The 2012 science fiction film Cloud Atlas journeys through six different time periods and the struggles for justice or mere survival in each of them. One of the time periods is in 1849, years before the breakout of the American Civil War. The son-in-law of a wealthy businessman in America is sent overseas to conclude a business arrangement to transport slaves from Africa.
The son-in-law is transformed when he witnesses brutality done to the slaves and his life is saved by a slave on the trip home. He returns to his partner and confronts his father-in-law, stating that he renounces the slave trade and will join the abolitionists. They have the following exchange:
Father-in-Law: There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well. This movement will never survive, if you join them you and your entire family will be shunned. At best you will exist at pariah to be spat at and beaten, at worse to be lynched or crucified. And for what, for what? No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.
Son-in-Law: But what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?
For this LGBTQ History month, we have many stories of the big-time drops who changed history: the ones that tipped the scales, the ones that started the floods, the final molecules that pressured open the crack in the dam.
But as a straight ally for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church, I find my story has a string of drops–of people–who transformed my life in little ways and nudged me ever so slowly to advocacy. I cannot write the names of all of them, and so I will write about them in an equal format.
I give thanks for those I met at an early age…
- For D, who was such a funny friend of my parents…and may never know I didn’t wonder why he didn’t have a girlfriend.
- For T, who would come to our house to hang with our family, then would go into one of the bathrooms and come out dressed for work as a ravishing drag queen…and may never know I just loved his outfits and looked forward to his visits!
- For R, who my mother and I would visit as a part of a RAIN team taking meals to persons living with AIDS in the 1980s…and may never know I was afraid he would hurt my mother and she had to explain that he really wasn’t interested in her.
I give thanks for those who gave me grace when I failed…
- For A, who was my first (known) gay friend in college, who tolerated my ridiculous questions…and may never know how much I was afraid to ask her.
- For J, who was afraid to come out to me because he didn’t know if I was accepting…and may never know how much I lament that I didn’t live it out louder.
- For J, who is raising foster children and takes on single parenting and homophobia every day…and who may never know how much I wish I stood up for her more when she came out.
I give thanks for those who are my partners in ministry…
- For S, who I knew before and after his transition…and who may never know what an ongoing transformation he has had on me.
- For T, with whom I worked a summer camp and he never sought me out even as a known ally…and who may never know how much I wish he had.
- For the whole alphabet of names at Cambridge Welcoming Ministries in Massachusetts who tolerated this Oklahoman’s missteps…and who may never know how much they shaped me for five years side by side in that circle of chairs and in the kitchen.
- For C, who cried when I told her that of course we would baptize their child and her partner could stand with her…and who may never know that as she was crying, I was fighting a red rising fury because two partners being allowed a Sacrament together ought not be a surprise in our church.
Finally, for K, for my friend who hoped to serve in our beloved United Methodist Church, who was and is a better pastor than I will ever be…but the UMC would not consider ordaining her. She may never know that she was the last drop, that the Spirit convicted me through her that my church–our church–was wrong.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Your lives (and many, many others) echo into infinity and touch more lives that you may have thought possible. I am only one of many. May all our drops fill bigger oceans of God’s love, and may every drop know it reflects a perfect rainbow of God’s love after the rain.