Over the summer I read Charlotte’s Web to my four-year old son, Remy. After we finished, we rented the movie and watched together. Near the end I got a call and had to leave the room for a moment. I didn’t know it was the part where Charlotte would die, even though I knew it would happen, it still seem sudden, surprising. From the back room I heard my son sobbing and I quickly hung up the call and ran down the hallway. For the rest of my life, I imagine I will regret that I wasn’t sitting right beside him when the wave of sadness came. I am indebted to his strong spirit for allowing me to be privy to one of the most real displays of human emotion I have ever witnessed. His sadness was not attached to anything at all except human empathy, from one creature to another.
The opening up ourselves to the sadness of others can be like standing in the ocean unsure of how big the waves will be and if they will knock you down and roll you through and under them, but also, the heart is strong. Perhaps the only valuable thing to come from this past week is the pause our collective sorrows asks us to take. A pause to stop and look around to realize that not every heart looks like our own, the lines etched on each are born of such individual experience, the whole can never equal one big heart, but will always be a collection, a gathering, a drawing in. The policy hurts because it asks us to exclude some of those hearts we want to beckon to join and now cannot. The policy, regardless of its “clarification” means that sin is the adjective we are asked to use in describing some of our brothers and sisters. The idea that our policies push us further into a place of separation, of distinguishing ourselves yet again, and now distinguishing our children from those who come from gay families. The hurt so many feel in that asking is very real.
So, right now, in our church, both for those who have left, and those who have stayed, I sense that same sadness I saw for my son. I know I’ve felt it in myself and what this past week means as I move forward. I’m not saying anything new, except that when someone is hurting, do not criticize their staying or going, do not speak of their faith or obedience, do not ask them to disavow their confusion. You do not know anything except the broken heart they are manifesting by saying or doing anything at all. Before you say a damn thing, run to that person, who ever they are, staying or going, gay or straight, confused or sure, child or adult and sit next to them. It may be a long time until the sadness passes.