Promises | I am Beloved
The Father speaks these words over Jesus at His Baptism in the Jordan: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased | Mark 1:11
These words are poured over us too, just like the water in our own baptisms. We are beloved children of God.
But we hear this phrase repeated so often that its meaning gets lost. “Child of God” certainly has a deeper significance, but the surface meaning often suffices. For a long time, I didn’t really understand what “Beloved” could mean…
I remember being in a classroom skit in 5th grade. Each small group read the same script, but I performed it. This distinction won me the only acting award I was ever really proud of–my teacher’s praise and a chocolate mint. This moment was the spark that took the tinder of my expressive nature and love of stories and made it a flame. Though to be fully honest, my acting career was more prolific off-stage than on it.
As Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It, “...one man in his time plays many parts...” In my public high school, I leaned heavily into roles such as the “good student” and “theater kid,” but I had “Catholic kid” as my leading character trait. If I wasn’t at school or rehearsal, I was volunteering at my parish. At 16, I learned that I played another role: “butch.”
When someone first told me I was butch, I took it as a compliment because I didn't know what it meant or what to do with it. Like most informal language from LGBTQ+ discourses, the term “butch” has a complicated history. The Oxford English Dictionary (my favorite dictionary) defines the adjective “butch” as “demonstrating qualities traditionally or stereotypically associated with masculinity.” I didn’t mind that at all– one of my specialties was stage combat and I loved building the sets for our shows. No one in my life shamed me for liking these or other conventionally masculine things. The noun though hit a deeper place in my heart:
A lesbian whose appearance, behaviour, or identity is regarded as masculine…
I nervously laughed it off as I read it–I liked some guys, but really… how many people could actually tell that I liked girls more?
No one at the various church programs I attended seemed to notice anything. That’s because there wasn’t much to notice (at least I tried to make sure there wasn’t). I followed the rules of modesty and chastity; in my mind, those applied no matter who I was with. But it didn’t feel like enough. So I sat through the flowery women’s sessions and clung to the idea that one of the boys would ask me out eventually.
At the same time in the early 2010s, the language of culture wars around same-sex marriage made me feel like the antagonist in my own story, no matter what the overarching narrative was. In most cases, those close to me had no idea how this language of “us vs. them” affected me. They lobbed it around so freely, and I was secretly getting caught in the crossfire. My “roles” in life became less about describing and sharing my passion and talents; they were my aliases and armor to cover up the wounded and vulnerable places in my heart. Holding these worlds in tension all alone was pushing me to a breaking point.
I thank God for the priest who met me there.
When I was 16, I went to confession to the priest leading our Catholic youth camp. In a warm, beige sitting room, I stared at my hands as I told him everything. But this was the first time I used my words, not any of the words I heard flung around, to describe how I felt.
He was quiet for a time, then asked, “Do you really love her?”
That “yes” was rooted deep in my gut. It was the most honest answer I had ever given.
In the rest of that conversation, I heard for the first time that there can be layers in my story. I do love other women, and that love needn't be a barrier in my relationship with God. The promise of love isn’t limited to a want or desire; I live in the promise as I direct my love towards the good, as God has revealed in His design for creation. I soon came to find my experience was a catalyst for my own growth– each thought of her became a moment to ask Jesus, “How do You want me to love her?” Instead of stifling the joy I felt being in her presence, it became an opportunity for gratitude. Pressing into those places of longing didn’t always make me happy and I wasn’t always good at it, but I did find deep friendship that invited me to encounter Christ in a new way. Slowly as I spoke to Jesus about these longings, I learned His voice more– a voice that assured me and assures me still that, not only am I loveable, but that I am already deeply loved.
Again and again, God has shown His care for me. He’s walked with me back through these memories and more– cutting the lies that have left scars on my heart, and holding the beauty of each moment. With each step, the truths in these “roles” come back together and they are joined by so many more– friend, daughter, sister, poet, spiritual mother, mentor, traveler… With time and trust, I’ve started to see that my life is a beautifully written story–each part of me is included in it. No author would hold all of these details and weave them together so intentionally if there wasn’t love in the craft. For God, His love does not stop with the craft of creation– His love is poured from these words: “You are my Beloved…”.
Poured over me.
Yes, in this story still unfolding, I’m learning what Beloved means.
Friends, thank you for reading this little chapter of my story. If this resonates with you, know that you’re not alone. You too are worthy of being heard, seen, and known! Here at Eden Invitation, we start everything from a place of personal encounter. So if you ever want to chat– no matter where you’re at in your understanding of faith and sexuality– feel free to reach out for a Story Call here. I wish I had done mine sooner, but that’s a story for the next blog. (Read Part 3 | I Belong)
To read Part 1 | Meet Bernadette, click here.