Last night I dreamt about my stepson, Josh. Even though he is technically only “mine” by marriage, he is a son to me regardless of biology. Joshua is intelligent, compassionate, smart, insightful, has ADHD and he’s also gay. He “came out” to us when he was 17 and, although it explained a few things, it didn’t change how his dad and I feel about him one bit. Josh is now 19 and no longer a boy scout, but in my dream he was still 13 and I was dropping him off at boy scout camp. I was apologizing to him that he wasn’t able to go to his usual camp like in years previous. The main camp, Camp Gorsuch, was very popular and filled up fast. I had turned in his application too late, there was no space for him and the fees were too high. This camp had space available and was less expensive.
I kept apologizing to Josh for not being able to send him to his usual camp at Gorsuch.
The strange part was that it wasn’t a traditional camp like you would expect, but rather a large building with many corridors and sections to it. As we toured the camp, I noticed how run down and dirty it was. I kept apologizing to Josh for not being able to send him to his usual camp at Gorsuch. This new camp was a place that was very familiar to me, at least the public areas of it were. However, there was a special area of the building reserved only for the campers. I was excited to finally get to see it and thrilled for Josh that he was getting to stay in such a “sacred” place where only boy scouts are allowed to enter. When we walked into his room, instead of a beds there were odd shaped cots made of flexible material. I found it odd, but he didn’t seem to mind and actually thought his bunk was comfortable.
After the tour was over, the famlies were asked to pay a little extra on top of the cost of the camp to cover the time and expense the camp had incurred by having us there for a family day. Initially I was upset about it, but then an older woman who helps run the camp explained that the boyscouts only allowed them $1 for each camper for the tour, when their cost to provide staff members and facilities for the families was much greater than that. When I considered the low price they were providing the camp for in the first place, I was willing to give them the $10 they asked for to make up the difference.
Honey, I love you for who you are but you can’t be OPEN here.
In my dream, not only did Joshua return to the age of an adolescent, but Masey also regressed to around age 3 or 4. We spent the night there at the camp, and as I laid her down I had concerns because everything seemed so unclean. The next day, I was standing next to Joshua when I overheard the camp director talking about the church that sponsors the camp, and the fact that he’s a pastor at yet another church when he’s not running the camp. I looked at Josh and noticed the rainbow necklace that was barely visible under the collar of his shirt. Suddenly overcome with fear, I realized Josh didn’t know about the official “scouting” policy regarding gays. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Honey, I love you for who you are but you can’t be OPEN here. They will kick you out of camp and probably out of boy scouts… I’m so sorry.” He seemed to understand, so I hugged him and walked away. As I looked back, I saw Josh behaving in a manner that made it clear he was not going to hide who he was. I smiled at him and nodded, letting him know I accepted his decision and I mentally prepared myself for the call I would eventually receive to come pick him up from camp.
Josh did NOT come to this camp by accident.
As I was gathering Masey up and preparing to leave, the camp director approached me hurriedly. He told me forcefully to make sure I got as many pictures of Josh’s first day at camp as I could and said Josh had announced his orientation to the camp. I was stunned… I hadn’t expected it to happen this fast, but at the same time I was proud of my kid. I began lecturing the camp director on how the Boy Scout policy on gays is ridiculous and unfair when he interupted me to say that Josh was welcome to stay. “But, you said he announced his orientation,” I stammered, “The pastor of the church who oversees the camp will find out… and the Boy Scouts…”
The camp director smiled at me, “No, no, you don’t understand! It’s ok… he’s a ‘beige!’” His explanation only confused me further. “Beige?” I asked, not sure if he meant Joshua or the pastor. “Yes! BEIGE!” He repeated, as if that would clear everything up. “He’s the SAME WAY.” Understanding finally crashed over me, he was telling me the pastor is also gay and that “beige” was some kind of code word for a man or woman of God who is gay and isn’t able to show their “true colors.” The camp director, himself a pastor, put his hands firmly on my shoulders, looked deeply into my eyes and said, “Josh did NOT come to this camp by accident. God brought him here for a REASON. He is welcome here and this is where he belongs.”
I looked around and spotted another young man from Josh’s troop who I know is also gay in “real life.” It ocurred to me this camp was less popular and not as well cared for because they refused to conform to the restrictions and ideals of their parent organization. Alaskans are renowned for our fierce independence and refusal to march to the beat of everyone else’s drum. I saw that the pastor who refered to himself as a “Beige” and the camp director were mavericks who chose the path they knew to be right rather than blindly following a dogma that conflicted with their values. I gave the camp director and enormous hug and exclaimed, “I LOVE Alaskans!” At that exact moment, my alarm rang.
