Hope

North Carolina: A Moment of Defeat in the Eternal Struggle for Righteousness

Yesterday was a sad day for many of my loved ones in North Carolina.  They went to the polls and stood for what they believed, and many glimpsed at defeat.  It is heartbreaking for me to see the words of so many who I hold dear, as I peruse through a flurry of Facebook statuses.  And still, for others, who would have remained unaffected by the outcome, no matter what it was, it feels like success.

I guess I am sort of in shock.  I have so much going on in my own life right now.  I haven’t been in NC for 6 months now.  I’ve been in Chicago, and am now hoping to settle down in San Diego.  Because of my distance at this moment, I feel helpless to do anything on the matter.  I was unable to vote, because I looked into getting an absentee ballot a week too late.  I feel immense guilt for that now.  Where was I when my brothers and sisters needed me?  I am unable to comfort, because I am on the other side of the country.  I was so certain that Amendment 1 would not pass.  Yesterday’s outcome was a blow to my naivety.

I look at the results of yesterday’s election with a careful eye.  Honestly, I have many friends on both sides of the vote.  I consider myself a follower of Christ.  My goal is to live my life as God’s love leads, and I humbly acknowledge that I am capable of very little without Christ as my foundation.  Jesus Christ is the only thing that was capable of turning my life around completely.  For that I am grateful, and my heart is for my God who saved my life.

Looking at the election yesterday, from a distance, I felt two distinct things from both sides.  From the side that was defeated, I sensed undying hope and the painful twinge of heartache.  From the side that won, I felt spite.  At the end of the day, I understand why people vote according to religious beliefs, but I do not understand why legislation is proposed from religious beliefs.  Suggesting we pass legislation based on the beliefs of some, is to assume that we should all believe the same.  I refuse to become a person who points a finger in someone’s direction and insist I know more than they.  I am no better and no worse than anyone else.  Was Christ the thing that changed my life?  Absolutely.  Is He the thing that will change yours?  Well, as long as He is represented as a hateful, judgmental God, I fear that any change Christians bring to the lives of others will be negative.  The point of evangelism, whether some realize it or not, is to bring people closer to Christ, NOT push them away.

How can I look at my loved ones, and tell them that I love this God that supposedly disdains them for loving differently?  This God that so many are misrepresenting?  Right now, I will stand up for what I believe.  When I looked around and saw people representing an hateful God, I refused to know that God.  What my final change of heart came down to was finally meeting people who put all judgments aside, and wanted to show me Christ’s love.  They welcomed me with open arms and assured me that in God’s embrace, I would be safe and loved UNCONDITIONALLY.  They assured me that even when people let me down, God would have my back.  That has been my experience of God.  That is the God that I have fallen in love with and put all of my faith in.

I feel a sense of anguish permeating across state lines, and into my own heart.  This decision affects me, because it affects so many that love.  It affects us in so many ways.  When they get angry at the false representation of God, I get defensive.  I want them to know that I worship a loving God.  When their hearts are breaking from the invalidation of a state of over 9 million people, who assume to know more about love than they, my heart also breaks.  I’ve called North Carolina my home for 28 years, and I can no longer defend it.

From my more religiously fervent friends, I sense a war-like pride for the outcome.  I know that the matter was important to their beliefs, but I don’t understand how it affects them either way.  If their side had lost, their lives would move forward, unaffected.

For the rest of my friends, this matter is deeply personal.  It is a blow to everything they were ever taught about this country.  I remember the adamant lesson in school, that this was the land of the free.  Today, I want to ask, “free for who?”  Free for the Christians, but only the Christians?  Free for the straight people, but only the straight people?  How is freedom free, if it only applies to certain groups?  True freedom allows all to be free to enjoy the same rights to loving and living.  True freedom makes room for believing differently, and allowing those differences, not making decisions for all based on the beliefs of some.  Freedom does not impede on the rights of others.  Freedom leaves everyone in victory.  No one should lose from freedom.  All should gain.  If ever freedom is acted on, to the detriment of others, it is not truly freedom.  It is masquerade of freedom.  It is a facade.

