What did the prophet Isaiah know 2700 years ago that we, sitting amongst our stacks of Bibles and reference books still seem to be missing? We pride ourselves on knowledge, the good deeds we do, the way we live our lives and the rules we keep for ourselves. We participate weekly in our houses of worship and display many wonderful outward attributes of godly behavior so clear to others. They all prove how tight we are with God. It sure may impress others and we are comforted to think this also impresses Him.
There is a distinction between our view of what God wants from us and what He actually requires of us. I have only started to understand what Isaiah spoke of so long ago and thus warned the early God-followers. It’s been twenty five years since my profession of Jesus as Savior. I am grasping in my spirit that God not only cares about the ones on the edge, He wants me to care about them too. In the upside down economy of God-things, He tells me that when I care so much that I “spend” myself in the caring of others, the rest of my life will fall into place.
I am confident that I have heard these things for decades. I have heard them, but have I really understood them and to confess even further, have I done them? Who are the ones for whom God has lead me to have a particular passion for? The gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community (GLBT) and in particular, the ones who are brothers and sisters in the family of God. The gay Christian community. I love them.
I did not go about trying to find “others” in which to invest in an attempt to gain God-favor. I just did what comes naturally to me, I went for a hike. I live in one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen. My home is at the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Nevada, a short drive from Lake Tahoe. With such close proximity to hiking trails, I have had a two decade daily routine of hiking. It was on one of my daily walks in the fall of 2001, that I ran into another woman whom I’d seen occasionally on the trails. We would acknowledge on another as we passed. I was overly protective of my time in those canyon hikes; I was in the end stages of a twenty year marriage and alone time on dirt to think, pray and be silent was sacred.
One day however, the stranger and I acknowledged one another yet again. I asked if she minded if I turned around and walked in her direction with her for awhile. Years later, I can see that a small gesture of acknowledgment was the spark God would use to change my life on numerous levels.
So, Netto Montoya and I became hiking buddies. The second time we hiked and I walked her back to her truck, I spotted a key ring with rainbow colored metal rings on it hanging from her rear view mirror of her truck. “Hmmm”, I wondered, “is she gay?”
It never came up as a topic of discussion for almost a year. I heard the language she used -“partner” and other non-male-boyfriend terms and respected her privacy. I thought that when she felt ready, if ever, she would talk to me about it. What did her sexuality matter? I found someone compatible with my hiking ability and frequency and she was marvelous company. Cheerful, athletic and energetic. We talked and laughed and hiked miles on miles. For her part, Netto was reticent to disclose her sexual orientation. She was a public school physical educator who has since retired and socially not yet out. Understandably, it was a bit of a dual life. The accusations that could arise with people making ignorant assumptions of a locker room impropriety.
Netto was cautious and not quick to trust. Friendly as I am, she had been burned in relationship and needed time to evaluate my character. It was also clear that I was a devout Christian and we certainly all know what that means. She was in need of saving and correction and I was the one that God would use to do it. But that is not how it played out.
It was respectful. I don’t think I have ever been one of the type of judgmental Christians, thank you God for saving me from that burden! I was keenly aware of what the Bible said about homosexuality, or at least that is what I thought. I certainly had read the verses in my studies but had not invested any more time than a cursory reading. I knew what pastors, preachers and teachers said about the issue and believed it. Why wouldn’t I? it did not affect my life; I had no one in my immediate circles to whom it mattered.
We hiked hundreds of miles more in the coming years. On trails, we were understanding each other clearly, but found ourselves having to substantiate our friendship to our respective circle of friends. Just as skeptical were my friends, hers were equally questioning. Though openness and trust, I found a person who answered all my dumb questions about lesbianism. As dumb as you can imagine them, I asked them. I knew nothing. Never being offended, nor secretive, Netto answered.
I can still remember absolutely, vividly, where we were on a trail when she told me she was going to a lesbian RV camp out and looked forward to the “only place where she felt safe”. I knew her and by then loved her and had no way of identifying with what she felt internally. “Safe?” I wondered, I always felt safe. She said that society let her know she was the “lowest of the low” being a woman, a Native American and a lesbian.
It actually physically hurt me that my friend would be viewed and treated that way. It all stopped inside me as I considered how she felt living in this world that was loving, accepting and comfortable to me. It was in that moment, on that patch of dirt, that a shift happened. I got a glimpse into the pain caused by “my side” on “her side”. I am convinced this was the moment that God flipped a switch in me of compassion towards the gay community.