By Joshua Romero
Finding solace. That word solace resonates with me. I’ve always seen it as the special sense of peace and comfort you get when you know that somehow everything’s going to be OK. For me, solace came when God told me He loves me and I knew that somehow everything would be OK—the gay thing, grad school, moving away.
Solace is an authentic hug from a friend giving you permission to cry and let out all of the hurt, frustration and anger. Solace doesn’t mean everything’s 100 percent OK or that problems are fixed. It means that right here, right now, you can just be. You can be you—good stuff, bad stuff, confusing stuff.
That’s what solace means to me. But what does solace really mean? Well, I went online and looked up “solace.” Here’s what dictionary.com says solace is: “comfort in sorrow, misfortune or trouble.”
In the world we live in today, it’s no wonder that so many of us are looking for solace. Bills are piling up, medical diagnoses are coming in, jobs are being lost, the environment is hurting, natural disasters ravage the poorest of nations. There is so much going on in the world and sometimes we just need to feel comfort. We just need to know that right here, right now we can be at peace somehow.
So we go looking for solace. We look for that person or that thing that will somehow embrace us and dissolve away all of the hurt and pain. We look for something real that lets us be ourselves, imperfections and all. We want to be loved and accepted, so we go looking for solace in any way we can—the high from a workout or a run, that passionate one-night stand that quickly fades, propped up against a bar trying our best to keep our balance. The problem with searching for solace is that we’ll never find it.
We already have it. We just don’t recognize it.
So often, we go about our lives letting others dictate who we are and what we should be. It’s as simple and superficial as that flashy ad telling us what to wear, drive, drink or eat. It can be as trying as Mom’s latest rant on what she thinks you should do with your career or free time. Or it can be as impossible as your religion telling you to be something you’re not.
I think of the young people we’ve lost to suicides in the past few weeks. And my heart breaks.
What if they had solace? What if they knew that above all else—the taunts of bullies, the disappointment of parents, the lack of social acceptance—that they were loved just the way they were? How would their decisions have been different?
That’s the reality of it, though. We are all loved by God. Sometimes this truth is impossible to believe, especially when everything about the world around us tells us we’re different.
And when we aren’t able to love ourselves, why would we value our lives?
They beauty of it is that we can overcome all of that and learn to love ourselves. Don’t let religion hold you back. Don’t let others’ views keep you shackled. Love yourself the way God loves you.
Remember the creation story? Sure, it’s peppered with theological questions and chronology that baffles quantum physicists, but it’s important to remember what God said when he stepped back and looked at all He’d created: “It is good.”
I am part of creation. And creation is good.
How different would life be for us if we lived in that truth? I am good.
I’m not bad because I’m gay. I’m not a deviant because I want to spend my life with a man, instead of a woman. I’m not less than because of who I am.
What an amazing feeling to have in the middle of the jeers—none of it matters. God says I’m good. The words of the Fred Phelpses of the world fade away. The jabs from our religious leaders lose their sting. I am good. That suicide note is no longer needed. I am good.
It’s when we live with this theological understanding of the good that God created us to be that we find solace.
—Joshua P. Romero is the founder and director of Solace, a peer support group for LGBTQ Christians in the coming out process. He serves as the Faith Issues Representative for HRC San Diego and is involved in the ministry of Missiongathering Christian Church in North Park. Joshua’s also spoken at conferences on issues of faith and sexual orientation. Read the Experience Solace blog at www.experiencesolace.org.