I’ve written much about my mother. By now everyone who has read my stories should realize that while she led a very difficult life, she somehow managed to rise like the Phoenix again and again. She was a generally optimistic person who found good in all people and who needed very little to make her happy. It was only when her bipolar disorder raged through her system that she became a sad, frightened, and mean spirited person. I was generally able to separate the real mom from the one who periodically emerged as a result of the disease. I think that most of the people who knew and loved her were able to do so as well. All in all her generosity and thoughtfulness greatly outweighed any ugliness that came to the surface during her dark times.
My mother was not defined by her illness. It was simply something that happened to her over which she had very little control. Of course she was able to get medical care which somewhat alleviated some of her symptoms but the truth of mental illness is that it is far more difficult to treat than most physical problems. No sooner would one therapy work well than the combination of medications would cause symptoms that were dangerous and so she would have to change to a new plan. Her journey consisted of ups and downs, good times and bad times. It frustrated her and it frustrated me and my brothers. What made things worse is that not everyone was understanding. She became somewhat isolated from the rest of society because of her disease. There were even those who somehow believed that if only she had prayed more or had more faith in God a miracle would somehow have happened. They didn’t seem to notice that she was one of the most spiritual people who ever lived. She read the Bible daily and prayed furiously and still her affliction overtook her mind again and again.
There are so many things that might happen to us as human beings that are so difficult for us to understand. Many people have a kind of fairytale idea of what constitutes normal and they seem to fear those who don’t quite fit into their pretty little picture of what life should be like. Unfortunately we have so many among us who through no fault of their own, like my mother, must deal with differences in their make-up that make life so very hard.
I have had very good friends who were literally consumed by addictions. It was always easy for me to think that they should have just been a bit stronger but the truth is that I will never really know what it was like for them to fight demons that were literally part of their DNA. I watched them figuratively kill themselves and their destruction left me and those who loved them broken hearted. Like my mother they were truly amazing and compassionate people who at one time had been surrounded by friends and acquaintances who so enjoyed their company and their giving ways. By the end of their lives most of the hangers on and even many of their family members had abandoned them. It was a nightmare to watch them slowly dying and frustrating to be unable to do much more than to let them know that they were still loved.
No two humans are exactly alike. We have complex genetic structures that string together traits and tendencies over which we have little or no control. The way each of us reacts to the environment is complicated by a weave of nature and nurture. I have known individuals who were able to consume mountains of food while still remaining quite thin and others who had to watch every calorie that they placed in their mouths because their weight seemed to pile on from simply breathing the air. Each of us is quite unique and there are so many aspects of our humanity that we cannot control. They simply are.
I have been quite lucky in life. I have a high level of intelligence. I learn things easily. I know from working with young people during a lifetime of teaching that it is not so with everyone. For some the act of studying is a torturous endeavor. My biggest flaws are physical but minimal and generally easy to mask. I have bad hair that even my stylist admits is difficult to tame. For some reason my chin is abnormally small. I doubt that anyone would deem me to be a beauty but I at least don’t stand out as someone who might be judged to be ugly. We so often react to appearances and reward those who are lovely over those who are less attractive when the reality is that our appearances are mostly determined by the accidents of our births and who are parents are.
In spite of our visible differences the millions and millions of people who inhabit the earth are in reality much more alike at the genetic level than we dare to believe. The traits that we usually observe are really just as superficial as the way that we look. But for the accidents of ancestry we might have been of a different race or ethnicity. Nonetheless, all of us came from the same people who roamed the earth hundreds of thousands of years ago. Our evolution has created differences in the way we look outwardly but our internal physical structures are generally the same the world over. The traits that cause bickering and misunderstandings among us are really of little consequence in determining who we are. In truth no one type of human is any better than another.
This week in our country there have been some amazing changes that actually frighten some people. They worry that the very foundations of their beliefs are under attack. I dare not poke fun at their worries because in truth none of us really has all of the answers. I would like to note, however, that the beloved book of Christianity, the Bible, is a complex volume that is just not as simple as some seem to think that it is. It is broken into two parts, the Old and the New Testaments. It is quite clear that Jesus was sent by God to help us as humans to understand how we should live because the Father did not think that we had all of the information that we needed to be our best. While the Old Testament recounts the religious history of Christians before Jesus walked the earth, the New Testament tells us that love is the greatest commandment of all. That is the message that God most wanted us to hear. Furthermore, Jesus admonished us not to judge those that we do not understand lest we ourselves be judged by Him. He frequently embraced those who were shunned by society, the lepers, the sinners, the ignored. Somehow as our Christian religions have evolved we have sometimes forgotten that He too was misunderstood and tortured by those who feared the changes that He espoused.
I am personally filled with great happiness that those among us who are gay will now be treated with more dignity by dent of law. I can’t see how the fact that they will now be allowed to marry those that they love will in any way hurt the rest of us. In fact, we have all been living peacefully side by side with gays and their partners throughout time. The only difference is that now our brothers and sisters may emerge from the shadows to celebrate their love. Most gays are very good people, some of the best that I know. The majority of them are loving and generous like my mother. They often have big hearts that have been broken and crushed many times in the past. It is high time that we welcome them into our midst out in the light of the sun.
I suspect that those who are fearful that their own philosophies will be persecuted will eventually learn that their world will change very little as a result of this decision. At the same time I would caution those who are hurling insults at Christians who strongly believe that homosexuality is wrong should cease and desist. They are as entitled to their opinions as anyone is. I know many very conservative Christians. They are quite sincere and they are not hateful people. They simply feel quite strongly that they must follow the dictates of their consciences. I do not think that we should judge them anymore that they should judge those who are gay. I find myself wondering, “Who are we to question the majesty of God and to assume that we are capable of judging even one of his beautiful human creations?” We are all His children and He loves every single one of us, so doesn’t it make sense that if we truly believe in His word that we also should spread His love? By definition that means that there should be a quiet truce between the gay community and the conservative Christian community. The two sides should simply agree to disagree and neither should foist their views on the others. It is possible to forge a separate peace as long as nobody is persecuted for thinking one way or another.
This is a glorious time for our country. A entire group of people will now be able to move from state to state without fear. Loved ones will be able to come home to their families even in states where they were once seemingly unwelcome. It’s time for all of us to show an understanding and love for all of our brothers and sisters because once the outer skin is stripped away we are all the same. Our hearts, our lungs, our brains are more alike than different. Our families and our churches will be just fine. We have nothing to fear but our own fears. It’s time to spread the true gospel of the Lord and that is love. In the end it is always just about love.