The usual pattern for year-end meditation is reflection. Often, that reflection leads to resolutions—promises to ourselves that we almost inevitably shatter. And such resolutions, it seems to me, shatter so easily because they are constructed upon the fragile pillars of hope and longing, instead of on the bedrock of security and truth.
To offer an alternative, then, is my purpose today. I don’t mean to imply I haven’t resolutions—I do. But I am making them small, general, and attainable. And I am building them on the things that I have been given this year, things I will now offer as the primary content of today’s musing—things for which I am unspeakably grateful, which have happened upon me by grace and mercy this year.
My dear friend R flies me back to Spokane to spend the holidays with her. After a particularly frightening month (harassed, robbed, threatened), I escaped to a little haven she created for me, complete with chocolates on my pillow and a private room that felt like a mountain cabin encased in peace. We hadn’t physically seen each other in about 15 years, our communication having been limited by busy schedules and geographical distance. She wonders where I went, how I became the sad, withdrawn, discouraged woman I was. She challenges me to “be congruent” with myself, saying I would never be happy again if I wasn’t. She asks me how many more years I was willing to live this way.
I put R’s challenge to foot as soon as I return to Indiana. My orientation, which I have fought and considered a horrible trial, a plague, I offer to God. If this is something deliberately created in me, then my calling it evil is calling the creator’s purposes evil. And that implies God is evil. Which is false. When I offer it up, I immediately feel a thaw, like my encased spirit is stretching and breaking off the ice of paranoid doctrines. I am amazed at how free I feel.
I come out to a small set of friends. They throw me a party. I come out to more friends. They celebrate, grateful I am finally “coming to terms” with this. People love on me. I halfway come out to another friend, who begins the process of disowning me.
I go to the doctor, and am diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. Treatment begins, and I begin to feel physically much better.
I begin looking for a church home where I will be allowed to exist authentically. I explore some online support groups, but don’t yet have the courage to consider being acceptable as both Christian and gay.
I submit a draft of my prospectus to my committee.
I still am not sleeping, and my doctor determines that I also have fibromyalgia. Looking at the symptoms, I am stunned. I have them all. We begin treatment.
Unseen Disciple is launched. Almost immediately, people are reading and commenting, sharing my journey. I find SisterFriends. I am wrapped in the kindness of a community of Jesus-following seekers, filled with grace.
I defend my prospectus. I am ABD. A seemingly interminable journey is suddenly mostly behind me.
I receive a research fellowship for AY 2008-2009. I am stunned.
The number of hits Unseen Disciple receives amazes me. And that so many people are so kind to me, even as I am no longer hiding in the general expectations so long placed upon me, overwhelms me.
I find Trinity Methodist. Actually, I am led to Trinity. I still have no idea how I got here.
Chapter one is in draft.
I visit Spokane, and my dear friend R informs me she cannot believe the change. I am still closeted to family and “churchy” friends, so inform practically nobody that I am in town. I spend much time with the river, praying, and drinking in God’s grace.
I collect two rocks, each as promises to myself. The first, to never go back, the second, to not run from relationship. These rocks stand as a sort of covenant between me and my creator.
A post I write on Unseen Disciple gets linked by Ex Gay Watch and other significant sites. I receive scores of hits. I am stunned.
I’m embraced by the choir at Trinity.
I am asked to lead worship one Sunday at Trinity. Nobody worries about scandal.
I am asked by my study group to teach a 3-week series on grace. People really want to hear what I have to say about God. Still no worries about scandal.
I have devoured more books in these past few months than in the whole of the previous ten years (that is, books about faith and Christianity). My mind, that was locked up, has been awakened and set free.
Chapter two is in draft.
Dozens of acquaintances from high school begin befriending me on Facebook. Even as my longtime “churchy” friends reject me, these longer-ago friends embrace me and treat me with great kindness.
My dissertation director approves my decision to go on the market.
Trinity asks me to be involved in children’s fine arts camp. I direct preschool theater and music. I am stunned, healed, reduced to tears.
