“I believed all the right things. My theological and political opinions checked the right boxes, biblically speaking. It was how Christians were supposed to see things. How I was supposed to see things.
Until it wasn’t.
Until all the theological and political issues–all my correct beliefs–were dismantled.
Until they were humanized.
The story was so approachable, touched my heart so deeply, I almost couldn’t put it down. Sometime in my early 30’s, I read a biography that detailed a Christian man’s years-long journey from desperately trying to find “healing” or “deliverance” from his “sinful” homosexual desires, to finally settling confidently into who he was as a gay man who followed Christ. It was the first time the “homosexuality issue” had ever become wrapped in real flesh and bone in my mind. The first time I allowed myself to be moved by the reality: a soul, a life, a story. A human heart that God created, sees, and adores. It bent my brain, for sure.
Then, still in pastoral leadership in a non-affirming church, I came to know a gay couple, as well as a trans person, who’d all somehow become involved in said church. My gosh I loved them all. They were the coolest. Kind, openhearted, generous, funny. Human. And it always made my stomach turn, the thought of how hurt they’d have been if they ever found out we were all just “hating the sin and loving the sinners.” It felt like betrayal, if I was honest. How I ache over that now.
It was encounters like these over a several-year span that marked my gradual journey from believing “the right things,” to grasping the fact that untold numbers of precious souls are the actual substance, the very real lives behind this “issue” that we in the western Church have mostly treated cerebrally, coldly, like a theological point to be checked off a list of correct beliefs.
As “issues” like these dropped from my head into my heart, as they took on actual human faces and stories in my mind, I was driven into scripture with a sense of urgency I’d never experienced before. How could so many folks’ journeys be this complex, nuanced, desperate, and real, if God really felt the way I’d been taught? Yet I wasn’t about to just throw out portions of the Bible, either.
So I read books. I studied. And what I found was that the places in the Bible that we have interpreted to mean God is anti-LGBTQ+ have been misinterpreted, taken out of context, and/or misapplied. I’ll let you do your own research on those points. I’ve found it’s one of those things people mostly have to do on their own.
But I want to leave you with this invitation today, particularly if you land on the side of these issues that I was on for so many years:
Would you consider letting God move you out of your head (assenting to certain opinions about “issues”) and further down into your heart, where you’re proactive about learning some of the individual stories behind the issues, beginning to empathize with the complexity, the devastating hurt and rejection the LGBTQ+ community has had to walk through? Would you be brave enough to allow thoughts and questions to form within you, ones that maybe aren’t so cut-and-dry, that feel messy and confusing? It takes courage, but I’ve learned that God is big enough, strong enough, and committed to us enough to keep our hearts wrapped safe inside his while we sift through complexities like these with him.
Regardless of how your unique journey turns out, I can tell you that for me, moving from seeing “issues” to hearing the stories and loving a few of the souls behind the issues, has been absolutely, radically life-changing. I am humbled, expanded, so schooled, and I will be learning till I die. I couldn’t be more grateful for these friends who now play a part in making me who I am.”
Thank you, Dana, for sharing your story. I hope it encourages more people to see humans instead of issues and feel empathy rather than judgment.
If you’d like to connect with Dana and read more of her soul-quieting words, check her out here.
And if you missed previous Seat-Saver’s Stories, here are the links:
Jenn Mack, Alicia Fick, Beth Richardson, and mine.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d love to share more of my stories with you each month to your inbox. Sign up below and receive my Seat-Saver’s Book List (more info here).
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