The same can be said of those who hide behind the cross, hurling judgments from behind the name of Christ.  Christ did not judge.  Christ sat with the outcasts, the people thought most low, and shared meals with them.  He got to know them, and loved them.  When their hearts ached, His heart ached.  It was in His love that they found true freedom.  It was through that love that they drew closer to Him.  Anything that drives people from Christ’s love is simply a masquerade, a misrepresentation of all that Christ was and still is.

This isn’t an issue of sex, who is sleeping with who.  This is an issue of love.  You’re not tearing apart humping animals with this decision, NC.  You’re trying to force a division between people whose hearts are fragile and full of love.  You’re trying to pull apart people who have been lovingly devoted to each other for years.  You’re trying to destroy bonds that have lasted longer than most heterosexual marriages ever make it.  You’re deciding that someone else’s personal matters do not live up to your expectations.  Well, maybe your’s don’t live up to mine, but I don’t try to intervene.  I will not propose legislation that says you cannot live your life that way anymore.  I simply look at you, smile, pray for you, and offer you my love.  I offer you the unconditional love that I now know through Christ.  I will not shake my finger at you for judging, but my heart hurts for you.  How lonely of a place it must be to think you know Christ without knowing His unconditional love.  It must be really empty there.  If your God has no room for gay people, what on earth makes you think that same God has room for you?

I am not perfect, but as I am starting to live my life out in recovery and in Christ, I am better able to clearly see my imperfections.  I see the parts of my life where I fell short.  In faith, I believe that admitting my shortcomings and mistakes is all I that I can do.  The rest is in God’s hands.  Whether you call it “repenting your sins” or “becoming willing to make amends” I am doing that work constantly.  I can look back over my life and know that if God has room in his heart for me, then he has room in his heart for all of us.

From both sides, there is a lesson.  If you think that being gay is wrong, you have to keep in mind that we are ALL God’s children even despite our flaws.  And keep loving.  If you think that being hateful and judgmental is wrong, keep in mind the words of Christ as he was dying, “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34),  and keep loving.

For my friends out there, who are aching from yesterday’s decision, press on.  In Genesis, when Moses was trying to win a battle against the Amalekites, Aaron and Hur held up his arms, so he could keep going.  If all I can do from California, is to offer encouragement, then I hope my words will lift your arms a little higher.  When you take to the streets to protest, please know that even in my absence, I am there with you.

In Mark 12:3o-31, Jesus sums up all he had set out to teach with this message:  Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second message was: love your neighbor as yourself.  He said that there was “NO OTHER COMMANDMENT greater than these.”  Just as important as loving your God, is loving your fellow human beings.  Ask yourself if you would put the same restrictions on yourself.  Remind yourself that there are NO commandments greater than loving God and His people.

I am sending my love to North Carolina today, because I cannot think of a day when they have needed to more.  For those suffering and those judging, I offer my prayers and my love.  For those who are loving, keep on loving.  Maybe eventually, the haters will learn a thing or two from you.

You Intended to Harm Me

April is sexual assault awareness month.  I have a group of friends, who are all survivors, who live all across North America.  We keep in touch and share our struggles with and fight against the issue of sexual violence.  This month, we’ve decided to share each other’s blogs as we post about S.A.A.M. and what it means for us.  One of those friends/survivors is Sheena.  Here is her Facebook page.  Here is her blog.  She sent me interview questions, which I answered, and decided to share on my own blog.

