Conversations that Transform
They were getting out of town; running away from the trauma theyâ€™d experienced. And on the road they meet someone; they have an encounter; they have a conversation with one who listens to their confusion, their pain, their concern. At first they do not see it is Jesus. As humans we tend to see what we expect to see, what our culture had programmed us to see, what our experience has opened us to see. But in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened and truth broke through.
Today we begin a series of gatherings around the question of becoming an Affirming Congregation; that is a congregation that is open to saying out loud that it welcomes anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered and their families. We hope these will be conversations that open our eyes, our minds and our hearts.
Let me tell you about a conversation that transformed me. Nearly 30 years ago I was recently divorced, still fragile in my brokenness. I had invited a man for dinner; an attractive man, a man I had deep respect for. Heâ€™d been a mentor and support through the divorce. He was a minister I greatly admired, and if I admit it, even fancied a little. He was kind, gentle, spiritual, wise, a good listener, had good values, my kind of guy. I wondered if, somewhere down the road, we might strike up a bit of a romance.
He arrived ashen-faced. We had a glass of wine and sat down for dinner and I asked him what was wrong. He told me he had just been dumped by someone he loved very much and had hoped to form a lasting relationship with. Theyâ€™d been together more than 5 years. It was a man, he told me. I had just experienced my first coming out!
My eyes were suddenly opened to a reality of a person I cared about that was right under my nose, and in hindsight it was pretty obvious,if Iâ€™d had my eyes and mind and heart open at all. At that time, I had never met a gay person; or rather I had met many gay or lesbian people but I had been blind to their true identity. They had not felt safe enough to come out to me. I saw what I had been schooled to see, what the culture had trained me to see. And obviously, until, I too was a broken person, my dear friend did not feel safe to come out to me. That month 2 other people whom I knew quite well also came out to me. I donâ€™t know if I was giving off some different vibe, that made them know it was safe. I had been surrounded by gay and lesbian people without ever knowing it. I remember my friend saying that if all the people who were gay or lesbian in the world suddenly turned turquoise. It would be a very colourful world.
We remain dearest of friends and he was one of my greatest teachers as I had a lot to learn. We have held one another through many ups and downs of our lives.
His was the first coming out I experienced. He was not the last. I was privileged to have many guides and teachers along my path who allowed me to know their world and the incredible pain and fear experienced in a world that is homophobic where sometimes they had to live as if they were invisible. I vowed to work for a world where this kind of suffering would not continue to be necessary.