a rainbow bracelet
Seven years ago I began wearing a rainbow bracelet. More than any other thing that I’ve done in these years, wearing this bracelet has brought me some controversy and many interesting questions. In many ways, it has become like my signature.
I have received so many questions about “the bracelet.”
“Why do you wear that rainbow bracelet?”
“Are you trying to remember that God won’t ever flood the earth again?”
“Did you make your bracelet?”
“Where can I get a bracelet like that?”
And sometimes the question isn’t verbal; there is just a long and pointed stare at my wrist. I’ve gotten so used to it that often I lead with the explanation, unless I want to be ornery. :)
And if a fellow Christian is the one asking, I often get a second follow-up question: “I thought that you didn’t believe God was OK with gay relationships?” or “Have you changed what you believe?”
I wear the bracelet because when I attended PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), several of the attendees suggested that I do something to indicate to others that I might be a “safe” person to talk to. I felt very privileged that they deemed me “safe” and offered advice.
You see, working full-time at a Christian summer camp for low-income kids and teens in the South Bend area has given me a lot of opportunities to sit and chat with people about gender and sexual identity. The people at PFLAG making the suggestion to me knew that we did not agree on sexual ethics. They were very much a progressive group that believed that God affirms gay relationships and gay sex. We had spent many months talking through why we each believed as we did. Some of those meetings involved others in the group tensely interrogating me, giving me the opportunity to learn to not respond defensively.
We had become allies in the sense that we all believed that we and the others loved the LGBTQ teens that we had relationships with. The teens were what mattered. Over and over, we talked about the suicide rate amongst LGBTQ youth. As they came to understand my ministry at the camp, while they did not jive with the doctrine I believed, they had come to believe that I genuinely cared about the LGBTQ teens. And that caring earned me advice.
I nearly cried the day that I realized I had, to some degree, earned the trust of the other PFLAG members. They may not have agreed with my doctrine or sexual ethic, but they knew I cared about the teens. And caring people are what is needed to stem the increasing suicide rate. Teens need to know they matter and are valued.
So I took the advice of my friends at PFLAG and went in search of a bracelet.
Amazon sent me bracelet after bracelet until I found the ones that I wanted. I also learned to make some, and soon I had quite a collection. The results were amazing. My bracelet opened conversations in an incredible way both at camp and at the high school where I volunteered. Rarely did teens ask why I wore the bracelet. But often, one would wander up and say something like, “Could we talk?” Routinely, during lunch at school, I would be sitting in a classroom and a student would stop in to chat. This made me chuckle a bit to myself. One girl who stopped by over lunch said, “You just seem like someone I want to talk to.”
These teens and the time to have these conversations are a treasure I value and want to guard. I work hard to be a safe person. To respect their privacy. To listen well and to love well. To be consistent and not withdraw from being in relationship with them. To be available and reliable. It matters. They matter.
What about you? I am assuming, if you’re reading this post, you have more than a passing interest in the LGBTQ community. Who is the Lord drawing you to love, and what actions are you taking to make yourself available? Any casual glance at the crowd of students exiting schools in the afternoons will tell you that many struggle with gender and sexual identity questions.
If you feel the Lord stirring you at all to help these teens, do something. Do anything. Pray and ask the Lord what to do. And you can message me. I’d be happy to chat with you about what you could do!
And if you feel challenged in a good way by these thoughts, forward or share this with your friends. It will take all of us to change evangelical church culture!