A person's story belongs to no one else. It's theirs. The details. The emotions. The nuances. Quite frankly, to tell the story of another person without his or her explicit permission is unacceptable. Wrong. Arrogant. Inconsiderate. Selfish. Sinful.
Mind your own damn business...
Easter Sunday is about life—new life. It's about resurrection. Hope. Renewal. Love and its overwhelming power to overcome any and everything that opposes it. Easter is about new beginnings. It's about reconciliation. It's about community. It's about the impossible becoming possible. It's about God doing what God does best: something new and unexpected. Yet on this Easter Sunday, after a great service at Holy Covenant, a service filled with community, with faces old and new alike, with peace and meal and song, I was reminded that not everything old has passed away. The new has not been made fully manifest in the world.
When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved — Mark 13:11-13
A dear friend of mine came out to me. Married with children, this friend is in a stage that many LGBT (queer) people face of having to figure out what's next. Faith. Family. Friends. God. Self. Relationships. Hopes. Dreams. In a conversation with me just a little while ago, this friend informed me that their small group leader from church has been causing problems for them, offering an ultimatum for them to inform the church leadership about their "problem," or else this other individual would do so herself. Apparently she did: the associate pastor asked my friend to meet for coffee this week. Needless to say, I am a weird combination of outraged and utterly crushed.
Their story is not yours to tell. Period. End of conversation.
Most likely, this individual feels that it is both their right and their duty to "out" my friend. As we spoke on the phone, I could feel my anger surfacing. Remembering my own coming out process, having experienced what it's like to have someone else, someone you trusted, tell your story for you without even asking, is beyond painful. It's damaging. It is a betrayal of trust, and it is anything but loving. Coming out is difficult. It's risky. It's one of those situations where often you expect the worst while simultaneously hoping for the best. Sometimes you get lucky. Other times, the worst becomes reality. Life gets shattered, and one is often left to pick up the pieces alone or with very little help.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another — John 13:34-35
In my own experience, I've not only had my story told by others without my permission, and I've accidentally (with no ill intent) outed someone else. Over time, I've developed a strong sensitivity to the stories of both friend and stranger alike. The sharing of someone's story is an intimate, sacred thing, not to be taken lightly. It's not simply transparent. It's vulnerable, often delicate and potentially fragile. A person's story deserves to be treated with care and cherished. Never abused. Never taken for granted. Certainly never used as a weapon, as a mechanism for control or power.
I want to scream (more than I already have, to be honest). I want to cry. My friend's story is one I have heard over and over and over again, and it sickens me. We wonder why some people leave what should be the safe space of the sanctuary never to return again. We wonder why individuals have such hostility towards God and the very people who are commissioned to be the representatives of Christ here on Earth. We wonder why teenagers and adolescents who identify as sexually other have such a hard time holding onto the will to live, who struggle to believe that things really do get better.
We're failing. Miserably. And our failure has a cost: life.
I'm not writing this because I have any concrete answers to the problem at hand. There's no magic solution to the dilemma of a broken world. God's Spirit, as Jesus promised, is here. Present. Living. But too often I wonder if we've put up the red velvet rope, looked Her straight in the face, and pointed to a sign that says NO ACCESS. We've shut her out. We've shackled her. We've ignored her, making her invisible, and replaced her with the false idol of legalism. When we deny life rather than embracing, affirming, and cherishing it in all its diverse forms, we look God straight in the face, glaring, and tell God to get out. Leave. We don't want you here. Your way sucks. Our way is better.
God's way leads to life. Gives life. Liberates life. Affirms life.
Our way leads to death. Injustice. Destruction. Oppression.
When someone shares his or her story with you, honor it. Cherish it as you would an infant. Nurture it. A person's story is not a tool to be used. It is not a means to an end. Most of all, it does not belong to you. Ever. Regardless of how it impacts, changes, or transforms you. Our response to someone's story is simple: love. Nothing more, and nothing less. On this Easter Sunday, give life. Embrace it. Renew and affirm it. This is resurrection. This is love.