Gifts and Discoveries
|“My soul is too cramped for you to enter it,” lamented Augustine. Later he would find this cry itself something of an answer from God in the first place—for how could a soul articulate its longing for God if the Spirit had not first shown it what it longs for? Yet how familiar these initial attempts to approach God with a dreaded sense of failure seem to be. Is it God who first approaches? Or we who have to first clear the way? Might God approach even in our restless longing, even as our souls are cramped with baggage and the journey at times seems more a fight with self than a means of meeting the Other?
Author and former atheist Anne Lamott begins her story with borrowed words of W.S. Merwin: “We are saying thank you and waving, dark though it is.”(1) She describes darkness in a broken world and an unpredictable childhood, the dimming affects of self-loathing, addiction, fear, guilt, and grief. And yet she somehow describes the presence of one to thank regardless, one whose light gradually appeared through a world that slowly cracked into a thousand pieces—maybe even cracking mercifully?
Whether the journey of faith is a miracle or it is more like a gift that requires some assembly, I’m not sure. “Man is born broken,” quotes Lamott. “He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” How else would one come to know the Father of Light in the house of a father who despised Christianity. Lamott describes the family codes which solemnly held everyone to unbelief. “It was like we all signed some sort of loyalty oath early on,” she writes, “agreeing not to believe in God in deference to the pain of my father’s cold Christian childhood.” Mercifully or ironically, there was also a sense of moral obligation preached in her household, a clear (even disheartening) scale of good and bad, acceptable and insufficient. Thus, “I bowed my head in bed and prayed, because I believed—not in Jesus—but in someone listening, someone who heard.” Apparently, the cosmic umpire so many know and fear lurches even in atheist households.
Yet from the beginning, there were clues that this someone was relational—in the differences she saw in the social structures of her and her friends’ houses, in the Catholic family who offered images of God both compelling and odd, in her need to please the one who listened, like one might a foreign, unpredictable, unknown king. “This God could be loving and reassuring one minute, sure that you had potential, and then fiercely disappointed the next, noticing every little mistake and just in general what a fraud you really were.”
And yet maybe even broken images of God somehow matter, as God approaches to shatter and re-form even these. Lamott describes a life of encounters with God in places of desperation—in a drunken haze, in a broken vehicle, on the bathroom floor, in deaths and in birth and in dying, in her own vehement denials of an approaching God. When the English teacher she loved became a born-again Christian, she wept at the betrayal and challenged this teacher on everything—”every assertion, even when she was right.” She willed not to believe, even as her own rebellion held the sneaking suspicion that God might be near.
Perhaps faith is indeed more a gift than a discovery, as John Calvin once insisted. If so, I like Lamott’s image of this gift better than most: like a sloppily wrapped package that repulses with absurdity yet somehow compells you to claim it for its beauty nonetheless. Wholly unable and unwilling to see or to seek God, a reluctant Lamott would eventually claim the gift of faith nonetheless. “I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus,” she said at the one who came so near she eventually stopped denying it. “And I was appalled.”
Dark and difficult, holy and absurd though it is, Lamott is right: It’s funny where we look for salvation, and where we actually find it.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) As quoted in Anne Lamott’s, Traveling Mercies (New York: Random House, 1999).
When I was a child I was lectured and dealt with very very sternly regarding “what I was” and what I always knew myself to be. Keep in mind this was decades ago. Back then hippies were a threat and the John Birch Society was the only group worth listening to, all others being communists. It all seems so sad now, so much sound and fury over things that signified nothing, and dead silence over all that really mattered.
Isn’t that a bit of what Jesus was talking about when he told one of the 7 churches in Revelation to “Wake up, and strengthen that which remains?” We have oft misunderstood that verse, thinking that He was bemoaning that they had allowed much to perish, and had little to preserve. In fact, I believe that it was just the opposite…they had lots of stuff, but only a little of it actually would remain, could remain! I think one of the most serious quests in this life is to discover “what remains” and then to pursue it with all your heart.
Anyway, how times have changed! Slowly it is becoming easier for young transgender children, and it is so much due to education, and to loving parents who will be there for their children, even as our Heavenly Father and Jesus and Lady Grace the Holy Spirit are there for us. Please check out the article I am posting below, and let yourself feel good knowing that these kids may survive the threats of suicide, violence, and worse that faces transgender people.
