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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Chinks of light.

Phew. The third-year anniversary of John’s death is over. It was so hard this year. Every day since John died I have got out of bed straight away when I’ve been awake but twice in the last month I haven’t been able to, and this worried me. I’ve never struggled with depression but I would imagine that is what was going on. Life just felt too much and I had no energy at all. After work I would be totally done in, I mean utterly spent. I’ve really had to keep an eye on myself. Two days before John’s anniversary I had Therapy and boy did it knock me out. I came home and lay on the sofa unable to move, a good friend came and got me something to eat. Many thoughts have plagued me the last month: “How is John not here?”, “This cannot be happening.”, “I just want John.”, “He was my best friend.”, “What am I meant to do now?”, “I can’t do this without him.”, “Am I doing the right thing?”, “Would John be proud of me or disappointed.” During therapy, we walked through the last three years and I commented on how much in my life has changed (for obvious reasons) and how much my thoughts, attitudes and theology has changed. “It looks like I have just walked to a different place completely..” I said. My Therapist interrupted (I think she picked up on the sense of panic in my voice), “Yes but you haven’t just walked to another place, I have seen you genuinely think things through, wrestle with things,  read up on things, pray things over for years and months. You haven’t just arrived at where you are. You have worked really hard on your internal life, and I’m proud of you. So don’t worry. Even if no one else knows and no one else has seen. God has seen you, and I have seen you think and pray and agonise over many different things.” I needed it to hear that. That has helped a lot, I was beginning to believe the lie that I have just flippantly changed my mind about things and not thought things through properly. This hasn’t all happened overnight, the morning after John died as I stood in the shower and cried out to God that I wanted to somehow still serve God and live my life through Him even though I had no idea how that was ever going to happen now, I promised to rebuild my life with honesty and integrity to Him and myself. And this is how it is forming. I’ve also realised as I wrote on Twitter yesterday, my compassion for humanity is at an all-time high and so is my Christology. I’m extremely grateful for those. I’m extremely grateful to my therapist and my Vicar who have helped me think and talk things through without pressure to come to decisions or without judgement. So even though the sadness has been heavy, I’ve seen a few chinks of light appearing.

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Christmas time.

The last day of the Christmas has arrived in the church calendar. Midnight Mass was beautiful, I cried even though I was serving but did it discreetly so no one saw, I was overwhelmed by the story of Jesus’ birth, and how special and what a celebration it is, in a way I don’t think I have been before. Christmas was alright, my sister came and we had a good time, walked the dogs and went to church and then shopped on Boxing Day, well she shopped, I just went along with her. I crept into church early Christmas Morning before anyone got there and had a good cry on my own for all the Christmases I won’t celebrate with John or Paula. Life feels so cruel in moments like that. Thought I would be fine over New year but New Year’s Eve at work one of the people we used to employ came into work who I haven’t seen for a few years and the moment she walked away I felt my inside crumble, I just stood in the aisle and the weight of all I had lost hit me, I quickly hurried off the shop floor and into the produce chiller and cried my eyes out in the fridge. It sometimes feels so surreal that I was married and we had a business and we were so happy and now I’m a single part time supermarket assistant struggling to get by. In moments like that the struggle against self pity is sometimes unbearable. It’s a really fight to try and stay positive and remember all the good things that I currently do have and all that God is doing and has blessed me with.

Now away at my Theological College Residential which I adore. I have had and still have a awful cold that is making me feel really under the weather and highly emotional which is annoying me. I cried at an advert the other day 🙄. But I’m beyond grateful to be here and looking forward to all I’m going to learn about and from The Lord. I’m praying this cold doesn’t hamper it.

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Leftover thoughts.

A few thoughts following the last blog post. These thoughts actually started off as a thread of tweets but realised they could and probably should be a blog post. I have extended it a little too.

a) My relationship with The Lord is solid. It really is, I know some people are gonna find that hard to believe, but all I can do is tell you, it is. I also know some people will believe I have been deceived. To which I refer you to point b

b) I believe if I was truly wrong the Holy Spirit has the power to firstly tell me. I am open to their voice, and actively seek it day and night. And secondly to lead me the right way. I’m not sure what else I can do.

c) I am the same person You always knew and (hopefully) loved. I have not changed. My personality is still the same.

d) Possibly an unpopular opinion, but I recognise some people can hide and suppress their feelings and attraction and can do it well and it doesn’t bother them. That’s not me though, I can not. I’d self destruct and I know it.

e) I have to live with myself when there’s no one around, and I couldn’t do that if I was always hiding something and looking over my shoulder. I just couldn’t, it would kill me. I’m see-through. Always have been and clearly always will be.

