I ask your prayers for a friend and his family tonight. Two months ago my friend's father went missing, and it is now apparent that it was suicide. Please pray for the deceased, my friend and his family, and also pray for those in pain and despair who are contemplating taking their own lives.
Apparently I've been dating and only realized it lately. I guess I was waiting for the word 'date' to pop up for it to be official.
We'd been introduced by a mutual friend, and we got together for dinner and a movie. Admittedly sounds like a date (and was followed by going to the park to watch the stars), but it's nothing I wouldn't do with friends, too. It felt a smidge ambiguous, and I didn't want to assume things.
Last night was our third date, and he used the word 'date.' I guess it was confirmation of what I'd been suspecting all along; felt like a date, looked like a date, probably was a date. I'm a little too analytical sometimes, though, so I didn't want to put a word on it that wasn't right. Even though I wasn't sure about the word, I went along with the flow because it felt good and nice. Sure, the word changes some things, but it also doesn't change the substance. I guess it's my Zen experience talking; sometimes naming something or analyzing it gets in the way of living it (definitely true!).
What gets me is how, well, unexpected it was. I wasn't really looking. I didn't meet him with that expectation. I wasn't prepared at all.
He's also moving away in a little while.
This fits into no one's five year plan.
But I don't much care right now. It's OK to let things be, to enjoy life as it unfolds in the present moment.
Last night was a local PFLAG meeting, and I finally decided that I should go. It's important (especially in this town where gays) to know some supportive people.
I finally saw pictures of the PFLAG chapter's float in the Fourth of July parade, and I was astonished to see how good it was! They spent a long, long time doing paper-mache to build a bright little scene of a child, flowers and a dog. This perfectly fit the parade's theme of "Through the eyes of a child." I was proud that they marched in the parade, and from what I hear they got a lot of praises for being so joyful and fun. (incidentally, the "Tea party" people had a float of the tree of liberty with an ax next to it reading 'Obama,' and they've been criticized from all corners for an overtly and excessively political float and for not even caring about the parade's theme)
I can't imagine PFLAG doing a float when I was in high school. But now they're pretty out and proud! And two students from my high school were there to talk to us about their Gay-Straight Alliance. I'm so proud of them for that! I can't imagine that it's easy for them, but it's a definite start.
The hardest part of being LGBT in a community like this is the silence. The silence about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered folk is incredibly powerful because it takes away information. When I'm talking information, I mean something more than just facts. When no one's talking about LGBT folk, then we LGBT folk and our allies don't know who to trust. We won't know who is supportive of us, who disagrees with us but still care, and who would do us harm. When you're not sure how someone would react, then there's this impulse to hide our information, too. If I'm not sure how you stand on gay people, then I will probably be inclined to withhold that information about myself until I know. We all want to be safe and loved.
When this silence on LGBT issues is community-wide, though, then it also isolates. In order to have a meaningful conversation on LGBT issues, you have to take a side. You can't hide your cards and wait for someone else to reveal their position. Unless someone is willing to come out in support, then the default option seems to be to assume that others are against you. You assume that their love is conditional on you not being gay, so you don't risk losing it. It hurts a lot and it isolates.
Given that my home state has the third highest teen suicide rate in the nation, I can only assume that a significant portion of those are from LGBT youth who feel alone and scared for their futures. If you don't know you are loved for being LGBT, then it feels like you're living a lie. If people aren't open about their support and love, then LGBT youth are left feeling that they're "broken," "sick," or "sinful." That can only go on so long before it deals horrible damage. Silence really is death; if not physical death, then definitely emotional and spiritual death.
Ending the silence here in Idaho will be a great blessing, and God is blessing Idaho through the work of PFLAG and the Gay-Straight Alliance.
For anyone who knows me personally, my parents and I have a good relationship. We're very close and get along very well. Part of it, I think, is the fact that my parents are pretty reserved, quiet people, so I learned how to be happy at home.
That same relationship does not exist between other parts of the family, though. My father's side of the family is not quite as close emotionally, yet there is a strong sense of family obligations. What I mean is that, for example, my dad is not that close to his father, yet my dad does everything to help him out (who, honestly, should be in some kind of assisted living facility). My dad used to put our family plans on hold so that he could do whatever his father asked of him. My dad is pretty much the exemplar of what the "dutiful son" should be.
Except that that's not what a dutiful son should be. He used to sacrifice his relationships with his sons and wife in order to do what his father asked of him. There's a good reason Jesus talked about the whole "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife" (Mark 10:7). There is a separation that marriage (and adulthood) implies. My dad's parents acted like a horrible boss who would demand that the worker stay until late and work weekends at the boss' whim. My dad's learned how he's not nearly as responsible for his parents as he has thought he was; he's still a good, dutiful son if he tells his father, "No, I'm not doing that for you." Even if it means that it's left undone. He is not responsible for everything.
However, my dad still has obligations for his father. Too frequently we would want to write off "the old man" and put him in a nursing home to get rid of him, visiting him just once in a while to avoid feeling guilty. Now, putting someone in a nursing facility who honestly needs it is fine enough, but sometimes we get this idea that anything that messes with our happiness must be gotten rid of. Just because my dad is not bound to do everything his father demands does not mean that he's free of all responsibility.
Then we have to figure out exactly what those duties are. What is my dad responsible for?
In fact, what are our family obligations? What do we owe our relatives? Our spouse? Our kids? Our parents?
Is there anything special about families (now I'm talking about both extended and nuclear families) that requires us to do more for them than we'd do for others? Now, I think we all agree that parents/guardians have a special obligation for their children for nurturing and making sure the children have their physical, emotional and social needs met while children have a special obligation for listening to their parents and learning to do what is right. I'm sure there are a few others that I'm leaving out. Beyond that, though, is there something specific about family bonds that requires greater obligations?
For example, if I'm an adult and I have a mother who I'm not that close to living in Georgia who has friends there and a church home, who has greater duties: me or her friends? Is it because of blood or is it because of friendship? Is it by physical nearness or something else?
Or maybe a different scenario: I'm a lifelong member of a church and one member of the congregation's elderly. Now he'd been almost an uncle to me all my life- there for me when I couldn't talk to my parents and there for me in times of celebration and sadness. But now he's in declining health. Is there some duty in the bonds of affection that the bond of baptism doesn't give?
Or to put it another way: what bond does family create that isn't given in baptism? What duties do we have for parents, friends, and strangers, and what duties are required just because of baptism?
And I promised that I would eventually put up pictures of something. Here you go! This is a bowl of petunias. That is my handprint down in the corner, too. Scary to think it was made 15 years ago!
Pink flamingos! Those adorable, pink, plastic lawn ornaments.
Prayer flags blowing in the wind before a nice little storm.