Magazine article The Christian Century

Love That Changes Minds

Magazine article The Christian Century

Love That Changes Minds

Article excerpt

THE DAY AFTER Christmas holds many possibilities for pastors, most of them involving the word rest. I do not typically book office hours on this day. Four years ago proved to be an exception. Bob and Linda called on Christmas Day, requesting an appointment. "Our daughter is home from college and we really need to talk with you as soon as possible." There was an urgency to their words.

We met in the late afternoon, Jenna in the armchair to my right, her parents on the couch to my left. There was no impulse toward small talk. Bob cut right to the chase. "Jenna has informed us this week that she is gay. We don't know where this is coming from. It caught both of us completely by surprise. She knows it is contrary to everything we hold dear as a family. It is not what the Bible professes. We don't know what to do to help her. That's why we're here."

Mom cried softly. Jenna sat numb and expressionless, as if hit by a Mack truck. Dad's eyes had the look of a prisoner pleading for release. The icy air that marked Bob's opening words thawed only slightly over the next 30 minutes. Jenna offered no more than a few sentences the entire time. She appeared too hurt to speak.

My modest hope was to keep a door open for further conversation with these three. This was not the time to take apart and reassemble scripture. Nor was it the day to dissect the dynamics and history of this precious family. Our delicate conversation concluded on a fragile note, held together by nothing but a thin thread of hidden love. I watched the parents and daughter walk to their separate cars under the evening light. Their heads were bent over.

In the four years since that awkward conversation, something approximating a miracle of grace occurred. Parents and daughter love each other in a more unconditional fashion than some of us learn in a lifetime. Linda has become an advocate for helping others understand homosexuality less as a hypothetical argument or position paper and more as a realm involving love for all of God's children. "How can you hate an orientation?" she is fond of saying. For his part, Bob has reordered his biblical hermeneutic to be more Jesus-centric than he previously considered appropriate. Jenna loves to come home.

This family's journey from brokenness to new life is but one example of a trait we do well to cherish--being open to having one's mind changed. The subject matter may be a political issue or a social convention. It may be a faith topic or a scriptural perspective. It may involve a situation of family struggle. Reexamining old assumptions need not herald a personal weakness. The willingness to question long-held assumptions becomes an opportunity. The freedom to admit error or misjudgment may trigger a whole renewal of faith.

College philosophy taught me a principle that too quickly became an unalterable doctrine: consistency is a virtue. Who wants to hear a friend say, "You're inconsistent"? Such words grind like sand in the gears of personal integrity. Of course consistency counts, on certain matters at least. I might say, for example: God is love. I happen to be a child of this love. And my love for others is both desired and expected by this God of love. Beyond such basic claims, however, there is a lot of wiggle room. Changing one's mind can be beautiful, especially as our perspective on love expands.

When George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the president's own words may have doomed the nomination: "I know her well enough to be able to say that she's not going to change, that 20 years from now she'll be the same person . …

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