There are times when healing means waking up to the fact that you weren’t sick in the first place.
Now, I’m not talking about literal sickness here.
I’m talking about the deeper more damaging kinds of “sickness” that are basically saying that somehow there’s something fundamentally wrong with some kinds of people – that somehow there’s something disordered, unworthy, shameful, unforgivable about some of the ways that people are created to be.
Now, this can be because of all too common and casual racism.
This can be because of all too common traumatic experiences, of any kind, especially early in life, that can instill in a young psyche the belief that somehow there’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you unworthy of basic human dignity and safety, respect and care.
But, in particular today I want to name the spiritual damage that can be done to folks who discover that you’ve been created to seek and share love with someone who is of your same gender, or that you’ve been created with a sense of your gender that doesn’t fit into the strict categories that our society says are normal; the spiritual damage that can be done through all the ways that someone can be barraged with messages that there is somehow something sick or malformed about who you’ve been created to be.
As a Pastor of an Open & Affirming church, I have been entrusted with the stories of so many LGBTQ Christians who have shared with me the ways the churches and religious leaders told them that there was something even unforgiveable about the sexual orientation or gender identity that God saw fit to imbue them with.
All these messages can lead to someone having deep pain in one’s soul, a sense of dislocation from oneself, shame, confusion, as well as a general sense of fear, as well as frustration and anger. All of this can lead to actual sickness, and self-harm, self-medication, paralysis.
Healing, then, real healing, means waking up to the fact that you are not sick in the first place.
There are times when healing means discovering that there has been this script running in our heads telling us this nasty negative story about who we are and who we aren’t; discovering that that this script is just a swarm of lies, a figment of a bigoted imagination that someone else has infected us with.
There are times when healing means discovering that we can get out from underneath that script, step outside of it, and discover who we actually are underneath the light of truth,
discover that you are wonderfully made,
Come home to yourself, to the goodness and worthiness of who it is your Creator has created you to be.
You are a beloved child of God,
an exquisite manifestation of the endlessly colorful creations springing from the Holy Source of All Being
You are a child of the true God,
whose eternal creative power is far, far beyond the boundaries of petty human prejudices,
At your heart burns a soul that’s a spark from the Eternal Spirit, the fierce and fabulous Love Supreme.
There are times when healing means waking up to the fact that you weren’t sick in the first place. And helping others discover this too.
Aimee Stephens was one of the plaintiffs in the recent case before the Supreme Court that found that workers who are LGBTQ are indeed protected from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.
Aimee was a trans woman who came out later in life. She had worked for many years at a funeral home, presenting as a man.
She had already come out and been accepted as a trans woman to her wife and her friends. But there was an agonizing struggle within her about the split life she led, due to a deep fear of being her true self in all aspects of her life.
This agony got so great that Aimee came to be poised on the brink of taking her own life.
She said, she felt like she couldn’t go backwards, she couldn’t go forwards.
She was stuck
She was paralyzed.
The only way for it to end would be to end her own life.
But then, she said,
“I realized that I liked me too much to just disappear or go away.”
She discovered that fundamentally, at her core, she was valuable, and that the story that she was anything less was simply untrue. She realized she wasn’t sick in the first place. This freed her from her paralysis. Thank God.
And so, she wrote a heartfelt and thoughtful letter to her coworkers and her bosses at the funeral home letting them know that she had to be fully and honestly herself as a woman.
The owners of the funeral home fired her, invoking “God’s commandments.”
But Aimee had become freed from the voice of that false god of judgment and fear that said that she was sick for being who she was.
She stood up for her dignity and her right to not be discriminated against. And thank God she did, because that knowledge of her own value and worth led her and those who joined in to help her fight against her unjust firing. Her case became key to the case before the Supreme Court that has now won protections for the value and dignity of countless LGBTQ folks for generations to come.
Sadly, Aimee did not live to see the day. Aimee died just last month of kidney disease that was not properly treated because she lost her health care when she was fired for being who it is God created her to be. Prejudice can lead to real illness.
These weeks at church we’re learning from Jesus’ healing stories. One of the amazing things that Jesus does sometimes in these healings, is forgive people. The healing is almost like an after effect of Jesus telling someone that their sins are forgiven.
As we heard in our story today from Mark where Jesus heals a man who was paralyzed, it’s Jesus’ emphasis on forgiveness that actually gets him in trouble with the religious authorities.
Because this isn’t just day-to-day forgiveness that Jesus is doing, where you forgive someone for some offense they’ve done to you. In those days, and still often in these days, illnesses were seen as God’s punishment for the ways people have sinned against God. Illness is the mark of a much deeper and more shameful kind of sin that somehow you must have committed against God.
For someone to presume to speak for God in granting forgiveness for that kind of sin, was blasphemy
But Jesus did just that.
He was a child of humanity and the Son of God, whose nearness to God led him to embody God’s grace. And so, he has the power to deliver people from the paralysis of guilt and shame, and to help us know God and trust God in such ways that lead us to become who it is we are created to be, all children of the living God.
So, if you’re gay or lesbian, bi, or trans or queer in anyway, and you need to hear this from someone ordained to preach the good news, because of healing that’s needed from the damage too often done in the name of God:
You weren’t sick in the first place. You were never guilty for being simply who it is God has created you to be. You are dearly Beloved of God.
Thanks be to God.