Struggle to Love

By: Laura Sandretti

A while ago, I attended a church leaders’ workshop about learning how to love the LGBTQ+ community. I was reminded that when I avoid and condemn LGBTQ+ folks, I have no chance of sharing Christ’s love with them. I do not need to approve of the choices of a person identifying as LGBTQ+, but I am called to accept them. Though some believe it’s contradictory to the gospel to love LGBTQ+ folks, showing them love and acceptance actually fulfills it. I understood and agreed with most of this, and I want to love the gay community, but there’s a problem.
When I watched Johnny Weir during the Olympics wearing women’s clothing nicer than mine, or when I encounter a loud male barista talking effeminately, I’m uncomfortable. I’m not around many LGBTQ+ folks, don’t have many gay friends or family, and it’s not something I grew up with.
I know some readers will chafe at my honesty. But when we fail to be, we fail to relate, learn, and grow. 
I was also uncomfortable when I was earning my education degree and encountered gated parking lots, barred windows, and security officers at the inner city elementary school where I taught. I grew up in a tiny northern Wisconsin town with 900 mostly white people. I was uncomfortable teaching in the city not because I was racist, but because I had always been sheltered. 
Being in an uncomfortable state isn't the problem. Staying there is a problem. 
So, I’ve been asking God to help me love. Despite our best intentions, desires, and hopes, we are human. I know I should love everyone, but I don’t. I also understand that Christ knows my heart. He knows I want to love people who are different from me or who I just don’t understand. I’m asking God to help me love LGBTQ+ folks - loud or quiet, flamboyant or subtle.
While vacationing in Arizona, I saw several gay couples, baristas, and families while out eating, hiking, and sight-seeing. I noticed moms instead of mannerisms. I saw couples instead of choices. In seeing our common humanity, I suddenly became more comfortable. When, without even thinking about it, I asked a gay couple in the Grand Canyon if I could take their picture for them, I knew God was helping me love.  
Who do you want to love? Your in-laws? Your husband? A gay cousin? God will help you to love others, if you ask for His help. 

Laura Sandretti is a Just Between Us contributing author and an active speaker and blogger. Additionally, she is a former public school teacher, women’s ministry director, and has a master’s degree in Theological Studies at Trinity University. Laura and her husband have three teenagers, and live in Sussex, Wis.