Week 4 Devotional: The Imperative Common Denominator

I have come out twice because my parents and I were not ready to talk about my sexual orientation the first time around. For four years, we didn’t mention a peep about my ‘struggle with same-sex attractions.’

During those four years, my parents had watched depression, anxiety, and the struggle to laugh, let alone survive, seep into my life. With eyes of concern and hope, they said goodbye every morning knowing it would be another day I would hear a voice of self-hatred resounding in my head. Medicating myself, I relentlessly hunted for a research article or treatment that could straighten up my attractions. Upon my return from the seminary library, my mom would greet me with a smile that communicated her readiness to triage the wounds I had sustained during my daily scouring.

At the pinnacle of my depression and anxiety, my father nervously shook the car keys. He wanted to drive me to the hospital for a 72-hour psychiatric hold. My depression and anxiety were winning the battle. As you can imagine, watching the terror of self-hatred reek turmoil and ruin inside my body was unbearable for the three of us.

In that reckoning moment, we cuddled up on their bed. I was bawling. I told them about all the prep work I had done in case they decided to kick me out of their home. I told them about the boyfriend I was hiding and the lies I used to cover my tracks. I told them I was coming out, but this time for good.

They defied all the odds I had stacked against them. They never kicked me out of their home. They did not reject me. And they surely never stopped loving me. They proved to me that my life was more important than how I was going to live it. Even though our theologies no longer matched, they vowed to create a safe and loving space for me to live.

Every time I recount this story, I recall the tale of King Solomon as Judge (1 Kings 3:16-28). Two women approached his throne. With one child dead and another living, King Solomon had to determine which woman was the living child’s mother. The threat of having her child split into two halves was enough for the true mother to be realized. The true mother pleaded with King Solomon to let her child live.

The mother’s love in this passage is remarkable. Within a flash of King Solomon’s threat, the true mother jumped at the opportunity to withhold her truth from the King and relinquish her son. She only wanted him to remain safe. What brings tears to my eyes is, to the truly loving parent, her child’s life was more important than the type of person she/he/they would become. In such a moment I doubt she had time to think much through, but to the true mother, her son’s life was more important than its outcome.

Like the mother of the beloved child in 1 Kings 3:16-28, is it important that we strive to create safety for everyone’s journey, not only by relinquishing the pursuit of being proven right before the Judge, but also by prioritizing your neighbor’s internal essence over it’s external expression. Such a prioritization gives us the ability to love beyond differences and allows us to respect one another’s unique spiritual journey.

And in the child’s role--when our lives divert from the ‘normal’ path, like mine did when I came out the second time--may we remember it is easy and common to be frightened that our lives could be ruined. But may we learn to trust our worth, specifically trusting it when our fate lies in the Judge’s hands. I am personally convinced that God is not concerned with how our purest authenticity shines, as much as God is concerned to see that it shines.

The common denominator that unites us is not an authenticity that resembles another’s theology, sexuality, or gender. The common denominator that unites us is the fact that we all have an authenticity worth protecting. To me, it is our unique and inherent value that stands as our common denominator. And to love one another through our differences, Love Undivided is an imperative to Christian living.  

Questions for this week's devotional:

  • In your own life, how might you have craved the love, sacrifices, and acceptance demonstrated by the true mother?

  • How do you see the role of relational justice as it pertains to creating social change?

  • If we could fully embrace one another as God’s children who are on unique spiritual journeys rather than only those with whom we agree, how might we be powerful agents of relational justice?

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