Being a “Whosoever,” in my case a lesbian, has proved to be a blessing greater than one could ever have dreamed of, or hoped for. Learning first of God’s love at age four, only once have I doubted that God loved me, “just as I am,” and that period of doubt lasted but three days.
First in my early twenties, then in my late thirties, I heard the news, spoken with such authority by members of various denominations, that God could not love me while ever I was a practising lesbian. But how could I be practising? I always knew this was the real me God had created to live fully, including the expression of my sexuality. On each occasion the doors to those various denominations slammed shut in my face, and I was excluded from those places of worship and healing, of fellowship and prayer, in which I believed I watched God at work. In each and every one of these events I now find a source of blessing, and I am able to praise God for all those people whose actions caused me to seek answers in God.
What does one do when one becomes a pariah, a spiritual exile? One simply draws even closer to God, and spills out all the hurt, frustration, loss, bitterness and bewilderment that have welled up inside. And God becomes more real, for God it is who holds us close, who lets us sob until the tears are exhausted, and who then reminds us of all the promises that have always been ours to claim. God never changes, nor does the love offered to each of us ever change. The triune God we worship is that same God described by David in Psalm 139, a God from whose presence we can never escape, no matter why we deliberately choose to run. It is the self-same God Jesus called “Daddy,” and the God with whom Job chose to remonstrate. God’s answer to Job, recorded in Job 38-41, reminds us that as humans, we simply cannot comprehend God’s dimensions, including that of God’s love. For God loves the most fiendish mass murderers and torturers history has known with the self-same love as is extended to us. God is love, and those who attempt to persuade any of us that our sexuality has created barriers between God and ourselves are but speaking out their own fantasies and not God’s truths.
In my twenties, hearing the lie that God could not love me and that I was damned while ever I was a lesbian, I married, as did so many of us. From the eleven years of violence that followed until I left the marriage, I was blessed with three wonderful children. The moment I left, I opened my home to all people who were victims of violence and abuse. Because they witnessed the violence directed against the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community during those years my children are constantly to be found in the frontlines fighting for justice whenever minority groups are targeted. For themselves, their life was at times sheer hell as schoolmates treated them like lepers simply because they were my children. Yet they never condemned me, nor threw God from their lives. The memories are still there, but God has used the traumas they experienced and witnessed to shape their lives and personalities for the better, so that they exemplify God,s love in action.
As for me, well it hasn’t all been beer and skittles; however in everything God’s presence was real. As a co-producer of a glbt radio program in the red-necked rural area in which I live, I was subjected to death threats, and the brakes of my car were tampered with one night. During a church service in which our community was spoken of as “spawn of the devil,” I told of my sadness that Christians would be so lacking in love, and declared that if they were also into stone throwing they could start with me, a lesbian. Thereby I lost a place to worship, by speaking out. My neighbours stopped communicating with me, and in rural Australia where one needs to be able to depend on neighbours, this put us all at risk. My eldest daughter was thrown from a speeding car, yet sustained little but abrasions. It was a time of terror when we feared each phone call, letter and door knock. Nevertheless we survived, and we truly believe we were held in the shelter of God’s arms throughout those years. When I first realised I loved my life-partner, my life had been molded so much by God that I spelled out simply and sincerely to her that since God was my first love, I was only able to offer her second place in my life.
Why do some people see us as evil, as fornicators, as paedophiles, as alienated from and abominable to God? Simply it is because we are different. A few years ago when attempts were made to smear my reputation and invalidate my ministry, I was shocked and perplexed. What was going on, why was this campaign launched? It took quite a while for me to discover that to some people I appeared threatening, as I was different. My experience of God was different from theirs, my personal standards differed from theirs, and I felt called to serve folk who were unable to worship within a congregational setting. These differences my detractors found unsettling and even threatening. I was prayerfully content to serve wherever God could find a use for me, and not driven to see my name in lights. So to God, and to my lover, I poured out my hurts, and at length discovered that the very moment I cut my ties with these people another door opened wide, and at last I was encouraged and reaffirmed in ministry. Working closely with God I found the new denomination in which I ministered to be a source of blessing such as I had only faintly glimpsed before. It was as though, to work so closely with God, I needed to rid myself of everything that had till then held my attention. I realised that previously instead of serving God, I had been serving the hierarchical demands of a denomination. And as for loss of one,s reputation, Jesus pointed out so gently how he had been robbed of his reputation and of his life. Now I know God, especially revealed as Jesus, as my all in all. Nothing else can ever measure up to the love, contentment and deep joy I find in God’s presence.
What is it like to live as a “Whosoever” person? Why, it is to be given opportunities for God to prove to us what we would have missed if we had been born part of the majority, rather than a minority. It is to have one’s personality and spirit honed by unusual circumstances, so that the real and precious beauty with which we are created is revealed. It is to discover genuine joy well up from hidden depths within oneself and flood all one’s being. It is to be chosen by our Creator to be the lanterns through which the light of Christ’s love, forgiveness and reconciliation is revealed to the world. It is to know oneself as truly loved and blessed. It is to discover the truth of one’s essence, namely, that in God’s eyes each of us is a pearl without price.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.