Taking Up My Cross
This article in The Huffington Post made me think about something I haven't given much thought to in a while. I try not to think too much on religious issues, not because it doesn't interest me but because it's a painful topic to rehash. I lived with religion, actively and inactively, even vicariously, all my life. A person can't live in the American South without dealing with religion in some way, shape, or form.
However, this article in particular revived the thought in me about my Cross. All of us have some kind of Cross - a God-given weight or burden - in our life. My partner, who teaches college classes, comes home often with stories of her students saying things like "I've had so much going on. It's just been a tough time for me. You don't understand."
Oh, we understand. Anyone who is human understands. The Pollyanna "Life is Good" and "God is Good" types aren't being real. Life is hard and it has struggles. If it didn't, then what's the point of believing in Heaven? Heaven is supposed to be a reward, and if life is perfect here, then what is there to look forward to?
God never promised us a perfect life if we got saved or believed. It was supposed to be hard. Being a Christian wasn't supposed to be easy. I hear a lot of people say, "I'm so blessed" or making quick Facebook posts or tweets about "Praying for God to bless me."
Why? What have you done that gives you a right to be blessed? Have you...oh, I don't know done something like get nailed on a cross for someone else's sins? Really, we're such an arrogant, self-aggrandizing people!
Anyway, I was thinking about my Cross. You're probably wondering what it is. Okay, maybe not, but I'm going to tell you anyway.
It's my sexuality. The fact that I'm a lesbian is my Cross.
On the surface, that sounds bad, right? If you consider it in light of the article above though and the nature of this season, it makes perfect sense.
Jesus was given a Cross to bear. He was to be the Messiah - the Savior of Mankind. It wasn't something that he wanted, but it was his destiny. He couldn't deny it anymore than he could deny His Heavenly Father. Becoming the Savior was who Jesus was meant to be and who God created Him, in an earthly image, to be. It was a gift bestowed upon Him that was bigger and larger than the seen world. He accepted His Cross with grace and appreciation for He came to understand the world in a way He hadn't before. He went through troubles and tribulations (40 days in the desert) but came out with a deeper understanding of who He was in God.
Please note, I am not trying to compare myself to Jesus, but we are commanded in the Bible to "pick up our Cross." To implies, that we all have one. In that way, we are Christ-like. We have troubles and problems, everyone does...even those Pollyanna "praying for a blessing" types. Perhaps their Cross is that they are keeping up a front for others? Eh, that's their business.
As for my sexuality, I never saw it as a curse or a problem. Yes, it's a complication. Life would be easier (not Cross-free, but easier) if I was heterosexual. No doubt about that! However, I do see my sexuality as a Cross in the sense of a weight or burden to carry. It complicates my life but it makes the living even richer.
It has given me a truer understanding of love. It's not blind. It's eyes wide open. It's not unconditional because we've been let down too many times to believe otherwise. It's not perfect and it's sure as hell not easy. It takes work to continue to love through the pain. I know love when I look at Gabrielle. She can make me so angry, yet I simply want to hold her and protect her from the world. I look at Michelle as she sleeps, and my heart swells with tenderness and affection and a little something more fierce...powerful. The love that I've experienced, and the limits of love, because of my sexuality proves a genuineness that runs deeper than any marriage license can convey. There is a power in the love that is beyond comprehension.
It has shown me the true sense of family. It's not the one you're born into but the one you choose that matters. It's the one you decide to build and make with another. The one that takes precedence over all others. My sexuality has also taught me that family has nothing to do with blood and everything to do with choice.
I've learned about real friendship. The kind that stands up beside another and fights not for our own good but for others as well. In recent years, there have been some friends that I had considered family that let me down. I knew that these were people I would have stood beside in the darkest of moments, yet that mere test wasn't passed by them. I believe even Jesus spoke of true friendship being that in which one will "lay down his life" for another. The number of people I know that would do that have dwindled considerably over the years. Maybe I'm just too cantankerous to love. ;)
My sexuality hasn't been a detriment but a blessing in so many ways. It's opened my eyes and shown me a world that I wouldn't have known otherwise. I've seen the best of human nature (the beauty of a love that bonds souls) and the darkest parts of ourselves when hatred and general disregard, even from those I thought loved me, from others. There's been pain and wonder, lows and highs, hope and despair, but it's all been worth it.
My Cross is my sexuality. Yes, I'm gay, but I'm wonderfully blessed in ways both seen and unseen - a beautiful daughter and a loving spouse, and a heart that knows more of this world than the average person can fathom.
What is your Cross?