You said that people who stayed in a congregation were only those that were a part of the life of the church. People who only come for services can come and go, but those who feel roots in the church stay. That’s one reason you wish your church had to struggle a bit more, so parishioners would become involved in the struggle together.
You are right, of course. Those who are a part of the life of the church are the vital parishioners, the ones who are the lifeblood of the church. But for me, the question is how people come to feel a part of the church.
We spoke of one way that happens, creating an enclave in the church, an “us versus them” attitude that lets fear be the binder, our shared fear of the outside world. This is a church that uses separation to create connection, and we both agreed that is wrong.
But if the church is not enclave from the world, it should at least be sanctuary from it. Safe ground for connection and for exposure, a place where we use our shared commitment to being better, being more like our God, to create peace & acceptance.
Creating separation may be shorthand to create an enclave of safe space — we are safe from them behind these walls, with these people like us — but how do we use love to create a sanctuary of safe space, where we are safe in diversity?
For me, the key is being seen. I need people to see right though me, to see my heart, full of all the mess that is in every human heart, from sin to divinity, and still embrace me. It’s all well and good for people to be nice and pleasant and not threatening, but does that really create a feeling of safe space to be human and to be loved by God and her people? Starting from the pulpit and moving all the way to those pouring coffee, I don’t just want to be tolerated, I want to feel seen and feel loved.
My primary challenge in the world isn’t trans. My primary challenge, the one I knew early, was that I am one of those “too people” — too smart, too intense, too challenging, too sharp, too everything. I learned early that I had to play small, to stay defended in order to be accepted in polite society. I learned to meter myself out in tiny doses, first trying to be appropriate and then trying to be authentic somewhere down the line.
I, like every human, learned how to perform a persona that gets along in the world, nice and constrained.
And I have absolutely no doubt that if it’s just that I bring to the event, people will accept me on a social level. But is that enough to feel seen, embraced and loved?
I know that most people rarely get naked even to themselves. They don’t go deep into their knowledge, spirit, emotions and beliefs to expose themselves. They are used to showing a little bit and being exhilarated by that revelation, needing and wanting only what they show to be appreciated.
We “too people” though, well, somehow being exposed is what we do. We just get real and get raw, letting it all hang out, because we have so much there is nothing else we can do with it. And no matter how graciously and elegantly we learn how to offer revelation, offer the power of change, the essence of death and Rebirth, for many, many, many, most people it still feels like Too. After all, how can someone so sharp and strong need connection, affirmation, tenderness?
While this need to be seen may be more pronounced for “too people” like me, I think it threads though everyone. We stay where we are seen and understood and still affirmed, for after all, how safe is safe space where it doesn’t feel safe enough to expose our own messy humanity? For some, pleasant words at coffee make the difference, or even just the long term commitment to a church for our family, but for the truly powerful, it is the ability to be seen not only for what we do but also for who we are that makes us feel connected.
The traditional way to be seen is to be seen over time, for people to know us step by step. But in a hurry up, fast fast world, that old way doesn’t work so well. Creating community by decades is a rural kind of community, and with the world getting smaller & faster — small things always spin faster, ask any physicist — the challenge is how to move to a faster, more diverse urban community.
I spoke to an dear old friend a few nights ago. What I needed to hear, what I gave her, was a simple affirmation that I have believe that God is in her heart, and trusting that divinity, I trust that she can make good choices when she trusts her heart. I had trouble getting that back, though. I got some chat about how hard it is to “cook for the chef” because it feels like not enough, and how, I doubted what was in my heart “maybe it was coming from the wrong place.”
God didn’t make me to just be sweet and nice. God made some of us to be sharp and insightful, remembering history, making connections, and showing the line between comfort & rebirth. I know that to be true, but I also know that enacting that reality makes me more porcupine than puppy, and finding a safe space for porcupines is a challenge.
It’s a challenge for me, yes, but I think it’s also a challenge for every church that wants to move from enclave to sanctuary, from a closed comfort to an open vitality. How can we see what challenges & discomforts us, acknowledge its truth and embrace it as a gift from God?
I’ll be at the Wednesday, I think, but it will be the last time for a while.
Thanks for everything. Your open heart is to be valued.