Why Do We Tear Ourselves Apart?
For the last two years I have watched my church of Northwest Yearly Meeting be torn apart. I have cried and talked with friends, been angry and felt betrayed. What I have not done is write about it. Though the desire to do so has, at times, been bursting at the seams, it’s also meant sharing a part of my personal story I haven’t been ready to publish.
When deciding where to start, I’ve decided on the piece I initially wrote for the 2016 Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference. Though it’s not as explicit as future posts will be, it was written during a time when my life was changing and my heart was breaking all at once and I used the paper to share what was swirling inside. Though my small group there urged me to publish the piece, I wasn’t ready. Times are different now, however, and people need to share their stories. So here is the beginning of mine.
Diversity is Needed
What qualities does a group have that handles spiritual and sexual diversity well? In what kinds of places do they see differences as a gift and not a problem and how can we can build those values into more of our communities? We celebrate multi-colored flowers, trees, and animals but in our spiritual communities, we struggle with this same diversity of thought and being among ourselves. I don’t understand how diversity, so vital for our physical life, can be seen by some as so reprehensible in our spiritual one?
Discovering Myself in New Ways
As I’ve thought about diversity, I’ve also started asking myself the question, “How do I feel freer to be myself on an individual level no matter what others or even myself judge as ‘correct’?“ After all, each person in the community needs to be and express their unique self for there to be diversity in the community. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered myself in new ways and am in the process of finding my own unique voice and spiritual path in a deeper way. I’m learning to be more comfortable and to run with who I know I am. Feeling freer to just be, I’m releasing the array of options of what I could do and following the passions of my heart. Instead of berating myself for not doing it all, I‘m asking what I want to pursue with passion. What are the contributions I want to make that most resonate with who I am and what I long to do and how can that enrich the communities around me?
When I stop to listen to my heart, I already know the answers to these questions. My passions are growing diverse environments, dismantling lines of division, exploring and encouraging spiritual journeys, making space for and participating in creative expression, and the ongoing experience of learning and seeking what is wise and true in the divine life of us. Though in the classical sense knowing my gifts of writing, speaking, teaching, and nurturing are the end goal of a spiritual gifts evaluation, I believe my gifts are my passions, the forces driving my soul’s journey and my skills, such as writing and speaking, are the tools to express them as I grow myself and nurture the people I share life with.
Let’s Grow in Courage
Once we find out what we’re passionate about, we then have to grow in the courage to stand and do it, be it, and have the courage to let others be something different even when we ourselves disagree. Lately I’ve had to stand up a lot and say, “This is my unique expression of the divine life” and to remain standing when others don’t see God in it at all. But in the process, I’m becoming a stronger version of myself and learning that just because I don’t fit the expectations of who others expect me to be does not mean I am not being who God created me to be. I remind myself that, blessedly, the curtain in the temple was torn in two – from top to bottom. God herself/himself passionately tore it down proclaiming the truth that no one and nothing can get between me and God. No one can judge that what I want to be and do is not God-given and that the gifts I have are not meant to be used.
Why do we insist on cutting ourselves apart?
It’s incredibly painful to have someone tell you there is no way you can be who you are and love God at the same time. It’s hurtful to be told the gifts and passions driving your life were never meant to be expressed. We are one body, one with God. Why do we insist on cutting ourselves apart? If a person did this to themselves, they would be considered mentally ill and yet our communities are embroiled in this practice every day. What does this say about us? If I spend the rest of my life helping people understand diversity as a wonderful gift and that we are all a spark of the divine light, that we all belong in God, then I may not be liked, but I know I am loved.
For more on my personal story of coming out, see “Too Dark in the Closet”