reflections and revisiting

woman in city.jpg

I’ve had the opportunity to spend this past week in Chicago. Attending training during the day left me evenings free to wander. And so I’ve wandered back to a place that was well visited by me about 8 years ago.

I wrote in an earlier post about how the Lord drew me to widen my capacity to love people, especially LGBTQ+ people. He did this, to a large extent, in a place named Andersonville. I was drawn to attend bi weekly gatherings sponsored by the Marin Foundation. They created a space for the Evangelical church and the gay community to come together and talk.Their stated desire was to help bridge the gap in love and understanding that stood wide and long between these two groups.

Once I settled into the routine of spending days in Chicago for this gathering, I began to wander around Andersonville (where the gatherings met at a local church). I shared previously how impacted I was during these early visits as I confronted many preconceived ideas, judgments, and biases that I held about people that seemed so different from myself. From burgers at Hamburger Mary’s, dinners at Lady Gregory’s, many beverages at Starbucks and hours spent on a bench thinking and journaling, I began to see my heart change, grow, and expand. I remember feeling like the Grinch as the narrator explained that his heart grew three sizes in just one day. Except that it took my heart a bit longer to expand three sizes!

As the years have passed, I look back on that year that I spent days on days in Chicago with The Marin Foundation, at PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and at a local gay bar fondly. Though I have to admit, I was glad to see that intense year end. My promise to the Lord that I would do whatever crossed my path so that I could learn and understand (as much as I could) what life looked like through the eyes of a gay person had made me a different person. Literally, I was changed and I’ve never been the same. These experiences set alongside the friendship of a young woman who shared a house with my husband and myself marked me in a way that I hope never leaves me.

So as I walked the familiar streets last night and enjoyed a burger, my old favorite bench, and reflected in Starbucks, I was struck at exactly how much I’ve changed.

I remember vividly that first time arriving in Andersonville early to spend the day reading only to realize that most of the people around me were LGBTQ and I was the minority. I remember crying over my biases. I remember feeling awkward and wanting to leave. I remember crying out to the Lord to change me. So clearly I picture my first halting attempts to talk and build relationships in these new spaces. Times when I used language poorly and offended, as well as times of smiling at myself for understanding terminology!

This week as I walked those streets, smiled and engaged in conversation, I felt comfortable. I felt peaceful and at home.

And for that I feel so humble and grateful.

Certainly this is not the end of the story that the Lord is writing in me, but it feels so cool to have the first few chapters written and see some of His purposes.

Years ago I felt like the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray that I could be used to help the church grow into a more loving space. Whether through education or example, I have seen the Lord give me opportunities to share and love. This blog is a fruit of that prayer and desire.

Personally, this school year has been hard. But time and time again the Lord has ‘shouted’ at me through circumstances and people that he intends to use all that He has grown in my heart for His good.

He loves people and wants to use me and you to love people on His behalf.

So what about you? Who has the Lord put on your heart to love? Even without a specific people group, certainly He wants to see our hearts consistently expanding. Is your heart expanding? Where are you pushing yourself to love people more actively?

Just in my small circle of friends and family I am watching the Lord move a piece of my family to South Asia, move friends to the south side of Chicago, move other friends to Africa and Lebanon, and move still others fostering and adopting children and teens that would not be highly valued by many.

Love without action isn’t really love, is it? All of the above are “moving” to love. Changing geography or changing circumstances.

Who are you loving?I personally would love to see droves of us begin to pray for and engage with the LGBTQ community in real and meaningful ways. We have a mandate to love. Are you different than you were last year? Has your heart grown and softened? Has this moved you towards actions of love? And if these questions seem vague, ask the Holy Spirit to show you if and how you’ve grown. Ask the Lord to use you to change your church and sphere of people.

The world is supposed to know we are Christians by our love.

Susan Titus