Planting Loving Seeds: Pouring the Foundation

As a man who is a follower of Jesus yet sometimes wears a dress, I have found that most church people would automatically condemn people like me as sinners in need of repentance. They wouldn’t want us in their churches until we cleaned up our acts. Our typical response was to hide the truth and pretend to be just like everyone else. That behavior pattern left me feeling hypocritical. Over the years that hypocrisy generated tremendous emotional trauma and pain. Cross-dressing was causing problems in my life but church was the last place on earth that I would have sought help.

I was fortunate to find help from others who struggled with similar issues. They accepted me as I was and helped me to understand myself. It was an arduous process, but I finally came to understand and accept myself and achieve emotional healing. With lots of love, care and discussion my wife, family and close friends were able to accept me as well.

However, religious issues continued to evade resolution. I resorted to using Biblical passages to prove that I was okay and that those who attacked me were wrong. I branded them as spiritual abusers. Although I experienced some success in this legalistic approach, it was still woefully unfulfilling. I didn’t want to be accepted if I could only achieve it through winning Biblical arguments. I had to know if God had any good news for me, Richard, the guy who was also a cross-dresser.

The Gospel is often characterized as the “good news” and I began anxiously searching for that news. What emerged was a sense of God’s overwhelming love, grace, compassion and forgiveness. Jesus taught that God wanted an intimate relationship with me and was willing to overlook my faults and shortcomings if I would only love back. With unconditional love there was room for everyone, even a cross-dresser. It was so simple – Love God, Love your neighbor – yet held great authenticity. God made me with all my imperfections. If God loved me as I am, it must be okay for me to love myself as I am.

I thought this was a new concept but realized it was also the cornerstone of the Torah. The prayer at the heart of Judaism continues to be the Sh’ma. It requires loving God with all our heart and soul. Loving God then leads to doing good works or mitzvoth. Sound familiar? In Jesus’ time many religious leaders had succumbed to the obligation of the law (not unlike today), but God’s doctrine of love has always been preeminent.

While I found the concept of loving God extremely simple, its practical application was incredibly difficult. To develop an intimate relationship with my creator I would have to acknowledge that life’s true meaning is about God and become a follower of God’s plan rather than exercising unrestrained control as the captain of my own ship.

To me God’s most impractical idea is that everyone is a child of God. That no matter how nasty someone appears, God loves them and expects me to do the same because we are family. I find those warm fuzzy feelings great for Sunday church but what about Monday morning when the world’s predators take over?

It occurred to me that I had benefited greatly from this upside-down view. God had waited for me all these years while I repeatedly wandered into God’s plan and then slipped back into my normal routine. Now I was drawing closer but God never scolded me about my past failures, just rejoiced that I was here now. Maybe this isn’t as bad as it seemed, but what happens now?

I want to go immediately to the solution by having others quit preaching at myself and other transgender people and start loving us as Jesus taught. Instead I keep getting dragged back to the foundational prerequisite of me loving God more first. What I am discovering is that my greatest sin has nothing to do with cross-dressing but is my failure to love enough. The word sin carries lots of negative baggage, so rather than using the word sin I have begun to think of it more in terms of an opportunity to improve my character. That makes it something to work on in a positive sense rather than feeling the guilt and anxiety that is often present with the word sin.

In my moments of painful honesty I have to admit that I don’t know how to love the people who condemn me. I want them to change into someone more lovable and then I’ll try to love them. But the Biblical message is that I have to change. I have to love them even though they are different. At times the thought of making a change of this magnitude seems impossible because I am uncertain if the unaided human heart is capable of that sort of love and acceptance.

At this juncture a new insight showed up — I couldn’t do it by myself. I would have to trust God and let God’s love flow through me to those in need. I want to be perfectly clear that God has never spoken to me in an audible voice or even a voice heard inside my head. I’m not known for pious prayers but talk to God quite frequently, usually in the form of questions like, “What is it you want from me?” or “This is a fine mess, what am I supposed to do now?” I am never 100% certain if the resulting idea is an answer from God but I try to follow my heart. This idea seemed like a message from God because it isn’t the sort of thing I’d be likely to think up myself since the burden of change fell entirely on my shoulders.

I have heard many high-sounding religious/spiritual pleas about loving and trusting God, but find that very difficult to do in my daily life. I can categorically state that God’s laws are not functioning in Corporate America. The just typically are punished rather than rewarded and good guys typically finish last if they finish at all. Unless one fervently believes in a heaven, it is totally unrealistic and impractical to trust an unseen God in today’s world.

Throughout my life journey I have sought clarity on spiritual issues and kept asking and re-asking myself certain questions and testing and re-testing my answers.

  • Is there a God? – I can accept the concepts of the big bang and evolution but not as the total answer. It is incomprehensible for me to conceive of the existence of the universe without an all-powerful creator. This answer has been rock solid with me since my teenage bout with agnosticism.
  • Is the God represented in the Old Testament the one true God? – I studied comparative religions and have a broad exposure to Eastern Religions. None of these other religious choices have ever generated a convincing pull for me so I locked onto the God of the Old Testament in my early thirties.
  • Is Jesus the Messiah? – I believe in my heart that he is but reaching that conclusion took much longer as I struggled with the historical chicanery that churches had perpetrated and the hypocrisy that has remained. Scholarly research indicated that the New Testament had been doctored in multiple places yet, in spite of man’s intervention, I ultimately accepted Jesus as the only path I could commit myself to following.

So here I am trying to follow Jesus’ example of actually trusting God in real world situations. It is a constant struggle to determine how much I’m willing to let go and trust so it’s bound to be an interesting journey. I invite you to come along. Tell me what you think. Share your thoughts with ministers, church members, friends and anyone else who is interested. Through open dialog we will all grow in our understanding of and love for God and each other.

At a recent Bar Mitzvah ceremony of family friends, Ruth said to her son David, “You have a wide heart and a deep soul.” I hope that someday God might say that to me.