We had just lit a candle, said a blessing and were passing around the broken bread for all at the table to share when we began talking about our respective days. The kids had been about the business of getting the most out of the last days of their summer vacation (we go back to school sinfully early in Georgia) and I had been engaged in the regular ins and outs of working for the college I love, writing for the blog I adore, posting on Facebook frequently (the kids say obsessively) everything from political/theological news to rather base potty humor and the occasional dog video (what?) to responding to the regular sprinkling of hateful comments on my blog and in private messages.
I don’t usually talk about that aspect of what I do in front of my kids but I said just enough in an otherwise glib moment that my oldest furrowed her brow and went off a bit “Mom, you post everything, I mean way too much – like every moment of your life! Ugh, what you eat, who you are hanging out with, pictures of me and you even check in on Foursquare and stuff. Some day one of those crazies is gonna find you and…”
I cut her off there, first hoping to reassure her that it really wasn’t that bad and no one is looking to hurt me but what I needed her to hear was…
Let me back up a bit.
I’ve been writing this here blog for just a scooch over two years. But long before Patheos invited me to stretch my gawd-awful clothes line and hang out my weathered washin’ on the front lawn of my digital acre, I was wrestling mightily with what it meant to live life fully as God created me and to as love openly as my mamma and daddy had when I was growing up.
After stuffing down my truth for for decades I found the love of my life. We fell hard and fast and it was glorious. I wanted nothing more than to love her fiercely and openly. But as it turns out we had very different notions about how to live as a committed lesbian couple. For her it meant carefully maintaining circles of who was allowed to know and who was not. In her career she carefully selected those friends and colleagues who were permitted access to the inner circle of our life. Most of her daily professional life was conducted as if I did not exist or was simply a roommate – a babysitter. I really do understand her need to live out her career not labeled and pigeon-holed into a certain trajectory based on her superiors’ ability to grasp or not grasp equality – but it was hard, real hard to be invisible as a cop’s wife.
Thankfully, in our church and local community life we lived more openly with no secrets from our children’s teachers or folks in the neighborhood. Slowly my love invited old friends into the circle and her family, though the words were never spoken, treated us with love and genuine kindness. I never felt anything less than a daughter-in-law when in the presence of her parents. But there was a limit to our openness. Touching in public, hand holding, a stolen peck of a kiss, a loving embrace – these were always and only permitted behind closed doors. She was ever mindful of what others would think and the potential consequences of encountering hateful homophobes, especially if we were with our children.
But for me, I simply could not wrap my head or heart around the impulse to hide love. Though I tried to respect her way of living out her queerness, it would become a source of bitter conflict that would poison the wellspring of our love.
See, once I came out to my family to utterly devastating rejection, walked away from their abuse – and didn’t shrivel up and die, well a setting resentment began to grow each time I was asked to dampen and hide my affection while watching friends openly share tender moments regardless of the company.
The fault that began to open between us would be the source of many a tiny, deadly tremor in our foundation and would ultimately contribute to the dark and gaping fissure into which our love fell and could not climb out.
I simply do not know any other way to exist in this mortal coil and on this beautiful and broken planet than transparent to a fault.
So now, still fumbling my way though this thing called life, I blog about the willful ignorance of homophobic “Christians”. I post all over the interwebs about my utterly banal homosexual lifestyle, I write about the extravagant welcome of God and the radical hospitality of Christ, and I live openly and unabashedly for any and all to see.
As a result I encounter vitriol all up and down the ignorance, fear and loathing spectrum. Every day. And every day I do my dead level best to confront the vitriol with grace and integrity (but more often than not I fail to live up to my ideal).
It seems like every week someone asks me why I do what I do. “How do can you stand to jump into these abusive conversations? You must have thick skin!” Sometimes all I can say is that I have no idea why I do it and you have no idea how often I cry myself to sleep. But more often than not I answer something like “Because I am compelled beyond reason to show up over and over again and share the good news that God loves us. I am drawn into the fray to say, just for the outside chance that whosoever needs to hear, will maybe hear for the first time in their life, that they are loved beyond their wildest imagination and free in Christ. I know not why, only that I must proclaim, directly from the book that is otherwise used as a weapon, that nothing, nothing, nothing on earth, in heaven or all of creation can separate us from the love of God.”
Most of all I know that I have no skills to be anything other than nakedly, unashamedly myself.
What I need my daughter to know is this. Yes, there are people out there who hate gays and lesbians savagely enough to kill us. They hate queer folk all the more when we have audacity to claim Jesus and cry out to God in thanksgiving for making us who we are. But I must wake up every day and be me and for some damn reason I am called to do so in a public way. I am called to speak loudly to those who would silence me, stand boldly in the light in front of those who would have me skulk away in the dark and reject the heretical theology that God would create me for a life of shame, fear and self-loathing. For do anything less is to give myself over to the power of darkness and admit that evil has already won.
Kimberly Knight is the Director of Digital Strategy at a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.
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