as I walk

the journey to becoming me

Archive for the tag “christianity”

in the burning

smudges
from dust
blown by the wind
refinement
mortality
upheaval

Ash Wednesday though come and gone, has stayed with me. Lent begins with the recognition of mortality, that we came from dust and will return to dust. Ash and dust get blown by the wind from one place to another. Ash becomes ash from fire. It is in the burning that refinement happens to gold, it is in the burning that metal is softened enough to be molded into something useful. What feels like tumultuous upheaval, is a process of betterment.
I feel that I have been in that process for a few months now.
But I’m letting go.
I’m willing to be blown by the wind.
I’m willing to be softened and formed.
I’m willing to let the slag go.
I’m willing to rest in my fragile mortality.
I’m willing to sit in the burning.

Purity

Purity.
Pure.
Puritan.

How do you want to take it?  For the Christian, the question is more about what God says and how that intersects with our lives.  I’ve been thinking of purity quite a bit this past month.  There are times that I felt as though I had fallen short of God’s standard for purity.  Then there were other times that I felt that I was perfectly walking in His will.
I’ve been trying to remember to keep Him at the center of my life.  It’s those times that I don’t even question anything about purity.  He’s there for me and with me.  He guides me and leads me.
For so long, when I heard “purity” I would immediately think about sex.  Isn’t that kind of opposite from what’s supposed to happen?  I would think about the things that I’m supposed to not do in order to remain “pure”.  It just seemed backwards.  Then I’d think about the “ring”.  Purity rings.  It’s about waiting for God to bring along the right person.  Every time I’d look at mine I’d get frustrated thinking about whoever that person would be and not about seeking God.  After spending more and more time with Him, I’ve finally begun to shift my views.  Now, I hear the word, and I think about Love.  His Love for me.  That’s pure.  That’s unadulterated.  That’s organic.  That has no red dye, no pesticides, and is gluten-free.
I used to be known as a prude.  A puritan.  I defined my Christianity by what I didn’t do.  I didn’t drink.  I didn’t smoke.  I didn’t do drugs.  I didn’t listen to secular music.  I didn’t have sex.  What I lacked in doing, I made up for in legalism and hypocrisy.  Now, if people were to define my Christianity by what I don’t do, I’m sure I’d be deemed as going to hell.  I learned that Christianity isn’t about being puritanical.  It’s about following Jesus – whether your life is messy or clean.

I’m not perfect, and I know I never will be.  But I love Jesus.  I want to follow Him.  I also love others and want to love them well with a love that is pure – free from judgment, envy, and malice.
That is purity.

a frustrating run

I decided to take advantage of the cool night and go for a run.  It’s been so hot this summer that I haven’t gotten much running in which means a couple of things – that my body isn’t as happy as it used to be and that my brain is getting a bit overloaded without much of a release.  So since it was cool (less than 80), I put on my shoes and headphones and just took off.  I didn’t have a route planned out.  I just was excited to go.  My favorite part of running is “green pepper head”.  There are a few seeds rattling around up there, but it’s mostly empty.  It’s a time that everything clears and I can just breathe.
I ended up running 2.5 miles (not as much as I would have liked, but that’s still fairly respectable) through Ravenswood and Andersonville.  I started running north and ran past a lesbian wine bar I keep thinking would be fun (scary) to go to, except I don’t care for wine.  I’ve run past it several times, but this was the first while it was open.  There were a few couples at the tables on the sidewalk and I felt a pang of loneliness.  I shook it off and kept going.  When I hit Clark Street, I started to think about how much I love Chicago.  I ran past the 48th Ward’s showing of a movie in a shoe store’s parking lot.  I ran past beautiful people sitting outside having drinks.  I ran past beautiful people coming out of a gym.  I ran past the Cancer Center on Ashland – beyond their fencing, I saw a tranquil landscape with benches and a fountain.  I wanted to hop the fence and sit there with my thoughts, but not being a law-breaker, I kept going and eventually ran to the church that I’ve been sort of attending.  On a Tuesday night, it’s just an entrance to the Methodist hospital.  Figuring it was as good of a place as any to catch my breath, I bent forward with my hands resting on my thighs and thought back to my previous post.
It may not so much be the post itself – it was a comment.
Leaving the church.
I didn’t leave THE church.  I left A church.
It’s not that I felt I had to leave it.  I know I could have stayed there and gotten something out of it.  Part of me really wanted to.  It was really hard to leave.  I left friends and a community that I had grown to cherish.  Then there was my ego.  I didn’t want people to think that I stopped being a Christian, that I gave up on God.
The truth of the matter is I left because it would be a one way church relationship.  I’m not comfortable with that.  If I wanted my religion to go in one direction only, I’d be a Buddhist.  I’d be interested in myself and enlightenment.  I want to serve and to lead.  I want to be in community.  I want a real relationship.
So, I left.  I started going to a new church.  An inclusive church.  A church that I never once within its walls felt shame.
Yet, it still doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t feel like home.  I keep thinking something is missing – that’s why it’s just not clicking for me.  Tonight while taking that pause, I for the first time wondered if the thing that’s missing has nothing to do with the church, but with me.
What’s missing in me?  Or better yet, what’s replaced what it is I’ve lost?  Skepticism.  Doubt.  Fear.  Inability/desire to engage.  There are many things that have taken up residence inside that I just don’t know how to shake.  Some of it is a defensive reaction to wounding.  Some of it is just a result of not being in community for a while.  So, I force myself to go back again and again hoping something will change inside, and nothing does.
I tell myself if I try another church things will be different, but Fear says I won’t find one, and if I do, they won’t accept me.