f) I have not ‘acted’ (however you interpret that) on anything yet, and it remains to be seen whether I shall or not… Does this mean I don’t really know if I am or not? No. It’s doesn’t. Hours of therapy have established that.

g) If you believe I am wrong, this hurdle doesn’t have to mean our friendship is ended. This hurdle can be got over, without accusations, judgements or awkwardness. Should my sexuality really cause a distance between us when it never has before? Is it even worth thinking about?

h) Yes I am worried. Worried about a lot of things. People the most, I guess. I don’t wish to upset or disappoint anyone, and I know that I probably have. But my other options I know would lead me to a very dark place mentally so… partly this is a survival thing for me…

i) My mum due to a myriad of reason drank herself to death, my sister lost her life to suicide, I can not afford to play fast and loose with my mental well being. I just have to do what I have to do, and at this moment this is a part of it.

j) If a theology you hold causes you and/or others so much angst and turmoil surely there has to be something about that theology that needs thinking through and praying and discerning again?

k) Yes, I worry about John and his memory and whether I am tarnishing it, but as my therapist says to me over and over again, nothing can take away from our marriage and what we had together. It will remain how it was no matter what happens. The fact is we had a happy marriage and loved each other very deeply. I loved being married, and I loved John with every inch of my being. Nothing can change that. Ever. I loved that period of my life, it was wonderful. All of it. John, Marriage, our home, our church, our friends.

l) People have been very quiet about this, and I understand that. I know people don’t know how to respond as I didn’t know how to respond to myself for a long time. The cognitive dissonance I faced of pining for John and liking someone else, let alone someone of the same gender as me was absolutely head and heart wrecking. I had to make some peace with it, or else I think I actually might have lost my mind and I’m deadly serious about that.

m) As mentioned in the post I thought this might be the thing that breaks me completely, and for a while I genuinely did. I sat in church for hours, wishing it would all go away (again) and not wanting to have to face it, but I know in my heart of hearts if I skulked out of it, it would just come back around again like it keeps doing. I don’t have the emotional energy to keep going over the same thing. Let’s just face it now, then it’s done. I don’t have to worry about it anymore and I CANNOT tell you the relief of that.

I still love the Lord, I still love you. Surely those are the main things to focus on, no? I’m just trying to do my best, and live as integral to God, myself and everyone else as I can be. It most certainly is not my intention to disappoint or upset anyone. Ok, I’m done. That’s it, that’s all of it.

 

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Brutally Honest.

Stand by your beds because it’s all about to come tumbling out.

It’s been a hard week. I’ve faced a fair amount of pushback on social media for my political and theological beliefs, I also had therapy for the first time in a month and that is the longest I have been without seeing my therapist since I started attending 3 months after John died. I’ve overthought myself to the point of barely sleeping, and have had to rely on mild sleeping tablets the past 3 nights just so at least I got a few hours and can have some functionality.

I’m still in two minds as I write this post as to whether I shall even publish it because to say what I want to say I am going to have backtrack and more, and it’s gonna be a long long tale.

A while ago I wrote a blog called Headspace: https://vickmcq.com/2019/07/10/head-space-very-long-post/       It is a very long post but in it, I tell of my journey of how I have gone from being hostile of the LGBTQ+ lifestyle to inclusive and affirming. I say a couple of things that I need to clarify and somethings I have changed my mind on or realised are not true and haven’t been even though when I wrote it I genuinely believed they were….

I said in the blog post, “I have skirted around this issue for sooooooooooooo many years, for various different reasons, but if I’m being honest, I have been engaging and then furiously avoiding since I became a Christian 23 years ago.” The various different reasons for not engaging in it, and why I was engaging in it and then furiously avoiding it was because as I say later on in the post, “…but if I was [gay], I’m not afraid of it like I used to be. ‘What if it’s lurking somewhere ready to pounce’ I used to worry. Well, it hasn’t pounced and I don’t believe it will…” I used to be genuinely worried that a part of me was gay and that’s why I was engaging with it and then furiously avoiding it.

