On Being an Occasion of Joy

Before moving to start a new life as a single mom a few states away with my infant son, I visited the convent. One of the sisters to whom I had become especially close was nearing the date when she’d take her final vow – that of poverty. She gave me a small, delicately-wrapped gift box, and when I opened it, inside were earrings and a bracelet, both of jade. The accompanying card said, “For Christy, who is a shining example of Christian love.” The words sounded like they were meant for someone else, and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how anyone could see me that way. I felt like a bad Christian – a weird and broken queer kid whose life story read more like a How to Sin Like You Mean It manual than an Example of Christian Love. All of my experiences with Christians before the convent, particularly living in the American South, had been experiences of judgment, exclusion, and shame. Whatever brief moments of “fitting in” I’d experienced among Christians had been achieved at the cost of authenticity, earned by denying and repressing parts of myself and my belief and my story that would have otherwise brought down shame and judgment.

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