A u-turn and a climb down.

A few months ago I wrote the following blog:

https://vickmcq.com/2020/05/07/maybe-im-just-a-cynic/

If you haven’t read it basically I am cynical and scathing about the video that was released by a coalition of Churches across the UK. I bemoaned the fact that people thought it was a great move of God….

Well… let me just say, some of the things I said I stand by. Particularly when it comes to who certain churches would welcome and bless, however, having just listened to it played by the worship band at my online residential course for my Theology degree, the song broke me in a way it hadn’t earlier this year. I realised that at this specific moment I need a blessing. I need to hear that God is for me, and many other people need to hear that message, most desperately. I could see at the time how it could bless people but I understand it more thoroughly now. Do I think it brought unity….umm no I still don’t really, do I think God used it, yeah I think He did and is. People need to hear that God is for them, cause so often they have heard the opposite of that. So does this mean I am not as cynical as I think? The jury’s still out on that front.

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I don’t know…do I?

This week has been one of those where I’m left wondering about so many different things. Have I got everything wrong? Do I know anything at all? What if I am wrong about certain things? What would that all mean? Since John died I have been uncertain of myself, but it would be wrong to say I wasn’t before he died. I have always been uncertain of myself. I have struggled with self confidence all my life, and what I have found this week is I have not come as far in that area as maybe I thought I had. Often I feel I am a walking bunch of contradictions. I think one thing and then consider the opposite and finish with ‘I don’t know!’ For some reason at the minute I can’t seem to ‘pin anything down.’ If you ask as me my opinion, I’m probably going to give you a unsatisfactory answer. Believe me, I am as frustrated by it as the people I am speaking to must be. I am so unsure of myself and I’m not sure (funnily enough!) what’s prompted it or where it’s come from. Or maybe I’ve always been like this? See, I don’t know anything! I really don’t know what I think! And may I add, its exhausting always considering everything, constantly and never reaching a decision or conclusion about anything. I just wish I could settle (yes my maiden name was Settle….its not funny). Or maybe I’m not meant to settle on anything but surely that can’t be right, you have to know what you think about somethings? Maybe that is what’s knackering it up for me. For a good few years I thought I knew what was right when I was happily married and life was good and then all that got up ended. What if it is fear holding me from knowing my own thoughts, incase when I do my world gets turned all inside out again and I’m left wondering? Suffice to say… I don’t know!

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Recounting my honest experience 20+ years later.

Having real problems sleeping at the moment, I know that some of this is grief, as it has been the run up to and the 2nd anniversary of my sister’s suicide plus what should be John’s 40th birthday is starting to loom large in my mind and heart. I always have a poor sleeping pattern around anniversaries or when my grief is teetering on the surface. One thing that has kept me awake and generally been in the background is the realisation and acknowledgement of the years of self torture I have put myself through. I know the human psyche is a very complex things and I have no knowledge or expertise whatsoever into it, I’m just recounting my own experience…

This picture is of my homework diary from when I was in year 10. 1998. This is a visual representation of what was going on inside of me. Up until then I guess I had never really thought properly that the same feelings I had towards men I had had towards women too, and I couldn’t possibly admit that it was true. I’d become a Christian in the summer of 1996 and thought I knew all about what Christians said about people who had same sex attraction and what the Bible said as well. Even though I was definitely attracted to men it was unthinkable that I should be attracted to women too, and yet when I thought about it properly I knew it had always been true, from when I was very little. Some people think you can’t possibly know how you feel when you are young and while it’s true I didn’t quite understand it at the time, I do now. That bubbly feeling whenever I saw a certain person in the TV show House of Elliot, that one friend I thought about much longer than I should have, and the girl I cried over and I realised I probably shouldn’t be. But back in 98, at least where I grew up, you were either straight or gay, and I didn’t feel I fitted in either of them, and I knew I didn’t want to be gay, plus I fancied men so I couldn’t be right? I had heard the term bisexual but no one really talked about it seriously. So with all that in mind I refused to accept my attraction to women. That was the only answer where everyone wins, God wins cause He’s cross about the whole thing anyway and I want to please Him more than anything else and I win cause I don’t have to deal ‘with it’ or so I thought…..

