My upcoming marriage… and the debate it’s stuck in

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing the word “yes” come from the lips of the person I adore most. There was nothing fancy that happened. We didn’t walk on the beach or sit in a public place. Instead it honored everything I love about her – a night of conversation, with our favorite wine, in our home. It wasn’t planned (in fact I was planning for a few months from then) but I just felt it in my heart. The moment I had been trying to organize was happening organically and I went with it.

I’ve known for most of our relationship I wanted to marry her. She is easily the best person I’ve ever met and she makes me better every single day. Ask our friends and family, who truly know us, and they would tell you we’ve been on this road for a long time. But in that moment, with that ring hidden behind my back, my voice shook and my hands started to sweat. I was also not prepared for how deeply emotional it would be for me to hear her say “yes”. It was a powerful night and we kept it to ourselves until the next morning.

The next day it was so exciting for us to tell those closest to us. Having them celebrate through calls, texts, and hysterical emoji’s was just a blast. Joy filled us. We were the center of the universe, or at least in our little universe, for that day. To say we were on cloud nine would be such a limited way to describe it.

Unlike so many of our friends and family, however, our upcoming wedding still continues to have a word put in front of it. We can’t just have a marriage. People still continue to call it a gay marriage. And while we are more than blessed with those who are excited for our pending nuptials, not everyone joined the celebration. For me to list those people I think might be as cruel as their responses – so I won’t. I do, however, bring this topic up on purpose: we aren’t the only ones dealing with this.

People have asked me what I think about the gay marriage debate. First, I want to say I am grateful for it. I am grateful we are revisiting translations made centuries ago. I am grateful we are taking the time to truly understand what the context of words, poetry, and verses actually mean (especially to the culture and civilization It was being spoken to), rather than just claiming it as truth because someone told us to. I am humbled by the millions of people saying “no” to outcasting the lgbt community in the biblical, “Christian” world. I am excited to see more and more states acknowledge that all are created equally and all deserve the same rights as their neighbors. You see right now there are still states (and churches) that believe gender is what creates a good marriage and I am quite worried we’ve created a skeleton out of the contents of what was once deemed so sacred. Every day marriages are happening, without question, not because these two people will uphold their marriage, but because they are attracted to the opposite sex.

I am honored to be part this movement of change, but if I were honest, I also can’t wait until it’s over. I cannot wait until there is no more gay marriage, but just marriage. I cannot wait until we, as a society, are calling a marriage good because of the character that marriage displays – not the gender of the spouses.

Because here’s the thing: I am not planning a gay wedding, but a wedding. And I’m not looking forward to a gay marriage, but a marriage. My marriage is going to be incredible, exciting, challenging, and loving. And it will be all of these things because two people have dedicated themselves to each other. Two people have chosen monogamy, trust, and devotion. My marriage is going to be amazing and the gender of my spouse will have nothing to do with it.

The marriages I look up to are those that are filled with kindness, love, joy, patience, graciousness, loads of laughter, adventures, and strength. These are the characteristics I find myself always noticing in marriages I am honored to be around. Most specifically these are the things I hope to bring into my marriage. Just like I try to bring them in our lives every day. Far before I put a ring on it we were already doing life together. Now mind you I have many places I can grow for her and for us. I have the patience of a small child. I am constantly having to work on that. There are days I feel I can be more kind or less lazy. Sometimes I could give more and take less.

There are a dozen ways I could improve and now with a simple “yes” I get a life time of learning with the person I love. That, to me, is what marriage is all about. Finding someone you can grow and learn through life with. I will not always be the best, but I will always try my best for her. I will not always get it right: there will be days I get annoyed and there will be days I am annoying. There will be days where she has to be patient for both of us and others where I move us into action. We will go through hard times, simple times, powerful times, exciting times, and just every day times. And that excites me because all I want is to spend all the time God gives me, on this earth, with her.

Whatever angle you find yourself on – whether you have an upcoming wedding or a loved one has one or just a random person on Facebook you don’t really talk to has one – I just want to remind you of one thing. Gender has nothing to do with the success of a marriage. But love, joy, happiness, humility, graciousness, and kindness? Those do. And every human has the ability to bring or remove those things from the vows that they give.

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Advice to those who are marrying (or married or dating) but are feeling some backlash: Be happy. This doesn’t mean every day will be easy. You deserve to be unconditionally loved and I am so sorry that someone has told you their love is conditional. I am so, so deeply sorry. That pain is not ok and that pain is not small. I understand that myself and I watch people I love go through that as well. Inside that, however, stay true to your core. Do not let that pain sway you into a world of darkness. Shadows are not your friends but just outlines of a life you shouldn’t have to fake. Stay true to you. Love who you love. This is your life. Be mindful who you invite into your marriage (ANY MARRIAGE) and who you allow to influence your decisions. You are amazing. You are beautiful (handsome) and wonderful. As you are. And you deserve to have the story of your dreams. Live it. It doesn’t matter who you are there will always be dragons to slay and now you have a partner to slay them with you. Lucky, lucky you. Cherish that. Nurture that.