Trinity choirs have a adult fine arts camp. I make new friends with N and J, who have a gay son and adore both him and his partner.
Chapter three is in draft.
A select group of women from SisterFriends have become good friends of mine, even if from far away. I am touched at the kindness of these people. Meanwhile, I am washed over by the grace of God as manifested by my Trinity family. I become a member, and instead of just shaking my hand, Jacob (pastor) almost shouts a cheer of celebration for me. I can’t believe it.
I get a paper together from chapter two, intending to use it for a writing sample or job talk.
The mad rush begins in the job hunt. I mostly disappear from the SisterFriends boards and others’ blogs. Sending out dossiers weekly. Revising papers, writing proposals, and so forth.
Even as I am away from the boards, I am pursued by friendship. Personal messages and telephone calls become the norm. I feel amazingly embraced by friendship, at a level I’ve not encountered for years.
My father dies. And I am shown such a wave of support I can’t breathe. So many people love me, and with no strings, I am awestruck and touched. Two days after the memorial, I am with a few friends from High School over appetizers, and I find a depth of friendship I’ve not had but seldom before.
My closest “churchy” friend, my prayer and accountability partner for 15 years, ends communication with me. I am, it seems, disfellowshipped. I accidentally expose my tattoo to my fundamentalist sister and mom, and the speed at which the transition between the grasping of its meaning and the change of subject is historic. Don’t ask, don’t tell is officially established in my family.
The relationship I have with one SisterFriend is exploded, and I find myself, for the first time in decades, as a part of a couple. I am again overcome.
I finally submit a paper for publication, something I’ve avoided out of fear of rejection for a very, very long time.
I receive not a single interview at the APA conference. Discouragement about my academic/economic hopes melts together with deep joy about my personal life and God’s ridiculous generosity into an entangled, hard-to-describe complexity of feeling that is becoming the norm lately.
A choir friend opens her heart to me, in a way that seems as if it’s a replacement, or supercession, of my slowly-lost friend from back home. At very least, I know I have a friend for life who won’t reject me because of how God made me.
This all leads me to extreme, like extreme sports, gratitude. I am amazed and silenced by the people God has brought into my life. I look back on this past year and cannot believe how far I’ve been brought in such a short space of time. It’s like my life has hit warp speed after years of waiting at a stop light. And I am stunned, silenced, awed, grateful, for the people who have come into my life.
I cannot begin to express how powerful the grace and love, with which God has been gently crushing my walls, is. Where I had churchy friends before, I have family now. Where I had expectations, I have grace. Where doctrinal perfectionism, humble ignorance.
I have no idea where or whether I will have a job this year. But I know in ways I never conceived before that God is good. I have prayed before, years ago, that God would show me his love. That time, he taught me how to love as he does—even when hated and persecuted. I’ve been praying for an understanding of God’s love again (dangerous prayer!). But this time, his response is inexplicable in its prodigality. God is surrounding me with people who are known by love, and wish to live like Christ, people who pray for me and with me, who walk with me. Yes, I had something faintly like this before, but it was always colored by rules and impossible expectations. I am, slowly, learning what grace truly is. Not that I will ever understand. And this is the whole of this past year, in a nutshell.
So what is my resolution?
I wish to live in gratitude, ever more so—to quote C.S.Lewis, to climb farther up, further in to the love of God. I want to know and foster how to be grateful, how to reciprocate the love that has been lavished on me.
And the great thaw that this past year has been, the quest on which I still journey, has opened my spirit to so much more than I ever thought permissible for me. I cannot express the gratitude, or the desire I have to continue deeper into this awareness, deeper into the hard-to-explain reciprocity of grace.
And I hope, that as this continues, other, lesser, perhaps petty goals of mine, might wriggle their way into fact. I won’t resolve them into being, but will focus rather on trying to absorb all that has been given to me, thereby, perhaps, finding them also at some time this year, added to the list of graces heaped like burning coals on my head.