November 27, 2014 jennyrain

Finding Faithfulness When Your Stories Disagree

This continues to be a season where I have more questions than answers.

I’m ok with that. Sometimes. Other times, I just want clarity, and certainty, and understanding.

I feel like the tectonic plates of my guiding theology and praxis are continuing to shift. The shifts have occurred because I’ve experienced excruciating pain when the faith “system” I put my trust in did not meet my expectations for clarity, support, or answers. The shifts have continued because I’ve witnessed vast sinkholes in the programmatic and prescriptive faith practices that have been handed down to me.

And though painful to push through, this process is becoming more redemptive than I could have ever imagined. I find myself entering into this space looking forward to how it is changing me, instead of fearing what I might lose. It is awakening me to the fact that God has written a story through my life that only I can tell, that only I can steward. It’s a story that I can make the choice to embrace and leave a legacy through, instead of fearing it.

Ten months ago, a leader I respect tremendously prayed that God would break the box of the formulaic faith practices I had been taught. That is happening. I can see the wake behind me… but I didn’t expect that wake to catch up with me and begin to create a tidal wave in my current circumstances. I expected to be able to live out my questions and find suitable answers for them within the faith environment that I find myself in.

But a clarifying conversation with my boss this week showed that I am living in a place where my different life stories are conflicting, and I have not yet found a bridge for re-aligning them. The conversation was so life-giving (my boss has an incredible ability to allow me to disagree with him while simultaneously affirming me in asking the questions in the first place). It also made me realize I need to ask some hard questions of myself, and then be willing to face honest answers.

Part of my story is that I love the church. In all her broken glory, I do love her. She is called to be a redemptive force in this world. I work in an incredibly healthy church environment where questions are allowed, being “in process” is affirmed (even if you are a leader), and mistakes are opportunities for growth (rather than an opportunity for the leader to be shamed). Most churches do not offer this type of grace. I believe in the CORE of my being that the church CAN make a difference in people’s lives.

The other part of my story is that I love the LGBT community, and in general I have a deeply felt compassion for all marginalized communities. I love all the broken beauty found in the LGBT community that I get to be a part of because of my family. I believe in the CORE of my being in the inherent worth, dignity, and value of every LGBT individual because they (like me) have been created in the image of God, and I want to add my voice to this important story.

I feel called to BOTH important parts of my story. I feel called to be FAITHFUL to living into the fullness of BOTH sides of my story. I want to live with INTEGRITY by being AUTHENTIC to both sides of my story. I want my stories NOT to have two sides like they do now. The conflict I’m feeling in my stories is found in the question that has been rattling around in my brain:

How do FAITH and ADVOCACY work together in a way that create an environment for me to faithfully live out my story?

This has been the guiding question that has wrecked me the last few weeks. I WANT the question to be answered safely within the environment of the church, because the church has mostly been a refuge, a safe place, a home for me to have breathing room to process the scary stuff in my life. I WANT the church to step into this question too and find redemptive answers that are healing and transformative for BOTH the church community and the marginalized communities I feel called to.

I WANT the happy ending within the faith community I find myself in. The happy ending that says “I can bring all of who I am to the table and my faith community will be willing to step into the mess and walk with me towards redemption. Even if I disagree with them, their theology, their faith practices, or their beliefs.” Gosh, is that even possible in our communities of faith? I have such hope that it is ESPECIALLY within the healthy faith community I’m a part of.

The other questions I’ve been asking are:

Am I called to the LGBT community or to marginalized women or both?

What does the gospel look like lived out in an LGBT context? Is it different than the gospel I’ve been taught?

What have we gotten wrong as the church, and what is my role in building bridges?

What is the other side of the story? (the one that has been labeled as “liberal” by the fundamentalists and thus “wrong”) What do I need to learn about who God is from the other side of the story?

Why are the guiding narratives in the church so overtly focused on an LGBT individual’s sexual identity/orientation only, rather than looking at these individuals as a WHOLE person?

I know I want to make a difference. Can I do that from within the walls of the church? If so, what does that look like?

So though I do not yet have answers, I have a deep THANKFULNESS and HOPE for the GIFT that these questions are becoming. I have a deep and abiding trust that the leaders I have the privilege of serving under are WITH me as I explore these questions… even though they might not agree with me. I have great FAITH that though the process may not be easy, God is WITH me in this journey and I am more WITH Him than I have been in a long time because for the first time in my life, I’m bringing all of who I am to the table.

Though I don’t know where this will lead… I’m grateful for the things that have happened this year to catalyze this process.

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I break things and trip a lot. I like to chase things like dreams, goals, ideas, and raindrops. I create things with words. Writing has been an outlet since I first discovered the magic empty space of a journal. Words dance around in my brain and often land amidst scraps of paper, find their way into journals, or etch themselves into blinking pixels. I hope my words fall like rain on tender souls in need of refreshing. Finding photos in random moments helps me share stories. During a trip to Africa the perfect trifecta of my first DSLR, mission trip, and dream-location happened and my love of photography became a reality. I'm currently writing my first book, "Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy: Growing up with 2 Dads in an Evangelical World," I'm a board member for One Million Kids, and I believe that every kid of an LGBT parent should have an opportunity to #ChangeTheConversation with their story. My bio remains in process because I am.

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