I look forward to seeing you in Winston-Salem, NC, at Wake Forest Divinity School at 5 p.m. Thurs. Oct. 17, at Green St. UMC for “Coming Out of the Wilderness: A Celebration of LGBT Spirituality” (for straight people too!) Oct. 18-19, and preaching on “Wrestling with God” at MCC Winston-Salem Oct. 20.
“I’m going to love you till I don’t love you no more…” So sang a song from the speakers in The Sports Connection, my gym when I lived in West Hollywood. I found the words funny, but when I laughed about them with a fellow weightlifter, he thought he was joining in the joke when he said matter-of-factly, “Yes, isn’t it ludicrous that people think they can promise love into the future?” And this came from someone schooled in the human psyche as a psychiatrist. The humor for me came rather from what I considered an immature, selfish expression, but I withheld my opinion in the face of his comment.
In ministry and in friendships, I have witnessed many people (including myself) who have been confused by the romantic notion that there is only one person in the world for them. When they meet someone and “fall in love,” they think, “Oh, this is the person I’m meant to be with.” But the truth is, there are many, many people with whom each of us may “fall in love.” That suggests using additional criteria for discerning a partner. And it also means, if already partnered, that a new occasion of falling in love may mistakenly prompt one to think that he or she has chosen “the wrong one” originally.
In a chapter entitled “Making Love” in my book, Come Home! Reclaiming Spirituality and Community as Gay Men and Lesbians, I describe attributes of love lauded in the Bible. This chapter began as a sermon for West Hollywood Presbyterian Church that was a response to the many single gay people and newly-coupled gay or lesbian partners in the late 1970s who kept asking for guidance in establishing and maintaining relationships, now just as relevant as our marriages are being recognized by church and state.
Central to these attributes, in my view, was the repeated theme of God’s steadfast love for us, a love that entails a commitment to expectations, forgiveness, union, and communion. More recently in my book, As My Own Soul: The Blessing of Same-Gender Marriage, I came to the conclusion that marriage is a spiritual discipline or exercise. In the words of Christian ethicist Margaret Farley, “Commitment is our way of trying to give a future to a present love. … Commitment, therefore, is love’s way of being whole when it is not yet whole, love’s way of offering its incapacities as well as its power.” (Personal Commitments, p 40 and 134; see also her latest book, Just Love.) I went on to write, “The marriage commitment is not determined by Genesis, gender, or genitals. The Lord looks on the heart…Christians might lift their gaze and do the same” (As My Own Soul, p 118-119).
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