The Generous Space community is both a safer space for LGBTQ+ people and a place where we are stretched and challenged by our diversity. We inevitably need to hold a lot of things in tension. One of those tensions is the need for both freedom and boundaries.
We celebrate the freedom that we have in Christ. For some, perhaps not yet or newly disclosing their gender or sexual identity, freedom is a tentative and overwhelming prospect. For others, perhaps after years of silence and hiddenness, freedom is an ecstatic and joyful outpouring.
One of the ways that we experience freedom in our Generous Space community is to encourage people to prioritize self-care. This may mean giving yourself permission to opt out when triggered or fatigued or overwhelmed. It may mean discerning what will be life-giving at this point in your journey and saying “no” or saying “yes” accordingly. Many of us who grew up in Christian communities have a really hard time embracing this sense of permission without feeling selfish or guilty. But in the Generous Space community we recognize how vital it is to learn the unforced rhythms of grace, to learn to rest, to learn to listen to your mind, your heart, and your body, and to learn to allow yourself to be loved and cared for without conditions.
“Many of us who grew up in Christian communities have a really hard time embracing this sense of permission without feeling selfish or guilty.”
Freedom is experienced in different ways by different people in our Generous Space community but I think it is fair to say that the common denominator is the freedom to stand upright in our Belovedness. To know that we know that we know that we are Beloved, as we are, for all of who we are, releases us into a spacious place. Here, we learn to be free from fear and shame and accusation and threats. Freedom means I have choices – choices informed by my Belovedness. Our choices enlarge our diversity…and diversity creates the need for both freedom and boundaries.
In order to cultivate a safer environment, healthy boundaries are needed. In our diversity, we have different expectations regarding interpersonal intimacy. That means we need to do a lot of communicating to ensure that we understand each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries. Extending respect commits us to do our very best to negotiate and honour these boundaries, even if they aren’t the same as ours.
“Extending respect commits us to do our very best to negotiate and honour these boundaries, even if they aren’t the same as ours.”
Our community includes people who are vulnerable for various reasons. Some people are feeling overwhelmed to be in an LGBTQ+ positive space. Some people have never been involved in a romantic relationship. Some people are survivors of sexual abuse. Some people are deeply lonely and hoping to meet someone. One of the things this means is that we need to be especially attuned to matters of consent. We need, for example, to practice asking permission regarding physical touch. I’m a hugger. At retreats, I spend a lot of time embracing people. I think this can be a beautiful gift of connection and can even be healing for some people. But I need to pause and ensure that each person is comfortable and wants to welcome an embrace.
When people have experienced a lot of shame regarding their sexuality, it can be really challenging to navigate the realities of an intimate relationship. This makes it all the more important for people to have very high commitments to clear and verbal consent before engaging in any sort of sexual behaviour. In addition to clear consent, it is important to be attuned to the ways that shame can create disruption in relationship. Kindness and patience with one another through some of these valleys is an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God.
We need grace to live in the tension of both freedom and boundaries. One of the ways we do this is to cultivate non-anxiousness. We aren’t always going to get it right. Sometimes we’ll lean too far on the freedom side and sometimes we’ll rely too much on boundaries. But we’ll communicate with each other the best we can, we’ll be humble with each other, we’ll listen, we’ll be honest, we’ll take ownership and apologize when needed, we’ll see beauty in each other, we’ll build each other up, and we’ll keep on loving each other. And we will rest in knowing that we know, that we know that we are Beloved.
~ Dr. Wendy VanderWal-Gritter
Check out our other Generous Space Retreat 2017 blog reflections HERE!