I sat and cried at the East Atlanta rainbow stairway today.
It had been a rushed kind of day. The latest Desiring God article RE: “The Harvest in the Gay Community” (y’all we are not parts that you harvest like aliens coming for our kidneys) put me a grumpy, anxious mood. And I was just a little bit behind, a little bit late, and a little bit rushed when I took the shortcut down the side street and ended up at the rainbow stairs off Memorial Drive.
It’s a little brand-new staircase, chirping #PrideMonth and winding its way up from yellow to pink to blue, brilliant against the surrounding grey cement. It was so joyful.
I pulled over and cried.
It was a full gasping torrent from my gut that I had no idea was waiting for me. I got out of the car and sat on the yellow bottom step and touched the chipping paint, and cried from my stomach on the rainbow stairs by the cemetery.
It hit me, all over my body, that there is a well of queer Christian grief that is always full, always there behind the Church’s crisp white walls.
On the rainbow steps, I cried for all my Christian LGBTQ friends who were hurt so deeply that they will never go to church again.
I cried for all my gay friends who still talk about Jesus wistfully, like a high school sweetheart that they will never see again.
I cried for lesbians who showed up eagerly to Bible studies, who endured whispers, side-eyes, and finally, a coffee date with the leader to talk about their “lifestyle.”
I cried for gay kids who thought that they were loved unconditionally by their Christian friends, but discovered that they are youth group projects, targeted for “preaching the Gospel” – a gospel of Straightness.
I cried for the trans women who have been called abominations.
I cried for the bisexual men who have been called whores.
I cried for LGBTQ people who didn’t grow up in the church and discovered Jesus like spring after a long winter – who then spent months of frustration on church websites, hunting for policy clarity, then weeks on the phone with pastors. And who, after months of driving for hours every Sunday to the nearest affirming church five towns over, wearily gave up.
I cried for every queer boy who has wept behind their steering wheel after leaving a lunch conversation with someone he used to think was safe.
I cried for all the trans college kids who out of deep love for Jesus faithfully showed up to Christian therapy and their accountability partner, because they believed that they could root out this sin like they rooted out gossip, greed, envy, and selfishness. I cried because they can’t fix what isn’t broken, and I cried because in trying, they are breaking their own soul.
I cried for every closeted gay pastor who is trying to shame himself into being sexually attracted to his wife.
I cried for every gay worship leader who is so scared that Jesus is as disgusted by him as he is.
I cried for the beautiful, profound, wise queer women who took their beauty out into the world after the church discarded them, who are now thriving, bent but not broken – leaving a church that is broken without them.
I cried for the Church. Because every day that she keeps this community out, she loses a piece of her soul.
Being a queer Christian means that there are always more torrents of grief waiting in our gut than we realize.
Sometimes rainbows don’t look like joy.
Sometimes rainbows are just reminders that it is still raining.
Rainbows are promises made in the middle of thunderstorms. When the sun hits the wave of water and shines through it, we get a glimpse of future redemption.
But for now? It’s still raining.
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together.”
We will all see the Kingdom together – a new Kingdom that we’ve only heard whispers of, a Kingdom where young men see visions and old women dream dreams, where eunuchs are welcomed even into the Holy of Holies, and foreigners and Gentiles can dance through the swung-wide doors.
In that Kingdom, the rainbow promise that God whispered to Peter in a dream, to “let no one call unclean what I have called clean,” won’t just be a dream but will be as solid as a Man cooking fish for His friends by the sea.
The ever-expanding Kingdom, the ever-widening Table, the ever-growing welcome of God will be fulfilled.
And all people will see it together.
On the other side of this rainbow promise is a feast that you can’t imagine, joyfully cluttered up with young and old and women and men and interxex people, every sexuality and nation and race and denomination and religion. As C.S. Lewis says, when we get to that Feast and look around at who is at the Table – there will be surprises. Thank God for that.
“Be the light!” they told us as evangelical kids, but instead, here we are, being the rainbow.
Queer Christians embody the promise that God is making all things new, and new, and new again.
Today, sitting on the steps of this rainbow connection, I cried out grief that filled up my stomach like a rainstorm.
And this rainbow promise wrapped me up and filled me with colors sung into being by a God who has promised us that the Kingdom is coming.
Not despite the rain. But in the mystery of Grace – straight through it.
Nadia Bolz-Weber says that Scripture doesn’t say that God is making “all new things.” God is making “all things new.”
Straight through the thunderstorms, Grace shines. Straight through the thunderstorms, rainbows dance into life.
God is making queer Christians into something more beautiful and extravagantly delightful than anyone could have predicted.
And so, on the rainbow steps, I am sad, but I am not afraid.
I am tired, but I am not giving up.
Struck down, but not destroyed.
Persecuted, but not abandoned.
The Spirit is singing colors out into the world, splashing the universe with a palette of gifts and joys and wisdom and diversity. As Kaitlin Curtice says, we are the weapons beat into plowshares. We are the kingdom come.
We are the prophetic voice that the Church desperately needs to be whole.
We are the rainbow.