Advice to those who may be part of the backlash: Your words matter – be careful. If what you are trying to do is understand while going through your own junk I first want to say thank you. So many of us are better off because of those who were willing to adjust their views – but your words still matter. Be wise and be willing to listen to actually hear what is being said… not just so you can talk again.

However if you are lashing out with cruel words and judgment please realize that isn’t going to help anyone. You will not only damage the person you supposedly love but you may also end up pushing them away or by default deleting them from your life. Demanding your own views onto someone else is a very unhappy way to live because in most cases it leaves you very, very alone. And I don’t want you alone just as much as I don’t want someone damaged by words. Be willing to step back and see if maybe it is you who needs to move not the other person.

Advice to those in between: Your words matter too. If you have a loved one where you don’t care who they love but others do… they need you. And they are sure as heck lucky to have you. The world is a kinder place for that person because you are in it. You allow them to be fully loved in your presence and if ever you’ve had that taken away from you… well… you know how precious such a feeling truly is. You are in a very unique position because your words may actually be the most influence of all. Not many people realize that, that those in the middle actually are often the ones moving mountains in the lives of those they love. I repeat: Your words matter. In the moments you wonder, “Should I say something?”, you probably should. Your support is everything and anything you can do to continue that will heal more than you know. In fact if I could say anything to you it would be… thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And please… please don’t stop being you.

Words from an ex-cynic: A letter to a friend

Dear Friend,

I’ve been meaning to write you. I’ve come to realize you’ve been self-medicating with mediocrity and lies that say you are anything other than extraordinary. I must tell you that you are far more than you have snuggled down inside of and called comfort. You attach yourself to someone momentarily to kill the urge of closeness and then you stumble on without connection. You give yourself away little by little but never refill. The very thing you are afraid of is what I know to be one of your biggest strengths. And like many unsung heroes it is you standing on your own cape.

You believe you are incapable of love. Yet your life’s poetry bleeds with the words of affection that only someone truly capable of love could ever write. You wrap criticism around your heart like wet mud and then set it out to dry against the neon lights you keep chasing. Instead of letting the wound heal you pick at it with demeaning words. You tell yourself it was your fault. You’ve become so convinced of it you’ve glued their nametag onto your chest and claim yourself broken.

But you aren’t broken.

You’re scared and I won’t fault you for that. Why I am writing you today is not to break you down but to build you up – to remind you who you really are. The mirror you’ve been using and metrics you’ve been calculating to determine your worth are inaccurate. You keep getting the wrong answer because you’ve set yourself up with the wrong tools.

Love isn’t a quick fix or a fast break on the court. It’s the long game. Love is being willing to understand the defense in order to play the offense. It’s about learning to be a team and growing a devotion to try your hardest until the season is over. And that’s the key word – season not game. Too many people believe it’s only about one game but it takes quite a series of them to get to the championship. And you, my friend, are a champion.

Don’t let a loss break you, but motivate you. Don’t get caught up in the ups and the downs, but keep your eyes on the trophy. Keep your focus on that love that matters. Every single loss becomes worth it when you finally see your reflection in the eyes of that person. Every almost, every loss at the buzzer, every ankle twist and elbow to the face becomes your greatest victories when you finally understand that you had to overcome them to get to the championship game.

Many people will sing the praises of your criticism. They will endorse it and encourage you to keep breaking yourself down. Don’t listen to them. Every one night stand and digital crush allows you to numb yourself for a little while longer. Numbness is not a cure but a virus. It rushes through you, confusing your body, but only temporarily. And then the backlash begins, where everything you’ve tried to hold down comes back to life.

Let it.

You deserve to feel. Until you feel you cannot heal and until you heal what you are looking for will continue to be aloof to you. You cannot see something you do not believe in. Pull off the disguise and remove the mask from your eyes. You deserve to see and be seen. Because you really are beautiful. You deserve to know what it’s like to wake up to someone who wants to go to breakfast with you. You don’t have to clip your wings in order to be held in the arms of another. The right person will allow you to be more than you ever thought possible.

See the thing is if we are capable of overcoming great pain we then must be capable of great love. When we understand the valleys the view from the mountain top is so much more breath taking. Would I have wished this or any other valley on you? Never. But we are here, in the trenches of life, and it’s time for you to stop settling.  I can’t pull you up. I can’t give you all the answers. I can’t even tell you tomorrow will be ok. But I can sit here, with you, and tell you it will be worth it. I’m not painting over reality with sweet whispers. I am handing you reality and asking you to claim it. These words come from an ex-cynic– I was once you.

The weakness you view so harshly, the one where you ache because of a love come and gone, is not a weakness at all.  It is the very thing that can strengthen you if you let it. Once healed it can be the compass that leads you to stand up.  It can be the compass that leads you to true north where you only settle when you are settling down with a person who loves you completely.

Stop telling yourself you are incapable of love.
Stop hurting yourself because someone convinced you that the pain they felt was your fault.
Throw down the label maker that claims you are not enough.
Lace up those shoes, stretch out those muscles, and get back to training for a season of love.

You are more lovely than you give yourself credit for.

Sincerely,
Rae (MSH)

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