How silly, cause I realise the moment I started pushing it all down inside, what actually happened for the next 3 years was I was constantly ‘dealing’ with ‘it’. I was so worried about it all the time, it was all I could pray about. ‘Make it go away God, make it stop.’ The amount of nights I cried myself to sleep is such a sad thought now. One of the lowest points was crying myself to sleep on my birthday, after hours of prayer for it all to stop and be over. I remember walking to church and my heart breaking cause I felt I couldn’t be faithful to God and like women as well as men, and I didn’t understand any of it. I just knew I loved the Lord and He meant everything to me and I was nothing without Him, so the only choice I really had was to walk away from Him or bury it and police it incase it ever came to the surface.

And thats what I did. I, as the picture shows, refused it. Once I had recognised it and rejected it I started to police myself with an aggressive strictness. I couldn’t let it get out, ever. It simply could not, because otherwise me and the Lord were over and I knew it, and I was not under any circumstances going to let that happen. So I closed that part of me down, down completely. I had to. What other option was available? I had told my mum one night and she had told me not to be stupid and slammed the door never to talk about the subject ever again. I’d read what (I thought) the Bible said. I’m an in for a penny, in for a pound, kind of girl, all or nothing, I mean it would be so much easier in one sense if it was all men or all women but it was both and I mean that’s not easy for anyone to get their head around is it? Especially not when your 15/16/17 years old. I’d told my best friend and I’d told my youth workers and while they were accepting of me and didn’t judge or condemn me, they didn’t have to, I had already done it. I was judge, jury and executioner. And while at various stages of those years I had gone a little back and forward over it, by the time I was 18 the decision was made. It was a source of shame and will never be mentioned and any time it appeared in my thoughts would be shut down completely. Zero tolerance. I hadn’t noticed how exhausting that whole thing is till recently. Policing yourself 24 hours a day 7 days a week for decades on end. The slightest hint and internally I would slam myself with shame, condemnation and judgement.

Waking me up in the middle of the night recently is the question: in the times when I wasn’t consciously ‘dealing’ with ‘it’, what if I had gotten so used to shutting myself down that I no longer recognised I was even policing myself? At first glance it would appear as though I had specific times in my life where I was bisexual, and times I wasn’t, but that’s nonsense, it’s not a phase. You can’t drift in and out. It was always there, it’s just at times I wasn’t able to keep it as far down as I would have liked. For instance when I first worked for John Lewis, that time was so hard… I can’t believe I am gonna write something I haven’t even told my therapist yet (although hopefully by the time I actually publish this I shall have told her..) I had gone on secondment to another dept and it was my time to return back to where I came from. Returning, however, would mean seeing the woman I liked again, and so in an attempt to not go back to my department, one night I got a hammer and I repeatedly smashed it into my hand… that is why if you look at my palms side by side you will see one is slightly more raised than the other… it also hurts when its cold. I did go to work and I didn’t tell a soul what I had done as how could I explain it?? But when I was offered the chance to move departments I jumped without thinking. There were certain songs I listened to when I was at school during those years that I couldn’t let myself listen to ever again because they reminded me of that time. I feared (this is so irrational…) that they would reignite whatever it was within me that had liked women so I avoided them like the plague. I would walk out of shops if they were on. If I was in a restaurant and they came on I would break out into a cold sweat.

When last summer my attraction to women resurfaced I began to realise exactly what had been going on when I didn’t have the inner strength to police and fight it. Even though for the last year I have been accepting of my bisexuality still I find prayers for God to take it away start up with in me. Still I wake up in a cold sweat cause I’ve had a dream about a woman or I’ve realised I like someone. Now I try not to fight myself over it. It’s hard not doing automatically what you have done for years, and yet so unbelievably freeing. It’s difficult to describe. The relief that comes when I remember it’s ok. I’m not bad. There’s not something wrong with me. I’m ok. I’m not horrible. I’m still loved. Jesus is still with me. Huge waves of relief wash over me and often I find myself smiling. I’m ok, and I’m going to be ok.

