Two weeks into my seminary career, I was struggling. I was confronting the reality that essential components of who I was—my theological and political convictions, and especially my sexual identity—directly opposed the beliefs of my family and others who I loved.
I lived in persistent fear that I would never feel safe or happy with who I was.
I feared I would never inhabit a world where I could live proudly into who God created me to be and be embraced by those who I loved most. And yet, seminary had convinced me that my deepest calling is to live into the authentic truth of who I am.
In the midst of this distraction and distress, I showed up to class one day and received an assignment to go out alone and spend an hour communing with something in nature. I resolved to sit on a drainpipe overlooking the creek that ran through our campus. It had quickly become a favorite spot—a place where I sought refuge and peace.
Only minutes after settling down, I heard a rustling amongst the leaves and saw a long black snake slither out from the undergrowth on the opposite bank. I have a deep fear of snakes, and before my mind had fully registered what I was seeing, I was on my feet and ready to bolt.
But something stopped me and told me to stay. Despite my fear, I settled back down and watched.
While I observed, the snake caught a frog and ate it and eventually slithered on its way. Though my instinct was to be disgusted, I realized that it was actually a pretty amazing thing to witness. I considered how my negativity toward snakes was fueled by ideas that have been instilled in me by my culture, my religion, and a long history of fear.
In truth, this snake was just another amazing creation of God, just like me. I began to cry, realizing that my struggle to accept myself and my anxiety over being unloved came from the same broken human fear that so often obscures the incredibility of God’s creative work.
In that moment, I knew that the only way to move forward was to stop being afraid of my own truth so I could give others a reason to stop being afraid of my truth, and their own truth as well.
Being proud of who I am is more than just a nice goal: it’s an essential calling.
Despite my concerns about my family’s acceptance, my experience by the creek was too powerful to keep silent. I wrote a blog post detailing the event but didn’t disclose the real reason behind its significance.
When I spoke to my mom about the blog, she revealed that the night before she had read my post she had a dream in which she was forced to hold a snake. Though she was at first afraid to hold it, she ultimately realized there was nothing to fear.
It would be months before I found the courage to be honest with my mother about myself and the true meaning behind my experience at the creek, but her dream only deepened my conviction that proudly embracing myself was my path to hope.
Nearly two years later, I am still learning how to live proudly into who God created me to be.
I am deeply convinced that rejecting irrational fears and living out our truth with pride allows the light of God herself to shine from within us. And others are invited into that light to feel hope and joy and mutual amazement and communal pride.
In this way, we enact the holy kindom itself, where all are loved, embraced, and celebrated as wonderful and amazing creations of God. And this is certainly something that makes me proud.