Dancing in the Grey

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I used to think it was evidence of weakness. Used to think I lacked conviction. I felt like a sub-standard Christian… too much or not enough, depending on the day.


How could I understand and believe in a biblical view of marriage, designed, by God, to be between one man and one woman and, yet, desire the opportunity for legal union for my homosexual friends and neighbors? I can wax on about how wonderful my “traditional” family is. I do believe that my children are thriving with two committed parents– one mother, one father.


But I watch the two men who sit across the aisle and a couple rows back. I see their heads bowed in prayerful worship. Listen to their voices raised in song. And I know, sure as I know the color of my own eyes, that if I were given the opportunity to ask them ONE question– one question about anything at all– my query would have nothing at all to do with their “sinful relationship.” No. I’d ask them how on earth they get their dress shirts so blindingly white.


What does that say about me? I used to think it said that I was weak-minded.


I hear all the arguments for modest dress. I consider the value in ensuring I don’t become some sort of “stumbling block” for my brothers in Christ. A part of me can nod along, appreciating the theory. After all, there’s enough depravity in the world without my exposed flesh adding to it, right?


Another part of me rolls her eyes and demands, “How is this even a discussion point? Why are we arguing skirt length and exposed cleavage in 2012? People are STARVING. Babies are DYING. There are just bigger things for me to worry about than whether the backs of my knees are showing.”


Truth? I don’t even OWN a slip. So there.


I stand strong and defend the unborn, over and over reviewing my reasons. I will not be swayed in this and,  yet, my heart hurts when I hear scathing remarks suggesting I “believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.” Or, perhaps even worse, that I’m judging fellow women and have absolutely NO right to do so since I’ve not walked in their shoes.


My words never fumble, but my heart– oh, my heart aches with the knowing that, in speaking for those who cannot defend themselves, I might be hurting another. I feel genuine remorse for this, despite my strong convictions.


I used to think this meant I lacked spine.


For years now, I’ve wondered what all this says about me.


I’m a practicing Catholic with traditional values, to be sure.


I’m also the girl who asked two of her best friends from college– two gay men– to sing at her (Catholic) wedding. I have no shame in this.  I watched many an old lady weep at the beauty of Ave Maria on that evening. And I cried genuine tears when they mouthed, “Love you, Jess” at the end of their duet.


It’s just… hard.


If I truly reveal myself for all the myriad of facets I am, I feel contradictory. I fret that people will think I’m judging too much or enforcing biblical law too little. Perhaps I am guilty of both.


I used to think all this was an indication that I’m weak– weak-minded, weak-hearted, weak of conviction.


I’m starting to realize that that’s not it at all. If anything, it’s taken years to get comfortable enough with myself to get to this point. It’s taken a lot of hard thought and heart-seeking to get to a spot where I could shake my head at all the black and white ideas out there.


It’s taken me a long time to learn to dance in the grey.


But I rather like it here. No matter what it says about me.

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26 comments to Dancing in the Grey

  • Deanna

    I could have penned a lot of this about myself. There’s a lot of grey in my life and I don’t feel particularly apologetic about it either. Thank you for speaking so clearly what many of us feel. You’re a blessing!

  • Marcia

    Yet again, you have taken the words from my soul and formed them on screen.

    I know all too well the discomfort caused by the modesty issue…..after all, wasn’t my discomfort at trying to follow all of the rules without donning a long sleeved, floor length, turtleneck dress (which would undoubtedly have been too clingy) ENOUGH? If they weren’t grown up enough to look me in they eye instead of addressing their comments to my bust, was I at fault? Should I be ashamed of the way God formed me?

    My cousin and her partner are two of the most wonderful humans I have ever met. They share a genuine rapport that is so rare. With over 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, how am I supposed to get upset that they have been in a long term monogamous relationship for 15 years? Frankly, I’m too tired from worrying about my own marriage and relationships with others to get too worked up about it…..and to use the “Sin is sin” argument – God gets just as upset when I commit a “small” sin like being unjust or whenever someone has a lustful thought…..

    But there ARE some things worth fighting about. My husband and I struggled for 5 years to have our little one. I didn’t understand why God was withholding a child from us. I know the value of human life, from the moment they are knit in their mother’s womb to the grave. THESE ARE THE THINGS WORTH FIGHTING FOR. Not making sure someone isn’t looking at the back of my very chubby knees….

    Thank you again for saying what I could not verbalize.

