“My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me with your help?” Psalm 119:82 – Living Bible.
Written by Karl Hand
On Wednesday, after hearing the announcement that the “Yes” campaign had won the recent Marriage Equality postal survey by a very strong margin, I felt elated, liberated and a little bit manic. I hugged strangers and danced in the street. We all needed to celebrate.
I woke up the next day aware of the fact that a weight had lifted from my shoulders. Actually, it would be more accurate to say the block of ice in my stomach had thawed out. I was more at peace within myself. I could throw myself into work without effort. I was more creative and imaginative.
In reality, a lot of that was adrenalin. It was the elation many people feel after recently stepping out of a traumatic experience. Celebrate, dance, and gloat for days! But I realise as I dance in the street and hug strangers as they pass, that I need to be careful that I don’t end this week flat on my face. At some point, the buzz will wear off and we will all have to ask what we’re going to do about the pain that we’ve gone through.
We lived for months with the feeling that the whole nation was voting on our worth as people. We felt constantly anxious that the “no” vote would win, and we’d feel like Australia wasn’t on our side. It felt like the threat of rejection, worthlessness, and hopelessness.
This is a moment when we have to learn resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from hard times and find that health and strength needed in order to thrive.
I believe that real, risky, honesty helps us to be resilient. And we have a lot of ugly pain to be honest about.
At one point in this campaign, I had written a speech on how the best approach was to be loving, patient, and compassionate to our political opponents.
Then I found out that a church had donated $1M to the “no” campaign.
I was reading through my notes, getting ready to speak, and I felt like my guts were twisted up with rage. How could I talk about peacemaking when I felt such anger? I was really terrified that my goodwill would look plastic and insincere… or that I’d snap and rant like an idiot.
I threw out those notes and rode the bus to that speaking engagement, unable to write a new speech. When I tried, I just fumed with fresh anger. I had no idea what I would say. So I stood in front of that crowd with nothing prepared, and I told them exactly what was happening inside me. I was just honest. It was a turning point for me. Powerful and healing! The audience looked like they appreciated my candid response. They had probably needed to hear it too. We all need to be honest about the pain still lurking under this elation that we feel during this victory.
And we need to be honest about where we really are at this moment. A few people have said to me that we “finally have equality”. I don’t mean to diminish that feeling, particularly because the people telling me this were battlers from years of persecution speaking about the fulfilment of a 40 or 50 year dream. They were people who survived criminalisation, the ghetto and the AIDS crisis.
But honesty will admit we still have a way to go. Legal equality is not the same thing as full social equality. Queer youth homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and family rejection are still forces to be reckoned with in our society. Transgender and gender nonconforming people are often subject to random verbal abuse in the street. Many are victims of hate-fuelled violence or find themselves unemployable after losing their jobs. Too often, one or more of these are factors in a tragic and unnecessary death.
Sometimes, when we don’t feel resilient, we think the problems coming against us are so huge that we’ll be overcome by them. And we totally lose track of God’s presence and God’s plan, and with them we lose our joy and our peace.
Sometimes, when a thunderstorm comes, it looks like the blue sky itself has been totally wiped out. All that exists is that giant black cloud. Our problems can get like that; so overwhelming that we start to believe they define us. Then we just react to them, and get caught up in a fight with them, and as we do they seem to get bigger and bigger.
This is the thing about the sky though – it never goes away. Every black cloud and every terrifying lightning bolt has a blue sky behind it. I guarantee it.
Resilience comes to us as a trust that every storm cloud is eventually going to move on and the blue sky won’t have gone anywhere. It’s always there for us.
This is a moment for celebration, and for resilience. Tell the truth with bravery and never ever give up hope for a brighter future.
Karl Hand is pastor of CRAVE MCC in Sydney.