I wrote in a blog entry in June that I perceived a test had been placed before me, and that I had negotiated it in a way that I feel good about. It happened again.
This one was a test of my ability to mediate. I was challenged to remain calm and helpful (and especially loving) despite my boiling frustration.
Years ago in my quest to find out who I am, I discovered that I am more open about sexuality than my family trained me to be. My mother, especially, raised me with strict conservative Christian fundamentalist beliefs, with a healthy dose of her own yearning for the loss of the Victorian era, a time when “things were done right, and women knew their place.”
When I finally became comfortable with the fact that I am bisexual, and actually love my gay and lesbian friends as much as my other friends… I became irritated with my mother. Her belief system makes no sense to me, and I am driven to somehow broaden her thoughts since I am so close to her. It’s an excercise in futility. I can no more convert my mother to loving acceptance of people who are different than she can convert me to hardcore Christianity.
It makes me SO ANGRY! I want my mother, of all the people on the planet, to be above this. I want her to be my hero in all ways, not just some ways. I want our visions to mesh.
I called her because it was her birthday. During the phone call she said she had spent an awful Labor Day Weekend agonizing over a personal struggle in her life. She needed to talk about it. She needed peace.
Her current church is Lutheran. I say current, because my mother is always seeking. Since I’ve known her (wink), she has been Christian Scientist, LDS (Mormon), Southern Baptist, First Christian, Mennonite, Methodist, Catholic… mmmm.. I think I hit them all. Anyway, she’s now Lutheran and she LOVES this church. She loves the pastor. She loves the congregation. She loves the rituals and the chanting and the order and rules and tradition. I have never seen her get so involved in a community before. She does all the landscaping, she cleans the church every week, and she has just recently joined the board. This is really unusual for her. She is not the kind of person who gets involved. Never never has. But she loves this church so much.
Her church, and apparently Lutherans in general, are being pressed to vote on whether to allow “practicing” gays to become pastors. She says, “Well, they can admit who they are and what they like…but we don’t want them to… DO anything… you know…”
The conversation started out poorly, as our conversation on this topic always does.
“But Mom, what’s the difference? You say it’s ok if you know what their preference is.”
“It is ok if they admit they think like that.”
“So if that’s who they are to you, what’s the difference if they are ‘practicing’ or not?”
“I just don’t want anyone to think it’s ok.”
“But you think it’s ok if that’s who they are, just not if they follow their heart.”
“I don’t want any children to grow up thinking it’s ok to be like that. It makes me sick to my stomach. I literally get sick. It can’t be right.”
“I see you feel strongly about it.”
“And the Bible specifically states-”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen it in the Bible. But hey, everyone finds things in the Bible that simply don’t work for them.” I was thinking dinosaurs. You know, sheep weren’t here before dinosaurs. There’s just no way.
She surprised me by agreeing immediately. “Yes, that’s true. I know.”
Maybe it was her agreement that threw me. I suddenly realized that I needed to stop and think. My mother called me to talk about how much she is intolerant of homosexuality, when she knows that I have battled her about this before and that I won’t agree with her. Not to mention that I am currently living with my gay uncles, and I’m an atheist. For heaven’s sakes, what is she thinking? What does she need from me?
I had to separate interests from positions.
And it was so simple once I thought about it: Mom is desperately afraid of losing her community. She is struggling with the possibility that her Lutheran community might vote in a way that she disagrees with, and if that happens she doesn’t know if they can be her community anymore.
I talked with her about how Lutherans stand for many things, and how she supports nearly all of it. I reminded her that when describing the local group she loves so much, she could describe many things that say who they are, and their position on homosexuality is merely a part of it, so this vote doesn’t say who Lutherans are, it only says how they vote on this issue.
I said that she needs to stay with her community no matter how the vote goes, and to be proud of them and love them as much as always. Perhaps there may come a time when her views don’t agree 100% with theirs, but she can hold that in her heart and know it about herself, and stay true to herself. But that is no reason to abandon the whole group.
I reminded her of her need for order, and for things to be in their place in a way that is logical to her. This quality causes her to question homosexuality more than other things because she is trying to make sense of it according to her own way of thinking, and it’s not working. Because of this, it’s a topic that particularly stressful and will always be unsettling to her, and she can recognize her own tendencies and expect to be frustrated on this topic.
She came up with a few of her own ideas then, which put her at ease, and she was able to finish the phone call.
Yesterday she called me to thank me for the birthday card (It was a painting of Victorian women in the setting sun with super mooshy words inside – heh heh). It had arrived late – oops! Then…after a pause, she added, “And thank you for the phone call. You really are a mediator. You said just the right things and you made me feel so much better and I know you don’t agree with me on any of that. I don’t know how you did it. It is such a sign of maturity. I’m so proud of you.” She was gushing. I got embarrassed. Aw, shucks, Mom, I’m 37. It’s about time I start acting maturely.