As part of my ministry training, it was compulsory to engage in Clinical Pastoral Education. It is a course that is challenging in many ways, but perhaps the most daunting part for the participants is the intensity of self analysis. Yes, CPE is about learning particular pastoral skills, but moreso it is about learning who you are and developing a deepened self awareness. It can be quite confronting. It is like gazing at yourself intently in the mirror for (in my case) six months. I have spoken with a lot of people who found the experience terrifying and even others who found it too probing. My experience was extremely positive. I did learn a lot about myself. Past memories and ways of being were dug up and pulled to pieces. It was hard work, but well worth it for my own development and growth.
I always admire people who are willing to enter into times of self growth. It leaves you vulnerable, exposed and raw. My experiences of these times of growth have mostly been by choice. I have chosen to enrol for a program or to go on a retreat that I know will stretch me and bring me to a place of being more true to myself. They have also been lived out in loving and supportive environments where those leading and those participating beside want only the best for you. I also have the luxury of choosing when these times of growth occur and for how long they last.
In the last few days certain friends and family have been on my mind. These people are some of the most self aware I know. They have not simply enrolled in courses at a convenient time, but have lived their lives under the scrutiny of the world around them. As they wrestle with the questions of being true to themselves they have been extremely vulnerable. I am talking about my LGBTIQ friends. Those people who have chosen the difficult path of being true to themselves, rather than living an easier life of falsehood. Some of them have been forced to make difficult choices in friendships, their faith communities and even with family members.
The cost of being true to yourself and entering that journey of self discovery doesn't take place in a confined time and place. It is ongoing. Every time a new community is entered or a new person is met, risks surround them. Sometimes this is a safe environment, but as the stories show, many times it is not. There is no reprieve from the exhausting task of being true to yourself.
I really have no idea what it is like to live with the constant judgment and anxiety about the harassment that could be around the corner. But somehow, I feel protective of my LGBTIQ friends at this time. They are some of the most awesome people I know and wonderful role models to my children. I feel for them in the days ahead as decisions are made that say it is okay for their humanity and relationships to be brought into question by people who don't even know them. I feel helpless, and can only say that I love them and I will be here for them.