The definition of Marriage, adjusted to include couples of the same sex, is an issue that I will go and place a vote on tomorrow morning. Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved this change at our General Assembly. It is now up to the individual Presbytery’s to ratify (or not) the new version of the definition of marriage to the constitution of this church….
Why did I volunteer to go and make this vote?
I was caught up in the moment. The feeling was huge, decisive and emotional. No one else was really jumping at the chance to be in the heat of this flame. I said, as a ruling elder, that I would go… I have regretted this decision almost from the instant I made it.
I stated to our leadership group, that I did not have my mind set on how to make this vote as of 4 weeks ago. I had not put much thought into the issue at all. I was totally unqualified. I had done no research. I was a beginner to the process altogether. I didn’t know if I would vote for or against the amendment. I also said that if someone else who was more sure about it, someone who’s soul was set, then they should take my place and go vote.
It has been a loooong month since I made the commitment. I have been struggling and learning and trying to look at the issue from both sides. I have read our bible, another book and articles online. I have talked with people in our congregation, in Sunday School and a specific meeting of debates. I have talked with our pastor and the other brave soul who is also going place her vote. I have gotten emails and and texts about the issue in this last week outlining ideas held by my fellow worshipers at Westminster Presbyterian Church. My wife and I have done lots of late night contemplations on it too… And I have been telling myself NOT to blog about it 🙂
Anyway, as you are probably aware, this is a hugely divisive issue. This could be the death knell for many struggling congregations. It can tear people apart and set them properly on one side or the other of a deep canyon of belief. It is a big deal. I do not take this vote lightly at all. I also do not claim to do the issue justice in my dinky friday morning blog post. I am not going to detail the exact picture of my opinion as it sits this morning.
I have learned a couple really powerful messages in this process that I do want to share. Same-sex marriage is such an inflamed topic that there have been many conservative churches leave our denomination over it. In effect, the opposition to the idea has largely left the conversation. I was astounded to learn this. A formerly tight balance of ideas has now shifted to leaning much further in the progressive direction. This has not happened because of richly debated and keenly discussed compromising. It hasn’t come because one party’s reasoning and openness has melted the hearts of the other side. There hasn’t been new insight gained from the Holy Spirit that has washed the consciousness and left us all viewing the issue with fresh clear vision.
The debate is largely over, because the balance is gone.
I want to take note of how this has happened. I want to be aware of the greater lesson at hand. I want to enlighten myself to the real vote that is happening tomorrow and for the years to come within this denomination, and within society itself.
I want to remind myself that God may be asking us a greater question in all of this. Can we continue to work together, even with significant and deeply emotional differences of opinion? It seems we are answering this question with a resounding ‘No’ right now. It seems as though we are saying, ‘If I can’t have my way, then I am going to leave and find some place where I do get my way.’
Is this really possible as a long term solution to problems like this? I will tell you personally that I do see how big of a rift this issue can cause. I have seen the fire in the eyes of both sides. Yes, I have gotten your emails and facebook messages about it. I have not responded to any of them, but I have carefully read them and thank you for sending them. I am independent in my mind, as usual, and didn’t want to respond with any promises to vote your way or against. In fact, until just recently, I was still quite undecided and confused…
After lots of struggle and fighting with myself, God has laid my mind to rest. I do know right now, how I want to vote tomorrow. I do know that I have my own version of a loving and supportive answer to this question. God helped me see, but it wasn’t until I could really relate it to my own life, that any fogginess could clear.
The next thing that I know for sure, is that I cannot let the votes on this issue make me decide whether or not to continue to work within the church itself. I do understand both sides now. I see why both sides want what they want. I am not mad about it. I do not see a reason to be less than loving to either opinion.
It will be hard still.
Our family restaurant has been through some similarly tough problems. Although the guys in the back do make a bunch of tasteless gay jokes when they work together, that is not what I am talking about here. There have been two strongly opposite ideas at work since I became a full-time partner in the business. We have had knock-down drag out fights over opinions. I wanted so many times to be gone, or to have my opposition be gone. Just like those who have left the church denomination to detach from something they couldn’t work with anymore, I really get that.
In the most heated of our battles, my father-in-law (the Big boss) asked us to find a way to work it out. I wanted so badly to see his support and favor land on one side or the other. God could make this an easier fight too, if he could just silence every question on either side. We want that lightning bolt to come and show us his truth in plain sight, as long as it lands against our enemies. As much as I wanted it too, in our family restaurant squabbles, that strong opinion siding with me or against me, didn’t come.
Instead we were left to continue battling. We did and do still, day by freakin’ day. As I write this post, I still have not found perfect harmony in this business, or with the church either. Overall though, good work is being done. We are feeding people. Our continued effort to simply put one foot in front of the other has been key. Even with cussing and threats and rebellion and retaliation in the smallest and most subtly of ways, we have found the smallest reasons to keep going forward, and they have been enough so far.
I thank God for the struggles now, it is making some recent good moments that much sweeter. My brother-in-law and I are probably a stronger team now, than we ever have been, and yes we still have a long way to go. I respect the improvements he has made. I also am grateful for his resolution to keep working even though I have been super-duper ugly and angry at times.
It’s a small world after all. There is only so much room for us to move away. This spherical design brings us back to where we started, again and always again. All of us are in this crucible together. We have bigger issues at hand. I want to say today, that I will take my little teeny tiny stand on the same sex issue tomorrow. I will place my ballot and vote. I will have grown through this process.
Please pray with me, that we will all somehow find a way to keep working together within the colorful dysfunction that we have been blessed with. God could fix this all real quick, if His intention was to do all the work. I think He wants us to find a way, to make a way. Can we strengthen our character to look to Him up there, and yet keep things functioning some way, some how, down here?
Through Jesus Christ, The Way, The Truth and The Life, I pray so.