Driving over the bridge to Hamilton last night I saw a rainbow. I hadn’t seen a real one through sun and rain for a while and though it was faint it was so very beautiful. One can’t help but see such an ethereal moment as wondrous.
My rainbow sighting also reminded me of the polarization that continues to rage. It called to mind the angry posts I’ve seen from Christians berating LGBTQ+ people for using the rainbow for their “agenda.” And it brought me back to being at Toronto’s Pride event on Saturday and Sunday with our first ever Generous Space booth.
While the real thing seems so fragile and fleeting, the polarization around the rainbow symbol is loud and certain. PRIDE and HELL are juxtaposed as activists march and protesters scream.
But if you peel back the layers – the vulnerability of the rainbow isn’t so hard to see.
I feel very grateful to be present to see the joy of LGBTQ+ people celebrating who they are and who they love. I feel like I was among “my people” at the festivities and I feel honoured to be included. As I called out, “Happy Pride” to so many – I saw beautiful faces, image-bearers of God, Beloved ones – young children through to those bent with age. I saw colour – colour everywhere! Bright, joyous, fun, outrageous, fabulous. I saw people comfortable in their own skin – all shapes and sizes. Just like when you call out, “Merry Christmas” or “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Happy Thanksgiving” there is a moment of recognition, acknowledgement, connection …. and often gratitude. We want the things that are important to us to be celebrated.
Our booth was close to where Family Pride events were happening, so we had the pleasure of seeing lots of little ones. Our Generous Space folks blew bubbles for hours – made completely worth it by the kids who squealed with delight trying to catch them. One snapshot that sticks in my mind were two dads with their wee daughter. They were so gentle and patient with their special needs child, letting her take the lead, making their way at her speed. I wondered what long, convoluted process they might have had to endure to welcome this little one into their home – as that is often the case for LGBTQ+ couples forming their families – and I gave thanks to God that this precious child has two loving parents.
While many churches marched in the parade, I didn’t actually see many booths connected with faith groups. On the first day, thanks to some creative GS folks, we had a display set up that invited people to swipe left or right on Jesus’ profile. Swiping right meant you were interested in having a connection, swiping left meant you would pass. People had stickers to place on the side they chose. The right side was dotted with stickers and I remember one guy saying exuberantly and sincerely to his group of friends, “I love Jesus!”
While we heard some intriguing spiritual stories, even one that included ancient aliens, we didn’t have a single negative encounter. I heard over and over again, “What you’re doing is great” and “Thanks for being here.”
I loved seeing our Generous Space folks laugh and connect with each other around the booth. I loved hearing them tell others about how the ministry has encouraged them. I loved seeing them put themselves out there to invite others to consider connecting. Bottom line, I love our Generous Space community.
Someone in our GS community got a hurtful letter from an extended family member on the weekend. In part it said, “The day after I read your email about sewing the flags for the pride parade where you said “PRIDE is an opportunity to reject the induced SHAME and take PRIDE in who God created them to be” I was reading Proverbs 6. In verse 16 I read the list of six things the Lord hates….number one on the list is PRIDE. Several days later I was reading Prov 11. In verse 2 it says “When pride comes, then comes shame” that’s in reverse order to what you said in your email. Prov 29: 23 says “a man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.” I get weary of the LGBT agenda that constantly tries to coerce the rest of the population to accept and embrace its teachings.”
Here’s the thing, while the event is called Pride it wasn’t pride such as the Proverbs refer to that I was witnessing. What I saw was gratitude, joy, peace, and contentment. These are the things that come when you are in a safe place, to be who you are, to celebrate the one you love and the family you care for. Granted, I was sequestered away on a side-street with other booths promoting and celebrating inclusion. I know there are other things that can be seen at Pride. But I feel like I got to see the real rainbow, the vulnerable, tender side – that side that embraces love and family and freedom to celebrate. I saw God there. I saw God in the woman who has volunteered for six years to ensure the street fair runs smoothly as we commiserated that we aren’t getting any younger. I saw God in the talkative man, with many theories of the universe, who stayed under our tent during the rain storm because his (big) dog was scared of thunder and wanted to crawl under our table. I saw God in the woman who was so excited to see a necklace with both rainbow beads and a cross on it and who beamed with delight when I told her she could have it. I saw God in the people that, from time to time, would stand across the road from our booth just to observe us for a while. I saw God in the young woman who eagerly paged through our Prayers from the Edges book written by LGBTQ+ people.
So many glimpses of God. Sometimes fleeting. Sometimes faint. But wondrous and beautiful.