. I don’t want to. I spent 40 years of my life trying to. God calls ALL people unto Himself, and if we can’t understand that, then I don’t know what we’re doing. Why is it that we say in church on Sundays that we are praying for God to reach so many people who NEED Him, but shudder at the thought of them actually attending our place of worship?

It’s a crazy thing to feel the absolute need to disclose who I am before thinking I can participate in a church, but that’s where I am.

And it’s also a crazy thing to be told, “I’m sorry, you don’t belong here.” It might not be something that we say directly with our words, but here’s what I’ve learned - those words are spoken so loud and clear by how we act in the world, joining forces to “preserve and protect Christianity and Christian morals,” as if God couldn’t do that Himself. As if God wasn’t already doing that.

So with that in mind, I want to publicly apologize.

Apologize for the times when I’ve unwillingly and unknowingly hurt my friends, family, and neighbors through my thoughts, words, and deeds. For the times when I have contributed to an atmosphere that seems so foreign and hostile to so many who are hurting. For the times when my implied security was more important than your ability to live your full life.  For the times when I taught those around me by my actions that some people needed to be not allowed to be happy because it was a perceived threat to our group.  For the times when I encouraged others to pity your lives because you weren't able to live to your fullest potential, without understanding that it was my actions at the same time that were holding you back from being all that God created you to be.  And for that, I'm sorry.  I am so, so sorry.  And it is my prayer that my life now and my ability to talk about this now - my advocacy in a sense - brings some sort of reparation to the damage that I have helped cause.

When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor, and our response is, “who is our neighbor?,” then sometimes God stretches us to invest in the lives of those outside of our comfort zone. For many times, it is in those moments that God is real and present for everyone to see. If all of God's creation is a facet in the diamond that shines and reflects God's light and image, why oh why do we work so hard at trying to chisel some facets out or blemish them?  It affects all of us as a whole.  It affects the world's ability to see what is most important - that God is love.  And that God loved THE WORLD so much that He gave His only Son so that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

I may not have it down perfect, but I’m learning.  I'm sure I'll make mistakes along the way.  But the road is before us, and I’d love to have others on the journey with me - are you in?

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