Let’s take a step back into my history, it’s circa 1997/8. I am playing a game with my school friends where we are rapidly firing questions at each other about which teachers we would snog ( I know! I know!) and when it’s my turn they throw in a female teachers name, and to my and everyone else’s surprise I say ‘Yes’…Erm, what? And this led to about 3 years of me trying to figure out for the life of me what had happened that day. My friends who had been playing the game with me knew the struggles I was having and which, I am sure would be to their shame now, and I don’t wish to embarrass them, coined a nickname for me: Homo. Such was the extent of my feelings and attraction to that teacher, however through all of that I still very much liked and was attracted to boys.  It was such a hard time in my life, cause I was a fairly new Christian and I had read “those” parts of the Bible and obviously taken them like the rest of it at face value. I told my prayer partner, who told my youth leader, who didn’t reject me as I was convinced was going to happen. They arranged for me to meet someone who was Christian and gay. I did, her name was Ruth. That is as much as I can tell you as I cannot remember anything about the meeting other than I was unconvinced by her arguments. I met with one of my friends who was a relationship counsellor. She suggested I waited it all out in case it was a phase. Then various things happened in my life which took my main attention away from it, but it niggled away in the background, and then came back with a vengeance. I was in distress about it and I remember it being my birthday and crying myself to sleep about it. I used to attend a Bible class with a dear lady down the road who taught me and some other young people from church, and I would sit there all night thinking to myself “You are such a fraud if these people knew.” It must have been bothering me more noticeably than I had realised as one evening my Mum said, “What’s going on?” I tried to brush it off but my mum wasn’t having any of it. She kept chipping away at me till I finally and somewhat over-dramatically burst out through sobs “I fancy a woman.” She screamed, “Don’t be so stupid!” Stormed out the room and slammed the door. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea what to do. We never spoke about it again and I suppressed everything heavily. I wouldn’t let anything remotely related to “gayness” near me. The moment any thoughts or feelings cropped up I would internally harshly scold myself. Please note all this time I was (and still are) attracted to men.

While at Stratford College I encountered some fellow students who were lesbians and noted how dysfunctional their relationships were. This reinforced my view that any form of homosexuality was bad and wrong. Phew, I thought. Dodged that bullet.

And so after years of suppression, I thought it was indeed just a phrase, but I was hyper-vigilant in case I caught a whiff of it ever again. In 2006 my mum passed away and I was left reeling. At the time I worked for John Lewis in Solihull and a few months after mums death I started to notice I was attracted to someone in the next department… a woman. Ut oh… I quickly transferred departments.

Fast forward to 2008 and I meet a wonderful man named John, fell in love completely and utterly. Whirlwind romance, engaged, married as happy as I could ever be. It was a phase I was convinced, didn’t need to the think about it apart from to condemn others who were embracing what I believed was their sin. I was so in love with John I can honestly say I didn’t find anyone else attractive in the slightest, my eyes never wavered for a second on anyone else. I was consumed with him, and ai was beyond happy. I was so proud to be a wife, but particularly his wife, as he was the kindest sweetest man anyone could ever hope to meet let alone spend their life with. All very good in the hood. And then John dies and I am undone. My faith is in tatters (see the first blog posts Feb 2017 onwards) church is so incredibly difficult and I just don’t know what to do. I want to believe in God but after what has happened how can I? And then I lose my sister to suicide and I am totally floundering. I cannot find God anywhere. When I started therapy after John died my decision was whatever it turns up, I’m facing it, no matter what that may be. I am being open and honest about everything. I’m being as authentic as I possibly can be.

In times of deep grief, I have found what really helps me is watching TV series and letting my mind process in the background. Father Brown is one of my absolute favourites as it’s gentle and yet has some astoundingly beautiful theology in it. A few months after Paula’s death I was watching an episode “The Lair of the Libertines” and in it, Lady Felicia gets seduced by the female murderer and ends up kissing her. I turned away quickly when it came on the screen. Problem was I couldn’t get it out my mind. Nnnoooo I thought. Come on. Fight. Fight. But I didn’t have the strength. Not having the strength to fight I turned it upside down, downloaded an app on my phone, found a bloke who was interested, met up with them and ashamedly slept with them. I felt totally out of control. My therapist was not happy. We had work to do.

In October 2018 I was led (I believe by the Holy Spirit) to a little church down the road and I encountered God again like never before. I knew that I knew that was where I was supposed to be, but I was beyond hesitant. It was an inclusive church, meaning not only were they open and affirming the Vicar herself was gay. I could not deny that I had encountered God there so for literal months I sat outside the church in my car and weighed and tested whether I should properly start attending and move churches, as I knew I would have to face the ‘gay’ question.

One of the inevitable things about John’s death and then Paula’s is, both of those things are some of the worst things that can ever happen. When I was married to John I knew the worst thing was if he died, how would I live without him. Yet somehow I do, and that means I’m not scared as the worst thing has happened and I’m still here. Nothing is going to be as hard as that. And so with that thought, I dug into my theology, prayed a ridiculous amount, talked it all over and over with my therapist a million times (poor woman) made my mind up and swopped churches. It wasn’t easy to leave the church John and I loved and attended but I knew if I stayed there the grief would swallow me alive. And for what was round the corner I needed to be in the church I was in…