Why am I saying all of this? Why now and why publicly? Because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through. I don’t want anyone to spend years crying night after night, I don’t want someone to take a hammer to themselves, I don’t want someone to feel rejected by God especially, if like me growing up, that is the only thing they have. I acknowledge that had I of come to terms with this sooner, I may not have had some of the life experiences I have done, but I must also face the pain and the hurt I have caused myself over the years. I see, know, and have experienced what homophobia causes when you internalize it. Internalized homophobia is real and causes terrible suffering to people. I most definitely did not choose to be bisexual, not in the slightest. I just always have been, and there really is nothing I and seemingly God can do about that.

There are some people who say, well that’s fine but don’t engage with that part of you. ‘Leave it alone and crack on with life.’ But wasn’t that what I had been doing? People like Jackie Hill Perry et al are not helpful to me as I know I would slip back into harmful ways if I followed what they say. Maybe it does work for them, but not for me. I need to be gentle and caring with this part of me after the years of denial and damage I have done. When I let my sexuality be what it is and engage positively swathes of freedom and enormous relief wash over me, which constantly surprises me. I never thought I would feel like that, ever. It has taken a lot of work to get to this place but I can truly say I’m grateful I’m here.

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Learning to breathe again.

I’ve written a couple of times about how my faith has changed since John my husband died and then my sisters suicide a year and half later but I’ve been reflecting on it recently. I find myself thinking about how the Lord kept it alive when really it was just embers at one point. Before I start I need to let you, who are reading now, know that I am going to mix metaphors and swop in and out of them repeatedly because I am talking about faith and my experience of it which is hard to describe with language (I know there’s a word for that but I cannot for the life of me think what it is.)

Faith for me since I became a Christian when I was 13 years old has been of utmost importance. It has been a living, breathing element to my make up. It has been the filter through which I have ran everything, every thought, every word, every decision, every instance really. So when John died it felt like I stopped breathing. I remember the exact moment, it was a few minutes after John had died, the room suddenly felt like a vacuum and my breath got taken away literally and figuratively. I sat shaking, outwardly and inwardly. Everything that I had known, loved and was sure of had gone. Even though I still believed in God, the part of my faith that was active, inside of my very core, had vanished. The part that was the eb and flow of me had ceased. And the struggle began. Before there was an inner dialogue of constant communication between me and the Lord about everything, big things, little things, worries, concerns, a few questions but not too many, but it was there always. Now there was nothing but silence, and the occasional few questions of how? and why? and what do I do now? The next time I took a breathe was at my theological college residentials, and I thanked God that even though it was small, it was something and I was grateful. Somehow faith was still alive albeit surviving on shallow breaths that came with long gaps in between them never knowing if there would be another.

