In Part 1, I talked about some individuals I had encountered after moving to Springfield, Missouri, in April 2012. In Part 2, I mentioned some of the ideas I had encountered between about 2005 and also after I moved to Springfield in 2012. Now in Part 3, let's go back to Springfield, and I'll tell you about THE person I met that continued and perhaps cemented the process of change in me from conservativism to whatever I am today (liberal? progressive? I prefer progressive).
Her name was Glenda. I met her at the job where I had the atheist and the lesbian as friends. She moved there in 2013, and I met her as soon as she got to Missouri from the state from which she had moved. Her brother was a daytime therapist where I worked and was working late that night. When she stopped in to see him, he happened to bring her through the space where I was working, and she held my newly acquired puppy. She started working there soon after, on my shift. She was very obviously gay (short haircut AND lesbian tattoos), and I was, obviously to myself, attracted to her. After a few months we got a chance to work together. We spent that night playing cards in between our work duties, and we had easy and fun conversation. We decided to attend an upcoming blues festival as friends.
A few weeks after the blues festival, in the beginning of October, we went to a local pumpkin patch and corn maze. Afterward, she drove me around some edge-of-town country roads in her old truck. She found out I could sing and made me demonstrate for her. I sang a little bit of "More Like Her" by Miranda Lambert (because her style and that song suit my voice). Then she reached over and started playing with and holding my hand.
In all my thirty years, I had never held hands with anyone. In fact, I had only ever been interested in getting to know 3 or 4 other people romantically - all guys - and they usually didn't return the desire. So I had never dated. (I had, however, exchanged letters with a guy in Indianapolis when I was an older teenager. My friend had introduced me to him. I went to visit her there once, and I met him - we made an emergency store run for toilet paper, and in the checkout line he harassed the poor lady in front of us, telling her to get ready for the Rapture, though she repeatedly told him to lay off. A few letters into our budding relationship I let him know I had started wearing pants and did not ever plan to go back to skirts, and he never wrote again. I guess he wasn't interested in an independent, liberated woman.)
After Glenda dropped me off at my apartment that night, I had about two hours before she picked me up again for work (my car was broke down, and she had been giving me rides). I bawled the whole time. I had let a girl hold my hand...and I liked it! I couldn't believe I was this close to crossing "the" line into sinnerdom. I backed off, and so did she because she was my coworker and sexual harassment and blah blah blah...so we didn't really hang out much again until I reinitiated it around the end of November. I decided to see if there was something real there. On Christmas Day we decided there was and started dating.
I let other people know we were dating in a Facebook post in late February. Since most of my friends list on there knew me from church and our church denomination, and I knew they would not approve, I decided to be upfront and let them know. I did not want to let them keep thinking I was the person they thought I was. I had changed. Some of you reading this may remember that post and the reaction I got - almost overwhelmingly negative! Seventy or eighty people let me know what they thought about it, in no uncertain terms. They assured me I was on my way to hell (which I sort-of didn't believe in anymore...but I wasn't certain...and it was a huge transition for me anyway, so the backlash was really emotionally taxing to take (and that may be the biggest understatement I have ever made). I did not respond to any of them, and I did my best to show grace, understanding from my own experience that they believed they were really trying to let me know they loved me and didn't want hell for me.
After the announcement, I wasn't sure who I was anymore. My thoughts hadn't changed - I had always posted my theological musings, and I had many of them - but now I was afraid they would all think I was the worst kind of apostate if I continued to talk to them about God after admitting I was in a lesbian relationship (and I'm pretty sure they would have, too). So I stopped posting. And I started thinking more deeply about what I believed, because I didn't feel like my relationship with God had ended, or even changed, since I had entered into my relationship with Glenda. I still prayed. I still asked God to help me please Him. I still liked the Bible. I hadn't seen any demons looking back at me from my image in the bathroom mirror (and yes, I quakingly looked sometimes).
Glenda and I eventually broke up, and I haven't dated anyone since. I don't know that I want to date, and I don't know whom I would want to date if I did. Our relationship just happened. But whether I call myself gay or not, I know I'm not exactly straight. I kissed a girl and I liked it. Even if I in the future kiss a guy and like it, too (and I am not opposed to that!), I don't know that I can call myself "straight".
I am part of the LGBT community. And I love Jesus. And I understand God differently than I used to. I don't know if I believe "He" is a personal God anymore (but I don't know that I don't, either). Sometimes I lean toward believing "God" is more of an essence that leads us toward loving each other and making the world a good and safe and just place. I'm not sure exactly. And I'm okay with that. My beliefs and my spiritual relationship with God are a work in progress. I hope they do continue to do just that: progress.
In the next post, I want to talk about a few insights I gained from my later studies in seminary. And then, in the fifth and (I think) final post of this series, I'll ruminate on where that lands me now. What do I do on this, the opposite side of conservativism? I have a few ideas.