Laurel or Yanny? A Word on Generosity to the Presbyterian Church

In our house we were evenly split between yanny and laurel.* Personally, I was a yanny man, but my wife heard laurel. I tried everything but I simply couldn’t hear laurel and it was the same in reverse from her side. It would have been easy to get impatient with one another, even angry, and we might have done, if it hadn’t been such a trivial thing.

We’ve learned one or two things though in our decades of married life. One is that there are some issues over which we must give one another the benefit of the doubt. So, for the sake of our marriage, I accept that my wife heard laurel…she’s wrong! but I accept she heard it. We are obviously wired differently, but maybe that’s also what makes our relationship work.

And hearing laurel does not make her a bad person. I know that because I know many other things about her besides that she hears laurel… like how kind she is, and considerate. How patient she is with me in lots of ways. How boundless in generosity and in willingness to put herself out for others. Hearing laurel as she does, does not undo all these good things about her.

For any marriage to survive beyond the early infatuation I guess it requires this kind of generosity. And when it goes, then the relationship becomes fragile.

Here’s the thing. I read my bible and I see radical inclusion. I read my bible and I see the outsider being brought inside. I see the Law through the lens of kindness, and where the Law results in an unkindness, the biblical thing is to change the Law. It’s how Ruth was accepted into the people of Israel. It’s how we eventually addressed the issue of slavery.

And it’s how the world works when we are at our best. Witness the welcoming of the Malian Mamoudou Gassama as a French citizen after having rescued a child from a Parisian balcony. He was hailed a hero in France and the country generously extended the law to include him as a citizen on the basis of his heroism.

However hard I try, I cannot read my bible and see the exclusion of LGBT brothers and sisters from my church. I cannot see how anyone could deny the right to loving, exclusive and committed same-sex relationships. I cannot see how one could fail to baptise the children of these relationships.

I see yanny, and you see laurel. I’m doing my best to accept that you see the world and the bible the way you see it. It doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. You may be wrong (as I may be) but not bad. Somehow we need to find the generosity to accept this in one another, for the sake of the marriage.

I know so many other good things about you that this one thing shouldn’t undo. So I’ll try and be generous. But I need you to be too. We hear different things in our bible….can we just accept that for now in order to keep talking?

I’d like you to understand that I did not come to this understanding of the Scriptures because I am inherently unstable or wilfully disobedient. I need you to believe me when I say I have read and studied my bible diligently, and still do. I have spent more than a decade in formal theological training.

The reality as I understand it is that there is no way you are going to persuade me or argue me to your opinion any more than I can persuade you. For though my diligent study has brought me towards a position of radical inclusion, I only finally bridged the gap through conversion. In Jesus’ term, I was born again.

It was through the reading of my bible AND encounter with those who are members of the LGBT community. It was study, reflection, AND extended exposure to the company, friendship and deep conversation of gay friends. I saw that they  are complex, multi-dimensional people just like me, and are not defined solely by their sexual orientation any more than I am defined by mine. Furthermore, I cannot deny the deep faith I see in them nor, for those in exclusive relationships, the real, genuine, abiding love they have for their partner. I’m saddened that by the decision we took last week we have may have denied ourselves the opportunity of sustained and real encounter, and thereby the possibility of conversion (unless of course we find more generosity in our gay brothers and sisters than we extended to them).

When I converted, or was born again, it was a whole new world. So new in fact, that the old world didn’t make sense any more, and I couldn’t live there.

You hear laurel, some of us can’t help but see yanny.

Let’s start again by accepting one another as genuine in what we hear, so that we can begin to talk meaningfully about how we might save the marriage.

If you’re baffled by what I’m referring to, follow this LINK.



Leave a Reply