In the 6 months before my sisters death I had been introduced by a college lecturer to ancient Christian Spirituality, and various teachings from people throughout the centuries and this allowed me to take in tiny miniscule breaths. I knew my pentecostal faith was well and truly over cause when I tried to interact with it, I felt as thought the shallow fleeting breath I was managing was being whisked away everytime. What’s curious about all this, which I have articulated recently, is how years ago I would have completely written off these people and writings. I had been taught, and yes I had actually been taught (I won’t name and shame) that anyone not of an evangelical faith was to be viewed with suspicion and disregarded as Christians. Especially Catholics! I even witness someone shout in a Catholic person’s face that they were not ‘saved’. The person was devastated and they were so kind and gentle, its heartbreaking to think of it now.) I don’t think I had even really heard of Eastern Orthodox, but they would have got lumbered in as well. Latterly I even threw in the Anglicans too, which was nonsense cause my faith was deeply rooted in Anglicanism as they had taught me the faith when I was young, and I knew there were genuine ‘spirit filled’ believers amongst them. (Can you hear the separating out of who was christian and who wasn’t in that last statement?) Nevertheless to my shame now, I genuinely didn’t listen to anyone who I felt didn’t ‘cut the mustard’ of “true faith”. How foolish I have been. How much I have missed out on! My therapist who I had began seeing from 3 months after John died was a practicing Catholic and when I first starting seeing her I did, to my regret now, disregard anything she said about faith, no really I did. I kind of tried not to talk about my faith at first with her as I thought ‘she wouldn’t understand cause she’s a catholic and not a Christian’ but that was impossible to do if I was going to be open and honest with her about everything. My faith was and is such a big part of me. She was always encouraging and warm when I spoke of my faith and my struggles, and when I asked she would tell me a little of her own faith. I began to see she did have a faith that I could recognise. So when I also discovered ancient Christian spirituality and how it helped me breath I was more than taken aback…. could it be that these people who I believed were not Christians, could actually be and have something very valuable to teach me about God? Dare I imagine they may hold some of the keys to breathing freely again? And if they did and can, who else might that I have disregarded?

After Paula had died and my faith took another battering my ‘breathing’ became shallow again. I didn’t know when or if the next breath was coming or where from. It was then I found myself led to a little church about a mile and half away from mine and John’s house. It was an Anglican church and not even that, it was what could be described ‘high’ Anglican (although I’m aware not everyone likes that language)… everything I had despised and disregarded years before. And then I learn that they were inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. The only way it could be further away from the beliefs I had held about non-evangelical people was if it had been catholic, and then I find out the Vicar is gay and from the Catholic tradition. Surely not, I thought…really? This place? Nevertheless they welcomed me and I went in and during one of the services in a moment of quiet I took a big deep breath for the first time since John had died. I felt God’s spirit again. I felt the closeness of Jesus. I felt like I had been put on a life support machine and that this was the way to help me breath on my own again.

Of course God was always going to use the things that I thought foolish to confound my perceived wisdom. And I am so glad Father, Son and Holy Spirit have smashed my judgements, opinions and general ignorance. The very people I had written off and disregarded have helped me beyond measure. It was their writing, their wisdom, their faith, their hope, their conversations, that the Holy Spirit is partnering with to get my faith breathing again. The amount I have learnt from ancient Christianity, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans and LGBTQ+ Christians is immense. I tried to resist it at first but I could not, cause to do so would mean to be untrue to myself, my faith and the way I encounter the Lord.

Now, however, I’ve found the pendulum has swung the other way… now I find myself not trust Evangelicals. I have to fight myself to not disregard what they say. I have to remember that the very people I disregarded in the past are the very people God has enabled to help the relationship between Him and I. Also Evangelicals basically grew my faith, I wouldn’t have a faith is it wasn’t for the way God partnered with them in the first place to reach me and teach me. I can still tell by the way I talk about my faith how much is influenced from evangelicalism. And if I’m honest the whole thing makes me a little sad. I don’t want to be suspicious of Evangelicals, I really don’t. I just can’t hack the kind of faith that they have anymore, or the way they articulate things and say things (even though I still articulate and say somethings the same way!). I try to remember not too long ago I was one of them. One day may be in some way I might again. What am I now? Good question. Should I get into labelling myself and my faith? I’m not sure. I know my faith is richer and broader and more robust because of the people and different areas of faith I have included rather than excluded. So for now I’ll call myself an includer. If you have a faith I’ll include you in my thinking and my listening. After all, it is the people I excluded that God is enabling to help me have a living breathing faith once again and for that, I shall forever be grateful.

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Bear with…

I am currently trying to improve my English language skills so that my essays (and this blog) are easier and more enjoyable to read. I am also learning about racism, feminism, and heterosexism so please bear with… I have a couple of blogs floating in my head but want to be able to articulate them better.

