There was a photo taped up over my bed for some time. In it, Zora is kissing my cheek, and we’re in the desert. I loved her.
She’d wake me up in the middle of the night and we’d pray. She’d spend hours editing my words, blowing away commas like they were eyelashes. She’d remind me to sleep once in a while. I love her.
Zora is steadfast. She’s tough and she’s tender, fierce, and honest. She reflects so much of Jesus, and I wish you could meet her.
To be in love with Zora feels like coming home when you thought you’d have no home. And it feels terrifying, like you’ve got something that would hurt like hell to lose.
In the Desert
My time of discernment was set in the desert. Here, I was separated from the evangelical community in which my faith was first formed. I felt estranged – in the happiest way – in the company of Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Christians who saw no conflict between their ethnic traditions and their faith practice, and people of no particular faith who still exhibited the love of God in immeasurable ways. An Orthodox friend introduced me to the conceptualization of God as the Dao. A Catholic friend employed by the area diocese journeyed with me without once passing judgment. And a friend of no particular faith taught me how to be gentle with myself in this process. I learned about the Spirit and about how little I knew about the Spirit.
One of my favorite things about the desert, I’d tell folks, was that things don’t survive there on accident. It takes a certain fortitude to thrive – deeper roots or outstretched arms, big ears to let out the heat, and shelter from the temperamental elements. And here in the desert, away from familiar evangelical friends and institutions and tried tropes for understanding God, I had the opportunity to learn this fortitude. Through different churches and Christian traditions, I sent my roots seeking. I sent my arms out to catch the light. My ears grew to hear the Spirit more keenly, and I learned to build a shelter – a haven of faith over doctrine that no elements could tear asunder.
Here, I missed Zora. But this discernment process enabled me to learn ever more about the divinity of the Gift-Giver even when the gift – the woman I loved – was 3,000 miles away and coming to the same conclusion that God had placed on my own heart.
In our first entry, Zora detailed the more methodical components of our discernment process. These pieces, like bread, I counted on. But today I want to talk about the Spirit who, like wine, flowed unexpectedly and brought me joy.
The end of our study brought a tenuous relief; the road to peace seldom feels like relief. But the end of the study – and the beginning of living into the Spirit’s calling – did bring certitude. Now that we had invited the Spirit into our decision-making, we could not ignore a Spirit-breathed decision.
An Infinite God
The God I encountered in the desert during discernment was not a God of suffering but of proximity and divine gentleness. The God I encountered is love immortal, body boundless, and like no one and everyone all at once.
The God I thought I knew before was clear and bounded. The Bible (in the English Standard Version) seemed to make His demands clear and His punishments clearer. A glimpse of His back was enough for my faith to catch fire, but the God I encountered during this journey turned Her face and reached Her hand out in love.
In hindsight, I had believed God to be a measuring stick for my holiness. I wanted to be holy enough – but only holy enough – to warrant God’s approval. I worked hard to project a fitting façade to my evangelical environs, and that façade included heterosexuality and heteronormativity: two lies that fed one another.
But in projecting an image of feigned holiness, I had neither the time nor faculties to dwell on the holiness of God. I wanted God to be small because that meant that I only had to reflect a small thing. A small thing, I could know. A small thing, I could control. A small thing, I didn’t have to work so hard to become. But the God I came to know through this process and that I still encounter now is a divine and infinite mystery.
There is so much of God for LGBTQ Christians to encounter besides affirmation of one’s own identity and loving relationships. For example, I’m learning right now about how each person of the trinity reflects the synergy of the other two, and I’m learning about how to sit with others in their pain – this pain in particular – so that they don’t have to be alone. I desire for LGBTQ Christians to stop doubting themselves so that they can formulate a healthy relationship with God, self, and world.
And I desire for LGBTQ Christians to stop having to defend themselves so that they can engage with God about so much more. LGBTQ Christians are kin-dom builders stopped at the gate, asked for their credentials, and too often turned away by human, self-appointed gatekeepers. In the meantime, the kin-dom yearns for hands to build, hearts to pray, and feet to carry forth the good news. The God I found – who was not ever lost and cannot ever be found in totality – recognizes Zora and me for who we were made to be. On this side of the discernment process, I desire for LGBTQ Christians to be in relationship with the profound mystery in which we are a note held – embraced – in the song of creation.
In the end, this period of discernment was the first drop in the coming rains. Now comes the flood, which cleanses me of God-limiting theology. Over it, God outstretches a rainbow.