Author: Zoe Say, YYC Campus Ministry Team Member
When I was a young child, there was a secret place I would go when I was worried or upset. This place has shaped me possibly more than any other experience in my life, even though one could easily argue that it’s not, in fact, real.
This place was more or less a room, through a secret trap door at the back of my closet, accessible only to me. When I was having a bad day, I would lie on my bed and take myself to this room. Through the trapdoor, all was white light with vague walls that had shelves. When I was in the room, I always had a sense that I could have anything I wanted, anything at all. My child mind would try to imagine toys that I wanted, or dolls or piggy banks. Try as I might, my attempted imaginings never amounted to much of anything filling the shelves on the walls, to my slight disappointment. This was because, even though I thought those seemed to be fun things to want, I didn’t actually want them at all. I was always permeated with a feeling that though I could have anything, I also already had everything I needed. I was my fullest, most complete self in that room. Filled with unconditional love and light and contentment and thus couldn’t actually imagine anything else that would make me feel happier. I was enough, and because of that, I had enough.
That room, and the sense that there I could be a full and complete being with every need met, shaped my sense of self in the world. For me, that room was G-d, and because of it, I have always known quite tangibly that I do not walk alone. Because of it, my G-d is one of love, of fulfilment and peace, and of light. I never ever experienced a sense of judgement or shame or any sense of not being enough in that room.
I was lucky. As I grew up I lost that ability to go to that room, but through my church community and most of all through my Mom’s robust faith, I was able to maintain my sense of connection with the divine. My Mom encouraged me to explore this through questions and dialogue, reading, journaling, walking in nature and workshops. Her faith is also centred firmly on experience with an unconditionally loving God, and this helped me to nurture my own. My sense of the divine expanded from that room to permeate my whole life.
I see that same unconditionally, radically loving G-d of my trapdoor when I read the beautifully messy, rich and fascinating stories of humans in the bible. I read about it in Queen Vashti and Queen Esther, teaching us about anti-oppression and standing up for the dignity of all humans. I read about it in Jesus consistently challenging the religious leaders and hierarchies of the time that were not centred on love and compassion. I read about Jesus rubbing his spit into the eyes of a blind man, chatting with an outcast Samaritan woman at a well about the 'living water' which will cause you to never thirst. I read about how he created space for an unclean woman who had been bleeding for 12 years to come to him, share her story, and affirming for her that her faith had made her well. What a drastic change for this woman, likely an outcast for the past 12 years, to suddenly have a chance to not only be healed but to speak publicly. To have her story heard and to find not only physical healing but also, just as importantly, social healing. He told her to go in peace, and I imagine she felt loved and “enough” for the first time in a very long time.
What does this room have to do with my rainbow bracelet?
Those stories reinforce for me this love-centred G-d that I feel so connected to. The G-d I meet in Psalm 23 when it says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I need not want." I rarely share the story of my trapdoor room, in fact, I have probably spoken it out loud, other than to my Mom, only two or three times. It feels quite personal and vulnerable and speaks to my deepest sense of self and my faith. However, when I thought about articulating why I wear my rainbow bracelet, it seemed inextricably linked with that room and the deep sense of a radically loving G-d that that room cultivated within me. Because I have been deeply and fully loved by G-d my whole life and felt filled to overflowing with it. I have enjoyed sharing that love with all those around me. That love helps me to see people first with love and see all people as beloved children of the divine. I think my lifelong struggle of living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has also helped me to have empathy and compassion for all people, as I know we all have different struggles and battles that are invisible to most.
Back to the rainbow bracelet. I have always viewed every person, including those in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities, as individuals just as worthy of love and being loved as anyone, without restraints or limitations. Just as I would never seek to tell a heterosexual individual how or in what way it is okay for them to love (as long as it is consensual and honouring of all), I do not feel it is my place to place any limits on the love of those in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities. Love is one of the most precious gifts of being human, and as I heard one Rabbi say, "G-d seems to have made us quite intentionally to be relational humans." Let us not dictate to anyone that they should have constraints on their love.
I have many dear friends who are in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities and have friends who identify as each one of those identities listed. I love each of them so, so deeply, and hearing some of the trauma many have been through in the name of my religion causes me pain and heartache. I am so sorry for the trauma caused in the name of my religion. I know a person who essentially didn’t speak for several years because of the trauma caused by their Christian family who held them in judgement and contempt for their sexual identity. I was talking about sin with a minister friend and mentor of mine, and she suggested the sin, in that case, is not his sexual identity, but rather with his family who saw fit to judge him so harshly. I have to agree. That is not love. I talked to an incredible human just yesterday who shared that she intentionally lives in a different country than her family. This is because they would come after her with a priest to cast out the demon they would think was living in her if she came out to them.
This is why I have always been extremely cognizant of my position as a practicing Christian, church attendee, and someone who works for a church organization. I am cognizant of the trauma caused by my religion and try very hard to always be clear that I am only interested in affirming and supporting people in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities, never judgement. I also feel strongly about presenting a different kind of Christianity. One centred in love first, as Jesus taught us by uplifting the golden rule, love your neighbour as yourself. My Christianity is informed by the G-d I have encountered, and the radically loving Jesus I have read about and met, by a trapdoor, and by the 23rd Psalm.
When I saw this rainbow bracelet at the stall of a jeweller friend of mine at an art market at Eau Claire, I knew I wanted to not only buy it but to wear it every day that I could. I wanted to do this so that I would always be wearing a symbol of my support so that hopefully those in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities would know that I was a safe Christian to be around. Since I bought it at that art market I have rarely taken it off, except to repair it when it gets worn out every year or so. And the odd time for example when I coated myself in mud at the Dead Sea.
I was chatting with my jeweller friend recently about how much I loved not only the beautiful rainbow colours and fun design, but also the infinity symbol attached to it. My friend made a great point that to her it symbolizes infinite love. I love that and to me, it also represents an infinitely loving G-d, the G-d that I met going through that trapdoor over two decades ago.
I wear the bracelet to stand staunchly and overtly with all those in the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit communities, and to stand for an infinite and radically loving G-d, who says you are enough, and that you are beautiful just as you are.