Your Words Matter, Lady I Knew From My Childhood Church

Written after a stunning and disturbing conversation with someone I’ve known for over 45 years.  The person I talked to that day wasn’t anybody I recognized, and it jarred me to my core. I’ve cried so much over this.  But sometimes, it’s time to wish someone well, and exit the toxicity.  I wonder how much of any of our past interactions have been masked to hide the intensity of the divisiveness.  It’s so sad.  I wrote the letter not with an intent to mail it (no point in sending something to an elderly woman with a healing husband in a nursing home (that has COVID-19) who sees nothing wrong with her views, and compares anyone with differing views as dirt on the bottom of her shoes that she wants to scrape off- there’s no reasoning with that).  Evidently I don’t have that same right to MY views as she has to hers.  I’m dirt on her shoes- not because I’m a Democrat (I’m not registered anything since mid-2016), but because I don’t tow the GOP line. She told me she doesn’t use the computer (which she’s said before), so this seemed the safest place to vent so I can sleep again.  And if she finds it, I hope it is something that gives her an idea of the weight of her words… not to be mean.

Dear W,

I hope you are well, and that H has been able to get the rehab services he needs- and has been safe.  I know this has all been so stressful. I can’t imagine the concern and sleepless nights.

Now, comes the painful part, but written in a tone of compassion and well wishes always. I’m not angry with you.  A bit stunned, and very hurt, but not angry. If I didn’t care, it wouldn’t be worth writing, even if just to blow off steam.

I will ALWAYS be SO very thankful for your friendship when I was younger.  You made a difference. I am truly grateful.  After one of our last conversations, along with one in early 2017, I am not sure I know you now. Maybe I never really did, as so much was formed on that when I was a kid.  When you said you considered Democrats to be the same as the dirt at the bottom of your shoes that you wanted to scrape off, and the 2017 reference to Mrs. Obama as the ’N’ word (I won’t use it- it’s vile and never justified in my view), I was stunned. I didn’t recognize you as someone I knew from the evangelical church I loved growing up. That was sad. It tore through my heart.  It made me question every conversation and interaction we’ve had.  How did I not know of such intense hate?

I may not like or respect Trump, but I don’t consider him to be “dirt on the bottom of my shoes”.  My specific prayer to God about Trump is “Lord, please help Trump be the president You want him to be.”.  Essentially, thy will be done.  I don’t consider him ‘dirt’, and hate takes too much energy; I have better things to do with my time. All I heard from you was what sounded like a hateful rant about something with no specifics other than a generalized view of  Democrats.  Nothing specific, just a tone of voice that was like a knife dripping with venom.  That’s not the person I grew up knowing.  And, I also thank you for that, because it’s made me more aware of my own views on a few things. And one thing is certain; I won’t initiate contact again. I won’t discuss this. It’s clear that it’s pointless.  You aren’t the only one whose blood pressure is a problem with stress. Mine can knock me unconscious. I won’t interact again with the comments I heard.  I don’t know where that came from, but it’s not from God.  I can see things I don’t respect without hate.  I don’t respect Trump, but I certainly don’t hate him.

I’m so thankful for the Bible, and the wisdom and guidance it so consistently provides.  I’m thankful that the Bible talks so much about love, and treating others with compassion and kindness. I love how it lets us know that God knows our hearts.  I love how it helps me when I feel like I’m completely alone.  I love how it is infinitely more important and stronger than humans in its influence in my life. I love how growing up at the old church shaped me;  those years were amazing, and have been the core of my being for as long as I can remember, as were my summers at camp on the staff.  

I’m not a teenager anymore, by a longshot. I have very specific reasons for my views, and base my decisions (as much as possible)  on compassion (and those who exemplify it), and mostly “as much as you’ve done to the least of my brethren, you’ve done it to Me.”.  I focus on “faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”  I fail often in my goals of exemplifying the Fruit of the Spirit and the description of love in 1 Corinthians… but I am working on it daily. I have to focus on what God says. He’d never condone shunning people simply because of different views. HE gave us free will. Who are we to demand otherwise?  He uses all who are willing.  Face it, there were some sketchy folks He used for His purpose in the Bible. He sees our hearts.

