Today was my first day down from a mountain. Have you ever had that experience, either literally, emotionally or spiritually? It’s like sitting in a place where you can see clearly, breath cleanly and have the freedom to be keenly aware of all that is going on around you through every one of your senses. It is those moments that you know life is changing. You want to extend them not only because of the fact that they are refreshing, but also because you don’t want to miss a single element or purpose of the change that is taking place; you want to process all the nuances of it so that when you do return to the “valley” of life, you know exactly what you are supposed to be bringing along.
That is exactly what I felt this week at the 2016 GCN Conference. I have four more posts I’m working on in response to things that happened and messages I heard these last five days. (Only four because the semester is about to start again and things are going to get busy!) Before I get into the details of the week, I thought I should spend some keystrokes capturing exactly what made it such a note worthy event in the annals of my life. I won’t do it justice, but as a writer and life-watcher, I must make an attempt.
About half way through the event I realized that I was engaging in three ways – all of them connected and part of “me”, but each of them providing a unique perspective on what was happening in, around and through me.
As a Trans-Lesbian Woman
The process of coming to terms with my own identity has been grueling. It’s taken years of work. It’s damaged relationships – some beyond repair. It has pushed me to the brink of taking my own life and the pulled back to some of the most serene and peaceful moments I’ve ever experienced. When I look at all the dynamics of what has happened over the course of my life, it is easy to believe that I am alone in my wanderings.
I am not.
This week I met others who have struggled and I heard stories that validated my own. The amazing thing was that I not only heard these stories from random connections, I heard them en masse.
Around every corner, on every elevator ride, in every session and every workshop I met people who had either found or were desperately seeking ways to survive.
Many of them, as I am beginning to see in my own life, were experiencing greater grace, peace and satisfaction than they had thought possible in life. The volume of the stories – both the quantity of them and the noise the made – brought about a great sense of hope, not only for myself but for the idea that future generations my not suffer what we have suffered, just like we are not suffering what those before us have endured.
As an LGBT Parent
I’ve connected with an amazing group of LGBT Moms. The sheer number of cis-straight allies in attendance at the conference was breath-taking. Most of those were moms and dads of LGBT kids. For many of them, their kids are not in a place spiritually where they would attend such a conference, but as parents, they are committed to both their faith and their children, seeking ways to reconcile the love they have for both. Many of them were there with their kids and it was beautiful to see the growth and sometimes healing those families represented.
As many parents as were there, I would dare to say there were more young people attending who had been estranged from their families. You could sense the fear and tension as they shared their stories. Fear that was reinforced by a lifetime of rejection and condemnation. Enter the Mama Bears and Papa Grizzlies.
Have you ever seen a mama bear when a threat comes between she and her cubs? I contend there is no more fierce creature in the wild: except perhaps a mama who has watched her LGBT child endure discrimination, bullying and exclusion – especially from the churches they have loved and gown in. When they have had enough, the claws come out – and then they get the hugs on.
I have not experienced that alienation from my family of origin – it’s been a tough road but we are sticking together. I have seen it from churches and
old friends. I know the sting of it. Looking into the eyes of anyone and recognizing that sting brings out the mama bear in me. Thinking about my own children putting themselves on the line in the interest of their own authenticity drives a deep sense of compassion for every tear and every fear I encountered this week. Literally being able to embrace the hurting where they stood was an honor. It soothed the soul and again, provided hope for their future as well as that of my own kids.
As a Follower of Christ
The activist in me found some common ground, the mama in me found hearts to hold, but my spirit – my spirit found much needed rest. That’s the beauty of the mountain top. We find parts of us that have been hurting that we didn’t know existed. When that experience includes an encounter with our God, creator – we are able to find a balm for those aches in the unhindered Love of God and the caring fellowship of God’s people.
The praise and worship in song, word and deed with others who love God, despite being told time and time again that God would not love them and neither should God’s people, was loud.
The rocks were silenced as God’s people rose up from their oppression to declare Christ as Lord.
Churches the world over need to take note: the Spirit of God will not be held back or silenced in those God has filled. Liking us, agreeing with us, or even understanding us is irrelevant. We are God’s children – adopted into God’s care along with you. And I found hope this week as I heard that sacred truth claimed over and over.
My first GCN
This week didn’t start something for me; it fueled a fire that had already been sparked. What I did find as I have returned to the valley of real world existence is a renewed purpose, a greater sense of direction and a stronger awareness of the Holy Spirt’s presence with me. That’s something that will never be repeated. I’m already making plans for the 2017 conference in Pittsburg, PA, but I know it will never have the intrigue, mystery and great revelation that has come with experiencing my first.
For what I hope are decades to come, GCNers will ask, “When and where was your first conference?”
The answer will forever be: “2016, Houston.”