Last Sunday was one of those days when I wonder if my 'overshare' radar was out of service...it's not every day that I mention wanting to quit the church while I'm speaking in one! The reality is that it's hard...sometimes too hard. To walk the line of faith and religion, when the loudest voices that claim to speak for God are some of the most destructive. How can we claim a faith that is not destructive? Can we be a part of something that has such a mixed legacy (as all religions have), and still have integrity? I do believe that God is love...but God doesn't tweet horrible things about gay people.
So here we are. Human and hurting and trying and hoping. Our identities as people of faith and all of the other intricate and beautiful things about us, often at odds. It doesn't have to be this way, and yet, the only way to reverse it or reclaim it is by exampling what a world can look like, when all parts of ourselves are treasured and no longer parcelled and pitted against each other. What DOES that world look like? I want to know. I want to somehow be a part of it.
We talked about Coming Out and that it's never a one time thing. Many people have to come out daily - I calculated that I've done it 1,423 times, give or take. Each time is a huge question mark...how will people respond, am I safe, will this impact how they treat me, and so on. We can be as proud as anything, but this process is tiring and frankly, can be deadly. We come out and people say we're flaunting it. We stay in and people say we're ashamed.
Whenever we fail to meet people's assumptions, we feel "other" - whether it be around our sexuality, gender identity, mental health, family status, relationship status, career, education, etc. When will coming out cease to separate us and only serve to enrich our connection and understanding?
In my reflection I read an unfiltered email exchange between myself and a good friend of mine - Joanne. Joanne and I worked together for many years and she is now a Minister at a United Church in Calgary. I would call her my work wife or my Canadian mom - depending on the day. We've been through a lot together and she is someone who I know to be a soul that is working towards the world that we need. In my email I confessed my absolute grief and confusion over the mass shooting hate crime in Orlando, and how much it shook me to see the hateful things that religious leaders said in the aftermath. How could I be a part of a church - any church - when this is what the broader 'church' is known for? Joanne's reply was exactly what I needed, what maybe all of us need. We are loved even when we want to give up. We are not alone, even when we feel that way. And....well, listen to the sermon because you need to hear it in her words!
I realized today that I never responded to Joanne's email. THREE months have gone by and I never replied, even though it meant so much to me. (Don't worry, I apologized to Joanne over eggs this morning.)
It goes to show you, that you never know what impact you make. We send love in our own ways out into the universe, never quite knowing what will stick. And we may never know.
But I encourage you to not follow my lead - reach out to someone who has helped you somehow, however small, however long it's been. Guaranteed it will mean the world to them.
Lastly, I was thinking this...we never have to come out to God. We are created in God's image, and even though that seems like cheesy spiritual jargon sometimes, I do believe it's true. I reflect a certain piece, and you reflect another. No hierarchy. No reason for me to look like you or for you to be like me. God knows us fully, so there's no need for a coming out because there was never any reason for us to hide or be ashamed or fearful with God. Our insides and outsides created to be included and loved, already. Effortlessly.
May we deeply know and feel that truth.
Ps. We were honoured to hear from Stéphane on Sunday. A true gift.