My childhood was magical. It was different from many others, in ways that seem perfectly designed for who I was and what was needed. Even its imperfections were of such a mild and organic nature, as to be easily forgiven or the stuff of comical stories. One of the lessons, most difficult to assimilate, coming up in such a life, is that you are the exception.
Growing up, I had good friends, and many of those relationship remain. There was a comfortable homogeneity, even though, at the time, they seemed diverse. But, the gospel is disruptive, and not in hipster/anti-authority/self-indulgent way. (I am convinced that God is not interested in providing us a James-Dean-Jesus to sooth our wanderlust.)
These days I am wrestling (in that way where one can’t form a definite picture of the outcome) with sex offender registries, and where those who follow the way of Love should stand on such things. The answer makes me uncomfortable. When I dig deep down, the discomfort is made of fear, which is a thought, once apparent, that makes the gospel-based answer almost a given. In all honesty, if I could tap out, I would.
Someone told me once, going deeper into a life of love doesn’t mean extremity. You don’t have to change anything about who you are, or your life, or what you believe. All you really have to do is move toward people others move away from. Move toward people you want to move away from. It’s ok not to have the right words or be awkward and imperfect, even if they laugh. If you bring love, they will rarely laugh at you. If you are vulnerable with your weaknesses and wounds, trusting that there is strength enough to withstand any exploitation, you will most likely get hurt, but ultimately find healing.
So I’ve been making that effort, in my often half-hearted and always deeply flawed sort of way. It is strange. Most of the connections thusly formed are nearly inexplicable.
What I have found is, if you do it, or even try, it will work. Sure some people will be dubious, but most will be willing to navigate with you. Most will laugh with you, celebrating your differences. Most will offer love in return, often looking completely different than you expect. When you let people be the strange amalgamation of rot and divinity we contain, you will not only get to enjoy them more, but you get be more human.
All of that business about not changing is a lie. Everything will change, from the people you love to the places you go to the words you use and what you think is funny. Hidden things will lose power in the light, and what once elicited pride will begin to fade.
We don’t have to choose between moving toward people and our reliance on long-held truths of the faith. Certainly, though, the landscape will look vastly different, and even unfamiliar.
We don’t have to believe the way someone else does in order to move toward them, invite them in, and offer love, and we don’t necessarily have to change what we believe. But I think that doing those things means that, inevitably, we have no choice but to change the way we believe.