Emily Timbol

An Open Letter to my Family


Facebook is good for a lot of things; keeping in contact with friends, sharing photos, organizing events, and in my case, getting into epic public fights with your family over things like politics and religion. Since those fights were public, and since they were with multiple family members and I really don’t feel like writing out three different responses, I’m going to post one broad one to my blog. I know that sounds immature and cold, but since my family members were fine engaging in public debate over these topics, I feel like it’s OK to post my response publicly as well.

It’s been a few weeks, and I’ve had a chance to calm down. There are some things I need to say to you that I want you to hear. 

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I was different. I never felt quite like I belonged, even though I was well liked and had good friends. Some of this was normal adolescent feelings, and some of it was knowing that normal 10 years old don’t beg their parents to let them stay up until midnight to watch election results, or spend most of their free time reading books about forensic pathology (thankfully I grew out of that.) When I got a little older, I began to embrace my eccentricity, and started to like the fact that I didn’t quite fit into the “normal” mold (and not just because I was a chunkster.)  Growing up, those of you who were there (since some family members involved in this are new to the family) always supported and loved me, even if I was a little bit different. Sure, there were aunts on my dad’s side of the family who forbid me to see my cousin’s after I told them all (with Barbie visual aids) where babies ACTUALLY came from, but you, you guys were different. You loved me, and I always knew that.

About three years ago, when I started to get the pulling on my heart strings that let me know God was guiding me towards a ministry to the LGBT community, I was scared. You see, I might talk a big game, and act like I love controversy (and OK, usually I do) but it still hurts when people I love reject what I feel God is guiding me to do. It especially hurts when they reject me without wanting to know why, or how I plan to do what I feel the Lord is leading me to do. Since you didn’t really ask, I’ll go ahead and let you know anyway.

I don’t believe in coincidence, or in a God that would make me a weirdo for no reason. I believe that God has been preparing me, my whole life, for a ministry to people who don’t fit “traditional” Christian parameters. It’s not just chance that growing up I always was vocal about my faith, yet had plenty of friends who weren’t Christians. It’s not just chance that I’ve always felt more comfortable in a room full of “unbelievers” than in a room full of “traditional” religious people. It’s not chance, because it’s the way God made me. I think a lot of the pain, confusion, and frustration I experienced growing up feeling like I “wasn’t normal”, was God preparing me for a ministry to people that are different, and experienced these same feelings. Unlike when I attempted to get involved in youth, children’s, or overseas ministries, what I am doing with the LGBT community feels right, and doors keep opening. As a follower of Christ, I want to do good, and love people, and follow his teachings. All the other ways I’ve tried to do that in the past never felt right, and never filled me with a passion for the people I tried to  show love to. This ministry does. 

Now for the hard stuff.

For as long as I can remember, my parents have been telling me about God, their relationship with God, and how much God loves me. Naturally, I hated it, and just wanted them to shut up and let me watch TV. I did the youth group thing, but rarely had my heart in it. When I left for college, I did what most kids who grew up in strict Christian homes do – “rebel” (aka, drink lots of crappy beer and trade Sunday morning church for sleeping in.) Only, my rebelling only lasted about 4 weeks (beer wasn’t as fulfilling spiritually as I had hoped) and I realized all that stuff my parents told me wasn’t just what they wanted me to believe, it was true. I made my faith my own, found a (non-denominational – take that Presbyterians!) church I loved, and got involved with a campus ministry group that took up all my free time. Yes, it was my faith, but it was easy for me to come to it because of the way my parents had been so open about their beliefs and wishes for me.

However, try as hard as I might, I cannot remember any of you talking about God, or your faith, to me before this ministry started. I knew you, (my Grandfather, aunts, and uncles) loved me, and I knew you were Christians in the way that you just assume a white American without the last name “Stein” is, but that was about the extent of it. I don’t remember you talking about Bible verses you read and wanted to share with me, I don’t remember you telling me about ministries you were involved in, and I certainly don’t remember you trying to share your faith with me in any personal, direct way, like you have been lately. That’s not to say that you have to go to church or be involved in ministry to be a Christian, but growing up, my memories of you are happy, and fun, but don’t include much, if any, spirituality.

Which is why it’s so hard for me to want to listen to what you have to say to me now. It’s not that I am pigheaded, or unwilling to listen to other people’s concerns and opinions, on the contrary; I’ve had meetings with multiple pastors and friends and I’ve listened and taken their words to heart, it’s just that, I have no foundation on which to build this conversation with you. Truthfully, I’ve asked myself, why I should listen to your “concerns about my faith” now, when you’ve never been “concerned about my faith” in the past? And some of you who are new to the family, these “concerns” you’ve raised, have been in possibly the third of fourth conversation we’ve had, ever. It’s hard to believe you can be concerned about me, when you’ve never made an effort to get to know me.

And that brings me back to my ministry. You see, I know how hard it is to have people throw verses at you, condemn you, and tell you what you re doing is wrong, without really knowing you. As you can see, it’s not very effective. Which is why your concerns about me “being in bad company” and “being yoked to unbelievers” I will respectfully ignore. I know, firsthand, that it’s only when someone feels loved, cared about, and (here’s the big kicker) respected, that they will be open to hearing your thoughts on their spiritually. 

