I grew up in a world where things were black and white, right and wrong. A world that could be kept tidy and organized by placing it in this box or that. It’s been a journey to explore the gray, and to find a posture of comfort in the land of “maybe we don’t have all the answers,” to lean into the mystery of God and embrace this idea that perhaps my feeble mind cannot possibly unwrap the grandeur of His plan.
As much as I would love to celebrate our victory as a society, a church family, and as individuals for being open to explore a story written in multiple shades of color, try as we may, we too often default to our safety zones, and attempt to categorize the genres of everyone’s story onto the shelves we deem appropriate.
In reality, the only story we know how to catalogue, is our own.
This past week, in small group, Melinda share a devotional from Jen Hatmaker. This line continues to play over and over, “Your vulnerability makes a path for my own. Your truth-telling says to me, “I will not despise, judge, or abandon you.” Ironically, it gives me the courage to be afraid, the strength to be weak.”
As true as I know her words to be, I am sure we have all experienced living them out to be a completely different account. I have seen first-hand how someone’s story can be empowering, and I have witnessed times where my own moments of vulnerability began to lay a path for another’s story to emerge. But there’s always another side ….
Lately for me, sharing my story hasn’t ended with abandonment like it has in the past. It’s been filled with more questioning about how I choose to share my story, like, why I chose to be so open about the “gay parts” of it. Too often I hear “it doesn’t matter who you fall in love with or lay your head down beside at night,” but here is the thing, if you don’t care that I am in love with another woman, then you can’t possibly understand that when we are sitting side by side in church and she reaches out to hold my hand, in an instant I am left with the decision: should I hang onto it or should I give her a quick pat and pull my hand away because I am not sure how the person in front of me or beside me or behind me will react when they see two woman holding hands in church. If you don’t care who I lay my head beside at night, then you possible can’t begin to understand the triumph I feel when I receive her hand and I do not let go of it, or how I feel like the biggest chicken in the room and I am overcome with such disappointment when I pat her hand, and pull mine away.
You see, it’s those unique and real struggles that make up my story. When those are dismissed, then I remain unseen.
If I can’t share my excitement about a book or a concert of a Christian artist who was disowned by the Christian community when she came out of the closet, without being questioned why I had to share the fact she was gay, then you don’t see me.
I will never forgot, one Sunday morning, after months of wedding planning and having difficult conversation after difficult conversation about same sex marriage and the church, Melinda and I, as we walked in, were stopped by a man, that did not stand on the same side of this issue as we did. He greeted us, smiled, and asked, “How’s the wedding planning going.” I never in a million years thought he would acknowledge a part of our life that we knew he disagreed with. Instead of taking our story and tucking it away on some hidden black shelf never to be opened or read, that morning, he opened our book, stepped into the gray, and saw us.
Maybe living in the gray, for some, doesn’t mean they compromise their moral code of this being right and that being wrong.
Maybe living in the gray for some means they have learned to live with their own story, and because of it have a better insight into grace and understanding that it’s messier than it appears.
Maybe living in the gray doesn’t change our views of how we think it should be, it just means we stop putting the black and white above seeing people, in the midst of their own stories.
Perhaps it’s when we step into the gray, where Jen Hatmaker’s words become a little easier. Where our moments of vulnerability provide permission for others to pull their own books off the shelf and begin reading a few pages from their story.