Two transgender children struggle to be themselves
Watch above: An excerpt from Tracey Wilson’s interview with 16X9. Tracey was born a boy, but identifies as a girl.
From Trey to Tracey: One child’s journey to be herself
For Tracey Wilson, who is 10 now, her struggle is making sure people see her the way she does. She is transgender; born a boy, but has identified as a girl for as long as she can remember.
Tracey was born “Trey” and is the oldest of three children.
Tracey Wilson was born Trey. 16×9
“Sometimes I wish that I was just a girl, just a normal girl so I wouldn’t have to go through all of this.”
Tracey’s parents, Michelle and Garfield, struggled at first to come to terms with their little child, initially thinking that Trey was gay. But after seeking professional help and learning that their son was transgender, the couple embraced their new daughter.
Watch below: Garfield and Michelle Wilson talk about their struggles in accepting that their son, Trey, was really their daughter, Tracey.
Trey dressed and lived as a girl at home, at dance class and with her friends. But soon that wasn’t enough.
Tracey Wilson, who was born Trey. 16×9
Being a “full time girl” included school, a semi-private Catholic school. But when the Wilsons notified the school of Tracey’s wish, the school said “no.”
“I wanted to use the girl’s bathroom, I wanted to have the girl’s uniform,” says Tracey, clasping onto one of her favourite dolls. “I didn’t know it would all come to this.”
“This” is a human rights complaint that Tracey and her parents have launched against Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver and Sacred Heart Elementary for not allowing Tracey to be “Tracey.”
Instead of letting Tracey use the girl’s bathroom the school allowed Tracey to use the handicapped bathroom. But the school wouldn’t approve a name or uniform change, saying they did not have a policy for allowing it.
Watch below: Doug Lauson, superintendent of the Independent Catholic School Board of Vancouver, talks about the church’s position on being transgender and the research they are doing on how best to accommodate transgender students in their schools.
To the Wilsons, it is not a medical issue. It is personal.
“When they said that they couldn’t let me and that God doesn’t make any mistakes and if he made me a boy then I would have to stay a boy,” says Tracey.
“I couldn’t even watch TV I was crying so much, I couldn’t read a book, I couldn’t do anything. Literally I just lay in my bed sobbing.”
Tracey’s human rights complaint is set to be heard this spring.
10-year-old transgender child fights to have gender removed from birth certificate
“I’ve always been a girl, even when I was considered a boy,” says 10-year-old transgender child, Harriette Cunningham.
“In my dreams I was never a boy.”
Harriette Cunningham was born a boy, but knew early on she was meant to be a girl. 16×9
Harriette is transgender, born a boy but identifies as a girl. About a year ago, Harriette fully transitioned, legally changing her name from Declan, wearing only female clothes and being referred to with female pronouns.
Biologically, she is still a boy, but she now wants her birth certificate and passport to reflect her real identity.
Watch below: Harriette was born a boy, but knew early on she was meant to be a girl.
“It was in Grade 2 when she said ‘Mom, I want to buy some actual dresses to go back to school,’” says Harriette’s mother, Megan. The Cunninghams allowed Harriette, then known as Declan, to dress as “he” wanted.
Watch below: Colin Cunningham reveals the moment he realized his son, Declan, was really his transgender daughter, Harriette.
“Harriette has a very strong personality, kids would say ‘what are you?’ And she’d go ‘I’m a person, that’s what I am,’” says grandmother Cathie Dickens.
Dickens decided to take action. She and Harriette started petitioning ministers and MPs to remove gender from birth certificates, and initiated a human rights complaint against the B.C. government, saying that Harriette never should have been labeled as “male” to begin with.
“When I have to show ID and I’m going through customs, people give me dirty looks and they kind of question me, ‘who is this?’ and it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have to go through that,” says Harriette, who regularly visits her grandmother in Palm Springs.
Watch below: Lawyer Barbara Findlay explains why having gender on identification is outdated.
While her family has supported her, others have not been so kind.
“I got called a ‘he-she,’ I got called quite mean names and I’d try not to let them… show that I was sad but…it really hurts me,” says Harriette, who has watched the number of birthday party invitations dwindle from 10 two years ago to just one last year.
“I don’t want to be just someone wearing a costume. I want to be me.”
© Shaw Media, 2013