We all have fears, anxieties, insecurities. Most of us are scared to death of being alone. We all get angry, or sad, or confused. Simply put, we're all human, and that shared experience is worth remembering at all times, because when we forget it, that's when we go wrong. That's when we miss each other, stop listening, and resort to hurting each other deeply, violently, or maliciously.
Love of our neighbor presupposes love of ourselves. We cannot love other people if we do not love ourselves. But we cannot love ourselves if we do not want to be ourselves, but want to be someone else. 'Self'-less love in the literal sense is no love at all, for it has no subject. Self-love is the strength to love our neighbor. Self-love is the foundation for a free life.
So apparently Monday has become my regular blogging day, probably because my blog has become a place to personally process my therapy sessions. While I'm not sure whether or not Blake would approve, being the kind of person who sees his own story best in the stories of others, I'll probably keep this habit up... at least until school resumes in September.
Needless to say, this past week has been hell. For a gay recovering-Baptist-turned-United-Methodist like me, the onslaught of the Great Poultry War (as I like to call it) mixed with some other personal happenings that I'll leave out made for an incredibly emotionally broken week. As someone caught in the tension between the Christian community and the gay community, this week ended with my feeling as if I'd been beaten to a bloody pulp.
Blake remarked that this summer has been an incredibly hard one for me. One would think that last summer would have been worse due to losing Nanny. However, last summer, rather than let myself feel the pain of my loss at its onset, I dove into outlining Wesley's sermons and consequently suppressed much of the pain that one often feels in the early stages of grieving. This year, my only weekly responsibility has been working on Tuesday and Friday mornings. With this much unstructured time (which several friends have criticized me for), it's not surprising that my emotions have been running rampant. As painful and exhausting as this has been, I've needed it.
Back to the chicken battles... my biggest challenge has not been whether or not to support my local CFA whose owner is a supporter of LGBT rights. It's not been about being angry with or hating Dan Cathy and the larger CFA company for their financial support of anti-marriage-equality groups, ex-gay organizations, reparative therapy techniques, deportation of queer people, and criminalization of homosexuality. It's not even been about the "Christians" lined up in droves to "support Chick-Fil-A's right to free speech." It's been about the underlying message that these realities represent.
People are right. Dan Cathy and those who share his beliefs have a civil right to speak their minds and use their money as they wish. People are also right in saying that those of us who disagree with him can speak our minds and refuse to give CFA and other like-minded companies/organizations our money. Again, this isn't what bothers me most.
When I see herds of people from across the country lined up to buy a chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and sweet tea, I don't visually hear the Gospel. Instead I hear this subtle voice filled with fear and anger saying, "God does not love you. God did not make you this way. You are not God's child, God's beloved. You are not loved. You are not valued. You have no worth. You, at your core, are something gone horribly and terribly wrong. You are weak. You are a stain on the surface of this world, and it would be better off if you did not exist. You call yourself a Christian... that's ridiculous. You don't know Christ. In fact, you disgust him along with the rest of us. Go. Leave. Disappear. Die."
That is what I hear, and while I'm usually able to hold my own and stand firm in my beliefs and wrestled-with conclusions about my worth, value, and orientation, the events of this past week ripped me to shreds. This is the curse of dealing with chronic depression and being an empathic gay follower of Christ. I not only felt the pain of my own past, but I felt fear and concern for all those who may have heard the same message without having the strength or awareness to recognize the lies and deception present. How many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people heard what I heard, felt what I felt, yet do not have the love and support in their lives to keep going? How many of them want to give up? How many of them truly believe that God hates them and will never accept them? It scares me to my core.
One image in particular really bothered me. I did a Google image search for Chick-Fil-A appreciation day and one of the first pictures to appear was of a school bus filled with what appeared to be middle and high school students smiling widely while holding their CFA bags and cups...
I couldn't help but fear that one or more of them was like I was when I was that age: scared, hurt, filled with self-loathing, unable to be true to themselves. I imagined one of them getting on that bus with their friends from their church youth group, having never told a soul their secret, but instead partaking in an event that devalued and diminished their self-worth like nothing before.
As much as I want to proclaim the mantra of "It gets better," it's times like these where I barely have the energy to hold onto the message for myself, much less put it out there for others. In the midst of all my struggles, revisited shame and guilt, seeing people I know reaffirm their disapproval not just of who I love but of who I am, I've also felt an outpouring of love from my partner, several of my friends, classmates, church members, and family. They've offered encouragement, affirmation, strength, and most important, their very presence. I am oh so tired right now, but despite the voices in my head telling me otherwise, I know, I know that I am loved for the fullness of who I am. I am doing everything I can to hold onto this truth.
Blake said once again this morning something that he's said on several occasions when I've been a place like I am right now; he reminded me that I've made it this far and that I have within me more love, strength, courage, and faith than he's ever seen before—enough to keep me going today, tomorrow, and the day after that... one day at a time. I'm glad I have him and others in my life who allow me to see myself through their eyes. I'm glad I have my memory of Nanny and her love for me. Mostly, I'm glad for the other voice in my head telling me, "You are my child, my beloved. I love you more than you could ever imagine, and you will be okay. Just hold on a little while longer. I'm not letting go... ever."