    • Oh, Marcia, thank you, truly, for sharing these experiences and personal connections. Putting names and faces with “concepts” is critical if we’re to show human compassion. It’s too easy to speak out against acts without bothering to know the people behind them. I am grateful to you for helping to open eyes.

  • And all I can think while reading this post: wow, JessieLeigh sure knows how to love. And isnt that what Jesus is all about? I struggle with this a lot too. You see, I come from a VERY conservative background. I was teased in school for wearing nail polish. People tear each other down becuase one wears earrings and dyes her hair and the other preaches that if God wanted it that way, she would be born with it. It’s all kinda petty isn’t it? I will say I have strong convictions. I know what God writes about in the bible and I don’t doubt that it’s ALL truth. But I know that He says a lot about love too. And not lying. And not judging. So yeah, I struggle a lot. I’m so proud to call you my friend, what a brave writer you are and as always; spot on.

    • Thank you, again, Miranda for your kindness and support. I thought of you reading this, to be honest, and wondered what you would think. I know you’ve been raised with a conservative background and I welcome your perspective on all this! Thanks for commenting!

  • Wow, JessieLeigh, I love this post. You said it perfectly and said so many of the things I’ve been saying myself for the past few years. Thank you. A beautiful, beautiful post.

  • Celine

    Oh how I know this struggle. So very glad to know I am not the only one dancing in the grey.

  • Cathy

    Thanks for posting, I have struggled with this too. Seems like many of us out there are finding the beauty in the grey.

  • The “grey” is real and it says you aren’t petty or fake and that you really think about what you do and how you think affects those around you.

    • The grey IS real, Heather. And gritty. And raw. And sometimes uncomfortable. The grey makes you vulnerable. But it also opens you up to all kinds of opportunities for love and compassion. And that makes it worth it.

  • Tara

    Amen! Awesome post! I also live and embrace the ‘grey’.

  • Susie

    Isn’t that just hating the sin and loving the sinner?

    • I think that’s some of it, Susie. But I think it also has to do with where the weight of that– the focus– is. I’m getting to a point where I believe more and more that my time is better spent LOVING without feeling the need to unendingly express my hatred of the sin. Honestly, I think I’m more likely to draw people closer to Christ by behaving in that way– through a willingness to love without the attachment of a condemnation of acts. Is it perfect? Heavens, no. But, for me, I think it’s where I need to be. More, I think it’s who God is asking me to be.

  • Susie

    Oh definitely. I heard the most excellent interview on the radio (which I can’t find – grrr) of a woman who was running abortion clinics. She said the Christian “haters” who yelled insults at her were easy to ignore, but the one man who loved her was her undoing :-)

  • Dancing in the Grey sounds so much better than Wishy Washy, which is how I feel about some things.

    Not modesty, though. I’ve seen entirely too many teenage girls in skimpy bikinis to be wishy washy on that. There really is just no reason for it.

    My gay cousin… the one with the two boys born “drug babies”. Well, I pretty much think he and his partner/husband saved those babies’ lives, and I wonder “how can I fault them for that?”

    • I absolutely agree that teen girls do not belong in skimpy bikinis. I also believe most of us are more attractive in more than a few strings, though I think there’s a big difference between teen girls and grown women. But, perhaps even more importantly, I think teenaged girls do not belong in bikinis because they are children, they should have self-respect and dignity, and they should honor their innocence in a way that also helps keep them SAFE. All that to say– it is NOT their job to keep boys and men from looking at them, in my opinion. That onus falls on the males of the species and I refuse to believe they are all so inherently weak that they cannot resist scoping out a child, no matter how scantily clad she may be. (<– sorry. That topic gets me fired up, apparently. ;))

    • (Also? Bless your cousin and his husband. Truly. I’ve seen those situations myself and I am always just so grateful that these babies are witnessing love, which is so much more than they were born into.)

  • So glad I found this! I feel the same way so many times. My dad was a defense attorney for those who picketed abortion clinics. Both me and my sisters adamently pro-life. One, an outspoken crusader for the unborn, and me I have a desperate desire to love the mother through her brave and beautiful choice of life. I just don’t know what the law should do. Sounds like we are dancing together in this space

  • I think you’ve written out some messy questions that a lot of deal with but won’t acknowledge. Thank you for being willing to start a discussion – for embracing this tension.

  • Hard questions, all, spoken to with a compassion- evidence of God moving in your heart. When we know grace intimately, we long to show it, as well. I, too, have come to see that life is not an oreo experience. The beauty is that the Lover of our Soul is not a God of rigidity, but rather love. He allows us to be where we are, and embraces us in the grey, too.

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