Trust in Waiting

1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2 for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
-Psalm 37: 1-9

I believe that trust – and trusting God, in particular – is the most difficult thing a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person can do. Why in the world would we trust in God when all we’ve been told about God is how much He hates us? (It’s always a “He” who is hating us.) Why in the world would we put our ultimate confidence in a deity that has been described to us as a stern judge who would just as soon cast us into the pit of Hell as to look at us? I don’t blame LGBT people for dumping God – especially the God we’ve been handed by conservative religious types.

Personally, I dumped that God a long time ago and have discovered that by dumping that image of God as a judgmental, punishment-happy ogre, I have once again found the ability to trust in the Holy – because she is nothing like we’ve been told.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s explore this problem of trust within the LGBT community, especially when it comes to God. I think we can find the source of our discomfort in the Psalmists words. As we look around this world, we see those who hate LGBT people prospering. There are entire organizations raising millions of dollars selling just the awful, terrible idea that LGBT people may, one day, be treated with equality in this nation. They use God and the Bible to scare people into thinking that LGBT people are dangerous monsters who are out to destroy civilization, recruit your children, and force everyone to wear gold lame. (Okay, that last one does scare me a bit, but back to my point!)

To see these groups grow and prosper while they paint us as demons – less than human, even! – can make us angry and frustrated. We may not know what to do with that anger, and many of us turn it in on ourselves, transforming it into shame and internalized homophobia. This, sadly, is exactly what those anti-LGBT groups want, because if they can keep us mired in our own shame and homophobia, then they can control us, keep us silent, and keep us from working toward full acceptance and equality in both society and the church.

Instead of giving up on ourselves, and giving up on trusting that we know who we are and that we are blessed as who we are, we need to give up this image of God that the religious right wants us to invest in. God is not an ogre. God does not hate LGBT people, because God has made us, created us as we are, and loves us with an infinite grace. This is the truth about God, and once we realize that we’ve been sold a stack of lies about God, we can dispatch of that image and begin developing a relationship of trust with the real Holy – the Creator who made us and called us not just “good,” but “very good.”

To regain that trust in the Holy, the Psalmist has some advice:

1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2 for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

Instead of spending our time being angry or envious of those who work against LGBT equality in both church and society – we need to begin to concentrate on how God calls us to live in this world. We cannot do good and delight in the Lord if we are busy spending our time fretting over the wickedness done to us by these groups.

In short, let go of your hatred and anger at them, because God is already working on it. Many denominations are already moving in the direction of accepting LGBT people in both the pulpit and the pews including the Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Lutherans. There are even stirrings among some ministers in the United Methodist church to begin changing that church’s polity toward LGBT members and clergy. In addition, New York recently became the most populous state in the union to approve marriage equality for gays and lesbians. This is a huge step in the right direction for LGBT equality and could be the tipping point needed to move marriage equality forward in the months and years to come.

These losses have made religious right groups grow shriller and shriller. They are painting themselves as the victims now, accusing us of trying to shame them into not being bigots or homophobes. All I can say is, “Welcome to our world!” We’ve lived in shame for so long, a little turning of the tables may not be a bad thing.

However, we must not revel in their downfall or their predicament, because the Psalmist is clear that we are to refrain from anger. Instead, we must trust God at her word and know that they will fade like the grass and wither like the green herb as the truth of LGBT lives are further revealed in the political and religious arena. Take heart, God is already at work!

Now that we can see God already moving, it gets a little bit easier to begin to believe that perhaps the image of God we’ve been given isn’t the true one. Instead, God is really a God of justice, a God of mercy and grace – a God that brings the outcast into the fold instead of casting them into an eternity of hell.

To build trust in God, the Psalmist recommends that we do good, take delight in the Holy, and commit our ways to God. It’s tempting to fall into the prosperity gospel trap here, however, since the Psalmist promises that God will give us “the desires of our heart,” but money or personal wealth is not the goal here. If we are truly doing good, delighting in the Holy, and committing our lives to God, the “desires of our heart” will only be desires for justice, for peace, for equality, and even for reconciliation with those we may now call “enemies.”

How do we do all of this? By waiting, the Psalmist says. What? Is the Psalmist really advising us to sit on our butts and just wait around for God to do all the work? No, not at all.

Theologian Paul Tillich, in his seminal writing “The Right to Hope” explains the waiting we are called to do:

There are two kinds of waiting, the passive waiting in laziness and the receiving waiting in openness. He who waits in laziness, passively, prevents the coming of what he is waiting for. He who waits in quiet tension, open for what he may encounter, works for its coming. Such waiting in openness and hope does what no will power can do for our own inner development. […] Such openness is highest activity; it is the driving force which leads us toward the growth of something new in us. And the struggle between hope and despair in our waiting is a symptom that the new has already taken hold of us.

If we are actively waiting, it means we are deeply trusting in God to act justly, no matter how bad the evil around us may be. Active waiting is an exercise in trust. No matter how powerful our opponent, in our active waiting, we declare our trust that God’s got it handled.

That doesn’t mean we’re sitting around being lazy. What it means is that we are not spending our time fretting about what the religious right is doing or saying about us. We are not launching attacks against them or letting them shame us, or cripple us, or deter us from doing what is the right and just thing in this world. Instead, our active waiting means that we are always looking for opportunities to tell our story, to do good to other people – even those who oppose us – and to deepen our trust in – and relationship with – the Holy.

There will always be more obstacles we will face on the road to equality, and even once we achieve equality, there will still be those who hate LGBT people and will seek to destroy that progress. In our active waiting we are aware of this, but we do not let it overwhelm us because we are trusting – with every fiber of our being – that God is a God of justice, and if we refrain from hatred of anyone, God will be faithful and give us the desires of our hearts.