June 26, 2015. I stood outside of the Supreme Court of the United States of America and celebrated as the right to same-sex marriage was upheld. The atmosphere was euphoric. Love. So much love. And, joy. And, relief. I held my children close in the midst of a rejoicing crowd and made promises to them that I had only dared to hope before. This world will be a more loving, more accepting, more joyful place for you. Love will win. Love wins. It had happened. And, we were witnessing it.
June 12, 2016. A gunman entered a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and killed 49 people and injured 53 others. It is the deadliest mass shooting in American history. It is also the deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQ people in U.S. history. I learned of the news sitting in church where I resisted the urge to get up and leave. Leave it all behind. Leave behind ideas of love and hope, resigning myself to a reality where fear dresses up as hate, parading around on the tongues of our leaders, motivating violence, demanding that we see each other as less than human, as commodities to be bought and sold and exploited and gunned down in our most vulnerable moments.
The past few years have been full of brokenness and horror. Black bodies litter the landscape and children are mowed down by bullets. Babies are stolen violently from parents too soon. Entire groups of people are demonized out of fear, and refugees float lifeless in the same water that baptized Christ when all they wanted was a chance at life. I find myself at a complete loss at how to respond. I made a promise to my children (and to myself) that love wins. Always. Love is the foundation of my theology and, maybe, the only thing I really have faith in. And, yet, so often these days I have trouble seeing it.
Where is the love in all of this brokenness? Where is God in this suffering? My heart whispers in response, God is with you. Look inward. And, if you can't do that, if you are too angry or too sad (or maybe a little too stubborn) to find God there, look outward. And, so I did. I do.
I look outward and see a broken world that is suffering. But, in the midst of this, I see people standing up and saying no more. They shout in defiant hope. Surely that is God at work? I see a world crippled by the myth of scarcity - that tells us there isn't enough so take and take more and hold it tight with no intention of letting it go. In the midst of this, there are people letting go. There are people urging us to live into the abundance that is life. People are breaking the Bread and passing it out for all to eat. Surely that is God at work? I see a world that tells us to stay whole. Bend, but do not break (and maybe don't even bend in the first place). Do not show weakness. Do not show imperfection. Do not let people see your difference. I see that when I look outward. But, in the midst of this, I also see people preaching that brokenness is Holy. Surely that is God at work?
God is there. In you. In me. Love is there. In between you and me. Maybe sometimes we're not meant to see the love as much as we're meant to live it. Maybe I should be focusing less on a promise to my children that may have been broken (it wasn't, it isn't) and more on the hope and love (so much hope, so much love) that prompted it. It is to me and to you to turn the hope and love that breeds such big promises into visible action. We must live hope and love into existence. Make it sacrament. We can do that. We are that powerful.
If it had to do it over, I would make the same promise to my children. Love will win. Love wins. But, I add this:
Love will win but it doesn't come easy and it doesn't come free. Love is action-oriented. Never forget that we are responsible for one another. We belong to one another. Love hard. Love like you mean it. And, when you lose faith (and you will from time to time) and feel a bit hopeless (that happens also) look around. Look at your brothers and your sisters and be inspired by their defiant hope. Rest in that for a minute and then get moving. Live love (make it sacrament). You can do that. You are that powerful.