(Inspired by my friend Jacob, a few thoughts on why I’m Voting No against the Marriage Amendment)
The first time she noticed another woman.
What it was like coming out to his parents.
The challenge and longing in looking for a partner.
Over the past decade or so a few friends have sat in our dining room finding themselves telling their story. This is never a light conversation. I do my best to listen, I try to ask gentle questions, and without fail, there are always tears. Sometimes I wonder, what’s behind the tears? Are they from the pain of secrecy after so many years? Are they tears of relief since the soul was finally able to express its true identity in this body its found itself in? To be honest, I may never really know.
This is where I think empathy comes in.
Empathy is that Jesus-taught ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. To seek to understand. To look at the bigger picture. To wonder how love might respond.
You cannot legislate empathy. It does not fall under any law. More will sit at my dining room table and find themselves telling the story of when they first realized they had fallen in love with someone who happened to be of the same gender. Regardless of the status of Minnesota’s Constitution next year, multitudes of us will still continue to listen to, affirm, receive and offer love to those finding themselves in our LGBTQ community.
However, the consequences of a passed amendment in the coming election are serious. I’m Voting No on November 6, no question about it. I hope you do to, and I think it’s the most loving, compassionate, and Christian thing to do. But maybe the first question shouldn’t be about whether you are voting YES or NO. Maybe the question should be this:
Are you listening to the people around you?
Brene Brown says, “Something powerful happens when you realize it’s a privilege for others to hear your story.” If you’ve never had someone tell you they are gay, then ask yourself why not? Gosh, I know more gay people than I do Packer Fans. They’re everywhere! Why haven’t they found their way to your dining room table?
Now hear those of us who have sat in that listening chair. There is real pain, heartache, and suffering as a result of marriage inequality and if this Amendment passes, it will make it even worse. It will ensure the ongoing anguish of loved ones stranded in hospital waiting rooms, denied health insurance, and a message from society that reads second class citizen. And consider our children. Gay teen suicide rates aren’t an anomaly. It’s the result of our collectively closed ears and oppressive insistence that the world is flat—all at the risk of accepting something we’ve been taught to fear.
Have no fear of the gays my friends! They are human. They eat, sleep, drink and breath the same air. Much more, my gay friends have been my teachers. They’ve taught me a better and bigger understanding of love. They’ve helped me love myself. They’ve showed me how to love others who so easily get under my skin. As a Christian, I find this simply prophetic. These people are leaders in my life and I’m honestly ashamed to even have to defend them in this way.
A day is coming when you will be caught off guard and someone who’s been storing it up for years will strike a moment of courage and tell you who they really are:
Will you try to impose your own sexual preference? Or will you listen? The former is not working, not effective, and you will have brought someone one step closer to becoming a statistic. The latter will bring you one step closer to what it means to be a real friend. Empathy does that to people. It sparks friendship and possibility.
I wish you Vote No on Tuesday, November 6. And I wish you true friendship, with an open ear and a loving heart.