Sometimes a bark comes without a bite…

Lucy and I went for our walk this morning like we do every morning.  We had a little run in with another dog that left me sweating and my heart beating out of my chest.  I love dogs.  I really do.  If you saw me with my Lucy, you would understand how much I love dogs.  But…I’m also afraid of them…here’s why…

When I was 15 years old, I was hanging out with some of my friends.  We were outside of my friend’s house when her neighbor came pulling out of his driveway with his German Shepherd tied up in the back of his pickup truck. The guys we were with teased the dog.  Not physically…but they were barking at it and yelling at it…being obnoxious boys basically. You could tell it agitated the dog.  It was a short errand and we were still out front when he came back.  The boys again did their best to aggravate the dog.  We told them to stop, but they didn’t.  When the owner put the dog in the backyard, he didn’t realize that the gate wasn’t completely latched.  He went in the house, and the dog came tearing around to the front.  There was a block retaining wall that everyone jumped up on to get away from the dog…except for me. Being vertically challenged…I couldn’t physically get up there.  And although I wasn’t mean to the dog, he took his aggression out on me.  I didn’t run because I knew he would only chase me.  He jumped up on his hind legs and put his front paws on my shoulders.  Yes the dog was as tall as me.  I tried to push him off of me and that’s when he grabbed my right arm.  Have you ever seen one of those police videos where they show someone with protective gear getting attacked by the police dog?  Well that was me…except no protective gear.  My friends were yelling for the dog to get off of me, but he was shaking my arm like I was a rag doll.  The owner heard the commotion and came running out the front door calling for the dog.  It wasn’t listening.  As much as I hated to do it, because I would never intentionally hurt an animal, I punched the dog in the face.  That got him to stop long enough to hear his owner calling him and he went running to him. The owner came out to check on me.  I had a wind breaker on and it wasn’t ripped so he thought the dog must not have bitten me very badly.  The weird thing is that when I got home and took my jacket off, my shirt underneath was ripped.  You could see the imprint of the dogs teeth on my arm.  His whole mouth.  There was some blood and lots of bruising and the next day my arm was swollen as all get out.

So…this experience has made me very suspect of dogs.  Again, I love them, but I need to get to know them before I trust them.  Once they show me they aren’t going to try to rip my arm off, I’m usually good friends with them (smile).

There are times my Christian friends will ask me, “Why are gay people so angry all the time?  What do they have against Christians…they seem to hate us!”  Well that can be complicated, but the simple answer is…they’ve been “bitten.”  And what you see as anger or sometimes even hate comes from a place of self-preservation.  They may not understand that not all Christians “bite.”  I didn’t do anything to that dog, but he saw me as part of the group that did and he took it out on me.

Similar to a dog owner telling you, “Don’t worry.  My dog is friendly,” then uncharacteristic of the dog they try to bite you.  Christians should be people who others shouldn’t have to be afraid of, but sometimes they lash out in unfriendly and hurtful ways.  The good news is…they aren’t all like that.   I have some very supportive Christians in my life…even if we don’t see eye to eye on the LGBTQ community.  Now some have “barked” a few times…but it never resulted in a “bite.”  I have been hurt, but I knew it came from a place of ignorance.  Like I’ve said before…you don’t know what you don’t know.  Some of the people who have hurt me are now trying to be allies.  They want to learn.  If I had retreated and believed that all Christians would hurt me, maybe God would have never had the opportunity to grab hold of their hearts in this area.

I was attacked by that dog 34 years ago and I can still see it vividly in my mind as if I’m watching a movie. I know that not all dogs are mean, but it doesn’t change the fact that they scare me.  And as far as my fellow Christians go…I’m wary of them too sometimes.  I think it just comes with the territory.  When you’ve been hurt, it’s hard to let your guard down. I have shared some horrendous things that have happened to the LGBTQ community at the hands of people who call themselves Christians.  On the flip side, I want to tell you that I know many eager Christians that want to help, want to love, want to embrace the LGBTQ community and just don’t know how.  If we shut them down, they will never learn.

Once you learn what the LGBTQ community has gone through, you become really sensitive to the things that hurt them.  If I were in a Star Wars movie, Darth Vader would say, “The cringe factor is strong with this one,” about me.  If I’m that sensitive, how much more sensitive is that community?  I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to them…or allies…because you are afraid of saying something wrong.  I’m just asking that we be sensitive of each other.  We may “bark” at each other from time to time…but let’s not “bite.”  We will never get anywhere if that happens.  Let’s walk together and remember to have grace, mercy, and most of all love…

Because love matters…

(This post is meant to have us each think of what the “other side” might be going through as we navigate these waters.  I am in no way suggesting that if you are being abused you should remain in that situation, or allow it to continue.)