Heather Newell is a guest writer whose voice we’re honored to share. You can read more about Heather in her bio at the end of the piece.
I spent over a third of my twenties living, breathing, and working in Rwanda, the small East African country known for its delicious Arabica coffee and the horrific 1994 genocide. Dubbed the “land of a thousand hills” Rwanda is inexpressibly stunning with its ornate, rolling green tea plots, bean fields, and banana plantations.
The beginnings of my life in Rwanda took place in an Eastern rural village that valued fresh milk, fat goats, Sunday visits to family, and most prominently, God. The United States Peace Corps decided I would be a good fit for this community as an English Secondary School teacher.
More than a culmination of projects and classroom lessons, my life in Rwanda probed me in pursuit of self-identity as I re-visited questions of my sexual orientation. Despite an unshakeable knowing of who I was since a young girl, I was too fearful to live authentically as a gay woman. I spent years of layered, internal resistance to “being gay” and hence, ignoring and denying that I might have been born differently than my friends, neighbors, and much of the population of our world.
John Backman is a guest writer whose voice we’re honored to share. You can read more about John in his bio at the end of the piece.
I keep making this one mistake in providing spiritual direction. Weirdly, it’s the same mistake a lot of us make when dealing with people on the other side of a hot-button issue, like faith and sexuality.
In my first meeting with a new client, I inevitably ask, “What brings you to spiritual direction?” This question has as many answers as there are people. One person may need more shape or direction to her prayer life. Another may be struggling to hear God’s will. Whatever the case, most people have a “presenting issue” to bring to spiritual direction, and it comes out here.
At this point, I assume we’ll work through the issue for a few months, maybe even a year, get it squared away, and then go deeper into this person’s walk with the Lord.
You’ve spotted the mistake, right?
I first told someone about my sexuality while sitting in a dorm room at a Christian college in Middle America. The couch on which we sat had seen better days—frayed along the edges of its arms and missing its feet so we had to sink quite low, almost to the ground, to finally meet the seat cushions.
I can’t remember why I chose that night to tell someone after 19 years of silence. Perhaps I felt particularly lonely or maybe my spirit was as low as that couch. I also can’t recall the words I used to share this secret part of me. I imagine they were halting and slightly evasive—just enough to set the scene, but not give away too much of the back story.