Three years ago on this day, Eden Invitation made a tiny little “ker-plop” into the internet world with this blog and a simple landing page. We still mark at it as our digital anniversary. because it was one of those “no turning back” moments. Bios were on the website. The cards were on the table.
A lot has grown since then. We’ve had two retreats, a wilderness backpacking trip and dozens of online book clubs. Once people have engaged with us and built some relationships, they are invited into an online community space. Over the past three years, I’m awed to say that Eden Invitation isn’t a “program.” It’s a place to be. A place to grow. A place to thrive in obedience in the Church as a same sex attracted person or a person experiencing disconnect with your biological sex. On this third anniversary, we wanted to share with you a few characteristics our ministry and the pillars of our mission.
RECEIVE THE WHOLE PERSON
My mom is a scrapbooker. Well, at least she was when my siblings and I were growing up. I have several volumes filled with stickers, colored card stock, and photos cut into ovals. Is it the full picture of my life? No, because she didn’t get any photos of me reading pre-Disney canon Star Wars novels. But here’s what I love about them. The scrapbooks take all these bits and pieces of my life and they honor them. They reverence them as part of my story.
That hasn't been an easy thing for me to do. For a long time, my disconnect with hyper-femininity and my romantic desires for the same sex was not something I wanted to look at myself, let alone tell other people! I’ve found similar senses from most human beings I’ve gotten close to. For all of us, there are some parts of our life we have trouble receiving. Among people on the LGB or gender identification spectrums, I’m definitely not the only one who has experienced this!
Receiving the whole person means a lot of things. First, it means receiving the raw material I am. I am a body soul unity and, as a John Paul II puts it in Man and Woman He Created Them, I am one of “two incarnations of…metaphysical solitude” (TOB 1.10.1). Yowsa! God has created me male or female. Female, in my case. I need to receive that fundamental aspect of my person. And knit within my femaleness, my womanhood, is an organ system that is incomplete on it’s own. It can’t fulfill it’s unitive and procreative purposes alone…or with another woman. My sexual identity (woman) inevitably includes my sexual complementarity (man). To receive my whole self, I need to receive these realities. God invites me to reverence my body and its intentionality as a gift from Him, leading to obedience to the truths revealed in His Church.
My body expresses my “I.” Secondly, God invites me to delight in my own story, in all of its complexity. As a community member put it, “What is Eden Invitation? It’s a place where people go to be themselves.”
“Every person living is—besides being one of the human race—himself; and in order to make the raw material of himself what it is, innumerable different experiences and different influences have been used…heredity, environment, infant and child experience, opportunity, education or lack of education, friends or lack of friends, and countless unpredictable things that we misname accidents or chance…the mystery of all the years and all the people and all the gathered memories, both of individuals and races…each one of us - as we are at the moment when we first ask ourselves: 'for what purpose do I exist?’ is the material which Christ Himself, through all the generations that have gone to our making, has fashioned for His purpose. That which seems to us to be a crumbling point, a lack, a thorn in the flesh, is destined for God’s glory as surely as the rotting bones of Lazarus, as surely as the radiance of Mary of Nazareth.”
from The Reed of God | Caryll Houselander
Our dignity and deepest identity is received from the hand of God our Father: daughters and sons. He also asks us to steward our lives, the whole of our life. Even the broken parts. Especially the broken parts. The chipped edges, the scarred hands, the enduring reality of concupiscence and our sin-susceptible hearts. That’s another aspect of receiving the whole person: recognizing the “mixed bag” of our human inheritance and trusting that God works all things for good.
At Eden Invitation, we encourage people to receive the reality of their desires, and to grow in self-knowledge. This doesn’t mean intellectual analysis for the sake of rooting out temptation: “if I can just understand why, I can banish it by willpower!” Maybe that works for some people, but it isn’t what we champion. Rather, we’ve learned to be attentive and attuned to where the heart is drawn and why. Surrendering to God the question, “why her? why him? why now?” —understanding the shape of those desires—leads to deeper intimacy with Him, the Fulfillment of All Desire. It’s letting go of the pressure to “fix it “ or “figure it out,” and committing to growing in virtue as life unfolds. The objective isn’t heterosexuality per se. It’s holiness, come what may.
GROW SYSTEMS OF MUTUAL SUPPORT
Have you ever heard of permaculture? I’ve only heard a couple talks on it, and I’m fascinated. It’s creating mutually beneficial biome, where each organism has its place offering something essential to the thriving of the space. It’s creation’s take on the diversity and complementarity of the body of Christ! Ideas like that are one of the reasons we picked the phrase growing systems of mutual support. There’s something alive here!
I’m grateful for growing awareness and efforts for pastoral care for people experiencing
same sex desires or gender discordance. And Lord knows I need care! We all do. Yet spiritual maturity involves claiming that you are a person with agency, capable of thriving personal relationships with others. We need a Trinitarian model of a relationship and a family dynamic. We need to receive, we need to pour out in self-gift, and we need mutuality!
At Eden Invitation we seek to build supportive, chaste friendships, both inside and outside of the organization. We provide and encourage connections to a broader network of spiritual, mental, and emotional support. For some people, sharing with us is the first time they’ve shared with anyone! It’s beautiful to watch as people begin to unfold, like buds in spring, opening up this part of their lives to trusted others who can receive them.
“Friendship arises…when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’
from The Four Loves | C.S. Lewis
EMPOWER FOR CREATIVE DISCIPLESHIP
As young adults, once people are “all in” disciples, there tends to be a focus on “permanent vocation” manifested as marriage or priesthood and religious life. This can be a tough place to navigating for many people experiencing same sex desires or deeply wrestling with their biological sex. People may find themselves single in the world at higher rates, for longer, or with permanence. There’s a pressing need for approaches to living well in this space. There’s also a need to discern self-gift and mission in the world, perhaps outside traditional permanent vocation structures.
We want to empower for creative discipleship. To borrow Genesis imagery for a moment…there’s a tree that’s off limits, that’s true. We have the run of the garden. How often do we remember that as Christian people? There’s room for receptivity and openness, for mystery and wonder, for Spirit-led adventure and creative generosity. There’s space for hope, for play, for joy. Receiving oneself, and having the support of others, can lead to an authenticity of life that engenders hope. If God and others love me in my complexity…how might my uniqueness serve the Kingdom of God? And this starts now. As one Eden Invitation member put it, "we’re not just holding on for the eschaton - the ‘already’ is here.”
“Redemption is a truth, a reality, in the name of which man must feel himself called, and 'called with effectiveness…It is important that precisely in his ‘heart’ he does not feel himself irrevocably accused…but that in the same heart he feels himself called with energy. Called precisely to this supreme value, which is love. Called as a person in the truth of his humanity, and thus also in the truth of his masculinity and femininity, in the truth of his body. Called in that truth which has been his inheritance ‘of the beginning.’”
from Man and Woman He Created Them 2.46.4, 6 | St. John Paul II
In Eden Invitation, we’ve seen this very practically. There’s a diverse array of professions among our members: lawyers, youth ministers, musicians, engineers, videographers, teachers, midwives, active military, missionaries, professors, students. A community graphic designer made our anniversary prayer card. We hope to foster a sense of lively expectations and joyful hope, that your story is far from over. God is the master author, brimming with creative possibility for your life of discipleship.
We want this mission to endure for years to come. Do you? Donate to our anniversary drive and help us reach our $20,000 goal! Check out our donate page here.