by Angel Collie
Here we are, already on the way to Philly. I can’t believe there are only two stops to go. In so many ways the ride has flown by, and in some ways, it seems the end will never come. I find myself deeply saddened as Bill stands up and announces that he will be passing out our final flight info. So, since the day brings nothing but a rather anti-climatic 14-hour drive, I have decided to use the time to reflect a bit.
From day one, the Equality Ride has pushed me and challenged me far outside of my comfort zone into the only area we ever grow. For that I am truly grateful. I spoke in my church before I left and I coined it a "Spiritual Social Justice Boot Camp," and I often find myself wishing I wasn’t so accurate, but in the next thought I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I came on the Ride afraid to stand up and have a voice, even within my own congregation. Now I can give a speech with less than a few minutes notice. I came on this Ride not believing I could accomplish much, and so many times with God’s help, I have seen awesome events organized in just seconds. I came on this Ride expecting to be yelled at and hated and found more Christ-like love than I ever could have imagined. It all goes to show how, as humans, we all have preset expectations that are often inaccurate and lack faith.
Thus, the single most valuable lesson I have taken from this Ride is to truly, "Let go, and let God." It’s always something I said and tried to believe, but I saw it work time and time over. I came hoping to change the hearts and minds of others, but what really happened is a change in my own heart and mind. I found that just as Christians hold stereotypes about us, we likewise do the same. I realized, in Evangelical Christians, I saw the faces and heard the words of those who had caused me to stumble so early in my faith journey. I became cold and shut myself off because my expectation was spiritual violence, or being told it’s an oxymoron to be Gay and Christian. It is on this ride that I have learned that God called us to evangelize to all people, not just those who look, act, and think exactly as we do.
Our motto has always been "Learn from History," and as I go back and dig a little deeper, I am drawn to those who God used to do his work in the Bible. He used people where they were and exactly as they were. I think back to the stories of Mary Magdalene who God chose when she was a prostitute, and John the Baptist who was written off as a crazy person as he demanded repentance, for the Kingdom of God was at hand. Even Jesus himself was put to death by the very religious sects that claimed to be preserving the laws and traditions of His father.
I can’t help but think back to a quote from Good ol’ Mel White: "You know the law of the heart, but you have forgotten the heart of the law." Sadly, over and over, I come in contact with people who know the law but fail to exhibit love– the one and greatest law. God is love, and without love, we are separated from God.
I had the honor to visit the Billy Graham Museum at Wheaton College, and there was one part that was really powerful for me. You walked into a pure white hall that was in the shape of the cross. The long white hall signified the pure sinless life Jesus lived on earth. At the end, there hung a huge wooden cross. After the cross, you walked through a long black tunnel. At the end, there hung a sign that read, "He is not here. He is risen." Next, you walk into a bright room filled with mirrors and clouds to signify his ascension into heaven. It was truly beautiful and touching.
I have also been asked to reflect on the tangible things we have done on this Ride in knowing many seeds we plant will never be seen. I think back to the students, the administrators, the community members, and even the police forces we have come in contact with, knowing many have been changed. They are changed because of who we are and the values we hold. No longer can the stereotypes pinned on us precede us, because to know us is to love us.
Over and over I am overtaken by the importance and significance of this Ride and the effect it has in the lives of individual students. So often, we go to schools and find a student body starving for these conversations. Students are so glad we are there because, for once, they get to hear they are ok– not sick and sinful.
More and more, as the end nears, I understand that it must not end. There are too many places we have yet to reach and too many people who need to be told God loves them as they are. It is tiring work, but truthfully, it’s what is right. We are all called to do justice, and LGBT youth can no longer ignore our calling. No longer are we letting ourselves be confined to gay bars and living in unhealthy ways. We have begun to love ourselves and unite as a sacred community, loved, blessed, and affirmed by God. No longer should people be made to feel guilt simply because of who they love. The ride may be close to wrapping up for 2006, but the message can never end.