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“You’re not academic”

Another essay in. I still have 2 to do this year that I had deferred from previous years due to bereavements. It’s honestly a miracle I’ve got this far and I’m so grateful to God everytime I hand an essay in. I love my degree partly because it shows me something I never dreamed would ever happen. By the time I had gone through school, and then GCSE retakes and then a BTEC 1st Diploma I had had it drummed into me “you’re not academic” so much so that when the opportunity came up to do a HND I decided against it because I truly believed by then that “I wasn’t academic” and my days in academia were over, I hadn’t done great anyway so move on. If you’d have told me when I was 33 that I would start a 6 year degree course and love it beyond my wildest dreams, even when the worst things in life are happening to me I would continue it I would have laughed at you and told you to sit down. But here we are and I’ve almost finished year 4 and the last 2 essays I’ve done I have enjoyed the most. Beyond grateful to God for this opportunity. I never want it to end.

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Verbal Processing.

To be fair I have done quite a lot of verb processing today, and yet, I feel I need to do more. (This may be the lockdown effect.) Some people say you shouldn’t process on a  blog for others to read, and you should give yourself time to reflect. The other thing about verbal processors in general is we tend to get all our thoughts out of our system and say a bunch of statements, and then decide what we actually think is true afterwards. That description basically sums up my entire blog  (😂). So here it comes…

Today I have had three different people, from three different places, about three different subjects say the same thing to me. “Don’t let it knock your confidence.”  It’s an interesting phrase for me because this time last week I was in full meltdown of self-confidence. I was on the floor. I doubted everything I had ever done or said. It was excruciating. Those of you who know what having rock bottom self-confidence is like will know it’s a different pain to others.

Current events have not helped me with rebuilding my confidence. The actions of Dominic Cummins and the Government have enraged me like no other political situation has. It is made worse by the disagreement of what he did. When expressing my anger and having it challenged I have defaulted to doubting myself. The other thing that is absolutely wrecking my head is that naturally, I am a forgiving person. Naturally, I give people the benefit of the doubt. Anger does not come to me easily. So to have a sustained period of anger is unusual. I also want to be kind, I want to be forgiving, I want to be measured and I just cannot bring myself to be about this situation. I do feel that Dominic Cummings is facing a lot of criticism and is being attacked and normally when that happens I side with the person who is getting hounded, however his lack of remorse and refusal of an apology means I cannot force myself to be on his side. I just can’t. It’s totally repulsed me and I can’t seem to get over it. I’m also angry about various other things that are happening around the world that I feel less qualified to comment on. I’m very conscious that I may be wrong about a lot of things. I want to act with humility. I don’t want to be arrogant or proud. I guess I  still need Jesus’ love and compassion as much if not more than I ever did.

I’ve said this before in another post but it seems to have come up again, I recognise that I only have so much energy to give to “fighting battles”. ( I don’t particularly like this terminology of violence but I don’t have any other in my vocabulary.) My husband and sisters untimely deaths mean I spend a lot of energy functioning “normally”, meaning when I wake up every morning without John my energy is spent getting up instead of staying in bed and wanting it all to end. I have to spend the energy I have leftover wisely. I want to fight so many injustices for the poor, the refuge,  racism, the oppression of women, and the LGBTQ+ community. I realise I cannot do all that. Just the thought is exhausting. But how do you choose which ones? Do I have anything to offer them anyway? (Hear the self-doubt?) What is it I can do for them? 

All of this while doing a degree, working, thinking about vocation, and being in a pandemic means I am tired and emotional but I am trying. I’m trying to be true to God and myself. I’m trying on all fronts to do the right thing. I want to please God, I want to do right. Those are my end goals, that much I know at least.

 

 

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Maybe I’m just a cynic.

