5 Empty Chairs Part 1

Welcome back to the most neglected blog in the history of blogs.  This one has been weighing on me for quite some time, and I need to write it out.  I’m sending it off into the universe without even a link to my social media accounts.  Maybe nobody will read it and this one’s just for me.  Maybe someone will stumble across it who needs to read it.  Maybe it’ll get me a bunch of nasty private messages.  I don’t care.  I’m tired of being a silent ally.  It’s time to come out of the closet.

I was raised in a traditional Nazarene environment.  My daddy was a minister, the Bible was taught to us from a young age.  I remember sitting with my mom in bed as a four year old and praying the Sinner’s Prayer with her, asking Jesus to come into my heart.  And Jesus is still there.  He is an integral part of me, the way I view the world, the way I walk through life’s triumphs, heartaches, challenges.  My parents were great at being honest with us about their own faith journey- the good and the bad, filtered for our young minds.  They shared their struggles and doubts, and the times they leaned on their faith the hardest.  My mom shared many times about the nights she felt her prayers didn’t go past the ceiling, and others she saw stuff happen where she thought, “Wow.  My prayers must have gone past the ceiling.”

Part of growing up in an evangelical environment in the 80’s and 90’s in a Focus on the Family subscribing  home was a very anti-gay point of view.  It’s sin, it’s wrong, the Bible is clear, we love the sinner, hate the sin, but really are super disgusted by the sinner let’s be honest.  I remember being about 8 or 9 and seeing 2 men kiss on the news at a gay pride parade, and a male family member of mine recoil in disgust.  “They say I’m homophobic,” he said, “But I’m not.  I’m homo-dis-gus-ted,” punctuating every syllable for emphasis. And that was about the extent of the family discussion surrounding the topic.  It just wasn’t part of our lives.

So I moved along through an amazing experience at a Nazarene college, still seeing life informed by the people and opinions that surrounded my upbringing.  I fell in love with an incredible man who shares the same life view I do, the same faith, the same desire to put God in the middle of our lives and let him steer.  We waited until our wedding night to have sex like we were raised to do, we built our lives together, we bought a home, we had a baby.  And all of a sudden, the world we grew up in shifted right under our feet.

It started with some friends of ours from college who got married the month after we did.  Six months into their union, he sat her down and confessed that he was gay.  The marriage was annulled.  Then my husband’s freshman RA came out and compassionately spread the word that guess what?  It’s actually possible to be gay and be a Christian.  After that, it snowballed, and suddenly our lives were filled with LGBTQ friends from every aspect of our lives.  And that’s when I noticed.

My husband’s sister and her “best friend” had caught my eye for years.  What they had together was pretty special.  You never saw one without the other.  One day in particular, her “friend” met the parents for the first time over breadsticks at Pat and Oscar’s.  And it hit me.

Oh, my gosh.  She’s meeting the parents.

Wait, really?

That’s not exactly something you want to be wrong about, you know?  So for the next two years I just kind of went along with the story they told us, but I couldn’t help but notice lots of little things.   My sister in law baby sat for a woman with two little boys who was very generous in passing along hand me downs to us when I got pregnant with Taz.  I was over at her place to pick up bags of clothes when I was about six months along, and I noticed that the roomies had made a pretty big change in their room- no more twin beds.

And me being the person I am with a filter problem, I blurted out, “You guys are sleeping together now?” *insert foot here*

She laughed it off and gave some BS story about how they found an awesome memory foam mattress topper but only could find a queen so they put the beds together.  Sure, honey.  Sure.  Just tell me when you’re ready.

Over the next few months, they started the process of coming out.  And then the craziness began.  My sister in law told her parents first, who did not react the way she expected them to.    There were tears, some yelling, a few hang ups on phone calls, and lots of scripture being thrown around.  And they called her partner’s parents and outed her to them.  She was crushed.  I was livid.  How dare they think that was ok?  This defining moment for her, taken away just like that.  Both conservative Christian families reacted the way they felt they had to, but it was hard to see the part where they were loving their daughters sometimes.

And my hubby and I were just still kind of hanging out, waiting for her to just tell us already so we could help her through it.  I’m not sure why she took months more to come out to us, but we weren’t going to force it.  We just made sure to let them know our home and hearts were open, and that they were both cherished aunties to our tiny son.

In the mean time, we got the ranty phone calls from a broken hearted family who didn’t know how to handle the news that their daughter loved another woman.  I’d be lying if I said we knew what to do at the same time.  It was so against how we were raised.  So contrary to our idea of what marriage was, our defined, God-appointed gender roles within our marriage.  But we were going to keep the door open.  We were going to love our sisters.

She finally sent us an email, subject line, “The Elephant in the Room.”  I had no idea it was what it was and didn’t even open it until the next morning.  Then I rushed to reply, to let her know it didn’t change a damn thing as far as we were concerned.

You see, the whole condemnation thing gets tough when you know people, love people, witness a relationship that looks pretty darn unsinful.  Here are these two women living an awful lot like we do.  They go to church, they work, they save their pennies, they budget, they try to eat right and exercise, they rent movies on Friday nights, they make time for date nights.  They are good to the people around them.  We were left with our preconceptions in one hand, and reality in front of our face, and they just didn’t jive.  Where was the harm done from this “sin?”  And more importantly, where was the love that should have been shown them by their families?

It was (and still is) a very uncomfortable middle to be placed in.  We took it a day at a time.  We still take it a day at a time.  With lots of prayer, lots of laughs, lots of tears, and lots of hanging out and having food.

And eventually, all of those days led up to a very special one this year on July 4.  I’ll let you know about that in the next post.

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