The holidays have never been easy for me. Partially, because I grew up in a household that didn’t celebrate holidays or birthdays. I have always been somewhat socially awkward from November through January. Secondly, because I have lived the majority of my life as a gay-identified woman and never wanted children of my own, so traditional family gatherings and traditions just seemed like a waste of time and resources. After becoming a Christian, I became even more painfully aware of my own awkwardness around the holiday season.
When I became a fully committed follower of Christ, in essence I experienced an emotional and relational divorce from my long-term partner. For a few years I also felt like a social outcast in both the gay community and the Christian world. I was ill at ease in both worlds. My gay friends felt as though I had betrayed my true self and, in turn, them. My new-found Christian friends for the most part were married with children or divorced with children. To make things harder, many of them believed that since I was a Christian my main goal in life should be to marry a man and have children of my own. That was painful. On a lot of levels, I was disgusted by the idea of being physically intimate with a man. In addition, I was a woman in my fifties and was pre-menopausal. Really, most women at that age do not want or biologically can’t have children. It was too absurd for me to even consider it. I lived with feelings of rejection and being misunderstood. At times the loneliness crushed my spirit.
All these factors made it hard to want to engage in meaningful relationship with others, especially during the holidays. I also had my own set of bias to overcome about Christians. I came into Christianity believing that in general Christians were intellectually challenged, bigoted and intolerant. In the midst of all this God was gracious to surround me with people who dared to engage with this far-left-thinking and gay-identified woman. I am forever grateful to these folks and consider them to be family. They have opened their arms and lives to me, seeing beyond my identity and struggle and treating me with respect and dignity.
I could write a blog on each one of these friendships. My friend Teresa and her family have had a huge impact on my life. She and her husband boldly choose to include me in their lives not just during the holidays but throughout the year. After all, I was gay, yet they were willing for me to come to their house and have meals and hang out with them and their children. In other words they didn’t think I was going to pollute their family values or defile their children. We have laughed, cried, and shared life together. The other relationship I want to highlight is my mentor and her family. They have willingly opened their home to me and invited me to live with them for the last two years. A lot of healing has happened as I have engaged this family and literally shared life daily with them. They have been living examples of what community looks like. Through this relationship I learned what accountability looks like and how to be open and transparent to others. I have seen daily examples of living life fully surrendered to Christ.
During this season where we practice hospitality, inviting family and friends new and old into our lives, may I encourage you to embrace that spirit all year long. Live your faith out loud. Demonstrate to others that the Christian life is not one of isolation, but of authentic community. Share meals together regularly with those in your realm of influence. Open the doors of home to others to come, despite their struggle. Build meaningful relationships; so you can ask questions that lead to life. Relationships matter, my friends; they impact lives in ways you may never know.