Haven’t written a post for a while, partly due to the number of blogs that other people are writing due to lockdown still being in place, and my blog is nothing of real substance to any debate, so haven’t felt the need and also as I have been writing an essay all my energy has been focused on that. It was an immense privilege to write on the different views of women in leadership and the Biblical hermeneutics involved. I really enjoyed the reading for it despite the hideousness of my concentration due to the pandemic. The writing was really difficult but I’m still glad I did it. I knew all the arguments against women’s leadership like the back of my hand so that was nothing new. It was good to actually read and study in-depth for myself the argument for women’s leadership, which I have really only taken as a given.  I have just written out 2 tweets and then deleted before posting and then 2 Facebook posts which I also deleted before posting. The tweets were about a video that has been released called The Blessing UK. Over 65 churches “came together” to record a song and release it on Youtube. When it was published I was knee-deep into my essay but thought it would be a welcome break so watched it and I will admit it was well done and it made me cry but not for the reason I thought it might. I had imagined I would well up because of the “unity” and the fact that all these people were singing a blessing over the UK and how wonderful that was. However, I didn’t. As I sat there in front of my essay knowing that the hermeneutics used against women’s leadership but also against women, in general, have caused millennia of pain, abuse, mistreatment, silencing, suppression, and exclusion of women all I could think was that some of the people singing “He is for you” deep down didn’t believe that at all.  When faced with a woman in leadership they would not have sung “He is for you” and don’t get me started on what they would sing faced with a Gay or Trans Christian. Lord have mercy! The truth of the matter is what should have been sung by some is “He is for you if you *say a certain prayer/ believing a certain thing/ live a certain way. *Delete as appropriate. And so when I watched the video and everyone was singing I cried, I sobbed because I knew that actually, people do not believe that God is for EVERYONE. People actually believe that God is only for people who change who they are and how they are, and if they are a woman then too bad, they can have no authority as the Bible “clearly” states. Reading people’s comments to the video has irked me as well. “Wow! This is incredible!”, “God is on the move!” Call me cynical (me to me: cynical), but over 65 churches “coming together” (reality recording people separately in their homes due to lockdown) and singing a song, makes God seem pretty small if that’s him on the move. How is it incredible? No one has said that about the participants of this year’s The Voice UK who did the same thing with the song “As”. No one said “God is on the move” because they all “came together”. Yes it was a nice thing to do, yes it probably did bring some people comfort, and yes I firmly believe God was most likely in it, but surely all those things could also be said of the video The Voice UK produced too?  God can and does use anything. Someone described the Christian reaction to The blessing video as ‘navel-gazing’, I laughed and moved on, but maybe they do have a little point. I understand that I am sounding like one of *those* people who are cynical and just want to ‘tear down anything that is good’ and I don’t want to be one of those people, but I do want to be real and think about what the actual reality is behind things. Maybe I have just done too much critical thinking and now I can’t stop pulling everything apart? I hope not. I do want to see the good in things and I can see the good that is in The Blessing UK, it is good that a blessing is being sung over the UK, boy are we in desperate need for it at the moment, and I pray this is genuinely the start of some unity in the church but let’s not be naive and think we have come leaps and bounds jut because some people sang a song from their homes without engaging in thoughtful, prayerful consideration of how the theology we hold works itself out.

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No holds barred.

Currently, the country is in lockdown due to the Coronavirus and so I have time on my hands to write, think and process…

My therapist a few weeks ago asked me to think about why I am writing the thing I am about to write on social media before I write it. I shall apply this rule here too. I am writing this partly just to get it out of my system which means it may never get published. Just cause I need to express it does not mean that other people need to read it. While to me it is a fascinating discovering, the limits of a blog may mean it gets lost in translation and also who really cares at the end of the day? It makes no difference to anyone other than myself really. Good. Now I’ve got all that pre-waffle out the way we turn to the main waffle 🙄.

