Here I Stand

I was sifting through some old writing recently and found a piece about some family friends that I am editing and updating a bit for today: This summer will mark the 35th anniversary of D & B, who are family friends. Their daughter L was a playmate growing up. They lived in a small bungalow one street over from us, close enough that I didn’t have to cross the Big Street in order to walk there.

D & B are both attorneys, and they had given L a bunch of old textbooks which we used in our games of School. We spent many hours underlining them using a variety of felt tip pens. L also had an impressive assortment of Star Wars toys. My favorite was the Death Star trash compactor complete with spongy debris.

D & B were very calm and collected parents. One afternoon L and I got into the cookie dough while they were out on a quick errand. They pulled into the driveway just in time to see us through the window, closing the refrigerator and hustling back to L’s room. They came in and asked, “What were you all doing?”

The ritual at my house was to answer “Nothing” right off the bat, which both parent and child knew wasn’t true, but it was a way of easing into it. This time, my reflexive “Nothing” coincided with L’s “Eating cookie dough.” I looked at her in awe. Wow, she tells the truth the first time!

They taught her honesty and self-assurance both. One time we were kicking the football around in the front yard, being silly, when some older teenagers across the street burst out laughing. I decided they were laughing at us and wanted to stop playing our game. L was genuinely puzzled. “Why should we stop? We’re just playing around. Why do you care what they think anyway?”

Why indeed? I still ask myself that question.

Anyway, D & B have been together thirty-five years. I can’t quite fathom what thirty-five years is like, but they inspire me to give it a go. Robert and I are less than halfway there and it seems like we’ve already been through a couple of lifetimes’ worth of stuff. We’ll hit thirty five in the year 2029—we’re talking hovercraft and apes taking over the planet. D & B’s thirty-five years began in 1976, amid the red, white and blue of the bicentennial, I suppose. Now we have $4 gas and the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Thirty-five years. That’s more than twice as long as my parents lasted. Robert’s too. Which is peculiar, seeing as how our parents are all straight, whereas people continue to insist that the union of D & B could not possibly be blessed by the God of the Old and New Testaments.

I think those people are wrong.

Today, a vote was taken that clears the way for gay and lesbian Christians to be approved for ordination as leaders in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I know people who will be heartbroken at this shift. They are not evil, bile-spouting hate-mongers, by the way. And I also know others whose hearts were broken a long time ago when the church that baptized and nurtured them refused to affirm their call to ministry simply because of who they love and how they're made. Some people find today's decision unthinkable. And others find it a complete no-brainer.

As for me, I've studied the Bible, I've heard all the arguments, I've read the books and the white papers and the word studies. Like Inigo Montoya, I do not think it means what you think it means.

I've also been very aware that in another time and place, it would have been my suitability for ministry that would have been up for a vote. It would have been my call that, when approved, was a grievous sign of our abandoning of biblical principles in favor of what's culturally popular. So it goes.

I am sure some will read my little story about D & B and conclude that I have let myself be "blown about by the whims of culture" in supporting the inclusion of GLBT persons in leadership. In a denomination that affirms scripture as our authority, this is a serious charge. And sure, I am as much a product of my culture as anyone. But in fact these folks have it backwards. The God whom I encounter in the Bible and in the stories of Jesus of Nazareth becomes enfleshed in the lives of people who have nurtured me and shown love and faithfulness. D & B's steadfast relationship is just one example of that. I've also seen this God in the lives of single people, divorced people, and countless others.

So today, I celebrate. I celebrate with gifted ministers like M and K and K and many others, and for folks I don't even know.

I can do no other.