28 Aug New Beginnings: Embracing the Tension of Living In-Between
I’ll be embarking on a new chapter in life this week, and I find myself thinking back over the past couple of years and reflecting on my path ahead. Life transitions always make me reflective. So I’ve found myself especially reflective this summer.
About ten years ago, a college acquaintance told me that God had given her a vision about me. She said that a balance appeared above my head with burdens on either side and that I held up the weight of both like a fulcrum in the center. She said that the Lord had called me to live in the in-between.
It honestly didn’t mean much to me at the time. I didn’t know her very well, and she didn’t know me, and the image of a “balance” didn’t ring true to me at all. I politely thanked her for sharing and then quickly forgot about the whole encounter. I never thought about it again until recently.
Thinking about her words now, I can’t help but see truth in what she said. I’ve never been able to pick a “side” my entire adult life. I’m as likely to vote Republican as I am to vote Democrat as I am to vote neither of them at all. I’m welcomed by conservatives and liberals alike with open arms…well, as long as they never get to know me. The in-between is uncomfortable. So I make people uncomfortable.
If it’s any consolation to the people I frustrate, I’m uncomfortable too. I can’t be comfortable with a church that fights and squabbles over the minutiae of doctrine while neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23). But I also can’t be comfortable with a progressivism that demands such conformity to every new incarnation of its social dogma that freedom of belief no longer exists. I can’t be comfortable in a world where God’s most vulnerable children are more aware of the threat of hell than the promise of heaven, but I also can’t be comfortable in a world where simply practicing your faith is a form of hatred.
When it comes to faith and sexuality, there is no comfortable, not for people like me.
Embracing the Discomfort
So here I am, strung up in the center and pulled in every direction but somehow still in one piece. It doesn’t feel much like balancing anything so much as it feels like withstanding dismemberment. But I can’t help but feel that God is here. Holding it all together in the center somewhere. And that if I stay here long enough, I’ll find him. Not on one side and not on the other, but in the in-between.
In the past, I used to think that if I could just communicate my thoughts well enough then maybe I could finally make peace with all these opposing factions waging war upon my soul. Maybe I could make them understand. Maybe I could make them comfortable with my existence.
But now I’m realizing that I’d rather embrace the discomfort of living in the center and just invite people to join me, if they dare. No more begging the gatekeepers to let me in. I will be the keeper of my own gates instead. And my gates will be open to everyone because the gates of heaven are open to everyone. Indeed, when we embrace the tension of existing together and honoring the stories of one another—conservative or liberal, right or left, affirming or traditional—we all become better for it, even in the midst of our disagreements, of which there will always be plenty.
So in the coming days, I want my blog to better reflect this tension of living in the in-between. My posts will become less polished but more honest, and I will try to become more gracious in my speech even as I try to become less worried about saying the wrong thing, including (and perhaps especially) on Twitter.
I want to speak not only to what I know to be true, even if I can’t explain it perfectly, but also to the things I’m still confused about, even if I still have faith. I want to embrace asking questions that don’t have adequate answers, and I want to live in the freedom that comes from not needing to have all the answers. I want to sit in the complexity of real life. I want to acknowledge that none of us have it figured out. And that’s okay.
Finding God in the Questions
As I embark on a new chapter in life to complete my Ph.D., I expect this tension of living in the center to only grow. But I’m starting to get used to it in this queerfully celibate life of mine. And I fully expect my faith to grow along with the tension, as well as my love and appreciation for the stories that are different than my own. I’m excited but also nervous, and I expect the coming days to bring just as many laughs as they do tears. And I expect to find God through it all. In the joy as well as the sorrow. In the answers as well as the questions.
And I hope to find people who are like me. People who fit everywhere and absolutely nowhere all at the same time. Because maybe together we can find a better way than taking sides. Maybe we can find a way to love each other and honor our myriad differences. Because ultimately those differences will sharpen us and make us more like Christ.