I walked into the meetinghouse and sat down next to my husband just as a friend of mine had finished speaking. I had just come from work--the church where I am serving as an interim. This however was home--the church I have come to love as my family. My family is having a conversation about just how welcoming they want to be, especially since the laws of Connecticut have changed concerning same-sex marriage.
My friend that spoke is a woman whose son was president of the high school youth group and a deacon in the church. She nor her wife have been to church since their son went to college--they did not feel entirely welcome in our church. To be sure they have many friends there. But there are also folk who do not understand their relationship nor did they even know these two beautiful women were part of our family. Until this Sunday.
After the meeting many people came up to this quietly courageous couple and gave hugs, kisses, words of gratitude and appreciation. I hugged them both, expressing my delight at their presence at this meeting. Then I noticed that one family, one that has expressed great difficulty in accepting this sort of change, was standing on the other side of the room. It felt like the scene at the end of the story of the prodigal son: everyone at the party, greeting the younger son who had returned while the older son looked on, unable to join the party.
The irony is, we heterosexuals are the prodigal children, the wastefully extravagant ones. We are the ones who asked for everything and got everything, went out and spent our inheritance, our sexual freedom on loose living, doing as we pleased, and hurting not a few people on the way. Meanwhile, our homosexual brothers and sisters have waited to join the party of legitimacy; yes, acting out as well, but what else is there to do when your identity has been both oppressed and ridiculed and your personhood sublimated and designated, up until not too long ago, as a mental illness and/or a criminal act.
We've talked about this before in my church family, and it was horrid, painful. But two days ago it felt like our family had come together, to listen well and to move beyond hurting each other. Change can take a long time; sometimes I am much too impatient for it. But I was glad to be there at the end of the conversation that day, the beginning of something new at my church, a deeper understanding of each other and what it means to live out the love of Christ.