Here I am in a fairly traditional seminary with a faith that is difficult to sum up, let alone categorize, which looks very different from the main party line here.
I knew going in that I did not fit the traditional mold; I took this on with intention, for many reasons. One being that my background is in social justice; I always felt like a poser telling others that being part of a minority is a livable situation when I, as a middle class white woman, had never truly been part of a minority. I wanted to see what it felt like to be in the minority. Another was that I wanted a school where issues of faith did not have to be bracketed out completely but still had a strong academic base.
In the last week or so, I have found myself removing my foot from my mouth as quickly as I can take the other one out. I try to engage my classmates from a place of respect. I know their faith looks different from mine. I know that I am very strong in my faith and that it can withstand questioning and contradiction. For these reasons, when entering into a conversation that could potentially involve contentious issues, I always give them the higher ground and do not challenge where they are. It seems that I am doing my classmate a disservice for a couple of reasons. First is, they are not seeing the full me- but a shadow cast on the wall for fear of directing my light directly at them. The second is, I am not allowing them the opportunity to grow. I’m not saying that I have all the answers, or that having a conversation with me will bring instant enlightenment; but what if I am “protecting” them from an experience they need to have?? That would be awfully selfish of me.
The issue that continues to rear its head recently is sex. I have been married twice, so yes, I have had sex. But that is not the issue here; what is the issue is talking about sex, which I am very comfortable doing. I understand that many of my classmates do not condone premarital sex; that is their belief and I respect that. One particular classmate was very troubled by a conversation I was having about a biological occurrence in men- I was trying to learn more about what their experience is like. Later I apologized to the uncomfortable classmate and let him know that I understand that he is in a very different faith place than I am, that I respect that place and that I would endeavor to show that respect in my conversations in his presence going forward.
So today I was talking about all this with another classmate who also finds herself in the minority and she (so wisely) pointed out: why do we have to always tone down who we are to fit in the mold?? Why can’t people accept us as we are? Meet us where we are instead of the reverse? She confessed that she felt almost like she was putting on act- not being true to herself. Her words resonated with me. Engraved on the inside of my pinky ring is, “Keep true to thyself.” I don’t feel that I wasn’t keeping true to myself, but even dimming the light some can lead to extinguishing it all together. Her words were my wake up call.
All these questions are rhetorical- I don’t know the answer. I doubt there is a correct answer. I do know that I will continue to stumble through life, only opening my mouth to switch feet. I honestly mean no disrespect. All I ask is that you extend me Grace.