As many of you may know, I recently moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has been a move of many firsts.
It’s my first time moving somewhere without knowing what I would be doing upon arrival. It’s my first time living in someone else’s “home”—my girlfriend lived here for 5 years prior to her time in LA. It’s my first time establishing friendships without the support network of a school. It’s my first time living in the south—admittedly this was terrifying to me.
The most surprising first has been readjusting to an environment that isn’t predominately Christian. I thought this would be wonderful. I have been living in almost exclusively Christian communities since I was 18—starting at a Christian college and then a year later enrolling in seminary. To just be a person in this new place was hope.
Being in a new place allows me to be whoever I want to be. Finally, I thought, I can be gay and not concerned with protecting that part of myself when I meet someone new. And this has been true. More and more as I settle into this place I find myself protecting that part less and less.
While I don’t have to first identity as gay anymore, I also don’t have to identity as a Christian. And now I am finding myself protecting the Christian part.
What does it mean that I desire to selectively be a “Christian?” What does it even mean to identify as “Christian” anymore? These are the questions I am left with after moving. I have quietly asked them before but I have never been more acutely aware of them then until now.
My mom called me the other day and asked me, “Where are we supposed to go to ask the hard questions, Chelsea? There is nowhere for us to go.” I have had numerous conversations with friends at seminary trying to make meaning of our faith after having it put under a microscope. Many of us are no longer satisfied with pat answers about who God is and what it means to “follow Jesus” but that doesn’t mean we are comfortable with the questions either.
One of our board members is always encouraging the Level Ground staff to define what it is we mean by the faith part of “faith, gender, and sexuality.” This journey has forced me to recognize my current answer—which I have known for a while—I don’t know. I’m not sure I ever will.
I run from the label “Christian” but find myself showing up to the Episcopal Church down the street, craving to be with people who believe it’s possible to redeem this tragic world. I love being in a place where no one cares what I do on Sunday morning, but I miss having people that will spend hours talking with me about hard stuff—whether or not heaven and hell are real, what salvation really means, and our other conundrums of faith.
I am living in the in-between. I may not know what it means to be a “Christian” anymore but I’m still captivated by the person of Jesus. And maybe that’s ok. For now, not knowing is what defines my faith.
Level Ground has never had a statement of faith and that’s part of what I love about who we are. We strive to be a place where it is ok to ask hard questions and it’s also okay not to have all the answers. We are here to learn to be together and to love one another despite coming from all different walks of life and definitions of “Christianity” and “faith.”
For all you who are curious, doubtful, angry, wandering, hopeful, or anything in-between, it is my hope that there is room on level ground for all of us.
“Life is a gorgeous, broken gift. six billion+ pieces waiting to be fixed. love letters that were never signed, sent to where we live.
But the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard is that I don’t have to have the answers, just a little light to call my own.
Though it pales in comparison to the overarching shadows, a speck of light can reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole.”
-Sleeping at Last, “Emphasis” (thanks to our friend Sleeping At Last for the beautiful cover image as well!)