I don’t know what I need to do or where I need to go.

My brain wouldn’t shut off and now I’m more frustrated than when I took the first step last night.

wounder and wounded

There’s something that’s been eating away at me for a couple of weeks.  When I first heard it, I knew it affected me, I just hadn’t quite realized that it would infect me.  I keep going back to that night wondering what I should have done.  I wonder if I should have stepped way outside of my comfort zone and talked to them.  I wonder if I should have apologized on behalf of Christians.  I wonder if I should have tried to not overhear their conversation so I could go on with life.  I wonder how many others have this wound.

Just about every person we meet in this life is wounded in some way.  Some have been hurt by family, friends, co-workers, the government, and some by the church.
The church.
That’s the hardest wound to heal from and there will always be a scar.  Perhaps the wounds are deeper and more gruesome because it’s a collective of people that we think represents God.
God doesn’t wound us.  He’s the healer.  He’s the antidote.  He’s the comfort.  It’s the people who claim they know what He says and then act without the greater command of love who injure.  Yet when the church as a whole says or does something that seems to hit us in our very core, our gut reaction is to isolate ourselves from the One who could mend it before it becomes a scar.  We feel that it’s God telling us that we aren’t wanted.  We feel it’s God who says that we aren’t good enough.  We feel it’s God who isn’t loving us.

It’s man.
Man.  Flesh.  Humanity.  We are the ones who fear and hate and withhold love.

That Friday night at a bar and I overheard a lesbian couple trying to sort out what to do now that they can’t be in their church, my heart broke.  They said they felt abandoned and disconnected from God.  I wish I could say that my heart broke out of pure compassion, but it was partly out of guilt.
I have been on both sides of this story.  I’m not proud of it.  Several years ago, I honestly thought I was doing the right thing.  How arrogant and foolish.  I destroyed a friendship because I thought I was speaking for God.  I told a close friend that I couldn’t even eat with her if she chose that lifestyle.  I was the church.  I caused wounds.  I left scars.
At the beginning of this year, after intense prayer, research, therapy, programs… I became the one sitting across the table telling a friend that I was going to start to pursue a same-sex dating relationship.  For the most part, I was treated with way more grace and love than I had showed my friend.  There were a few friendships that I lost because of it and things aren’t so great with my mother.  Yet, the hardest part in all of it, was knowing that I had to leave my church.  It wasn’t that leadership said I couldn’t attend.  I knew I couldn’t serve in any area that felt meaningful or like an act of worship, so I chose to leave.

I regret not saying something to that couple.  Even if I said the wrong thing, if I said it with love, maybe it could have at least had some healing.  Maybe I really just wanted to say something to make up for my past wrong.
I am sorry.

The world has changed for the better

So I’ve mentioned a few times that the documentary Fish Out Of Water is incredible and that pretty much every person alive needs to watch it (not hyperbolic at all).  Last night, I actually emailed the writer/director of it and thanked her.  I shared a little bit about where I’m coming from, but mostly, I just thanked her for speaking the truth clearly and concisely in a non-threatening way.
What I didn’t expect was a response back (and in less than 24 hours).  She gave me even more information and hope.   It’s these things that may seem little, that have the largest impact on me.  I’m going to close this post with the very same words she closed her email to me –
“The world has changed for the better.  Don’t waste any more time thinking you’re flawed and denying yourself loving, solid, transformative, joy-bringing relationships.   We all deserve love and commitment.  Claim it for yourself.”

