An Ongoing Longing: 5 Years of Eden Invitation
Five years is a long time. It’s half a decade, two years longer than the ministry of Christ. Your child could be born and sent off to kindergarten in five years. It’s also the amount of time passed since Eden Invitation first appeared on the internet. We prayed a lot about that first blog—launched April 29th, 2017—which we hoped would set the tone for our messaging for years to come. It was called “An Invitation to the Longing Ones,” and you can find it here.
It’s funny to think then about everything we didn’t know. We didn’t know if Eden Invitation would be more than a blog…and now we rarely have time to post blogs! We didn’t know if it would resonate with anybody…and by now—between emails, stray DMs, story calls, speaking engagements, conferences—we’ve directly encountered upward of 1,000 people with LGBTQ experiences. That number is still only a drop in the ocean. We didn’t know what kind of reception we’d receive in the wider Church…and now we’ve found solidarity with people in all walks of life and areas of ministry. We didn’t know what God would do, but we stepped forward anyway. What else could we have done? We were the longing ones.
We were longing to be seen in the Church. We were longing to find others like ourselves. We were longing to broaden the narrative around LGBTQ experiences—less about fighting agendas and more about remembering what is truly human.
In the end (and the beginning), we’re all the longing ones. Perhaps our longings are for a deep encounter with likeness—same-sex desires. Perhaps the longings is internal; a desire to unite disparate aspects of oneself—gender discordance. Maybe we’re weary with our culture’s preoccupation with sex and experience longing for intimate, platonic love—asexuality. Maybe we long for clarity around our complicated bodies—intersex. We long for family to come back to the Church. We long for children in the midst of infertility. We long for financial security, for good health, for golden days long passed. We long for friendship, understanding, and love. Christ longs too. He longs “that all might be one,” longs to gather Jerusalem under His wings like a mother hen, longs for water and love on the Cross (c.f. John 17:21, Matthew 23:37, and 19:28).
What do we do with our longings? And why do we at Eden Invitation keep coming back to that phrase again and again? It’s been five years—haven’t we arrived at something? After all, longing implies something not yet attained—or perhaps never to be attained. Etymologically, “long” is more than an adjective for distance. It was used as a verb in Old and Middle English meaning “to yearn after” (literally “to grow long” or “to lengthen”). It had overtones of grief and weakness, even craving. Perhaps it’s counter-productive, even neurotic, to fixate on that. Why would we celebrate a perceived lack?
Scripture has plenty to say on the discrepancy between our thoughts and ways, and the ways of the Lord (c.f. Isaiah 55:8-9). Still, our longings point to something and Someone. In his chapter on “Hope” in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:
Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy … If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world … I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death … I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.
THREE CORE LONGINGS
We could describe longings in a lot of different ways. If you’ve heard me (Anna) speak, you may have heard a talk called “Into the Longing.” In it, I nest some basic principles about the Christian life and LGBTQ experiences into three core longings. These longings are universal and primordial. We can see them all the way back in Genesis.
Longing to know ourselves
Longing to love and be loved
Longing to give ourselves away
The longing to know ourselves—a longing for identity—can be found as Adam searches the world for a suitable partner, discovering more facets of himself in the identification of what is like and unlike him. The longing to love and be loved—a longing for intimacy, for relationship— is found in the exquisite utterance in the encounter between Adam and Eve. "Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!" The longing to give ourselves away—a longing for mission, for purpose—is met when God gives the first humans a clear plan for the relationship with one another and the world.
The Catechism speaks of our human dignity in paragraph 357, and we can again see these three primary longings echoed:
Being in the image of God, the human individual possess the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self knowledge [longing #1], of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons [longing #2]. And he is called by grace into a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead [longing #3].”
These longings find their perfections in heaven, as Lewis points out, but they can be actively anticipated in the here and now. We cannot speak of LGBTQ concerns in isolation from an understanding of longing! Because LGBTQ experiences are human experiences, which reflect real human longings. To integrate faith and the sexual person requires an awareness of our core longings, and a response to them in virtue.
THREE CORE VALUES
Lest we forget this is an anniversary blog, there’s another thing we didn’t know in April of 2017. We didn’t know how much "The Longing" would continue to play a role in our ongoing spirituality, and how Eden Invitation would instinctively move to meet the core longings of the human heart.
A few years ago, we engaged a group community members in several roundtable discussions to examine what makes Eden Invitation tick. What are the essential components that have been present for the past few years? What is innately felt and understood? In other words, what are our core values? Through the discussions and subsequent prayer, three concepts solidified:
Interestingly enough, these values also seemed to map onto the three movements of our mission statement:
Receive the whole person
Grow systems of mutual support
Empower for creative discipleship
An Eden Invitation community member once gave a presentation mapping them onto three concepts within digital currency (NFTs, blockchain, and crypto if you were wondering). But that one is less important. What is quite important, is how they’re a practical response to the aforementioned longings of the human heart. In the here and now, God wants us to step into our longings.
The prime invitation to the longing ones is an encounter with Jesus Christ. In that, we have our uniqueness and spiritual adoption confirmed. We find that we belong to Him and within the Church He founded. We realize that our longing is not impotent. We can smile and anticipate its purification and perfection as we move onward towards Heaven. Over the next month, we’ll be sharing full blogs on each of these Eden Invitation values. In many ways, they’re the fruit of our work these past five years! We believe they’ll also be good fruit that sustains this community in the years to come. Stay tuned.