Difficult times boil things down to their essence and give us a chance to discover each other’s depths. To first of all pull closer and declare, “I’m with you” and then to go find out what that means. 2016 was the start of go find out.

Learning last year that our loved one is gay – thinking and reading and listening and conversing about it – triggered a lot of rethinking other things too: faith, church, the bible, assumptions.  Now the boxes we once trusted to hold our branded faith no longer seem big enough to hold their contents.

I picture our small church as a circle of people, arms locked, centered around Jesus.  Facing inward from our circle it’s hard to know if other circles even exist around us.  When someone breaks the circle’s expectations, they may unlock arms, unsure if they fit in.  Evangelical kids who come out as gay so frequently leave the circle and drift outward, looking for a place to belong.

What amazes me is her effort to move inward.

When we are hurting and confused, when things don’t look as they once did, we can draw closer to Jesus and find his hands on our shoulders, blessing those who mourn, who are poor and realize their need for him.  We find solace in every gospel story of Jesus reaching out to all the “wrong” people while challenging the religiously sure.  We move inward to Jesus and are wrapped in the knowledge that he knew all along.

Jesus reached out to all the “wrong” people while challenging the religiously sure.

And then it happens.  From our now-disrupted circle we’ve moved inward to find comfort.  And then we pivot and look outward to discover broad and diverse circles of pilgrims facing Jesus and ready to embrace us.  This has been one of the great joys of the past year – finding the merciful in such abundance, the circles of Christians through history who differ in secondary views but agree on primary creeds.  Discovering long lost sisters and brothers has been like opening and stepping through a window, curtains blowing, and finding freedom on the previously-feared outside.

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