A funny thing happened when my son came out four years ago: every bit of the conditional love in my life went away.
I didn't know that the love in my life was conditional, because I was always meeting the conditions: saying the right things, going to the right kind of church.
But when it became clear that we were no longer going to say the right things or go to the right kind of church, all that love and support went away.
It was so unbelievably painful.
Just lately I've realized that the love we have now is truly unconditional: with our kids, at our new church home, with our friends who have stuck and stayed.
Anyone who's here now loves and accepts us as we are, without judgment or criticism.
That's something I've never before experienced in my life.
Previously, I avoided judgment and criticism by complying.
Now that's no longer an option, and my life is better for it.
The other thing I'd never before experienced in my life was the true freedom to be myself in the world, without the constraint any kind of religious boss.
I did not know how much my soul needed to escape those constraints, but it turns out my soul needed it. So badly.
I'm by no means an Enneagram expert, but I'll tell you that I appear to be an Enneagram One with a 2-wing. Type One is the Reformer, Type Two is the Helper. Put them together: "Advocate."
As a woman, Type Two is perfectly acceptable in our culture. As a wife, as a mother, I was really good at being empathetic, warm-hearted, and self-sacrificing, so I leaned hard on that side of myself for many years.
However, the Type One/Reformer was the less acceptable part of me: called scary, called mean, often told to be quiet, to calm down, always simmering away in the background, feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
"Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic." (The Enneagram Institute)
"Critical and perfectionistic" and "having problems with resentment and impatience" describes my emotional state for many years.
Because my passion for justice, for healthy change, was exactly as the prophet Jeremiah describes: "a fire shut up in my bones."
When we left the evangelical fold, the fire was set free to write whatever I want, say whatever I want, see whatever clients I want.
The fire in my bones is now focused on doing good for my family, my clients, and myself. No church, no organization, no boss gets to tell me that I have to abrogate my ethics as a parent or a therapist or a human being in order to comply with a man-made system.
There is no "I love you BUT" in my life.
Only Love, only Love.
Love is the ethic.
Love is the North Star.
Love is the Law and all the Prophets.
The gift of unconditional Love and the freedom to exercise my true Self powerfully has healed me in ways I did not know I needed healing.
I didn't know I needed this healing, and I didn't even realize this healing was happening until I started having the oddest experience of freedom and total release (which a lot of people would call forgiveness), even in situations that would formerly have been extremely distressing to me.
I can enter into spaces where I have been judged, criticized, gossiped about, and condemned, and feel totally at peace.
I used to come away from toxic situations needing days, weeks, months, or even years to recover.
Now I can walk into the situation in peace and freedom, and I can walk away from the situation in peace and freedom.
Unconditional Love is mine.
My life and my gifts are my own to exercise.
I am free indeed.
When the pain of ostracism becomes release
into freedom, power, and peace:
that's resurrection power, y'all.
That's the Kingdom, here and now.
That's Love, always winning, because that's what Love does.