As part of my therapy, I and my therapist have spoken about inner narratives and the voices that are inside us, I don’t mean external voices in your head that you have no control of, I mean more like your inner dialogue. So I started to listen to mine and what I found was interesting. The overwhelming dominative voice was controlling, not necessarily always bad, sometimes good controlling, like normal everyday safety stuff, but most of the time highly critical and viciously condemning. There was a smaller voice that was calmer and compassionate but it didn’t surface often at all. My therapist suggested I make a note of the times the narrative is controlling, critical and condemning and when it is compassionate. And what I found surprised me. The compassionate voice only appeared when I was totally at the end of myself and was trying to hold it all together. The critical narrative was the loudest whenever anything remotely to do with homosexuality came up. It was ridiculously loud. Surely that can’t be right I thought. So I decided to watch a programme that I knew would safely test whether this was true or not, I started watching Gentleman Jack. And it was almost like I was having a physical fight with myself to even watch the first episode the critical narrative was so loud I could barely watch it. “Vick you are stupid.” “I’m warning you, Vick, you are awful.” “Vick you are wrong.” “God hates you.” “Everyone else is gonna hate you too.” “Even I hate you.” ” You’re a weirdo.” “You are disgusting.” Then I thought… I wonder what would happen if I overrode that narrative. And so I watched the episode again and this time tried as best I could to override it. And what I found was that I was fine, and I really enjoyed the programme for what it was, good TV! What I also found about that inner narrative is that it would stop me from speaking and that it was very powerful in doing that. So many times in conversations with others or just when I was alone verballing processing it shut me down and for really no good reason, that I was astonished. It also stopped me from enjoying things I wanted to, like certain songs, or liking certain things. So I began consciously overriding it.

It was a gorgeous summers day and I was at a service at the Cathedral. We were outside afterwards and that’s when I saw her properly for the first time. And my response sent my critical narrative into overdrive. I couldn’t for the life of me take my eyes off her. She looked at me from a distance and I knew something in me was going on. I mean I couldn’t peel my eyes away. “What the hell do you think you are doing?” “You’ve gone too far now.” “You need to stop this immediately.” “How can you be like this?” “You are so wrong.” “God hates you.” “You are going to be judged for this.” “That’s it, God’s left you, the Holy Spirit has gone.” “You are so alone now”  thankfully I was stood with a load of my good friends and so I couldn’t respond to my reaction or my inner narrative so it would have to wait until I got home. And when I got home, boy did I meltdown. The next few days were awful, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I just sat and thought about everything and what I was gonna do and I just didn’t know. How could this even be happening? A few days later I tried with all my might to tell my vicar what was going on but that inner narrative shut my words down, and for probably about an hour I started sentences and never finished them, till finally, my vicar said: “You tell me when you’re ready.” I was distraught because I knew I had to tell someone but I just couldn’t, I really couldn’t. I was beside myself. I got in my car and drove home. “This is it.” I thought to myself. “Clearly, I can handle anything but this.” “This is gonna be the thing that breaks me completely.” “I’m stuck and there’s nothing I can do about it and no one can help as I can’t tell anyone.” Later that evening I realised if I couldn’t say it, I would write it. So I wrote it out, and then I knocked on the vicarage door and handed the note over and then left. I went home, ate something for the first time in days and had a full nights sleep.  I went to therapy and seeing as I had never said it out loud it took me about 40 mins to actually get the words out, but I am so glad I wrote that note and gave it to my vicar as there is no way I could have spoken about it in therapy if I hadn’t have done that. My therapist encouraged me to be calm and cool about the situation, and together look at it from different angles and think about why it might be happening, and whether it was real or not, or just an anomaly, a distraction or something else going on internally.

And since then we have talked over a mirid of things, we have come at it from all angles, I have been as honest and true and open about everything there ever was to be about on the face of the planet. And we have found that there is definitely a part of me that is queer. (Queer meaning denoting or relating to a sexual identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality, especially heterosexual norms.) I mainly am attracted to men, but there is a part of me that is attracted to women too. I was distraught about this, and said to my therapist, “I’m a weirdo. I’m 36 and this is when this all comes out?” and she said that actually if you look at the whole of my life in detail this makes total sense. Now that did shock me. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that one, as she has been right about everything else.

Throughout my adult life, I have had in the background a strange frustration and anger that would appear seemingly at random times and random moments and I have never been able to explain it. Even John recognised this and would enquire what it was about, and I was never able to give him an answer as I just didn’t know. What I can tell you is, since I have accepted me the way I am, I haven’t felt that anger or frustration rise up once. And I can’t feel it rumbling in the background anymore either. I don’t know what all that means but that’s the truth and one of my observations. Obviously, I have had to work through a ton of stuff to get to this point and it has not been easy, to say the least. But here we are.

So there you have it. If I’m gonna continue to wake up every morning then I’m waking up knowing I have been as integral as I can be to myself, to God and to everyone else. Take me or leave me. Your call.

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