His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
One of the most difficult parts of life is being different from everyone else and feeling excluded from the “normal” crowd. I have lived most of my life feeling different in some way. As a child, I was extremely introverted and painfully shy. We moved around a lot, from Canada to Arkansas to Oklahoma to Louisiana, and I felt like an outcast in each new school I attended. I tried to keep track of all my differences and do everything I could to suppress them, but it was hard. I still stumble over words, because I forget the right way to say them. Should I say “y’all” or “you guys”? How should I pronounce “produce”? Do I “call” the person or do I “phone” them? Is it a “napkin” or a “serviette”? In most cases, I learned what not to say because someone laughed at me. My embarrassment and shame drove me to change myself so that I could fit in better.
In my current world of infertility, I often feel alienated from the men and women whose bodies function normally. Most couples our age have several children, and we are different from them. And while I know they don’t hold it against us, I wonder what it would be like if people did hold it against us. I regularly have conversations with imaginary rude people in my head (this is what anxious people do; they anticipate imaginary conflicts). I think about somebody telling me that I’m barren because I have sinned or haven’t prayed enough. I think about people questioning our choice to pursue fertility treatments rather than adoption. I think about whether or not others think we should just give up or try harder or not try at all or just trust God more. There are so many opinions, and I’m sheltered from many of them and surrounded by a loving community, but I still think about the things that could be thought or said.
It is so hard to be different. But what if your difference had a few Bible verses that could be thrown at you repeatedly whenever you tried to be vulnerable? What if you had a core attribute that you could not change despite all your begging and striving? What if you knew that living life without a mask would likely get you kicked out of most churches, or even your own family?
That’s where my mind goes when I hear someone say that they don’t understand how another person could be gay. Because I don’t understand how I could be infertile. I don’t understand why my single friends aren’t married. I don’t understand most things in this world. It might seem ideal for everyone to be born as a heterosexual, but they are not. As much as we want to believe it can happen, 99.9% of the gay population are unable to change or pray away their orientation. For every one “success” story, there are 999 others who have tried and failed. They are different, and they know they are different, and they are looking for a safe place with which to wrestle with these things. But we throw a verse at them to let them know just how much God finds their actions (which they may not have even done!) disgusting.
When discussing marriage, Jesus all of a sudden decides to talk about eunuchs, those without “normal” heterosexual desires. His followers are asking him about divorce, and he is calling them to fidelity, but he is also reminding them that not everyone is like them. For those of us in the church who idolize heterosexual marriage and think everyone should attain to enter it, we need to let these words sink in. Not everyone is like you. Single, divorced, abandoned, homosexual, asexual, widowed; there are more of these people in our church lobbies than we think. So many people who feel alone and broken and different. So many people who wish they could change, but it simply isn’t doable.
I hear a lot of people talk about the need for more Christians who will speak truth boldly. When I think about that kind of person, I think about John the Baptist, the man who called his listeners broods of vipers and warned of coming judgement. But what was he was preaching so vehemently? Those who asked him what they should do were given clear answers: care for the poor, share with those in need, be satisfied with your wages, do not extort money (Luke 4:10-14). I think more of us should get on television and preach about caring for the least of these; I am all about speaking this truth with boldness. But let’s not talk about how we just can’t understand those “other” people. Let us not use our freedom of speech to decry the very people we are called to pursue.
In Jesus’s day, he was regularly seen with prostitutes and tax collectors. Today, I like to think it would be the homosexuals and liberals, and everyone else we cast out as “other”. He would be with them, and he would be loving them, and he would be calling them to a life of loving others as he has loved them. And yes, he would be speaking truth to them, but the greatest truth of God is love.
Jesus includes the excluded. He embraces the other. He makes the last to be first. Those who feel most broken and forgotten and isolated from the rest of the world are treasured and remembered and honored in his Kingdom. May we preach this truth from the rooftops: You are loved, and you are not alone.