New Beginnings: Embracing the Tension of Living In-Between

Maybe there is a better way than taking sides.

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.

18 thoughts on “New Beginnings: Embracing the Tension of Living In-Between

  1. Karen Kaffenberger Reply

    I’m happy to read your post because I haven’t found too many others that share this path. I, too, am a person living in the in-between. I realized this many yrs ago in high school, when I found out that two very different groups each thought I “belonged” to the other group. This has persisted throughout my life, and at one point after a lot of prayers & tears, I realized I was called to be a bridge. “People who fit everywhere and absolutely nowhere all at the same time.” That truly sums up what I have always felt and experienced!

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      So glad to hear I am not alone this. Thank you!

  2. Maria Reply

    I am with you in the center. Though i’ve left RC precisely because her emphasis on minutia told me that i’d out-grown her ( and not because there is greater acceptance elsewhere… it isn’t, its a mirage. ) After 10 years a Quaker, i must say i am once again missing a level of fellowship i had hoped for. I do not believe that leaving them is the answer. I did grow which is what i’d hoped for most. There is no support for celebacy, though its demanded. The celebate always viewed with suspicion. Since its no different in any other denom ( including the one i left ) I view leaving as a temptation, i must fight… especially when this denom promises that IT will grow… and it HAS at lightening speed compared to RC, and this gives me hope. Congratulations on your studies in sociology! Father Andrew Greeley has always been such an inspiration to me, and will remain so. 🙂 Have you read Shalom Ashe? I found his book “Mary” quite instructive, and not in the way i thought when i first opened it. I wish you the same delightful surprise. 🙂

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      I haven’t read Shalom Ashe but thank you for the recommendation! And yes, you are right about there being no support for celibacy. Prayers that this will change 🙏

  3. Steve M Reply

    I have always seemed so liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals in the Church environment!
    Sometimes this excites me will at other times I cannot help worrying.
    As a writer I yearn to please both of my audience till am not even able to scribble down anything.

    And this is a new way to look at it
    “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”.

    Thank you for the post!

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      YES, I feel this

  4. Raina Nightingale Reply

    “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.”

    A lot of what you wrote about hoping to find God through everything, and also wanting to find others, resonated with me. I, too, want to find people who want to seek to love each other, to accept each other, even where we’re different, and look for truth wherever it may be – even in places and stories that are very different.

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      I think there are a lot more of us than it seems. We are a crowd that likes to hide

  5. Sarah Davis Reply

    Thank you for sharing Bridget! I always appreciate your perspective and these kinds of real and honest conversations are long overdue in the church. I think we all have areas we don’t quite fit in some way or another. Some people’s struggles are more socially accepted or more easily hidden than others, but I think in some way, none of us fit perfectly. Praying for you in this time of transition and congrats on the start of your PhD!

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      Thank you so much, Sarah ❤

  6. B Reply

    I nearly cried reading this. Like others on the comments page, I’ve always felt too liberal to be conservative and too conservative to be liberal. I’ve always felt I belonged nowhere. Instead of taking sides, I always try to find the middle ground- and end up being attacked from all sides. I used to find solidarity in the stories of faith bloggers who were in the in-between, but found that most of them ended up in one camp or another in the end. Thank you for sharing your story about being in-between, it really resonated with me, and I feel less alone now.

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      So glad we can have solidarity in this ❤️

  7. Fr. Joseph Reply

    This is lovely, Bridget. Even aside from the fraught shape of the issues you’re using the courage to talk about, there’s something very beautiful about the mere willingness to get messy in public. We all want to be good examples and to hold up simple, clear beacons that people will understand in all the right ways. But life just doesn’t always work that way, and the pressure to have everything we say be perfect and final is sometimes pretty toxic. It’s a blessing that you are gifted to be a model for knowing the worth of what you say even as you acknowledge that it can be messy in a number of ways, on both sides of the keyboard. Bless you, sister!

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      Thank you, Fr. Joseph! It’s a blessing to know you!

  8. seth kerlin Reply

    I am so grateful I found this blog. As a pastor and as a Christian I often feel dismayed by the polarizing culture wars and the vitriol they engender in otherwise kind and merciful people. One of the things I find myself saying to people (Christians usually) over and over again is “What if you’re wrong? How can you be so certain you’re right? Do you think you will stand before God and He will smugly confirm your every theological impulse and analysis?” And so on. Obviously I hold certain truths to be unassailable and there I stand I can do no other…but for one thing they do not fall neatly along political or denominational lines, for another it is ESPECIALLY with those truths that I want to represent them in humble winsome ways and not as a warrior seeking to destroy an enemy. I could go on, but I just wanted to say thank you for your words and candidness.

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      Yes, in a lot of ways, we’ve come to a place of deep theological arrogance to the interpretation of Scripture, where our interpretation is the only possible correct interpretation that all true Christians will adhere to if they’re actually, truly Christian. Certainly there are things that are essential to the Christian faith, but within many Christian circles, there’s a tendency to make our own pet theological doctrines essential to Christianity when they’ve never been understood as such in the history of the church. This reality is so important to acknowledge!

  9. Erika Reply

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your posts and blogs. As someone raised in a string Christian home with strong Christian valued, you can imagine my dismay upon realizing I was a lesbian from a very young age. I knew I was different but it became more and more apparent as I got older. Surprisingly, as much as I kept it a secret from my very large family, it wasn’t until the past 2 years or so that I actually felt like God had an issue with the way I was living. At 24, I was happy with the woman I thought I wanted to share the rest of my life with, and it became internally a huge wrestling match between myself and my own desires and what I believe God had/has for me. So much of what you write resonates with me. I struggle getting close to many people as I’m in the military and move a lot, my church is a rather large church but many of the resources and life groups are geared toward folks that are my age and married or married with young kids, or single but looking for a relationship. Since I don’t really belong to any of those groups, I move a lot, and struggle to grow close for fear of how I might be seen by a Christian community if they were to learn that I’m a lesbian, I tend to spend a lot of time alone and shame is very powerful, even when I’m not doing anything wrong. Your words that there is a purpose for me and that I’m not gross or twisted for being gay see encouraging to read. It gives me hope for my future and the patients to overcome the self-hatred that I have, even if my future doesn’t look at all what I once thought it would. I appreciate your kindness and thoughtful consideration for the fact that gay Christians can and do exist and that perhaps there is something positive to be gained from this experience rather than just someone to be pitied and outcast. I don’t know how to resolve many of my current struggles with loneliness or being withdrawn, but your words are very encouraging that maybe it’ll get better some day, and perhaps God doesn’t have the disdain for me that I’ve carried for myself all of these years.God bless you.

    1. Bridget Eileen Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and a small bit of your life experience. It’s definitely not easy making sense out of being a lesbian when you’ve grown up in a Christian home and continue to be immersed in the Christian faith…sadly there is so little understanding amongst Christians, and it can be a very isolating journey. But for every Christian who doesn’t understand, there is still an eternity of understanding with the Father, and that’s what gives me hope every day. Many blessings to you as you continue to navigate this terrain. ❤️

Leave a Reply