BY JENNIFER OULD
I have not chosen the easy way.
Following Jesus to the place where I affirm and advocate for my transgender and gay and bisexual and lesbian and queer friends has been one of the most challenging and at times painful things I have ever done. It certainly hasn’t been a “feel-good” path.
And I am not where I am because I don’t really know the arguments against same-sex marriage. A member of my family literally wrote the book on those arguments, and I made them myself for many years. Sincerely, and with a desire to be both faithful and loving.
I am also not here because I think I’m smarter than the Scriptures. I’ve sought a good education in the Bible and theology – from a highly respected conservative seminary – and my respect for the gift God has given us in the Bible has only grown. So has my awareness of the assumptions we bring to it, and I want to do my best to engage what’s been given to us on its own terms rather than mine or anyone else’s.
I do believe I know things now I didn’t know before. I’ve met people, loved them, and lived life alongside them. I’ve realized that many things I once believed are only partial truths – there’s more. And I know there’s more than I know now. The more I learn, the more aware I become of how much I don’t know.
Life was simpler before, and easier. But also smaller.
There are many people I love on the path I chose to leave, and I know they don’t understand. The thirty year old me wouldn’t have understood either. I would’ve thought I understood – that this me was rebellious or at least deceived. That this me had to have lost the faith to stay faithful. There was no other explanation. Looking at where I am now, I would have thought I must have sacrificed truth to emotion.
I get it. I do. Which doesn’t mean it hurts any less to be judged in that way.
I wish those who do not agree or understand could trust my love for Jesus and my relationship with him. I wish they (you?) could continue to trust the work of God you’ve seen in my life all along, even if you can’t understand how it’s brought me here. I wish you could trust the fruit of the Spirit in me – the increasing love, joy, peace, faith. The shalom – wholeness and integration – that has blossomed. The way that as love has grown and expanded in me, fear has diminished.
I wish you could see, but I understand why you can’t.
Just know, it wasn’t the easy way.
Jennifer Ould lives in Chicago, works in theological higher education, and volunteers with Center for Inclusivity, working for peace at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality.
With a BA from Tennessee Temple University and an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, her journey has taken her from hardcore fundamentalism through conservative evangelicalism to a much more open faith. She currently serves in leadership and occasionally preaches at Trinity Church in Highland Park, IL.
Read Jennifer's blog at: jennifereould.com