One of ‘Those People’

I, for one, am getting tired of troubled times. Especially tiresome is the mass-manipulation that tells us to worry even more than we might otherwise. “Boooo!” the official opinion-makers keep telling everyone. “Be very, very angry…and very afraid!”

Fear reaches a certain threshold, and then it simply shuts down. God seems to have given us a threshold for pain of every sort. When we experience too much physical pain, we shut down – maybe even faint. When we reach a threshold of fear, we come to the point where we just can’t worry anymore. And that is not a bad thing.

Sometimes, when we least expect it, relief comes in an especially welcome form. Recently, when I was very distracted by worry over my present circumstances, I inadvertently skipped a day in my daily devotional. It wasn’t until the next morning that I recognized this, so that day, instead, I meditated on the one I’d missed. It said that 97% of what we worry about never happens. We go through an awful lot of heartache for the sake of a tiny three percent.

What had seemed a sloppy error, I now recognized as a blessing. It was exactly what I needed to hear – right when I most needed to hear it. I had been even more consumed with worry on the day I read those words – so nuts I almost chose to skip my devotional altogether, picking it up only as a harried and resentful afterthought. But in those few and simple words, God brought me exactly what I needed to calm my troubled soul. The clouds passed, and in the dark form they took then, they have not since returned.

We are more resilient than we think we are, both as individuals and as a community. Just look at all we’ve gone through already, in our own lives and in our history as a people. We’ve survived everything that’s happened to us so far. There’s no good reason to believe we won’t go right on going on.

One of the factors that have made us feel helpless is that of our identification with groupthink. In some ways, lumping everybody into groups can be helpful – sort of a shorthand for thinking about human behavior. And stereotypes do serve a certain function, because they wouldn’t exist if there weren’t some truth in them. But stereotypes can make us lazy if we rely on them too much. Worse than that, they can be downright unfair.

We all know too well the many stereotypes about us. I won’t even enumerate them here because, like you, I’m tired of them. They don’t do us justice, and many of them – about many of us – simply are not true. As Christians, we know we mustn’t do unto others as we would not have them do unto us. Like everyone else, we tend to rely on the cut-and-dried stereotypes of others we’ve gotten from the mass media opinion-makers, and just as those others apply to us are unjust, so too are many of those we apply to them.

God made each and every one of us, first and foremost, an individual. At the root of all injustice is the unwillingness to recognize each person in his or her own right. As my pastor often reminds us, God loves each one as if we were the only one. If we meet each person in this big world one by one, we can change the world. It may be the only way we can accomplish this.

All those who fit into the “LGBT” category are not alike. In the same way, not all those who oppose us are alike. And just as varied are the multitudes who simply aren’t sure one way or the other. When we see our adversaries, or the mass of those who seem indifferent, as one gigantic monolith, they seem invincible – or unreachable. But each heart may be won over, and each mind changed.

This is, indeed, already happening – one by one, ten by ten and a hundred by a hundred. Were it not, we would not be seeing the dramatic transformations we witness nearly day by day. Because it does happen at an individual level, we can get frustrated that it isn’t happening faster. But when we get impatient, trying to speed up the process by leapfrogging past real people to take them by partially-imaginary groups, we end up setting back our cause. We cheat not only them – we cheat ourselves.

When anybody tells me they don’t trust me because I’m … you know … one of “those people,” I remind them that yes, I’m one of those people. I’m a single, individual member of the human race, and just like each of them, I deserve to be treated as such. As they get to know me, they discover the wonder that is me – not necessarily because I’m so wonderful, but because they want to be wonderful and unique, just like I do. If they want to be seen as individuals, they must pay us the courtesy of seeing us the same way.

Conservatives seem to be the toughest nuts to crack. They are the least likely to know us as real people, because they tend to inhibit us from being ourselves around them. But conservatives are the ones who are always lecturing everybody else about “individual responsibility.” Somebody needs to tell them that individual responsibility works both ways. They’re up at arms now (in some cases, quite literally) about their own individual rights, and greatly protesting the unfairness of how others see them – so they have no ground, either moral or logical, for denying that same consideration to anybody else.

The good news is that a growing number of those who used to fear us are also tired of being afraid. The manipulators keep trying to stir them up using us as the monsters under the bed, but they react – increasingly – with a shrug. Some even recoil in indignation. In a world gone mad in so many ways, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders are the last thing they see any sense in being afraid of. We’ve all begun to see that we have bigger problems.

But maybe we don’t need to fear those, either. With God in our lives, perhaps we don’t have to fear anything. No, not even God – Who, a lot of us are discovering, is the very One who made us one by one and knew our names before we were conceived in our mothers’ wombs. The best news, we’ve already heard and taken to heart – God, whom many of us once feared because we were told “He” hated us, never makes mistakes. God never lets a sparrow fall unheeded, and God loves us.

God has numbered every hair on our heads, and not a single one of us will be lost. Ultimately, we will stand among the faithful Jesus gathers to Himself, right alongside those who once feared us. Then we will recognize each other as God does, one by one and two by two. No longer will anyone attempt to separate or manipulate us. We will see reality in all of its wondrous, fearless fullness.

The best news of all is that we don’t need to die to realize this. Every day’s a new day. We can open up our eyes, face the shining sun and, with the truth in our hearts, begin reconciling earth to Heaven now.