I will always disagree about Trump’s “integrity” and I know you’ll never see any other view, so there’s no point in any discussion- and I wasn’t looking for one with a single comment that wasn’t an attack on your beliefs. And I won’t be a part of the hate towards any group of people. God created those people, too.  And what if they’re pushed away by Christians? How does that give glory to God?  I will always defend your right to your views. And I won’t be shut down with comments about your blood pressure; you’ve used that before.  If it’s that fragile, we shouldn’t speak. I don’t have any interest in  having to censor myself with someone who had been a close friend.  I guess I was expected to have your views.  When I made the very superficial, flip comment that led to that rant, I was caught off-guard with the intensity of your response- and yet it’s your view, so I have to accept that as how you truly feel. I respect your right to it. I don’t have to agree with or respect it. Or put myself in the position to be blind-sided again with the negativity of excluding anyone who thinks for themself.

I have met so many types of people as a nurse, and I am so thankful for that.  People are not simply labels or categories. They each have their own views that are not stereotypes- there are shades of gray, not just black and white. Many are surprising. Regardless, it’s not my right to judge them.  The plank in my eye is big enough to keep me busy; I don’t have time for the splinter in someone else’s. 

I’ve met Christians among the LGBTQ community. I’ve had good friends of many races. I’ve met “WASPs” who are some of the  most cold, superficial and negative people I’ve heard (often on TV).  I’ve known people who agonized over deciding to have an abortion, and felt such compassion for the magnitude of that decision. I’ve met people who I have nothing in common with who were kind and inclusive. I have family (biological & adoptive on both sides) who are mixed race, gay, and non-believers- and they have been incredible to know. I thank God for them, and the chance to be kind, and not the Christian they expect to find.  God meets people where they are… and I try to do the same, as best I can. He uses defective humans for His Divine plans… and I can only hope I am who He wants me to be, especially with my sponsor kids.  My purpose is to be used by Him… not to be a verbal punching bag for hate. 

I’ve met Christians who see love above all, and some who are basically in it for profit. I’ve met non-believers who have shown me great compassion.  I’ve known people (directly or ‘second hand’) who were pure evil.  And I’ve met one in particular who altered my life permanently when I was 23.  I’ve forgiven him. It doesn’t condone or excuse what he did, but it’s not my fight to punish him. Forgiveness is also an act of obedience. It’s the least I can do in gratitude to God for letting me survive that day. I focus on protecting others from Numbnuts every 3 years with parole protest letters- and I pray that the prison chaplain gets through to him.

I’ve met many people who were turned away from Christ by Christians.  My goal with my sponsor kids is that they see that they are loved (including the Muslim twins in Bangladesh). I am working hard to give them sound Christian support, and have gotten child and teen (boy’s and girl’s) study Bibles to use with little lessons in each letter I write to them. With that, I ask for the help of the Holy Spirit.  Kindness is free, even when the specifics aren’t clear. It costs us nothing but the desire to share it.  IF not, then the parable of the Good Samaritan was just a story, and not a lesson.

You said I only want to see “the bad”.  With the things I’ve been through, I’ve always tried to see the good, and apply Romans 8:28, because I do believe that God can make good out of anything, if we let Him.  I think that comment hurt the worst.  My greatest earthly happiness comes from people doing well, and doing kind things for others. I cry tears of joy when someone does well (I’m a mess during the Olympics, no matter who wins- their story and hard work led them to their dreams).  It’s amazing I don’t see only bad. The murders, rape, leukemia, disability and not being able to work as a nurse, and many other things would give me reason to do so.  But that’s not who I am. I wasn’t brought up to look for the bad.  But you think that of me? After 45+ years?  Then you don’t know me at all. I question everything about our ‘friendship’ with that comment. 

When one of my sponsor kids makes the drama team, my heart explodes with joy for him. When the twins start to feel comfortable asking me questions, I am so happy they feel safe to do so.  When another asks me to pray that his goats keep “reproducing well”, I’m overjoyed that he has a little ranch going (he’s 8).  When my sensitive one needs reassurance from me that I’m proud of her, my heart aches with gratitude that she is doing well.  I don’t see their ‘conditions’.  I see that God created these 8 kids with amazing potential. (Edit: sadly, I had to adjust my budget considerably, and have 5 of the kids that I still sponsor, but pray for all 8, and was assured the three I had to ‘give back’ would find sponsors- and that is my prayer). 

