A Different Kind of Masterpiece.

I am a mess.

This is no secret. For a long time, I tried to hide it, I tried to pretend that I had it all together. Eventually, I gave up, and though I lost some friends in the process, I learned who I was. Who I am.

I used to hear this phrase a lot in college: “You are one of God’s masterpieces.” It was more often directed towards women, I think in an attempt to foster positive self-image, but every time I heard it, I always thought, “I really don’t feel like much of a masterpiece.”

When we think of masterpieces, we think of the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel or similar works. We think of works of art praised for their beauty. They are whole, complete, finished, beautiful works. Nobody wanted to see Michelangelo’s sketches–that’s probably why he burned them–but people flock in hundreds to see his finished product.

Masterpieces are, in our minds, finished.

I am not. I continue to change, for better and worse, with every day that passes. At no point have I ever modeled perfection. I eat too much cheese. I refuse to check my voicemails. I complain about everything. I have panic attacks at 5 a.m. about being stuffed in lockers. I forget my glasses and miss turns when I drive. I get angry and yell and swear too much. I laugh at funerals and cry when babies are born. I have experienced many things that have left scars on my body and my soul.

I am a mess.

But maybe that’s the masterpiece. Maybe we aren’t Mona Lisas or Sistine Chapels. Maybe we are more like mosaics. We’re made up of broken pieces of other things, pieces that are being added with every day that passes. We’re made of a million colors of joy and anger and sadness and peace and every other experience we’ve ever had. We are full of intricacy and complexity and beauty.

Our brokenness brings forth fullness, but never completion.

We are works in progress.

We are eternally unfinished.

And that, my friends, is beautiful.

My Bible Tells Me To Love.

So.

A couple days ago, I watched a documentary called “For The Bible Tells Me So.” It’s on Netflix; you all should really watch it.

It was about the Church’s oppression of the GLBT community.

Mainly, it centered on telling the stories of five or so different GLBT individuals and their families, who were all deeply rooted in the (American) Church. It depicted their coming-out stories, their families’ varied acceptance, and what they’ve done to bridge the gap between the GLBT community and the Church.

It was powerful.

Silly me, I just wanted background noise. I got myself into watching one of the most heart-wrenching movies I’ve ever seen.

(Suck it, Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook was awful.)

I’m still processing. On the one hand, I was incredibly upset by the things some of the Christians in the movie were saying. This is the community I come from, and I’m supposed to be proud of that?

I’m not ashamed of Christ. However, I’m very ashamed of Christians. Not only has an unbelievable amount of hatred (and in many cases, violence) been unleashed towards a community that does not, for any reason, deserve it, but the voices of our brothers and sisters who are part of that community (as well as the voice of science) have been silenced.

On the other hand, I found the stories of reconciliation, of bridging the gap, of learning to love with or without agreeing with one another to be so inspiring. It gave me a lot of hope for the Church, that maybe we can learn to be a group that really does strive to be like Jesus–to love all people, no conditions, period. Not “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Not even just “love the sinner.” Just love, saint or sinner, gay or straight. 

Because here’s the thing: we’re not the ones who ought to judge. One of my pastors (I think he’s the primary pastor of the Porch? I’m not really sure. He leads the sermon discussion.) said of Romans 1 (verses 26-27 of which are often used to condemn GLBT individuals) and 2 that the chapter break between them is the most ill-placed in the entire Bible. There’s no sense of division between the two in the Greek text, but we’ve placed a division there for no reason. In chapter one, Paul goes on and on about how people are generally terrible, and then begins chapter two by saying (essentially) “So who are you to judge?”

Here’s Romans 1:18-32:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

And here’s the following passage, Romans 2:1-16, separated as we usually read it in our English Bibles:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience,not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay everyone according to what they have done.”[e]To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obeythe law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges everyone’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Now, here’s what it would be like if we read them as one text (shortened to include the most relevant portions):

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. 1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience,not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 

It’s a much different message this way, isn’t it?

I want to leave you with one final quote from the movie. Let it inspire you to initiate conversation, to look differently at people you consider “others” or “outsiders,” and to love with the undiscriminating heart of Jesus.

“So many people who are victims of the fundamentalist christian caricature of gays become fearful and stay fearful until they meet one.”

Help.

***UPDATE: Somebody decided to pay this off in full for us. So praise Jesus. I’d take this down, but I feel like I need to leave this up as a testament to God’s faithfulness.***

Dear friends,

I come to you in great need.

A few months ago, my husband had to go to the hospital. For three stitches. Which ended up costing us about $400.

We haven’t been able to pay the bills yet. We still can’t afford them. We’re barely breaking even each week. And they’re about to be turned over to a collections agency.

I know there’s only twelve or so of you, and I know most of you don’t know me.

You have no real reason to care whether or not we can pay our bills. And if you don’t care, that’s fine.

But if you do–and you have a little money to spare–we could really use your help.

Please, if you can find it in your heart to give, do.

With gratitude,

Denika