To start reading from the beginning of the series, click here.
We are standing at the edge of Elliott Bay, laughing as we launch rocks into the cold waves of Puget Sound. We stagger and try not to impale each other as we flail uncoordinatedly, lobbing slippery stones with our left hands. We are both right handed.
My friend and I try to tell our brains and our muscles to mirror the more familiar gestures of our right hands. We are surprisingly clumsy. It is also surprising how quickly we become adept. Before too long—our shoes muddied—our lefty-flung rocks reach as far into the water as the ones thrown effortlessly from our right hands. A mottled, adolescent gull lands nearby, twisting its neck from side to side, examining our actions with its strange stare from the opposite sides of its head.
It is somewhere within this moment that my friend (a man married to a woman) begins to speak; tells of his experience talking to a group of folks at our church about why the Episcopal Church has created a blessing for same-sex unions (I am blessed to have non-queer identified friends who do such things as a matter of course in their lives).
We had spoken about this the day before, when I had borrowed his family’s car and returned it, eaten a burger standing at their counter, and visited with another friend as his children climbed on top of me. I had felt this moment coming—the day before that, when I had borrowed their car again and, returning it, dropped off grape flavored store-brand children’s Tylenol and he had mentioned he’d be hosting this talk.
As we stood, watching waves rock the seaweed, salt-air fresh under the spring sunlight, he began to name the shame he felt—to speak in church about blessing queer relationships. All the baggage that lives inside him, the unnamed places where fears and prejudices simply are—a part of the fabric of how we all come to be in this world. He spoke of how he felt the hesitation, the underlying accusations, the awkwardness, and how he felt when he pictured my face.
I am so utterly grateful. Such goodness brings healing and leaves me undone.
There is something priceless in seeing so precious a friend continue to enter so deeply into his own process of wrestling with the internalized, deeply enculturated notions of gender, heteronormativity, and homophobia that have kept me bound—that keep us all bound.
I am stunned to see him wrestle with all that he and our culture have come by so honestly, and to know that he is facing these things with me in mind. This is courage; grace; repentance; Christian hospitality; family–put into practice.
When I first came out as gay, I could not have imagined I would be met with the kindness and courage I have been surrounded with. It is a bit like a week of sunshine and 70 degrees in the middle of a Seattle spring. It is a bit better than that—if that can be imagined.
It is a strange thing to ask difficult questions about the things we do not question. It is a bit like a right-handed person picking up a rock with their left-hand and trying to throw it out into the waves.
The brain initially rebels. That feels weird. I can’t do it. The muscles don’t contain that memory. There is another way that is more familiar—revert to it and forget this left-handed nonsense. See how pitifully you throw with this hand (the voice of shame), it was never meant to be.
It’s a strange thing how adaptable the human brain is. How quickly, if we embrace the awkward, we can encounter a new reality wherein we are capable of so much more than we previously imagined.
If, in my embarrassment and shame, I stopped throwing with my left hand, I would not have found the surprise of distance, grace, creativity, and responsiveness with which my body so quickly responded to the unfamiliar task. I kept at it because it was challenging, and surprising, and fun—but mostly, I kept at it because I was doing it alongside a friend; a friend who I trusted to laugh with me and enter into the unknown with a sense of awe and curiosity.
(published with permission from my friend who is mentioned in the story)
Read part 4 here.