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Promises | I Belong


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For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

| Matthew 18:20


As I shared in the last blog, I was “the Church kid.” I first learned who Jesus was through people– my family, mentors, priests, religious sisters, and kids my age. Each of them carried this spark of Light. Knowing them, I wanted to know Christ more. To learn more, I went to more camps, more conferences, more programs, and more pilgrimages. In college and even living abroad, I tried to make it to daily mass and joined several bible studies. I did learn. I did grow. Christ did meet me in all of those spaces.


I’ve been in places where hundreds, thousands, even millions of people lifted their voices in praise, through the Mass, the Divine Liturgy, or a Praise and Worship service. God’s presence was palpable, and yet I have often felt tense in these spaces.


A crowd can be disorienting if you think you're in it by yourself.


At the end of the day, prayer was a space where God saw my full self, but it was mostly a “me and God” thing. Time alone with God is deeply important, but if that’s all we have we're missing out on other opportunities He's given us to know Him. (If you’ve read Poustinia by Catherine Doherty, you know that even hermits need some kind of community!) While we walked the same trail, so to speak, these other Christians seemed to walk openly on the path while I only let myself follow, mostly hiding in the trees. I felt that gap– I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable, to let my full self be present when we gathered. I wasn’t sure my full self would be wanted there.


Keeping my vulnerabilities to myself was an ingrained defense tactic especially when it came to my LGBTQ+ experiences– the armor was always on no matter who I was walking near. The people I was vulnerable with were few and far between, and none of them shared my experiences. I didn't see anyone around me who was navigating the particular experiences I was. Those I did know seemed to find community in secular LGBTQ+ spaces, but from what I saw that came at the cost of leaving the Catholic Church. The idea of separating from the space–the culture, community, and sacraments–where I experienced God's love the most tore me apart. I felt cut off. This separation became even more defined when I was a campus minister. Being a somewhat public figure–having to step out onto the open path as a leader–my fear of rejection ramped up into a fear of suspicion: could I be trusted to share the Gospel if I associated at all with those people?


I tightened my armor and it became a silo. I still felt God’s presence sometimes, but these fears echoing through me made me question if I belonged in the Church– if God's plan for my sexuality was actually good.


My soul withered while my metal shell carried on. Metal shells aren’t thriving disciples. And yet, disciples in metal shells are starving for Light and will try anything to bring some kind of life back into their souls.


During the Fall semester, I finally revisited a ministry I saw online early in 2018. I liked their blogs– the Invitation to the Longing Ones brought me to tears. It was a different voice entering my metal echo chamber. I was so nervous, but in October 2019 I emailed to set up a Story Call with Eden Invitation. In sharing the ups and downs of my journey on that call, I pulled my little soul up as far as I could to let myself be seen, even if it was just one hour. Talking with Raquel, I started to feel Christ’s presence. My soul hid back in her metal shell after the call ended, but she had a newer memory of Light.


In late December 2019, I went with a group of energetic students to the FOCUS conference. I was hopeful that it would be good for me too– maybe those Eden Invitation people would be there. Wandering past all of the booths, I wasn’t sure what to look for. As I turned a corner I saw a young man standing by a tall gray banner with a triangle pattern on it.


Soul squirming inside my thick-plated armor, I looked around to make sure none of my students or co-workers were nearby. I stepped forward.


He greeted me warmly, introducing me to the mission since he saw my campus minister's name tag. I kept the facade of asking for student resources only for a little while. Then my soul couldn’t stand it; she peeked out as I shared, “I had a Story Call a few weeks ago.”


His face changed– the warmth in his eyes deepened. It was so subtle as if he knew exactly the fearful trap I was stuck in and wanted to tread gently. I was looking into the eyes of someone who not only saw me but knew what I hid–why I hid– because he had been there too.


The weight of my fear fell off. I’m sorry I forgot to double-check, but I’m fairly sure I floated for at least 3 seconds. I had no idea what would happen next, but in that moment when it was just me and that kind community member, I knew once again that Christ was present just as He promised. And I wanted Him even more than I did before.


God taught me how to walk in community through the striving LGBTQ+ disciples in Eden Invitation. As the world shut down in early 2020, I was meeting with my Book Club weekly through Zoom. They were with me through a hard reset in my life when I left ministry and went back into teaching. My faithful siblings in Christ encouraged me to go beyond the chats and Zoom Calls– to go back to the friends I started my journey with, and build community in person too. And now I could do it with much less armor weighing me down.


Allowing myself to be seen in these friendships– new and old–gave them the chance to support me. And I quickly learned that my friends had armor on too! Now it was my chance to offer them the same support that they showed me. This doesn’t necessarily make vulnerability any easier, but now we know we’re not on this journey alone.


If we truly believe each of us is made in the Image and Likeness of God– who is a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– then we must also believe that each and every one of us is called to belong in community. I think that's why Jesus made a point to promise us: “...where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” We all belong in the Church, and each of us bringing our full, beloved self here in mutual belonging means that Christ is present in a deeper way in all of our lives.


Honestly, I’m still taking pieces of this old, rusty armor off, but as I do so with the help of my community, I am learning that I belong.

 

Thank you for joining me in another chapter of my story, Friends. I hope this can serve as a gentle little rattle of your own armor. This does apply to you: you are made for community too!


If you have an LGBTQ+ experience and want to walk with us for a while, I highly recommend joining one of our Book Clubs. Meeting with these awesome people has given me memories and stories that I’ll treasure forever. You can read more about the upcoming season on our Book Club info page here.


Speaking of stories– we still haven’t addressed the whole “I got my Master’s in English from a Polish University” part of my story. That one definitely needs its own post. See you next week then! (read Part 4 | I am a Gift)


To read Part 1 | Meet Bernadette, click here.

To read Part 2 | I am Beloved, click here.


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