What I have discovered in the last year but particularly the last 6/7 months is how ordered and consistent my sexuality is. And it blows me away. I was convinced the moment I actually admitted to myself that I was bisexual everything would go crazy and I would be a mess of being attracted to all kinds of people and just be in a complete spin. What I have found is the complete opposite, I can see order, and here’s the clincher for me (and I know when I say it some people are gonna get really bent out of shape) but I have to be honest, it’s really natural. What I mean by that is I’m 100% not creating this, I’m not making it up. Naturally, I am attracted to both men and women. Without me paying any attention to it at all, it naturally occurs. And what I mean about it being ordered is, I have types of men I am attracted to and types of women I am attracted to. And it is consistent. I don’t see the pattern in the moment, it’s only on reflection that I see the order. And when I look back through my life (apart from my time with John as I didn’t look at anyone as I was totally consumed with him) I can see the pattern was there all along… the same consistent pattern of certain men and certain women. I do find it fascinating. Every time I like someone and then I realise they fit the pattern I’m amazed. It really isn’t chaotic. It’s ordered. And if you gonna believe that God isn’t a God of chaos then…… I can’t believe I am about to say what I am about to say but I can’t put it any other way than this and please know that I never thought I would say anything like this ever… but I feel honestly that this has always been in me, I was born this way. I’m aware that some people don’t believe that at all, and I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this and talking it through with my therapist, but I can see clearly it’s always been this way.

When I was 15 I kind of knew or I certainly would have got there but shut it all down partly due to my mum’s reaction when I told her I liked a woman.  Also because there was so much going on in my life at that point with my mum and dad’s argumentative and sometimes violent relationship and consequent divorce. It was taking all my energy and strength to try and maintain a ‘normal’ life and keep my head down and go to school, that to have deal with the fall out from accepting a different sexuality (which in the mid to late nighties was somewhat still taboo) to the norm, I couldn’t have handled it I don’t think. So I shut it all down, right down. Yes, it tried to get out but I wouldn’t let it. I would wrestle it back in and in a way, I’m kinda glad I did, cause I would never have had the life I had with John if I had accepted it back then, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. So do I regret not dealing with it sooner? I guess on reflection no I don’t. This has needed time and space and thought and prayer and therapy and at no other point in my life have had all those things together. To use a cliche, I have been on a journey the last few years, it’s not been an easy ride, I’ve been anxious, scared, angry, sad but also experienced amazing relief, freedom, wonder and some smiles and giggles. I’ve had some good conversations, I’ve read some good books and theology. I still worry about how some people are gonna think about me differently especially Christians. I also worry that I should ‘do something’ and be more ‘visible’ but then who am I? I don’t hold any influence, I have no position or authority over anything or anyone so it’s kind of a non-starter.

So the question remains why even bother to write this in my blog? A couple of reasons. Currently with the Coronavirus and the death toll rising all over the world, but starting to now in Britain too. I work in a Supermarket and crazy as this is, I am now classed as a key worker which is ridiculous, but because everyone needs food and we keep the food supply going… anyway… sadly this also means that I am being exposed to the virus every time I go to work. Supermarkets are one of the main places you will encounter the virus because of the number of people who have the virus, don’t realise and pass it on to objects and other people. Yesterday the first Doctor in the UK working on the frontlines of the NHS died of Corona due to viral load. I know I will not experience anything like what the NHS staff experience in terms of my contact with the virus, but at this current stage we don’t know enough about it. It is indiscriminate in who it infects and how people react to it. I may have already had it, I may currently have it, I don’t know how it will affect me, so with that in mind, I wanted to write a little of my experience just to put it out there in case anything were to happen to me.

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Kindness

It wasn’t someone shouting at me that my beliefs were wrong that drew me to The Lord. It wasn’t someone screaming at me that I was ‘going to hell’ that drew me to The Lord. It wasn’t someone quoting Bible verses at me that drew me to The Lord. It was kindness that first drew me to the Lord. I have noticed that throughout my nearly 24 years of being a Christian the times of deep persistent repentance that I have had, aka metanoia aka ‘turning aside’ aka ‘changing direction’ aka ‘thinking anew’ and all the other ways it is described, have consistently been brought about by kindness, God’s kindness through others and when I have noticed it myself, in events and circumstances. What I am about to say maybe to my detriment in terms of my perception of being a Christian to others but, as ever, in my blog, I am always honest and open; I can only think of a couple of times where Bible verses have ever brought about repentance from me, and the occasions that they have, although sincere, haven’t lasted very long. In contrast to that my repentance brought about through kindness has lasted. It has withstood time and circumstances.