I don’t see conservatives or liberals. I see a country failing to see the big picture. We’re here together. Everybody has to make choices about what is worth destroying the country over. I don’t see anything worth that.  And prophetically, the US will fall. We’re on that path. And God will deal with things as He sees fit for His ultimate plans. In the meantime, I just want to be the best I can be with His help. His opinion is my beacon. HE has everything under control, even if humans have done their best to tear things apart.

I was hoping that hydroxychloroquine would be a ‘game-changer’, and it was no matter that the idea was pushed by Trump. What mattered was that it would be help to those suffering.  Like everyone, I’m so much more than my views on politics- and they vary by the issue-not the party.  Yet my non-GOP views have made me dirt on your shoes.  I can’t stick around for that. I have to let you go. I’m glad for the clarity. You said what you feel. Let the chips fall where they may.  I can respect your right to your views, even if my difference of opinion is in your crosshairs. But I won’t engage with venom. 

I will always wish you, H, and D all of the best in life. I will be glad to see you in THE place of no more crying or pain when we meet again.  It’s where so much of my hope lies. It’s where the people who gave me a life of church values are waiting.  It’s where the baby I lost is- in a place where its conception by rape won’t matter. It’s where a lot of people I’d expect to see will be, and very likely some I didn’t expect to see, and some I expected to see, but won’t… because I can’t see their hearts. But God can. He knows why I believe what I do, and why I think how I think, before I even think or believe anything. His omniscience and omnipotence blow me away, as does His undeserved Gift of grace, mercy, compassion, and great hope of everlasting life through  Jesus. Take care of yourself, and know that you will always be in my prayers for peace, health, and safety.  I absolutely did not intend for one flip comment to trigger such damage.  For that I deeply apologize. 

Until the time when the earth is long in the past, where a thousand years will seem to be but a minute, I say goodbye.  The pain of that conversation isn’t fixable. And I, again, wish you and your family everything good.

Do I Really Belong Anywhere?

When I look at the vast number of ways people can be divisive, I feel even more like I don’t belong anywhere.  Whether it’s political, religious, or anything else, I don’t tow the party line anywhere.  I don’t believe in any extremes.  I hate labels.  I sometimes don’t know exactly where I stand on things, but if it in some way makes people more distant from each other, there’s a really good chance I don’t want any part of it.  The only thing I’m definite about is my relationship with God- not how others view their own Christianity, but MY relationship with God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit… and those don’t need to be flashy and highly viewable.  I shouldn’t have to advertise it; and I shouldn’t have to hide it.

Because of my ‘religious’ beliefs (I detest the word ‘religious’- it screams of empty rituals and mindless devotion), I don’t like when people are labelled and judged by humans. I don’t believe we have the right to do that to other people. We’re human, a.k.a. fallible, and need to focus on our own shortcomings instead of being hateful  (Yes !  Christians are some of the most hateful people on the planet for those Christians who haven’t figured that out!). Check out Matthew 5 & 6… great chapters in the Bible.  Do I have specific feelings about specific issues? Yep.  But I don’t think many of those things need to be put up for public approval. Some things are between the person and God.  And, most really aren’t worth making illegal to clog up an already stagnant legal system even more. We need to keep the violent people contained…not someone who had an abortion after being raped, or something else that is seen as a violation against life and God.  When Christians use God to back up their own beliefs, it makes me sad. God can speak for Himself- and He has.  He told US to love each other, and to leave the judgement to Him.  

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own beliefs and views on things. I do. But I just can’t stand the fighting about issues that are really very personal.   How does any Christian think that people who don’t have a relationship with God are ever going to see the benefit of knowing Him if Christians spend so much time belittling those they disagree with?  Is it not possible to have a personal (and deeply valued) belief system and relationship with God, and still reach out with an open hand to someone who thinks and believes differently?  Does being a Christian mean avoiding everybody who doesn’t show up at church 3-5 times a week?  That old ‘go ye into ALL the world….’ ?  I guess that was only for the olden days, eh? Seems that folks only want to be with like-minded folks, which is fine, until it becomes exclusive.

