I'm still "dwelling" on my experience of speaking with a group of APU (Azusa Pacific University) students on Thursday night last week. I wrote about it in a piece on the Huffington Post called "Voices from a Parking Lot" that posted up live today. I hope you'll read it because, as I noted in the comment over on Facebook:
Would appreciate any help you can give “liking” – sharing – tweeting – commenting – etc. As wearying as it all is, we cannot afford the luxury of “movement fatigue” when these kids are still being relegated to parking lots to speak of their struggle to rise above "the continual nausea of eating your own shame."Because those are the words that still haunt me from that last Thursday night in the Citrus College Parking Lot -- and the fact that a bright, creative, 20-year college student who is living with the nauseating impact of internalized homophobia just breaks my heart. And pisses me off.
Breaks my heart because I've raised two boys -- and it was hard enough to watch them have to navigate the challenges of self-esteem and self-understanding through those tough years of young adulthood without the burden an internalized shame about their sexual orientation. And pisses me off because I know for a fact-certain that as a card carrying, collar wearing Christian the faith I both espouse and represent has been mis-represented and mis-used to convince this kid -- and others like him -- that there is something inherently shameful about being gay. Or lesbian. Or bisexual or transgender.
So tonight, as I was doing some research for a vestry committee meeting tomorrow night ("Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation" by Carol Howard Merritt ... check it out ... great book.) I came across this paragraph that resonated not with the committee meeting coming up tomorrow night but with the parking lot experience last week:
Scripture reminds us that we have the power to bless and to curse. (Genesis 12:3) This may seem like a foreign concept, but any father who hears the words “I love you” from his child knows the power of a blessing. The words create a reality. Parents also often have the power the bless and curse, and indeed we parents are typically the first ones to create our children’s realities. Our answers to their question of “Who do you say that I am?” have a lasting effect on them, for better or worse. When children are formed under the constant drone of disparaging words, it can damage them for their entire lives. Whether disparaging or affirming, others’ words form our attitudes, shape our ability to trust and model for us how to give and receive love.”What word do we give our LGBT children? Who do we say that they are? If we do not say it loudly, clearly, openly and often that they are a BLESSING then they are at risk of growing up internalizing the message that they are a CURSE ... and ending up living with the continual nausea of eating their own shame.
The question isn't whether we have the power to bless. The question is whether we have the will to use it.