An essay donated by Lindy Masden
A Tainted Idea of Love: A girl's personal
struggle between identity and religion
1st Corinthians 13:13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
It’s 9:30 pm on a Sunday night, and I am bored out of my mind. Church Small Group is unusually dismal this week, and all of the adults are involved in a serious, no-kids-allowed conversation upstairs that seems to be lasting forever. The dull, never-ending whine from a box TV resting in front of me drowns the little interest I have in the dancing vegetables depicting a child-appropriate version of David and Bathsheba.
“Emily, we just watched this episode of VeggieTales last week!” I complain to my little sister, who ignores my grumbling. “Fine” I mutter as I struggle to my feet, “I’ll go find something else to do.”
"Lindy." It’s short and spunky, just like me. It’s pretty unique, which according to my mother is just like me too. If I’d been a boy I would have been named Levi, after the third son of Israel and the priestly ancestor of the Hebrew Levites. However, I turned out to be a girl, so they randomly chose a variation of the Spanish word for "beautiful" to be my name instead.
Sometimes I think they wish they’d named me Levi anyway.
Sometimes I think they would’ve been happier with a Levi than a Lindy.
I approach my older sister Rachel, but it soon becomes obvious that she has no interest in entertaining a desperately bored eight-year old. So instead, I wander. I stroll down the familiar hallways. I glimpse into the spare room. The house’s stillness is tangible – the typical laughter echoing down from the upstairs living room is absent, leaving behind a silence interrupted only by muffled noises. I listen closely. Wait, I wonder, is that crying? My curiosity piqued, I tiptoe towards the staircase.
Rituals. Every single night, my family gathers together to pray before bed. The location, time, and people present vary, but its occurrence never changes. One night my sister and I run and jump onto my parent’s bed. Another bedtime just three of us assemble in the living room. Still yet another evening, we meet at the dining room table to clasp our hands and bow our heads. Every single night, we speak aloud in the same order and conclude with a shared ‘Amen.’ It is a familiar, comforting habit: the nightly Madsen norm.
I quietly make my way up the stairs and pause just out of sight. Peeking around the corner reveals an unexpected scene: my parents, along with the rest of the grown-ups, are huddled around a sobbing Mrs. Clarke. I adore Mrs. Clarke, and my tiny hands clench into fists as I try to register her obvious pain. I crawl forward in time to hear the whispers of two women standing near the staircase.
“It’s just such a shame. Not right. Not natural at all,” one mutters.
The second lady agrees, lowering her voice and twisting away from the nearby mass of praying adults. “I mean, after all she’s been through! First her son, and now her daughter have decided to turn away from everything she’s taught them. And she tried so hard, even with Bob leaving. Lord help their souls.”
The first lady leans in closer. “You know, I wasn’t too surprised by Luke and the drugs. But Sarah! Who would’ve guessed it? Her – a lesbian! The poor family.”
Mommy: “Of course we love you. We always will.”
Mother: “I didn’t raise you to pick whatever parts you wanted to from His word. I didn’t raise you to turn out like this.”
Daddy: “Lindybug, you are precious in His sight.”
Father: “It’s your choice, and you’ve chosen sin. Will I accept it? No. Would I walk you down the aisle at a wedding like that? Never.”
"Jesus Loves Me
Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong."
Oh yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Mommy? I begin.
“Yes?” she replies absentmindedly while steering the car around an ice patch.
I pause, and then timidly ask, “What’s a lesbian?”
My mother looks up, suddenly focused on my question. “Did you hear us talking about Mrs. Clarke’s daughter?” she replies. I nod. She hesitates, glancing at my expectant face in the review mirror. I wait impatiently, unable to reconcile my memory of the playful, caring teenager I once knew with the horrified murmurs I heard.
She finally starts. “Remember in Genesis, when God makes Adam and Eve for each other? He wanted it to be that way: man and woman, Adam and Eve.” I nod cautiously, still not quite understanding. “A lesbian is someone who ignores what God intended. Sarah has chosen to sin. It makes her family very sad, and worst of all it’s making Jesus sad.” She glances to make sure I understand the enormity of what she is saying. “Lindy,” she says, “always remember to trust in God’s word. He knows what is best for you in the end.”
I immediately agree. I know my mom is right, as usual, but a small part of me is still confused by the whole matter. Well, I shrug, I won’t ever actually need to understand it completely.
There was Jacob in elementary school, I think desperately. I liked him, didn’t I? Then there was that one guy in seventh grade my friends would tease me about…what was his name? Aaron, that’s right. Freshman year Nathan wouldn’t stop following me around, and I even let him hold my hand. Last year Teddy and I dated for four whole months before I broke it off, but I only did that because we were both way too immature to be in a relationship…
Jacob. Aaron. Nathan. Teddy. All boys.
Jacob, Aaron, Nathan, and Teddy. I can count on them to keep me safe.
Jacob and Aaron and Nathan and Teddy. They help me ignore the existence of Beau and Michaela and Natalie and Lauren and Taylor, help me pretend not to notice the dreaded leap my heart gives every time I see her beautiful face, and help reassure me that I do in fact, somewhere deep down inside, like boys. I need to like boys.
But I still stumble every time grandma asks who the lucky man will be, or whenever my friends start pointing out the “hot” guys in the hallways, or when my youth pastor begins discussing the importance of sexual purity with my future husband.
And I still don’t understand the emotions I’m supposed to be feeling, or whom they’re supposed to belong to, or why my innate response to the idea of love will only ever result in sobbing mothers and horrified murmurs.
"Maybe I’m meant to be alone,
To simply observe love
From a distance
So I don’t taint
The idea of it.
Maybe God made me
Only to love the idea of love.
A noun to see,
A verb to experience."
Originally posted: 2015-MAY-06
Last updated 2015-MAY-06
Author: Lindy Madsen