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.
It always stuns me, and it shouldn’t because I’ve seen it so often: the same issue keeps popping up again and again in wildly unrelated contexts. Like this past month, when a lesson I’ve been learning as a spiritual director magically appeared in a story about the Church and LGBTQ+ people.
The lesson has to do with our need to “get somewhere.”
It first came up in my supervision group. (Many spiritual directors meet with a “supervision group”—usually a wiser, more experienced director and a few of us novices—to make sure our work is on track.) I’d been having great sessions with a directee, but they seemed scattered: there was no moving toward a goal, or solving a problem. They weren’t, in other words, “getting anywhere.” And it made me wonder if we were supposed to be getting anywhere.
It was the turn of the millennia and I was lonely.
So begins the story of how I watched my first season of reality TV. I had recently graduated from college and found myself in an apartment with three other guys and a cable subscription. I didn’t yet know these guys and all my college friends had spread themselves across the country.
Thus, I found myself watching MTV’s Real World—which, as I quickly found out, was nothing like any real world I’d ever known. In the first episode, we’re introduced to the “characters” as they arrive at the home where they’ll be staying for that season of the show. It’s here we’re introduced to a young man with a “secret.”
He’s quite intent on telling his housemates that he has a “secret” in spite of the fact not one of them knows him or shows an interest in hearing this secret. Seeing this tactic isn’t advancing his mission, he starts sharing the secret (you guessed it)—he’s gay.
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.