When I hear the far right talk about the ‘free’ entitlements such as Medicare, it makes me so sad.  Because of things outside of my control, I’m disabled and on Medicare (and have been since I was 44 years old).  I worked as an RN for 20 years, and paid into Medicare and Social Security. It COST me.  That ‘free’ Medicare costs me about $500+ per MONTH, to pay for premiums/co-pays so that I do have full coverage and more for copays to cover the medications/supplies I need. Medicare is very deficient in many areas.  Medicaid is extremely difficult to qualify for; it’s not something that a person just goes and gets in line to receive.  It’s portrayed as the medical care that anybody can get if they don’t have something else, and that is absolutely not true.  For me to qualify for Medicaid help (during the times when I had a different Medicare supplement policy that left me with thousands of dollars in copays), I had a $2200/MONTH ‘deductible’ (called a spend-down).  That didn’t even leave enough for rent, let alone premiums, food, utilities, medications, etc.  I agree that there have to be requirements to be met in order to qualify…but I also know that those who find Medicare and Medicaid to be such ‘freebies’ just don’t understand.  It costs me well over $6000/year for the privilege of having ‘free’ medical care that I paid into while I was working.  I don’t belong on that part of the  ‘right’.

When I hear the far left speak of ‘conservatives’ as people who generally hate most of the planet, it saddens me.  Many of my beliefs are conservative (stiflingly so to some), and yet I have met so many people from so many backgrounds and belief systems that I want to be inclusive.  Excluding people (who are not dangerous to themselves or others) from any part of society damages the whole of society.  There is room for so much more than the black and white thinking that predominates every ‘side’ of any issue.  I don’t belong with the ‘left’ either, because of some things, but I’m more comfortable with them as I get older.

I’ve been rethinking a lot of my personal views on a lot of things.  For the most part, that means that the people I grew up with probably see me as being wayward at best, and a heretic at worst.  I don’t fit anywhere.  I just don’t think that I know enough as a human to judge many of the ‘hot topic’ issues.  And I’m not afraid to admit it.  Yes, I believe the Bible.  But I also know that there are things that are known now that weren’t known in Biblical times, and changes in social and scientific ‘norms’ that cause me to step back from judgement and wait until the day I can ask God for myself, instead of categorizing  groups of humans, or specific activities- and in the meantime, try not to cause more divisiveness.  In the end, the nitpicking isn’t going to help anyone.  What is in my heart is what matters- and I’m OK knowing that God sees that better than anyone.

I’ve discussed my views on homosexuality with people who know me from the church I grew up in, and  with those who have no specific religious views, and it’s not surprising which group verbally beat me up for my beliefs.   I believe that being gay is biological. There. I said it. I don’t think it’s a choice. Or a ‘lifestyle’, like being a jet-setter or redneck, or something.  I’ve also talked before about the kids I saw when I was working as a pediatric RN, who had ‘ambiguous genitalia’ (that is a diagnosis based on biology)… those kids literally had either both male and female sex organs (internal and/or external) , or the only way to determine their gender was by sending their blood for genetic mapping.  Gender is determined by the X-Y chromosomes from the sperm, and are affected by the mom’s hormones while she is pregnant. If the mom is carrying a genetically determined baby girl, and for some reason has some surge of testosterone during the pregnancy at just the right time, why is it so hard to understand that the baby is affected?  If the baby can end up with externally visible gender ambiguity , why is it so hard to think that there can be biological changes in the brain that determine sexual orientation?  Regardless, I don’t know enough to judge someone. I’ve had many gay and lesbian co-workers, one transgender co-worker who was in the process of reassignment, and assorted friends and relatives who are gay or lesbian.  God loves them.  I love them.  SO, I don’t fit in anywhere.  On same-sex marriage- I don’t see why anybody wants to be chained to anybody, so my views on any marriage are skewed to “what the hell for?”.  I’ll have to take a pass on that one- but I do know that if i baked wedding cakes and a same-sex couple asked me to bake one, I wouldn’t bat an eye at doing their cake. Why be mean? Why be judgmental? Why not show that Christians can be decent?