The Real Jesus

The first time I was in a parade, I was in middle school.  I had won some kind of an award with the Ohio Optimists Club (not really sure how).  Part of the prize/honor was riding on a float for the 4th of July parade.  It was a South Pacific theme.  I remember wearing rolled up jeans, a blue shirt tied in the front (don’t laugh at me) and a sailor’s hat.  I remember sitting on the float just waving (I was told to wave).  I don’t remember much of it.  In fact, I had totally forgotten about it until last week.
Last week I said yes to helping out the Center on Halsted.  They do great work for the LGBT community.  I signed up awhile back to volunteer with their youth and transgender programs.  So when given the opportunity to walk with them in the Pride Parade, I said yes.
I feel like I need to preface some things here (and I’m aware that it’s no longer a preface since it’s already 2 paragraphs in).  I hate parades.  I didn’t like the one I was in (could be blamed on hearing “Bali Hai” over and over again and being downwind from the volcano “smoke”), I despise watching the Macy’s parade, or any other parade for that matter.  I find them crowded, stressful, boring, and wasteful.  I am not a parade kinda gal.
So why did I say yes?  Because I am all for the work that the Center does.  I’m excited that I’ll be able to be a part of that work in the future.  There’s that.  But, there’s also that I wanted to see what this parade was all about and marching for 3 miles seemed like a better choice than viewing it from the sidelines with roughly 850,000 other people (no joke, that’s the official estimate – which sounds like an oxymoron… official estimate).
At the beginning when we were getting the float all set up, I could already tell it was going to be way different from that parade in Ohio.  First of all, it was fun.  People were excited and happy and hugging… it was a great energy.  Then I looked over at the other floats in our area… and was amazed at all the different organizations, churches, and services that were there.  Gay hockey.  Gay Rodeo.  Free HIV testing.  There were lots of churches.  Then of course there were what I would classify as the “party floats”.  These were the ones that my brain assumed all floats would be at the Pride parade.  Guys in just underwear dancing, chicks only wearing stickers in lieu of shirts dancing… that sort of thing.  The party floats though, were not the majority.
Even with a crowd of 850,000, I was able to see a few friends in the crowd.  It felt great knowing that they came out to support me.  I was proud of myself today.  I forced myself to be social.  I chatted with a few of my fellow marchers.  I saw someone in another float that I knew and went up and said hi.  This is a pretty big deal for me.  I realize that the older I get, the more introverted I become.  So marching in a parade… not my comfort zone at all.
Everything was going really well during the march.  The forecast called for thunderstorms, but it stayed gorgeous and sunny the entire time (by the way, I’m totally burnt and crispy right now).  Towards the end of the route on the right hand side, there was a “pastor” – I put that in quotes because I think that anyone that spews hate out of a megaphone should not be leading people and is just a “pastor” in name only – with a ton of signs condemning the LGBT community.  He also was going on and on about how we’re evil and going to burn in hell fire forever.  I cried.  I can’t describe what that made me feel, but tears were the response.  What saved that scene from being terrible were a few things actually.  There was a man holding an arrow sign pointing to the “pastor” that said “Secretly Gay”.  I loved it.  It added a bit of humor to the situation.  Then there were other churches around apologizing for his hate rhetoric and offering hugs, prayer, love, and inclusion.  One had a sign that said “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and they had a rainbow on it.  That’s what my dad said to me when I told him I was going to start dating women.  That if God and I are cool, then he can’t say anything about it.  So seeing that sign brought a little bit more peace and a lot of comfort to me.  Those groups definitely showed Jesus’ love to all and helped to squash out the negative from the “pastor”.
So all in all, I wouldn’t do it again – but that’s because I’m not a parade person.  But, I am so glad that I went.  I’m so glad that I could be a part of it.  More importantly though, I’m glad that the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of my heart was there today to squash the negative voices and to love on all people.

two words

2:45am

I know that I’ve talked about labels some before, but it’s still weighing on me.  So here’s the deal, I don’t know what I am.  That’s not true.  I do know – I am an awesome chick.  There, I said it.  What a relief.  However… I realized this evening that I might start exploring two different labels.  Not so much to identify myself to others, rather, to know myself a bit better and to be in better relationship to others.
I’d be lying if I said that writing this out wasn’t a little bit frightening.  These words seem even scarier than lesbian (which as you may recall I don’t like).  These particular labels… words really… seem… out there.  You’ve been warned.

