Today’s post in our Lenten series is a longer guest post from Tara Glowacki, a bisexual Christian and co-facilitator of the Winnipeg Generous Space Group.
Last year, I came out in my evangelical church. The coming out process was long and painful, and it ended in my leaving that church.
Recently, I was reading the “armour of God” passage in Ephesians, and I found myself using it to structure a letter to myself – to articulate things that I would say if I could go back and speak to myself on the eve of that difficult coming out journey. These thoughts are mainly “preaching to myself,” but if you are LGBTQ+ and you find these words helpful, then they are for you, too. If you are fighting against oppression on some other front and find these words helpful, they are also for you. This letter interprets the passage in ways that I considered both faithful to the Greek text and helpful in my situation, but this interpretation is very specific to my life, so if there are pieces that are not helpful for you, feel free to discard them and ask God what They* have to say for your situation.
A letter to myself on the eve of my coming out, from Ephesians 6:10-18**
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of Their might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
You are resisting – standing against – powerful forces. There are strong cultural norms and beliefs that want to keep you silent and marginalized, and people with significant power are going to push back against you. While you may not be physically fighting, the things that you are stepping into are going to feel like you are in a battle (and who knows what kind of battle is actually going on in the unseen world). You are going to feel overwhelmingly weak and powerless. Remember that God is not powerless, and trust in God’s strength to empower you, protect you, and carry you through this.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
God offers you Their own armour for this battle, armour that will protect you as you resist. Sometimes you might feel knocked down, but when everything is over and you have done all that you can, you will come out standing strong. Whether you see things change through your fight or not, know that you will still be standing at the end, as determined as ever to keep proclaiming that God welcomes you and people like you.
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth,
So hold onto the things that you know. You know the truth: you know how much God loves and values you and people like you. Hold onto that. That knowledge will protect you when you feel most vulnerable.
and having put on the breastplate of dikaiosyne (righteousness/justice),
You were brought to this fight by a God who cares about justice – so hold onto that passion for justice that God has placed in you. Hold onto your concern for the way your people are treated. You are going to be stunned by how poorly some people treat you, and it will be tempting to respond in kind. Don’t give in to that! Whatever you do, hold onto the moral high ground.
and having shod your feet with the preparation of the good news of peace;
A few chapters earlier in this same letter, Paul gushed about the mystery of Jesus’ good news: that it includes the outsiders and makes them part of God’s people. Hold onto that good news. Those of us who are seen as “outside” are God’s people. No one has the right to exclude us when God includes us. Let that knowledge be your preparation, carrying you into the things you need to do in order to help the church see us the way God sees us. And through it all, aim for the peace that is part of this good news. This is not a fake peace where we act nice and pretend that everything is okay. It’s the peace that Jesus gives, the peace that Paul named back in chapter 2 – where religious insiders have to accept that we (the people who they thought were outsiders) are as much God’s people as they are, and that God has discarded the rules that they have been using to exclude us! (See Ephesians 2:14-17.)
in all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
There will be backlash. Hard backlash. After you speak up, you will take hard hits from people who didn’t like what you had to say. At times, it will be hard to continue trusting that God cares about Their people and about justice. It will feel like you are losing ground rather than gaining it, and despair will start to sink in. Don’t give the people who push back against you that power! Don’t let their failures make you question God’s love! Keep resisting, and keep believing that God is already at work to bring about a better world than the one you see.
And take the helmet of soterios (salvation/deliverance/rescue),
Salvation: that word triggers memories of Sunday school boards filled with images of fire versus golden gates, but you know that God’s salvation is so much broader than that. You have been saved in the broadest sense – God has taken you out of shame and taught you that you are loved, They have rescued you from your religiosity and taught you to just be with Them, They have reshaped every part of your life and set you on a path that you experience as joy and life (even when it’s also hard). Hold onto that. Outside forces will try to fill your mind with fear and shame and will try to push you back onto the destructive path of trying to follow religious rules, but don’t give in. Stay on the path that God has put you on – the path of freedom, joy, and abundant life.
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
photo credit: verchmarco Religiöses Buch mit abgenutztem Einband und darübergelegter Halskette mit Kreuzanhänger via photopin (license)
You have heard from God. Their Spirit has whispered to your spirit through your prayer times, through other people, through your studies of church tradition, and through the scriptures. Use the things you have heard, and trust that even when you are too worn down to keep speaking, God’s Spirit is still speaking. Pray that people will hear the things the Spirit is saying to them.
Through all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit,
Keep praying. Like the Psalmists, take every experience of injustice to God in protest and lament. Be bold. Be honest. Sometimes things will get so confusing that you won’t even know what to pray for. That’s okay. In the moments when you feel completely lost, the Spirit is praying for you (Romans 8:26-27).
and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the holy ones…
In the moments when it all feels impossible, God will provide what you need to keep going. You won’t do everything perfectly on this journey, but there’s forgiveness for the moments when you wish you had behaved differently, and God’s grace will carry you when you no longer have the strength to keep going.
Keep praying for others who are facing similar situations. You are not alone in this. You are not the only person who has to go through this. There is a movement, and you are part of it, and it is holy.
Notes: *God is not male, so for me, it doesn’t make sense to use “he/him/his” pronouns for God. God is also not a woman, so for me, “she/her/hers” don’t work, either. God encompasses both female and male, and is somehow both and neither. (Jesus is a human male, but also describes himself as a female hen. God is described as both a Mother and a Father. The whole thing is incredibly queer!) The most accurate pronouns for God, then, would be the pronouns of people who are outside the gender binary. Most non-binary persons that I am connected to use singular they/them/their pronouns, so those are the pronouns I am going to use to describe God. **Since I composed my thoughts while reading the Greek text, I am using the very literal translation of the NASB to capture the text I was working from. In a few places, I changed a word or two.
What did you find most encouraging and/or startling about Tara’s take on this well known passage?
What “piece” of the armour of God feels most indispensable in your coming out process (whether you’re coming out as LGBTQ+ or an ally)?
Clothe us in your armour, God, as we strive to understand your Word through the lenses of the margins.
More about Tara:
More about Tara: Tara is an MDiv student who works multiple jobs in the inner-city and the mental health field. She loves beach trips, watching the bears swim at the zoo, and propping her Greek Bible up on the treadmill to study while running. She co-facilitates the Winnipeg Generous Space group.
You can check out more of Tara’s musings here: https://life-truth-justice-etc.blogspot.com/