If you missed Day One, Two, Three or Four of the 64 Days of Love posts from this week, please read those first. In my role as a Technology Director (and more importantly as a father), I have come to realize that we have to engage the culture of the internet to turn it for good–64 Days of Love is my attempt to shine a bright light in what is an increasingly dark space.
I was not always an educator. I spent 11 years of my career as a Pastor prior to this being my 9th year in education. During that time I learned a ton about love. Some of it I learned from my great experiences, and some of it learned the hard way from mistakes that I made where grace and love was not extended.
In my time in the church I began reflecting on my interaction with my family and the shape it gave to my life and worldview. That reflection led me to realize the impact my Buddhist Uncle had had on my life. To be honest, I was surprised and caught off guard.
What flowed from that reflection is below in a piece I wrote in 2009 as a submission for a book called “Not Like Me” by Eric Bryant. I was also fortunate enough to be able to read this piece at my Uncle’s funeral to help others understand my love for him.
What Are We Waiting For?
Growing up I knew I had an Uncle named Matt who lived in the Seattle area. He was my father’s brother and he sent me wrestling action figures like Bret the Barber for Christmas. Other than that though, I knew nothing about him.
Then one day he moved back to Houston to be closer to his family. I was excited to meet my new Uncle but my family seemed a little hesitant to introduce him. That’s when I met him and his partner, Joe. My world was thrown for a loop. Growing up in the suburbs of Houston, TX you just don’t talk about homosexuality—that’s something that happens “somewhere else”. But there he was, and at the ripe age of 11-years-old I was thrown into a world I had never known or even thought about it.
Over the next 18 years that have passed since the day I met my uncle, I have come to find out that not only is he a homosexual man, but that he is also a Buddhist who is living with HIV/AIDS. To some Christians, that is enough to put my Uncle in a category that would make him untouchable and unmentionable. He’s someone to hide under a rug that you don’t talk about, but for me, it’s been an adventure in learning what it means to truly embrace persons of all backgrounds.
My Uncle has taught me what it means to serve, to love, to care, and to sacrifice without conditions, without judgment. His efforts to change the world around him have inspired me to be a more devoted follower of Christ.
I wish I could tell you that I always thought positive things and never judged him in these 18 years, but I can’t. I am guilty of being the “typical” American Christian who despised not just the sin, but also the sinner. Despite all the insults hurled at him, despite all the roadblocks put in front of him, my Uncle still loved and cared for those around him.
I have been fortunate enough to serve beside him over these 18 years with those who are suffering through HIV and AIDS, to serve those who are openly homosexual and to learn what it means to love with God’s love. It’s strange actually that a homosexual Buddhist taught me what it means to really love and to see people with God’s eyes, but it’s true. I saw more of Jesus in my Uncle than I ever saw in the “Christians” around me growing up and it became a huge wake up call to me.
Don’t misunderstand me; I never doubted that God was real, or that Jesus was the answer to the problems that plagued our world. I did, however, doubt that the faith that had been handed down to me was whole and complete. The experiences with my Uncle are what led me to become a pastor. The interactions with my Uncle led me to explore my beliefs, to seek a deeper understanding of myself and why I did the things I did and believed the things I believed.
And for me, I think that is what really keeps us from embracing those who are different from us. We have been taught, purposefully or accidentally, that questioning God or our own faith will lead us to a dark place or down a road that ends in destruction—so we avoid people or experiences that might cause us to question ourselves, doubt our beliefs, or stir emotions that we don’t know how to process.
The reality is that answering questions is what God is good at and He loves to do it. God is crying out for us to embrace the diversity around us. There is so much to experience, so much to learn, so many questions that God wants us to ask Him. So what are we waiting for?!?