Criticizing the President… Oy.  I shared some  anti-Obama things on FaceBook during the campaign, and I regret it deeply.  He was/is our POTUS.  The office deserves respect, and once again, judgement isn’t my role. The entire political atmosphere scares me, but instead of being so negative, I need to wake up and do more appreciating of the person in office when they’ve done nothing to not deserve my appreciation and respect.  I also cringe when stupid things are criticized, such as the sleeve length of Mrs. Obama’s dresses…. seriously?  Does it matter? She always looks great.  When every last thing is torn apart (instead of trying to see the positive), what good comes of it?  POTUS has been a chill, solid president, with a cautious approach, based on common sense and getting input from others in his Cabinet. How can that be bad?  But the people I grew up with don’t like him, and I listened to them too much during the early years.  I no longer think it has anything to do with his politics- but something too 1600s  to think about. Their hate is the antithesis of Christianity.  I was personally thrilled to have a black man in office.  The whole family is the sort I’d like to have as neighbors.  Worst neighbors I’ve ever had were SEVERAL white middle-class jerks  in various apartments who blew their stereo speakers to shreds every night. Or that old bat who stalked me to the point of needing to tape up the space between my mini-blinds and the area that could be seen into my apartment. She was obsessed- my landlady let me break my lease over that one- she’d seen her watching my windows and patio door.  I’d go to sit on my patio, and she’d be standing there- staring at my door when I opened it at 10 p.m.. Creepy, and glow-in-the-dark white.

Another hot topic issue that I do have some personal opinions about is abortion. Specifically, post-rape abortion was  in the press this last year, and some really ignorant politicians made some incredibly stupid remarks. The body doesn’t ‘shut down’ and prevent pregnancy after ‘legitimate’  rape (is there an illegimate rape?).  If a woman is ovulating when she is raped, she can very easily become pregnant.  I’ve been there.  I had an agonizing decision to make, and I found out very painfully why women consider abortion. I get it.  I couldn’t do it.  And I couldn’t talk to anybody about it.  I was told I was just stressed out because of the rape, and few people would even talk to me about the pregnancy.  I was blessed to have miscarried, though I feel horrible for those who miscarry that are want a baby. For me, it was the best outcome for a traumatized 23-year old brain that was terrified of not being able to raise that baby without prejudice of being the spawn of a rapist. I’ll never forget that morning- both the horror…and the relief.

Adoption isn’t always the ‘perfect’ answer, either. I was adopted, and I have had positive experiences with my adoptive and biological families.  But I couldn’t give a baby away- and how could I raise a child of rape without prejudice?  How could I tell a baby it was conceived in violence with someone who terrorized me, and have that child ever believe his/her existence was a good thing?  Even if I truly did the best I could to be loving (and with my love for babies and kids, I probably would have done OK, but the whole thing was terrifying and not something to leave to chance).  As an adopted child- who was always told that my being placed for adoption was a wonderful thing for my adoptive parents- I understand that underlying feeling of being a ‘mistake’, even in the best of circumstances.  I later found out that I was conceived with an abundance of love, which meant a lot to me. But growing up, especially as I entered and went through adolescence, I did feel like a fluke.  Being the product of a rape can never be something that can be smoothed over with later information should I have met the child (if I’d carried it to term and relinquished it), or managed to raise it with some degree of actual love and affection.  I don’t ever think abortion is an acceptable form of chronic birth control; there are responsible ways to address pregnancy prevention.  But I ‘get it’ when someone is raped and just can’t emotionally deal with a pregnancy.  I also understand feeling like a woman is backed into a corner by a pregnancy.  I don’t like it.  But I get it.  Once again, I don’t fit with so many that I grew up with. And I’ve taken care of those post-abortion as a nurse; they got the came consideration and care I’d give anybody.

The ‘morning after pill’… it does NOT terminate a pregnancy. It prevents implantation. Without implantation, even a fertilized egg will not result in a pregnancy. It’s simple biology.  The ‘morning after pill’ is not the same as abortion.  There are pills that do terminate pregnancies.  It is good to know the difference. There is also a difference between delivering a pre-term baby to save the lives of the mother or both mother and baby AND the incredibly rare late-term termination of a pregnancy for the purpose of eliminating the baby. No credibly MD would do the latter. The former saves lives. But, nobody at my old church seems to comprehend that. SO, I don’t fit in.

The more things there are to divide people, the more I don’t fit anywhere.  I can see many sides of an issue, and I don’t understand why others can’t do the same. Am I just stupid?  I graduated with honors, and did very well when I worked as an RN.  Am I naive? Maybe.  Do I just want to feel like it’s OK to not hate one side or the other in order to ‘belong’? Absolutely.  That’s really all I want.  And to not be belittled for wanting that.   I’m glad that humans aren’t my Ultimate Judge.  I’d like to belong somewhere that doesn’t weaponize God or the Bible.