Innately, I am a spiritual person. It's part of my core being. I might even venture to say that I'm a religious person. I love traditions and I love liturgy. For example, I love Judaism. I think that Judaism is a beautiful religion, steeped in so much tradition and culture. They have stories to go with every Feast Day and Holy Day, and they have traditional words that they repeat to each other over and over and pass down from generation to generation. The words of the Shema are sacred, and observant Jews believe that reciting it twice a day is a mitzvah (commandment).
But I was raised Christian. Conservative, Evangelical. My childhood wasn't very stable and things changed a lot, but one thing I could always count on was church. Every Sunday, every Wednesday. When the doors were open, I was there. And for the most part, I liked it. I craved a God connection, and I've always felt drawn to the supernatural. Jesus has always been my biggest Hero; His gentleness comforted me and His fierceness awed me.
When the Church is a place of belonging and community, it can be a taste of heaven on earth. But many times it is not that, and the older I got, the more I loved Jesus, and the more I felt disenchanted by the church. My heart began to resonate with Gandhi's piercing words. "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
So many Christians I knew were so unlike the Christ I knew. They were not welcoming to all the way He was. Sure, they put signs out in front of their buildings that say, "All welcome here!" but I knew. I knew better. All did not mean all. Specifically, they did not mean me. They would not accept me as I am. And isn't that one of the most beautiful things about Jesus? He accepted people as they were. He touched the unclean, ate dinner with the outcast, empowered the oppressed, and refused to condemn the adulteress.
I like to think that He would've eaten dinner with me too. That He would've called me daughter, sister, friend. That he would've refused to condemn me, even if I was surrounded by accusers. Because you see, I am the condemned. The accused. The unclean. The outcast. The oppressed. Because I am gay.
As so for me, more often than not, the church has not been a place of belonging and community. This is heartbreaking, because my whole soul cries out for the Living God. To be told that I am not welcome at the House of God is to keep me from my very home. It makes me homeless. Vagabond.
But I remember that the Son of God had nowhere to rest His head either, so perhaps, even in my homeless loneliness, I am in good company.
I will say (with rejoicing) that there are Churches that will and do welcome me as I am. And I have been to some of them and my soul has been fed. My heart bursts with gratitude to know that things are turning around and Christians are becoming more like their Christ. There is a growing list of affirming and reconciling churches, and my it makes me swell with joy. But there is still a gnawing ache in my heart because I am not welcome at the church of my childhood, nor am I welcome at many, many, many other churches. Things are moving Christ-ward-ly, but there's a long way yet to go.