Holding on...

We lost another one...

On January 19th, Jadin Bell of La Grande, Oregon hung himself on a playground structure of a local elementary school. Yesterday afternoon, he finally let go.

Add his name to the list of those gay teens who have endured various types of bullying. Add his name to the list of those who lost hope, who could no longer find a reason to live. Add his to the list of names of kids whose deaths could have been prevented, who had so much to offer.

There's no real way to know what went through the teen's mind, no way to know his thoughts or feelings. The same could be said for Tyler Clementi, Brandon Elizares, Jack Reese, Jay Jones, Josh Pacheco, Jamey Rodemeyer and seemingly countless others. To most of us, they are just names. We don't know their stories. We never sat with them at the cafeteria table, played sports with them, listened to music while driving. We don't know the sound of their laughter, what made them cry.

We don't know their hopes or dreams

I wish I had words. I wish I could fly out to Oregon to attend Jadin's funeral. I wish I could sit down with his parents and those of every other life lost to the brutality of homophobia. I wish I could hug them, listen to them speak about their children's lives.

I was nearly one of those names. I have several friends for whom this is also true. Yet somehow we're still here. So I'm left asking what's so different about us. Why was I able to hold on? What makes me stronger than these young men (and women).

I don't have any answers. I don't think any of us do. And that's what makes this all the harder.

What does it take to make a young man or woman believe, in their inmost being, that their life is worthless, that those around them would be better of if they were dead? Where's the line between thought and action, between living and dying?

I wish I could clone myself enough times to spread myself out to the far corners of the country and world, enough times to be present for every single LGBTQ teen who struggles with feeling loved. Sadly, I cannot. So what can I do?

Alone, I can do nothing. But as part of a community of people who think that life has value, who believe that we are all of sacred worth, we can do something.

We can sit around and hash out the theology of good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral all we want to, but if there are people who cannot see, feel, and experience the love their Creator has for them through those who profess faith in said Creator, then we're not doing our job. Our job isn't to decrease the frequency with which people "sin." It's not our job to make sure their beliefs are "orthodox."

Our job, first and foremost, is to love. No conditions. No agenda.

We love because people deserve it. We speak out in the face of injustice. We name power and the ways it is destructive. We tell, no, we show people just how amazing they are. We make them believe that they are truly and unconditionally God's beloved. And we do it until we're blue in the face. We do it until we have no physical, emotional, or spiritual energy left. We do it until the Kindom comes. That's our job. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If I hear of another gay teen who ends his or her life because they've been bullied by peers whose parents profess to be followers of Jesus, I think I'm going to proverbially and literally flip my shit. I am so angry, mostly because I've been there. I know the pain of the name-calling and the ostracism. I know the energy it takes to make it from one day to the next when nearly everything and everyone around you is telling you that you're broken beyond repair, that there's no fixing you. I know what it feels like to believe you're perverse, debase, vile and disgusting. I know what energy and effort it takes to stop believing these things about oneself. Hell, I'm still in therapy because of it.

There is no "God loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to keep you that way." There's no "But the Bible says..." There is no "It's my job... I have to... I need to..."

I cannot do this alone. We have to do this. We have to make these kids believe they have worth and value. We have to make them believe they're loved. And there is no end to this effort, none whatsoever. It doesn't stop. We do it with this generation, and they do it with the next, and they do it with the next. It doesn't stop. Love doesn't stop. Love holds on.