So that’s what it all comes down to. I respect gay,lesbian, and transgender people, because I see that they are people, not sexualities, and they deserve as much respect and love as you or I. I am not so sure you feel the same. Personally, (as far as the discussions we’ve had on Facebook, and email are concerned) I have not felt respected, and therefore have not shown respect in return. It might be cliche, but it’s true that respect is given where respect is earned, and not all of you have earned my respect on this matter. It’s not something I give out because of age, or life experience (those do not in themselves guarantee wisdom) it’s something I give when I feel loved and listened to.

That’s where I am now. I am listening- not preaching-to the LGBT community, and trying to build a foundation on which to stand with them. A foundation built out of love, respect, and of course, Christ.

Because even though the relationship between the church and the LGBT community has been rocky at best, and downright vicious at worst, it’s never too late to make amends, or start healing wounds. It’s never too late to say, “I’m sorry”, and forgive. So I will say I am sorry for any hurtful things I might have said, and truly hope that someday, you will understand and embrace what I am doing. You’re always welcome to help.

4 Responses to An Open Letter to my Family

  1. A wonderfully balanced expression of faith gently confronting the compassion-challenged believer who assumes a false mantle of self-righteousness.

    Many “christians” are really not followers of Christ, they are followers of “Christ’s Law” which is two different things. A disciple of Christ does not need the Law, he has the Spirit of Christ in in his heart which expresses itself in love for the Image of God in people for whom he died for. Our duty is love not law enforcement, the law is dead, the Spirit is life and love.

  2. Hey, I believe that we’re all if, not fully then at least a bit, self-righteous. Which, in theory, is good though it pisses other people of.

    But I also believe that pushing ones beliefs at one and another is wrong.
    I think Christ showed us that we have to think for ourselves and not just blindly follow rules and obey authority.
    So, I agree with Anon on that one… In a much more simple way that is… = Law-Kite (Sry for spelling mistakes)

  3. Joan Westing Schultze (aka "that one aunt that Emily doesn't like)

    I accept your apology. After reading more of your blogs, I think I understand where you are coming from. This statement from June explains a lot to me. You say,
    “The fact is, for a lot of “Christians”, their “enemies” are sinners, sluts, abortionists, gays, homeless, socialists, communists, Kenyan born secret Muslim Presidents, and dirty evil liberals like myself. For me, my enemies are the “Christians” who hate everybody I love and am friends with (I love gay people. Love, love, love em.”

    Wow, that is pretty strong stuff. By your own admission, you are more comfortable with a room full of unbelievers than traditional Christians? (by the way, what is the difference between a Christian and a traditional Christian?). This is not by chance as you state, but your choice. It appears you love the world and unfortunately, we can not love both God and man 1 John 2:15 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

    Ok, so I have to earn your respect. Fine. I probably won’t. You can disregard me, block me from writing comments, write me off as some cookie hyper-religious traditional Christian Aunt who joined the family. That is fine. But, you can not disregard what the Word of God says. Again, by your own admission you spend little to no time reading it. If you did, you might find that your anger will be directed in a different direction, and you might enjoy spending time with true followers of Christ.

    I agree with you that God’s love must be manifest in Christians and we are to show His love, but it must be accompanied with God’s truth (which is shown to us in His Word, the Bible). Definition of a hypocrite according to Webster’s dictionary is “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”
    Is every true Christian a hypocrite if we confront someone’s sin because, aren’t we all sinners? Is there anyone then, that can in love, confront a sinner? Because, let’s be real, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God? I think that this “hypocrite” argument is not always such a good one. Aren’t all preachers hypocrites then because ,from the pulpit, they confront sinners? No, that is not true.
    There is no one that is perfect except for Jesus Christ. We are all born in sin, thanks to Adam, we all deserve the wrath of God. Through Christ’s atoning blood, Christians are no longer seen as filthy rags, but new creations, the old is put away , all things become new 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17. Then as new creations in Christ, with love, we can confront those who are living in sin, those in need of a Savior. We must be sure that our own personal lives reflect what we preach. I agree, one living in gross sin cannot tell another to live a holy life, that is hypocrisy. Does that make sense?
    The church must show love to ALL people. Now comes the hard part. Let’s be direct about this situation. Remember that many members of the LGBT have an agenda and they want to legalize their lifestyle on all of us. They want affirmation. They want the rest of us to embrace them and accept them regardless of our Christian principles. They will not rest until we all affirm them and we all accept them as normal and valid. If we stand firm in our Christian values and principles, we are seen as haters, and hypocrites. Christians are called to be watchmen for the truth, in love, with respect for all men. I will continue to stand for what is right according to God’s Word, showing love and respect to all men. If I am hated by men because I hold fast to the Truth, then to God be the glory.

  4. Hey Emily! I ran across your blog yesterday and I read this entry and saw Joan’s comment. I’m not trying to pick on anybody, but Joan’s comment made me physically ill.

    Keep fighting the good fight! I know it can’t be easy, but I don’t think for a moment that loving anybody is ever wrong, even if they have “an agenda and they want to legalize their lifestyle on all of us!”


Leave a Reply