Are you familiar with this Bible verse? And if so, does it alarm you?
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36 - NIV)
This is one of the verses that many Christians, myself included, try to brush over. It is easy to imagine Jesus as the Prince of Peace; it is harder to integrate the peaceful part of him with the part of him that expressed "holy anger" and "rightful outrage," on several occasions of which we know. Traditional interpretations of this verse suggest that Jesus spoke to the tension that would erupt between family members, as some accepted him as the prophesied Messiah, and some did not. A present-day interpretation of this verse might expand to include tension erupting between Christian family members: those who do and those who do not accept Same-Gender Marriage as a sacrament. With the recent downfall of Section 3 of DOMA and Proposition 8 in California, the opportunity for conflict has escalated. The opportunity for conflict between members of the same families and members of "the body of Christ" has exponentially increased.
Well, I have news for those of us who seek to understand Jesus' character. And this news is not only based on the aforementioned Bible passage. This news is derived from life events that have emerged, as I have struggled to live a life of discipleship. Newsflash: The Prince of Peace is not always a peacemaker, at least not initially. The evidence: My parents did not attend my wedding, the wedding of their only daughter.
On October 2, 2011, my sweetheart and I tied the knot, before our officiating Reverend, and an intimate group of loved ones. Even though I had beseeched my parents to bless our union with their presence, they could not find it within themselves to do so. How ironic it was that on the day when one is supposed to feel most celebrated, one's wedding day (a day to which I had always looked forward), instead, I felt rejected. Years of psychotherapy, in which I have earnestly engaged, still did not prepare me for the sting of this rejection. The rejection was so palpable that it threatened to emotionally derail me, for months after our wedding. As I look back on this magical, autumnal day, in Rhinebeck, N.Y., I still feel a mixture of longing and hurt; I still cannot grasp the truth that my parents, adamant church-goers, chose to be absent for the occasion of my wedding. "How was my parents' absence in any way a reflection of God's ever-present love?" I continue to ask this baffling question. I especially ask it, in light of the fact that my parents still have yet to acknowledge their lack of presence at our nuptials.
I am far from alone in my hurt. As a growing population of believers and non-believers alike, affirm their same-gender partnerships with marital vows, The Body of Christ enters into tumultuous territory. What I mean by that is this: Continued possibilities of both affirmative love, as well as sadistic rejection loom before us. And those of us who identify as Christian know the dichotomy of blessing and cursing, "in the name of Christ." Both acts are powerful: The blessings can restore lives, and the curses can destroy lives. This is a pivotal time for LGBTQ Christians who yearn to seal their love with a kiss, and not just any kiss -- the kiss that promises that two lives have intertwined as one, interdependent life -- both legally and spiritually.
As a University Chaplain, I pride myself on being an unbiased source of encouragement to anyone who seeks my counsel. Yet frankly, I feel unable to offer unbiased feedback to parents who wrestle with whether or not to attend their child's "non-traditional" wedding. I feel unable to give unbiased feedback, because I am admittedly biased on this matter. However, I do feel capable of encouraging people of all faiths who wish to exercise their right to marry, yet feel reluctant to contradict parental wishes. My feedback is as follows: Of course we want to honor our parents, yet we must balance honoring others, parents included, with honoring ourselves. What worked for me through the challenging journey of marrying my spouse (which in turn, offended my parents), was to remember that I might not be able to simultaneously please my Heavenly Father and my earthly parents. God knows that I wish I could have done so, as I am a recovering "People-Pleaser." But the one thing that I will not recover from is being a God Pleaser; that is non-negotiable.
Look, as we all know, none of us are perfect. So none of us can get it right 100 percent of the time. And yet, it is possible, particularly as pertains to big choices, such as marriage, to get it right. What I can offer to those who wish to please God, themselves and others, is this: Doing so may not be realistic, let alone possible. Claim the truth that it is better to "get it right" with God (based on your heartfelt knowledge of what God wants for you), and to "get it wrong" with others, than it is to "get it right" with others and not be able to stand before God with dignity. God's opinion trumps every other opinion -- even those that are parental. May this reminder serve to carry you through any turbulence that may emerge. Walk down the aisle, and to the altar with your head held high, allowing not only your lover, but also your Heavenly Beloved to embrace you on your wedding day.