Wednesday afternoon, my iPhone chimed letting me know a message had arrived. I glanced down and there was a simple text from my mom with the three letters: ILY. ILY stands for I Love You and my mom proudly, and rightfully, considers herself the original texter since she created this acronym in the early '80s, long before cell phones and instant messaging existed. Perhaps more interesting is the fact she created it long before she would ever text it to, or even know, me: her son.
You see the woman I call mom is not my birthmother, my adoptive mother, nor even a legal in-law in the majority of the USA. She is still undoubtedly my mom, and I am proud to call her as such. She is my husband's natural mother and a year ago this stranger became mine. No, it wasn't instant, but quickly, over the past year, we have developed a loving relationship and she has filled a huge gap. This motherly opening has been left by my natural mother who chose to walk away from her son and grandson, as a necessary means to be faithful to her version of Jesus. On the other hand, my mom has opted to see the love in her sons' relationship and fall in love with her new grandson. She wouldn't allow anything to stand in the way of that relationship and for that I am grateful to God. I give thanks for Christians, for family, who strive to demonstrate the God spoken of by St. John: He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus says:
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Many might shy away from this Scripture in the queer community, fearing it is a Divine mandate against their relationships. Rather, my husband and I embrace this passage as a Biblical decree on the absolute requirement for sacrificial love to exist in our marriage on a daily basis. A quick survey of scientific knowledge tells us the factual origins of humankind. We also know through proven research that the love, fidelity and stability of a monogamous homosexual relationships is no different than that found in heterosexual relationships. Jesus, some 2000 years ago, spoke in cultural terms those around him would understand but simultaneously he is one of the greatest examples we have of a human walking in love consistently without reservation. He embraced those who were often considered to be on the outskirts of society and looked not to the "letter of the law" but rather the "spirit of the law." I have no doubt if Jesus walked among us today he would point to the loving queer family in the crowd and say: Behold, this family is an icon of my Father's love, walk as they do. The Jesus I know and call Lord would not dictate they divorce and separate their children in order to please his vengeful, so-called, holy demands.
The Scripture found in Mark is that much more personally literal, for myself, because my own parents have forced me to choose between them or my husband, the one with whom I have become "one flesh." This past summer we stood outside their home and my father told me he would burn at the stake before accepting our marriage as anything valid in his eyes. The Jesus my father knows would require such an act in order to prove his love for God and pious disgust of my homosexuality. Meanwhile, my mother stated they would lose us, if they must, for a season until we chose to bend our necks to their demands. My parents dictated we must ignore the reality of our relationship and the validity of the family we have created if we are to be in their presence and if I am to see my younger siblings. So with those words, supposedly spoken in love but acted out in pure hatred and zero understating of their own gay flesh and blood, my husband, son and I drove down the street. We do not know when or if there will be a reconciliation. This has not been easy for myself, nor do I believe it is easy for my birth parents, but I can not allow anyone to force me into a closet again nor belittle the love I have found in my beloved spouse Andrew. We have established a true and lasting family together and I will not, cannot, allow the stranger on the street to treat us as anything less and likewise will not allow my parents to do so.
Thankfully, another promising passage exists in the Scripture, found in the writings of St. James: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God's love for me has never changed and continually in my relationship I find the mark of the Divine and the gifts of God poured forth. I also believe God, who is ever faithful, wanted his unending love reflected in my parental relationships and therefore as one relationship came to a close he already had strangers ready to become my family. The Scripture says there is no "variableness" in God, and so while my birth parents found it necessary to vary their demonstration of love towards me and their grandson, God provided an icon of divine love which did not change. I now have a mom and dad in New York who look forward to hearing about our recent family adventures, who get grumpy if they don't talk to their grandson frequently, and who stand behind their sons 100 percent. Soon we will travel to spend Christmas with them and next summer they will be sending us off on our honeymoon. Their love does not require us to change for them nor hide who we are, rather they give their love away freely and completely just as God first showed us in his son: Jesus.
A little over a year ago I met strangers. A few days ago I realized just how completely those strangers have become my family with the three simple letters: ILY.
To my mom and Dad: ILY!