Being over six feet tall brings some advantages. For one thing, it tends to scare away gay bashers.
The first time I was threatened by a gay basher was the very first time I went to a gay bar. It was in Seattle in 1982, and I’d just moved to the city to work as a news intern at the Seattle Times. In my last year of college I finally figured out I was gay, and so on my first free evening in the “big city” I ventured out to the Park Bench. I stood at the bar, incredibly uncomfortable, for what seemed like an eternity before the guy next to me said hello. We struck up a conversation – he was a tour guide from Australia. We ended up leaving the bar at the same time, still talking. As we exited onto the sidewalk a smallish guy jumped in front of us.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t bash your face in!” he snarled at me.
I looked at him. About a foot shorter than me. A lot smaller. If I were a fighter by nature I could have leveled him with little effort. Instead I responded “Well it’s a really nice night.” That was enough to send him sputtering backwards, hurling threats as he hastily retreated across the street.
I relive that moment every time I hear about an attack against our LGBTQ community. News about the shooting at a club in Orlando this weekend triggered my latest reminiscence. It makes me feel incredibly sad. Excruciatingly tired. And fortunate that over the years ago I’ve been confronted by fists instead of assault rifles.
Why do we live in a world so filled with hate? With fear that is bred and fed by so many who claim to be upright, righteous, religious, true believers?
One time I tried to discuss what this all feels like with one of my sisters. I tried to express what it feels like to be hated and feared and threatened for simply existing. Her response was, “Yeah, and people are prejudiced against overweight people too.” I let the conversation drop. I no longer hope that someday my family will understand what it feels like to be gay. Honestly I pray that they never feel attacked and violated and endangered and on the verge of hopeless - the way I feel right now.
So what does one do with feelings like this? I know someone who understands. Someone whose own friends turned against him. One time the hometown folks even tried to throw him off a cliff. He was chased and threatened and reviled for saying things like the following:
“Come to me, all you who labor and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Here you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Yesterday was Music Sunday at Seattle First Baptist, and on a morning where I just wanted to crawl in a hole and cry I was committed to sing and ring bells and worship. And I’m glad it worked out that way. Making music didn’t add to my burden, it lightened it.
As part of preparing for Music Sunday, Vicky Thomas asked us to think about hymns and their meaning in our life. I know so many hymns by heart that I’d never be able to pick a favorite. But I know which one I sing to myself the most. It’s a fragment, really. Just a line from the chorus of a hymn that I don’t remember learning. It’s like I’ve always known it.
“Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds the future, and I know who holds my hand.”
Scripture quote is Matthew 11.28-30 from The Inclusive Bible.
Hymn line is from I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill