By Iris James, Contributing Writer
On July 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down state marriage bans across the country, granting the right to same-sex couples to legally marry.
I remember the years that I spent waiting for this day to come.
My friends—my very best friends—they cried themselves to sleep at night feeling as though they counted for less in this world. They grew angry with every slur, every forbiddance, every moment where an adult looked at them and told them that they were confused or going through a phase. Their lives were made up of shattered moments swept up and thrown away in alleyways or dark closet spaces. There was no love that they had permission to keep.
My sophomore year of high school, I remember writing in anger an editorial shared with the blogosphere—and consequently, everyone in my high school—about the true fallacy of love. I was a logical, learned and loud voice that echoed, and echoed and echoed… so many people listened and applauded me for my words that shamed an ignorant belief in unbreakable, unending, love. I looked around and saw nothing but unfair lines outlining “love;” my atheism and social justice were intimately intertwined.
And then there was JC, and Thomas, and Jesse and Joseph and so many others. I would hear them share about the torture of being told day by day that there was something deeply wrong and disgusting about them. I remember the fear, and the hiding away and the almost-caught interchanges that wrote their narratives of bitterness and pain. I wondered what it would be like to be forbidden to love when I felt everything so deeply.
I watched their hearts break and their parents tell them that they deserved to die for their feelings, and I felt fire in my belly when they’d replay the hate back to me. (We don’t consider now the true suffering that happens behind closed doors, because we like to believe that we could never drive a person that far into darkness from behind our computer screens.) My words were the only sword I had to fight with, so I took to writing and fighting through every thick corridor of what I called ignorance and took down the giants of bigotry and hate. I had my eyes set on moving to Brooklyn out of high school and attending a writing institute, and afterwards, I would become an activist writer for the Human Rights Campaign.
I would cry tears of joy just thinking about the glorious day when the chains fell off and I could see my best friend smile again and believe that he was deserving of life and love (if love existed). I would write him love letters myself about how much he meant to me, and how I would be the family he needed if he was never allowed to have his own. My heart was just as broken, and I was just offering my pieces in hope that it might fix his.
Then I encountered love. In the simplest, yet most profound sense. I found Him (He found me) in October of my junior year of high school. He was the only One ever qualified to say, “This is Love; This is Me.” And this, Beloved, is the broad place He brought me into, showing me a “still more excellent way…” (1 Corinthians 12:31b).
I have mourned and I have petitioned Heaven for understanding, because I know that His intentional and decisive movement remains unchanged by us, no matter what we do (He has a sure plan & promise). I recognize now that the real concern doesn’t simply come down to sexuality—it has always been, and will continue to be, about our misunderstandings of what love looks like; because in its truest form, love surely is worth giving your life for.
My heart stays broken for the burden of intercession and the truth of the gospel that isn’t seen or felt here yet. Our friends will be rescued. Our families will be rescued. It’s a militant hope that we have. And just as sure as I was in all my teenage angst, I know for certain, I won’t give up without a fight; the difference is that now, I’m fighting for true love to be seen and felt. I’m not fighting a war against others that are loved and cherished by God, exactly where they are. Satan is the one who loses. Love really does win.
But what I have ultimately is an apology to the friends, family and loved ones who celebrate this day: I’m sorry that we tell you that you don’t know what love is, but can never tell you or show you ourselves. The problem isn’t that one side doesn’t know what love truly is; the problem is that both sides are broken and trying to figure it out. But I begin here with one word: Mercy. Read it aloud and feel the gentleness on your lips.
Because love is patient, and it will wait for you.
Someone Unwilling to Let You Go