We don’t typically publish anonymous posts, but the writer for today’s post has requested anonymity, and we understand, and have made an exception to our normal policy. The following post is by a friend of The Marin Foundation who identifies as a gay Christian:
“If you come to my wedding, you can be the ring bearer. Would you like that?”
I get a smile and a garbled phrase that in toddler speak means yes.
“Or you can be the official cake tester.”
My nephew nods enthusiastically at the mention of cake.
“Or you can be the DJ…”
No, I do not really expect a toddler to be the DJ for my wedding. (Although he would make a great cake tester.) This conversation is actually meant for other ears. This is my passive aggressive, indirect way of asking my sister, again, if she will reconsider her decision not to attend my wedding. A conservative Christian, raised in the Church, educated in a Christian university, and currently serving God through ministry, my sister told me months ago that she would not attend my wedding to my same-sex partner. But I keep trying…
I tell my nephew he can come without his mom and dad if he wants.
I understand where my sister is coming from and why she feels this way. I grew up in the same evangelical Christian church that she did. We sat side by side in the pews, sang the same hymns, repeated the same creeds, and ate the same communion bread. We dedicated our lives to Christ as teenagers. We spent our college years serving in various ministries. We both went on to become Christian missionaries later in life. In some ways you could even say that my sister was just following in my faith-filled footsteps.
I know her decision to not attend my same-sex wedding is not a decision she made lightly. I know it’s complicated. I know she prayed and meditated and searched for guidance from God and others on what to do, as do I. I know she takes the Bible seriously, as do I. I know she has one goal in life, to love God and love others, as do I.
I know her decision has nothing to do with my partner. My sister and her husband have met my partner a handful of times and seem to get along just fine. It’s not who I’m marrying that’s the problem, it’s their gender.
I know my sister loves me and I love her. She says that’s why this is so hard for her, because she loves me and wants God’s best for me. I know she would never intentionally do something to hurt me. She believes that my “lifestyle” is not part of God’s plan whereas I see my sexual orientation as God-given. She can’t go against her beliefs and so she will not come to the wedding. I respect her for that. I admire her conviction, even if it is opposed to mine.
Our relationship is strong enough to survive this. We are both old enough to realize that sometimes Christians (and siblings) don’t see eye to eye but they can still love one another. She is not disowning me and I am not disowning her. There are still plenty of holidays, birthdays, and family events to share in the future.
My parents are supportive and that carries me through. My cousins are coming. My partner’s entire family is coming. Even my grandparents, stalwarts in their church, of that older generation that was barely exposed to the LGBTQ community, are excited about our big day. But my sister will not be there.
I have tried to pretend that this does not bother me, that it’s no big deal. I even defend her decision to other family members and friends. But still, it hurts. It aches. I tell people I get her decision and in my head I do. I comprehend her theology but I don’t understand it. Not in my heart. She’s my sister in Christ and by blood and her absence will hang like wilted flowers over our joyous celebration.
I asked her to be in the wedding party. I wanted her to stand by my side. I wanted her to give a cheesy toast and throw rice and meet my partner’s family. Now I would settle for her just showing up and standing silently in the background.
If she changed her mind and came to the wedding, I promise not to think she’s okay with same-sex marriage or homosexuality. I promise not to think that her presence signals approval of my “lifestyle”. I promise to remember that in her eyes I am sinning and being led astray. I promise not to tell any of her conservative Christian friends that she came. I just want her to be there.
I don’t think my nephew cares that the marriage is for two same-sex people. He just knows that he likes to spend time with me. And that there’s cake involved. I just wish his mother felt the same.