I felt confident I could do it. After all, they had said, “Just show up…hand out stickers…hand out freeze-pops…and no words required.” “No words” appealed greatly to my introverted self, so Corinne (my wife) and I agreed to represent RISE at Harrisonburg’s first pride festival.
New to the area, we were both a bit apprehensive with the thought of attending a “pride” event. It had only been a few of months since we had bid New England farewell and Harrisonburg ado.
New Hampshire treated us well as a couple, but we weren’t sure of the kind of reception we would receive once we crossed the Mason Dixon line. It had been five years since the Bible-belt beating we took in North Carolina, but it was still painful and fresh in our minds. However, due to finances and the promise of a new job, we had no choice but to lick our wounds, pack our fur babies and head south.
Growing up in an extremely conservative Christian home, we taught homosexuality was not only a sin but also an abomination which God hated. We were also led to believe that the sinful “creepy-crawlies” came out of the woodwork during “pride” events. And so with these lovely visions in our mind, we got out of our parked car and bravely headed toward the rainbow flags.
To our astonishment, the sinful “creepy-crawlies” had indeed come but instead of strutting around clad in colorful thongs, they marched around the perimeters waving homemade picket signs. One of the signs had the words inscribed “Honk for Traditional Marriage”. I had failed to see this particular sign, and so I smiled a waved at every horn blower, until one of my gay buddies set me straight (No pun intended). Later I learned the self-righteous homophobes had crawled from the woodwork (church) from somewhere in Washington DC.
At the RISE booth we began handing out stickers and freeze pops. The smiles were easily given but, as usual, my introverted self was quite conservative with the words. However, the more I gazed into the eyes at the other end of the freeze pop, the more I saw myself.
I saw a child riddled with guilt for keeping a secret from the mother she loved, a teenager confused from her attraction to girls instead of boys and most painful of all someone separated from a God who failed to reciprocate her love.
My silence no longer seemed important. I told my introverted self to take a hike, and I began to talk…talk and talk… I couldn’t bring my awkward self to shut up about the acceptance and unconditional love freely offered at RISE every Sunday at exactly 10(ish). I wanted everyone to experience the peace I had finally come to know in Christ.
Later, the following week, I was reading form the gospel of John and stumbled across words of Christ, which ironically, had been spoken at another festival some 2000 years ago. He was so passionate about the message, John says that Jesus stood and cried out with a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink…I will never, no never, reject any one of them who comes to me…Therefore you are no longer outsiders but you now share citizenship with the saints…and you belong to God’s own household”.
Christ is still standing, and He’s still crying, and He wants us to stand with Him. He wants us cry with Him. He wants our voices to be so loud they are heard all over the world and begs us not to stop until the voices of hate are overshadowed and heard no more.
Scriptures referenced: John 7:37; John 6:37; Ephesians 2:19 [taken from the Amplified Bible]
Written by: Lisa Hardy, a beloved member of the RISE community.