Pan-sexual.  I feel like I just threw a grenade.  Let me back up for a minute here.  Most of society operates on a perceived notion that there are only two genders – male and female.  This is referred to as the gender binary.  From what I’ve read and experienced, I’m learning that this is simply not true.  Even if you were to ignore the cases of transsexuals (pre and post op), there are still at the very least medically diagnostically proven cases of inter-sex folks.  These are people who are born with both male and female organs.  Then there are those with an extra X or Y chromosome that drastically affects their gender presentation and gender identity.  These folks do not fall into the rigid male / female categories.  There are those also who see themselves as androgynous, those without gender, and then there are folks who fall somewhere in between who don’t truly feel that they are one or the other.  Now with that lesson under our belt, someone who is pan-sexual is attracted to any gender and does not buy into the rigid gender binary view.  After getting to meet Summer,  and then chatting with Renée (who has no plans to medically transition), I definitely oppose the gender binary.
So, what I’ve realized is that I’m attracted to women.  I’m attracted to MTF (male to female) transsexuals, and I’m finally opening up to the idea of being attracted to men.  A friend put it this way, that I’m just attracted to people with good qualities.  That my friends is pan-sexual.  I really feel that it doesn’t matter who I end up with – whatever their external gender presentation and internal gender identity is… as long as they are awesome.

That was a little heavy.  Let me try to lighten it up some for you.
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Genderqueer.
Wait, what????

Remember when I said that there are some folks who are totally comfortable with who they are, may not present in traditional gender stereotypes and have no plans to medically transition from one gender to the other because neither one really fits them?  Umm… hi.   Perhaps a more relate-able or palatable term would be gender non-conformist.  Now as I’ve mentioned time and time again, I hate labels.  Yet, I don’t mind checking off “female” on forms (not all genderqueers would say that’s true).  But there are a few areas that I have a hard time with – mostly in clothing/presentation.  I work in an environment with a strict male dress code and a strict female dress code.   I’ve been fightingwith management and human resources since I got my uniform to allow me to wear the men’s neck tie instead of the women’s scarf (think flight attendant).  For the first couple weeks, every time I had to put on that scarf, I felt a deep sense of shame and humiliation. I can’t even begin to explain how horrible I felt.  I would go in my car and cry before and after work because it felt so incongruous to who I am.  I had a very female reaction to having to wear something female.  None of my friends or co-workers could understand how I felt.  Some tried to be supportive… but ultimately they thought I was being overly dramatic and most… most LIKED the scarf.  I felt alone.  The only thing that changed for me is that I got some safety pins and a paper clip and made it into a tie.   For the record, I’m still fighting to get that blasted tie instead.

The scarf / tie

The scarf / tie

For the most part, I dress in guy’s clothing and I now have short hair.  But, I wear girly smelling stuff – bath splashes, perfumes, and deodorant.  I even painted my nails.  There are lots of areas I’m now realizing that I’m happy with my girly side, and there are lots where I want to keep up with my masculine side.  But mostly, I think I try to present a fairly neutral side.  I’m not trying to compartmentalize all of it, I just go with the flow.

I’ve felt this way for years, maybe even decades, but I didn’t know what it was called, nor did I know that anyone had similar experiences.  I’ve got to say, it’s a little bit freeing to be able to call it something other than “freak” or “wrong” or just plain “screwed up”.  It’s not who I am, but it does make up a part of me.

So here’s a very big question to follow up:  Where does this put me theologically?  Well, I know that God is the Creator and He does not make mistakes.  I know that God is love.  I also know that my line of thinking flies in the face of what many perceive Christianity to be.  Yet, that camp has a tendency to forget that Jesus is all about love and grace.  I’ve got to say though, that I’m hesitant to even bring up grace right now.  Grace implies sin and/or error.  Gender identity and gender expression are merely facets to who a person is.  God loves us all – gay or straight, pan or a-sexual, male, female, or somewhere between.  He loves everyone.  He loves those who are condemned.  He even loves those who do the condemning.  I could go on and dissect the Scriptures to try to prove to you that I’m not off base, but I think it would undermine the main message of Love.
So that’s where I stand theologically, that God loves you, God loves me, and God loves “them”.

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