“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”Ephesians 3:16-17
Everything, All the Time
“I’m exhausted… I’m just… very tired of having to process everything all the time.”
That’s what I was told recently by someone who reached out to Revoice looking for some support – a young gay man trying to navigate faith, sexuality, and church hurt. They were relatable words, I’m sad to say. I’ve heard this over and over from other sexual minorities. There is so much tension and nuance to wrestle through, figure out, and resolve. For those of us who are able to resolve much of (never all) of our tension, this is followed by the heavy work of explaining. We relive all of our questions, fears, worries with the straight folks who love us.
Ground to Grow From
My new friend wasn’t wrong – in so many ways, we are processing “everything all the time.” Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to echo Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians over our community: that, out of God’s glorious riches, He may strengthen us with power, through His spirit, in our inner being – so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.
See, we need the Spirit’s strength to navigate this life. I mean, as the famous meme says, we need the Spirit’s strength to go to Walmart – but this is perhaps especially true for those of us who hold so much of our human experience in tension with our beautiful faith. When so much of our lives feels like murky waters to navigate, we need a strong grounding to root ourselves in.
As we pursue God’s fullness at Revoice22, we’ll spend a session reflecting on some key foundations for us – an island to land on in the midst of the murky waters, so to speak. Though all Christians need the grace and strength of Jesus to live faithfully, there are some unique tensions faced by sexual minorities that we want to establish a foundation for. In particular, we’ll be talking about sexual integrity, hopeful longing, and living lives of dignity and service. Though these struggles are not unique to our community, I believe it’s essential we learn from other sexual minorities (and those who love us well) in our navigation of these topics. I can’t wait to join you in learning from some of our favorite voices. In the meantime, I want to offer you some encouragement, and alleviate a little of that “everything, all the time,” exhaustion.
Reinventing the Wheel
If you’ll allow me a 17th metaphor, so much of our exhaustion comes from how much we’re trying to reinvent the wheel, and figure this out on our own. I get it – so many of us grew up without anyone to share our story with, much less a friend to give real advice. Advice we did get often came from folks who were well-meaning, but as uninformed as we were. This is a great recipe for mental isolation and emotional exhaustion – but Revoice exists largely so that you don’t have to process on your own! Instead of figuring out every aspect of faith for yourself, look to those who’ve come before you, or are traveling the same journey right now. Quit reinventing the wheel! Sure, no one can speak to your exact experience, but you may be shocked how much others can relate to, and speak into, your questions.
You may start by checking out some books, like Greg Coles’s Single, Gay Christian, or Eve Tushnett’s Tenderness (my personal favorite. Buy it. Read it. Gift it). For more in-depth, topical conversation, you can check out our friends’ podcast Life on Side B, which features discussions with tons of sexual minority Christians. Or you can watch some past conference talks at our Digital Resource Library. None of these options will take away all your questions – but all of them will help you know you’re not alone, and will give you some frameworks so you’re not building from the ground up.
Reinflating the Tire
The longer I live this life, the more I’ve come to value some routine maintenance. The roads are rough out there, so it’s normal to get a little banged up – but a little care can help us last the long-haul. If you don’t have any rhythms to reinflate your (spiritual, emotional, mental) tires, might I kindly suggest it?
Our Lord sets a pattern for this notion throughout the scriptures; we’re commanded into sabbaths, years, of jubilee, seasons of rest. See, we’re not made to process “everything, all the time.” Our own Jesus, amid much great work, would often retreat to be alone with the Father, to be replenished. For some of us, though, prayer has become a place of work – another area we wrestle, fight, and claw. As much as possible, I want to invite you to practice prayer that is focused on rest and re-inflation. If you’re tired of praying about your sexuality… just stop. Take a break. Jesus is alright with you taking a day off… in fact, He seems to insist on it.
You may take thirty minutes to go for a walk or sit outside and connect with God’s creation. A favorite of mine, when life feels rocky, is to sit in a hammock in the woods. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I read my Bible, but often I ask Jesus to help me rest, then I read a comic. Rest is holy, friend (I haven’t found a Bible verse yet that declares Green Lantern comics as holy, but I’m looking).
Another way to reinflate the tires may be to exercise creativity, particularly if your day job doesn’t utilize creative gifts. Tend a garden, paint something, take up a fiber art. I’ve been shocked, and grateful, at how I have met Jesus in the time I spent crocheting. Creating beauty is a part of bearing the Imago Dei.
This is the part I’d rather avoid because I wish it weren’t true… but I need to be honest. My experience, and that of my friends, suggests that no amount of self-care, mental resourcing, or hammock days will prevent moments of spiritual breakdown. I pray this isn’t true for you – or that if it is, you will find the repairs easy – but the reality is that tires pop, cars break down, and we sometimes feel a little stranded. This is unfortunately more common for sexual and gender minority Christians.
If you find yourself needing to do some roadside repairs on a heart that’s broken down, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and even hopeless. I wish I could prevent this for you, but I can suggest some tools that have helped me on my worst days.
· Church visits: We belong to a big body. If your church feels difficult to attend, visit another for a week or two. I personally attend church with a friend whenever life feels too overwhelming or if I have a negative experience at my own church.
· Borrowing tools: when our spiritual toolkit feels insufficient to the task, it may be time to borrow tools from our Christian neighbors. Though I grew up Presbyterian, I’ve come to benefit immensely from contemplative practices and Spiritual Direction, concepts I did not grow up with. In fact, sometimes the fact that it’s not associated with earlier experiences will make it easier to utilize, particularly for those of us with spiritual trauma. (If you need help connecting with a safe Spiritual Director, check out our friends SoulCareSeattle.com)
· Spiritual Creativity: Sometimes, church hurt has made typical faith engagement really hard. I try to be creative about how I meet Jesus in these moments. For a season when church attendance felt too painful, I would make a special breakfast each Sunday, and eat it while listening to songs that reflected my spiritual experience. If praying is hard, try making a playlist that reflects your feelings – your own modern Psalms. Joy Oladokun’s music really reflected much of my grief for a few weeks, and named what I struggled to. Poetry was also a form of prayer that ended up providing spiritual connection when normal prayer was difficult.
I don’t know what this road has been like for you – but I am more confident than ever before that none of us travels alone. As I’ve worked with Revoice for the past seven months, I have been astounded at how often I hear similar themes, heartaches, and hopes in stories I hear. If you, like my friend, are tired from “everything, all the time,” I invite you to come rest with us for a few days at Revoice22. If you’re not – if your tires are fresh and your heart is full – I invite you to come celebrate with us. Either way, let’s be together. Let’s live in the truth that we’re not alone, that there is good ground for us to grow from, and that God is leading us to rich, beautiful fullness.