Over the past week, I have been in BC with almost the entire Generous Space team running some events, including a fantastic ally ship event with Sarah Bessey (video to come!), and our annual West Coast retreat. While there will be more post-retreat reports coming in the next few weeks, I wanted to be vulnerable and share something profound that happened to me while I was there.
Whenever the GS staff happen to be together, there is a tradition of having an “affirmation circle”. Yes, it is exactly as it sounds like: we sit in a circle and speak affirming truths to one another. While Wendy gets teased for always making us do it, the truth is we all know how important it is too. This time was especially important for me. Let me give some context.
This time last year Wendy offered me the job as Co-Director of Community with Generous Space Ministries. I’ve been in the role for nearly a year now. Despite how much I love the job and the community, throughout the last year, I have been struggling with deep fears and anxiety. I was convinced that I was going to be fired. I would imagine all kinds of reasons I would be seen as a failure or a fraud, then given the boot.
As Wendy and Beth can both attest, I have spent much of the last year apologizing and second-guessing myself. And despite their continued reassurance, I even imagined that I would get fired for even bringing it up so often. I am generally a fairly confident person, so this uncharacteristic and seemingly irrational fear has bothered me the entire year, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Until this weekend.
Sitting in that affirmation circle, hearing the encouragement from my friends and colleagues, I began to cry and my anxiety shot up immediately, again confused and desperate to understand. Then, as Wendy was affirming me, her words seemed to hit a light switch inside me and I suddenly had an insight:
For the previous 25 years, I have served in full-time ministry carrying a constant dread that at any moment my queerness would cost me everything. It became such a constant companion that I became part of my “normal” and I almost didn’t even notice it anymore. But over the last year, so many of my worst fears came true. The loss of friendships & community. The threat of losing my vocation & income. My basic humanity undermined and my intentions demonized. All of this has happened to us (outside of GS, of course) and it has been horrific.
Suddenly I find myself part of a new community where those threats are gone; where my queerness is not a liability or an embarrassment but rather a reflection of the divine image and a unique qualifier for service to God and others. That loving embrace turned a light on in my soul and all the rats and roaches of fear, doubt, and self-loathing were exposed.
I know that I am safe with Generous Space, that the team embraces me. Yet I was terrified that it would all be taken away. Again. I wept at the realization. And liberty is slowly being released. Very slowly. It is going to take me a long time for the head-knowledge of my place in this community to become heart-truth. And I am sure I will stretch my fellow staff’s patience in the process. However, the rare gift of embrace that I have experience in Generous Space is priceless. My own experience of it drives me to want to share it with others. We won’t do it perfectly but know that we truly want to see each and every one of you flourish.
Thank you to Wendy, Beth, Becca, Holli, Caro, and Eric for walking me through this year. And thank you to all of the GS community for being just that- true community.