Before I get to the questions, I want to share the shirt that I made last night, as a part of a survivors group.  It is for the clothesline project.  You can find out more about The Clothesline Project here.  It was started as a grassroots effort to give survivors the forum to speak about their experiences as an aid in the prevention of and awareness around violence against women.  Survivors are encouraged to make t-shirts conveying their “testimony to the problem of violence against women.”  As I watched women all around me, I tried to think of what I wanted to say in regards to the issue.  I wanted to express my pain and anger, but I also wanted to share my hope that we have the power to turn things around.  I drew an image of a bird coming out of a heart, but the words continued to evade me.  Then a bible verse popped into my head.  It is Genesis 50:20 and it says: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  I think it adequately expresses the fact that we have the power to turn around what has been done to us and stop the cycle, a theme that was common as I answered the interview questions from Sheena.  Here is a picture of my shirt:

Ok, and now for the interview!!! Enjoy:

1.   Who are you?

Noelle: Freelance Writer, Future Banjo Prodigy, Recovering Addict, Self-Proclaimed Rock Star, Christian Feminist Slam Poet, Survivor

2.   Does Sexual Assault Awareness month and Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Month hold any significant meaning to you? If so, why?

Yes, because I’ve experienced both and I think they are both completely unacceptable and unacceptably quiet experiences in the lives of far too many people.

3.   What is your story?

TBA  😀

4.   According to some statistics, very few people report abuse & assault crimes. Why do you think that is?

Because our legal and medical systems, as well as our entire society as a larger whole pressures those who experience such violence to stay silent.  Often times this pressure is carried out in the form of shaming and further abuse of victims.

5.   Do you think abusers, rapist, molesters, pedophiles and the likes can be reformed, healed or changed?

I think anything is possible.  Ask me if it is likely, and I will say no.

6.   What do you want others to understand about those who have been victimized?

That such violence is completely unacceptable.  That victims receive little to no support after such acts are committed.  That our culture allows and even endorses sexually violent behavior, and that it is EVERYONE’s responsibility to start examining the way we live and making a genuine and vigorous effort to change.  And that such violence is devastating in the lives of victims, but with support and dedication, such violence can be overcome.

7.   What’s been the most difficult thing to deal with as it relates to what you’ve experienced?

The most difficult part of my experience to deal with is how I was treated after I was victimized.  Again and again, I was either completely ignored or simply not believed.  I was belittled, accused, ignored, and silenced, not only by the legal system, but by my loved ones.

8.  How have you dealt with your own personal rage at the traumatic things that have happened to you?

Honestly… I haven’t.  I’m still working on simply allowing myself to feel the rage, because I spent my entire life trying not to feel any of it.  Whenever I do feel rage, I want to sit with it, embrace it, and express it.  I feel like I deserve that.

9.   What was an unexpected thing that aided in your growth and healing?

God.  It was very hard for me to get past the idea of God as a man, or that God had allowed these things to happen.  I was angry and full of blame.  What I realized was that I was misunderstanding God.  I had always listened to what others believed God was, and I didn’t like what they had to say, but I lived with that God for a long time.  Now, I realize that God is more personal than that.  God isn’t some giant angry white dude in the sky with a long beard.  I see God in a way that comforts me.  I also had to make the distinction that God and people are two different things.  People have free will.  People f*ck up, in major ways.  God doesn’t hurt us, God is there to comfort us when people have.

10.   What encouraging words do you have to offer for anyone who has ever been abused or assault?

Keep going.  Don’t give up.  We have the power to change things.  What happened was unacceptable and inexcusable.  Allow yourself to feel, and remember that everything you feel is valid.  Trust yourself.  This doesn’t have to break you.

11.   What have you learned considering your experiences?

Too much to write here.  So much.

12.   What do you think is the most important thing the world needs to hear?

We hold the power to turn things around.

13.   What brings you ultimate joy?

My future.  My nephew.  God.  My dog.  😀

14.   What’s your favorite quote?

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  -Dorothy Bernard

15.   Who inspires you? Why?

My sister, because she taught me to question authority, and that you can make your own family without recreating the mistakes of your parents.

16.   Is there anything else you’d like to share? This is your space to say whatever you want to say unedited, unscripted and without any filters.

To Be Continued… 🙂