A reflection by Lindsey
We have received some difficult news about how quickly Sarah’s Meniere’s disease is progressing. In the last 48 hours, both of us have had to deal with countless insensitive remarks that leave us feeling drained, isolated, and alone. I’m fluctuating between emotions of being absolutely irate, feeling overwhelmed, and sad. I find the Psalms of lament ringing deeply true, especially if I stop after the Psalmist has laid out the case for why life presently sucks. It’s hard to push forward to the end of the Psalm where we get the goods of being able to trust in God’s awesome majesty.
In seasons like this one, I find myself listening to a lot of Christian radio. It may be simply that I’m in my car a fair bit, driving from Point A to Point B. But when life is hard, I can’t help but notice the lyrics and periodically hear what the DJs have to say. I hear the announcements of “We’d love to pray for you; just drop us a line!” and “We know that prayer works. Don’t hesitate to give us a call,” and I can’t help but feel sad. I’m sad because I wish I could call up the station and say something to the effect of,
Hey, I’m so glad that you are praying for people. Right now, I am feeling like I’ve been hit by a ton of bricks. My partner Sarah has a condition called Meniere’s disease that’s progressing rapidly. We just found out that Sarah has lost all hearing in the right ear. Over the next several weeks, the doctor is going to start a series of injections to try to stop the vertigo attacks but the injections are risky. We’re trying to hope for the best, but I can’t help but be afraid that Sarah might lose more hearing in the left ear before Christmas. We’re trying to be proactive by learning ASL. Sarah has friends who know more ASL than I do, and it helps that Sarah has a knack for languages. I wish I could do better so I could be able to sign for Sarah during periods of significant hearing loss, especially when we’re at church together. This burden is hard to carry because there are so many unknowns, and I’d feel better if people were praying for Sarah, for the medical team, and for us as a family as we navigate through this together.
And truth be told, I can’t ever see myself sharing this prayer request with the radio station or my church’s congregational listserv. There’s something very wrong with the universe where I feel safer putting this prayer request on the blog before I’ve even shared it with the entirety of my Facebook friends list. I’ve thought about this prayer request for days. Every time it crosses my mind, the same question pops up: “Is there any way to make this request without using the word partner?” I find myself paralyzed because the answer to this question is empathically “No.” My emotional and spiritual realities right now are what they are because I am Sarah’s partner. I am going to be here through thick and thin. I am going to figure out how to drop everything to be by Sarah’s side if and when I am needed. I am going to do my very best to learn ASL because I am sure as hell not going to lose my ability to communicate with Sarah. I do not care if other people think I am making mountains out of molehills. At the end of the day, I’m the only person who can look myself in the mirror to answer if I’m living a life of integrity. And with that conviction, you can bet the farm that I am going to call Sarah my partner because I know Sarah would choose the exact same word if our positions were switched.
The instant I choose to call Sarah my partner, I see a tremendous amount of ugliness in the Body of Christ. I can’t bring myself to call the Christian radio station because I’m scared of hearing, “There’s no way we can pray for you and your partner. If you really cared for each other, you wouldn’t be living together.” Putting the word partner out there on a congregational listserv means that even the people most marginally attached to my Sunday morning community may, and likely will feel compelled to speak judgment into my life. People who come most Sundays know that Sarah and I are partners even if we choose not to use that word at church, and even if they choose not to think about it more often than once a week. There are members of our community who would be willing to pray for me or Sarah during individual difficult circumstances, but seem afraid to pray for both of us together lest it appear that they are condoning sin.
So many Christian communities are carefully balanced apple carts where using a word like partner in a prayer request can ignite years of debate. On the blog, I feel safer because there are 193 other posts to reflect on our experiences as a celibate, LGBT, Christian couple. If someone decides to be a jerk in the comments, we can choose to moderate the comment or to answer his or her comment in part by highlighting other posts we’ve written. I like feeling the security of having a reasonably civil venue where I have some control over how the discussion unfolds. It bothers me that I have been in Christian environments for over 15 years where I know that my fears of judgment, gossip chains, and rumor mills are entirely well-founded.
And when I think about how every other LGBT Christian I know can relate to my fears on one level or another, I get irate. How have we gotten to a point where two syllables in a prayer request have the potential to split congregations? How do we claim to be a “loving community” when we deny principal caregivers space to share their burdens with others? How do we even begin to communicate to others that we would much rather find ourselves closer to the heart of the Body of Christ?
I don’t have good answers to those questions. I’m stuck trying to figure out how to find my strength in Christ even when I feel explicitly rejected and judged by those who make following Him their public priority. Right now, I find myself relying on selective hearing, a driving bass line, and a pretty solid drum beat.
I’m in a war, every minute. I know for sure I’ll never win it. I am David up against Goliath… You. Are. Bigger than every battle I’m facing… All by myself, I fall to pieces, but You are strong when I am weakest…You. Are. Bigger than every battle I’m facing…
And there’s a distinct part of me that prays fervently that as I find some places where I can be transparent about what I’m going through, life might be just a little bit better for the next LGBT caregiver to request prayers for his or her partner.
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