After all… I am a MOTHER… so of course I am going to love my children and accept them no matter what.
Laying in bed and contemplating my dream, several messages continued to filter their way through the semi-counsious fog. Most vividly, I remembered the pastor/camp director repeating his message to me, like it was a matter of life or death for me to understand: Josh is NOT here by accident! There is a reason God brought him to this camp. The fact we hadn’t been able to send him to the other camp had not happened by chance at all. He was meant to be at this camp where he would be accepted and loved for who he is.
I felt guilty for the part of the dream where I asked him to hide who he is so that he could fit in. He’s my son and I am proud to love him EXACTLY the way he is and that is the true definition of “family values!” My mother is a nurse and worked with children with genetic and birth defects when I was little. She is a Christian as well and raised me with the values that EVERYONE deserves to be loved and accepted, no matter how different they are. How is it supporting “family values” to teach a child anything different? After all… I am a MOTHER… so of course I am going to love my children and accept them no matter what.
Joshua, you are my hero… and so is everyone else who has the courage to be true to who they are! Even in my dream you chose to be brave, to stand up for your right to be yourself with no shame or fear of ridicule and rejection. Don’t you ever, EVER hide that rainbow around your neck! Your colors are beautiful and should be displayed with PRIDE. Nobody should ever have to be “beige.”
The message I received from God in my dream came through to me loud and clear: having CHRISTIAN values means opening your arms to EVERYONE. I didn’t go to Sunday school very often growing up, and I don’t consider myself to be a relgious person, but even I got the message that Jesus accepted every person that came into his life, sinner and saint alike. He loved them, he served them, he washed their feet, he was pursecuted and died for them. He didn’t ask them their sexual orientation before breaking bread with them. The idea that God expects followers of Christ to only associate with other Christians makes NO SENSE to me. Whether or not you personally consider homosexuality to be a sin is irrelevant. The only way for the messages of God to reach EVERYONE… sinners or not, is for Christians to associate with EVERYONE.
The way to teach Christian values is to VALUE everyone. The driving ideal behind Christianity is to reach out and minister to everyone, not just Christians. Therefore, having CHRISTIAN “family values” means teaching your family the ways of Christ. In other words, we should be teaching our children to accept and love everyone, not just people like them. You cannot learn to love someone you refuse to associate with. It’s simply not possible and it’s not what I was taught growing up. I find it really, REALLY difficult to believe that God wants some of His children to exclude the ones THEY think are misbehaving in His eyes. After all, He’s a FATHER so of course He’s going to love and accept his children no matter what! I will never understand why people who call themselves Christians will refer to Him as a “father” but then seriously expect Him not to ACT like one.
As I lay in my bed this moring contemplating my dream, I realized I had been given an incredible parable during a time when so much controversy exists over organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and Chick-fil-a announcing official “policies” on homosexuality and “family values.” The outward appearance of the camp as “dirty.” The fear of letting my young daughter lay down and sleep there, holding her close as I toured the building. The special “inner place” for only “scouts” where other “non-scouts” were not welcome. The “cost” of accepting the scouts that other camps had rejected, and not just them but their entire families… There wasn’t a single aspect of the dream that wasn’t symbolic and purposefully designed. It was so vivid and detailed, unlike my usual dreams. Also noteworthy was the fact that I remembered all the details with clarity and purpose, something that never happens to me.
I knew from the moment I woke up that I was meant to share this dream. I felt measure of outrage at the people who DARE to call themselves Christians when they clearly miss the definition of what it means to BE a follower of the teachings of Christ. How many of them say “grace” every day but fail to grasp what it means to HAVE grace? You know what, that’s ok. I forgive them and I love them anyway, even if they are “lost” to the ways of God in my eyes. I may not go to church and I may not read the bible, but I understand enough about my Father to know those “Christians” are His children too.
So, even though they are choosing to disobey Him, I don’t have to follow their example. Instead, I’m going to follow the example HE gave me in my dream, the example my mother gave me as a child and the example I learned about in all those stories about Jesus. I’m going to love my family… ALL of my family. I’m going to teach my children FAMILY VALUES and CHRISTIAN VALUES: love your brother, Joshua REGARDLESS of who he loves. Love your neighbors, all of them. Even if they’re gay, black, ADHD, Muslim, democrat, transgendered or gang members with a prison record. Especially love those poor, confused people who think that being a good Christian means refusing to break bread with people they believe are sinners. I don’t have to worry about straightening them out… “Dad” will take care of it when He gets home.
-Sunny Aldrich, mom of 3 wonderful, amazing kids who know they will be loved unconditionally.