I even remember a time when kindness from my Mum drew a form of repentance from me and it was at a seriously low point in our relationship, one of the lowest. I had a complicated relationship with my mum due to her drinking and ashamedly our relationship was often strained, and I am still sad about that.  She had been harassing me at work for a few months. And I mean harassing. Following me to and from work, ringing the store repeatedly to try to speak to me. One day (somehow) she managed to get through to me, and I began with a barrage of ‘Mum. Please, leave me alone, you can’t be ringing me up like this when I’m at work.’ There was silence on the phone. I was a little taken aback as I thought she would start her normal monologue about how I must return back home and live with her immediately. But she didn’t. She started to cry. At which point my reflex reaction (to my shame now) was to jump in ‘Mum don’t cry it’s not going to get you what you want, I’m not coming home.’ and then she sobbed, ‘I was only ringing to tell you the last time you were here you left your purse.’ And with that, she put down the phone. Her kindness led me to repent of my awful reflex defensiveness towards her. It made me see that actually, she was, at the end of the day, still a mother to me, even if alcohol clouded and robbed that frequently/daily from her and me. Our relationship continued to be stormy right up until she passed away, but thankfully the week before we had been on good terms and I’m grateful for that. But I shall never forget the repentance her kindness brought about in me and continues to, as I give people the benefit of the doubt more often than not now.

Yesterday I posted a status on my Facebook that was highly controversial. I did it on purpose I’m not gonna lie. I genuinely wanted to know people’s reactions and who would bite and how. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am probably not Evangelical anymore. Some would say I definitely am not. But I know some people who are Liberal Evangelicals and even though the Evangelical Alliance totally would not embrace them, at all, they remain committed to keeping that label/identity. I must say at this point I know the word Evangelical and the word Liberal both have a vast array of meanings, but to help nuance that I’m talking about British Christian leanings. (Does that help? Maybe not!) Over the past 3 years, I have come to recognise the damage that some evangelical teaching does to people, myself very much included. I believe some evangelical teachings only teach you to be kind to other Christians who are like yourself. What I learnt from it was that anyone who differed from me was to be discarded and (although unspoken) disrespected, meaning I didn’t have an ounce of respect for them the moment I realised they were different to me in some way…ESPECIALLY the way they thought about the world and the Bible. I see the damage it does to people frequently, especially when people do not hold to Evangelical views. I’ve been guilty of causing some of the harm to others and to my very self. It has taken more therapy sessions than I can count to try and heal someone of the harm I have done inwardly to myself because of the teachings I held. I literally screwed myself internally, almost to the point of no return, and as someone bereaved by suicide I do not say that lightly. Believe. There is however something in me that can’t quite publically renounce evangelicalism because although recently I have seen the damage it does, I also know the good it does, it kept me a Christian for most of my Christian life, I love how it takes the Bible seriously, I love the fervour and zeal for the Lord evangelicalism has that honestly liberal Christianity just doesn’t have in the same manner. I totally understand how Evangelicals feel that Liberal Christianity is just wishy-washy. But this is all like anything else is it not? Everything needs balance. Yes, Evangelicalism can be so cruel and harsh and harmful, but equally Liberal Christianity can be so watered down Jesus can get thrown out with the bathwater, often I’m left wondering ‘Do these people even have a faith?’. There’s a balance. I know there is, cause I know people who have it. And the people who do have it, have such a beautiful faith that shines through to me and funnily enough through kindness. And it’s kindness that brought this blog about. Someone who I was fairly certain would ‘take me down’ and ‘whip me’ with Bible verse because of my opinion didn’t but was kind to me. So leave a light on for me Evangelicals, I may one day reclaim the label, just not now, and not yet, for me being Liberal is saving my faith, and ultimately my life. Love you all regardless of your opinions, beliefs and leanings. I’ll leave you with a Bible verse Romans 2:4. Peace out.

 

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