“God is Love”, don’t you believe it? So should He care who I love? I didn’t think so. Although according to those that led the group it mattered, A LOT. I’d never actually thought it was an issue until I had to explain myself to them. The meeting took place on a weekday, after work. I tried to prepare myself mentally but I was too nervous, my stomach a buzz with discomfort. The outcome of this meeting would essentially determine my fate in this church, the church that for most of life had been all I knew, the church that had seen me grow up and played a major part on who I am.
Things began innocently, two friends, movies, camping, lunches, shopping, talking, trust and love. I’d had several friendships that were only that, friendships but with her it was so much more. I’d always been shy and quiet, the girl that kept her face in the book and followed all the rules. But around her, it was as if I’d become a different person; I was no longer afraid to speak, to smile, because I could take it all on. This was when I started “breaking the rules,” “when I forgot what God wanted of me”, church leaders said. They were referring to the times she’d gone to church with me and we held hands during service. How could something so innocent and real be frowned upon? Stupid me, I had forgotten what I learned, what the Bible said about romantic love and only those that are “entitled” to share it.
Three church leaders were present; they had formed a council that would be my jury, judge and executioner. I knew two of them very well; Walker and Smith, they’d seen me through my baptism, my first church performance and our fathers’ abandonment, to name only a few momentous occasions of my life in which they had been indispensable. Johnson the third leader present was new to our group and knew of me only by reputation. I walked in at 6, feeling as dark and sad as the black dress I was wearing. They greeted me formally; Walker and Smith avoided eye contact, probably to distance themselves emotionally. For the most part Johnson talked, read to me from the Bible in an effort to make me understand the appropriate and approved love from the one that shamed God and was unacceptable. As I listened I tried to keep myself from crying, succeeding except for my watery eyes that didn’t seem to stop stinging.
That evening my mother tried to be supportive, even though I saw her cringe as I told her. She was sad, she couldn’t hide it, she knew what that meeting meant; she would have to act like she had no younger daughter and deny me her love to teach me what I had lost. For a year she did just that, no calls, no visits, nothing. I felt alone, abandoned and heartbroken. In one evening the world I grew up in had shattered. I had become a pariah not because I’d committed murder, rape or theft but because I Loved. What had been used as time for prayer before became a years’ worth of regret and religious doubt. “How could God want to punish me for this?” I asked myself repeatedly, as tears streamed down my eyes.
From a young age I learned that if you felt unnatural desires you were supposed to pray to God and he would fix it. Sadly, she, the one I loved, agreed with them. On a summer day when I was 19, we sat under the willow tree outside of the building where I worked. She said to me: “We misunderstood our friendship and acted on inappropriate desires. I hope you too can pray to God, so he can forgive us”. I felt the world crumble under my feet and a lump form in my throat. My chest began to ache. I said goodbye. It was then I learned how much it hurt to love, but in my eyes that love was so far from unnatural and sinful; when it was good, when it was let to be, it was beautiful and pure.
For years God seemed distant to me. He was no longer the same God I’d prayed too, believed in and trusted. He was a hateful God that only loved those that fit in His square and followed his rules. I did not step foot in a church and no longer talked to anyone that I had associated with when attending church, not even her. I felt incredibly lonely. I engulfed myself in work to keep myself from the pain of having to think about things, but that escape only worked for so long. Eventually I went from a once in a while social drinker to an every night drinker. I don’t even like alcohol that much, but I knew after a few drinks I could “wash away” the disappointment and finally fall asleep. I figured if God didn’t care anymore, why should I.
Then one night out of the blue my mother called. She said “I know you think you feel a certain way about love but I am still your mother and you are still my daughter. Every now and then I would like to know how you are doing.” Just like that, my near fanatic mother broke all the rules and called me. I was torn between anger for her non acceptance and happiness for once again hearing her voice. We spoke to each other once, maybe twice a week. Our conversations were superficial; the weather, my health, job, etc. My mother had never been overly loving or tender; but her formality was a harsh contrast to the conversations about the future we used to have. She was fearful, I believe, of asking too much about my life and finding out about something else she would not approve of. I could tell she was really putting forth effort in contacting me. Sadly, I knew I could not really confide in her and thus maintained the formality in our relationship. Nevertheless, her motherly love and effort gave me hope and made me revisit what I believed; that “God is Love” and He Loves me for me.
After visiting countless churches, some old some new, with friendly and unfriendly followers. I looked past the faces and listened to a multitude of sermons and speeches, listened to hymns and watched people get baptized. I realized how much some people need faith. I would like to think I am one of those people, but I’m still working on that. My belief has turned towards spirituality in general. I am not who to know if there is or isn’t a God, or question anyone’s belief in this. I am still working on this myself! I do not have the right to hate or judge anyone that may oppose my thoughts. Even if it’s a world of one, I can make it a world where there are no labels and no hate. The love I had will always be with me; it helped me learn more about who I am and what I stand for.