Some days start off well and then fall apart because of just one thing throwing you off. I am not sure if it happens more often as I age or not, but my life isn’t anything close to what I expected when I was young.
Today something happened that has me going over my life again to figure out how I got here – single, having not really dated much in my lifetime, and why I was so slow in allowing myself to be me. Introspection – something we should all probably do more than we do. It helps clear the mind, soul and spirit – at least it does for me.
I say all this because of the one event that has turned me into reminiscing, trying to find some of the curves that got me here. Today, I learned a friend’s 17-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident last night. Words can’t explain the loss I felt for her. I watched her grow up; maybe that is why it hurt me so much and had me praying for my friend.
At 17, I had plans for my life. I am not sure at what age I started planning my life out. However, I did have plans – I would be a teacher, get married and have kids – a boy and a girl – like our family. I would have grandkids. I wouldn’t ever have money issues because I knew how to save money.
Yep, I had an idea of what my life would be, but my life didn’t turn out anything like that, did it?
Life has thrown me a few curve balls every now and then. Our family moved often because of dad’s job.
You were always so good at making friends and I was the quiet one who would eventually make a friend or two. The best part is that we have each other and our family bonds were made stronger with each move. I love you man, but don’t let it go to your head. 😊
This one incident sure had made me contemplating life. No one knows how long they will live. Unexpected things happen every day that change our lives.
So how does all this contemplation relate to my life today? I acknowledge that there have been many turns in this world. With each turn bringing new things in my life, all of my turns have helped me to learn to love others more each moment of every day.
I looked back at myself at age 17 – I remember in High School wanting to put my gift with mathematics to use. I went to counselors to see my options – what kind of job can one get if they are really good at math?
There weren’t many options given to me – 1) I could become an accountant (boring) or 2) I could teach math (which I decided I would aim for). The counselor never gave me any options to be an engineer or a physicist – those were male jobs, not meant for a woman. I am so glad that the movie Hidden Figures was made; at least now young women can see there are more options for women than I was given.
I graduated from high school in 1974 – and if I remember correctly, there were a shortage of teaching jobs especially in the math discipline, and I was encouraged to find a different path.
I am not sure how I ended up in electronics and computers, but I remember putting a simple computer together from a kit the department chair received. We even did basic machine programming. It was loads of fun.
My skills enabled me to get a job with an environmental firm as a field technician. I was a woman in a man’s world.
How did we not know I was a butch lesbian back then? I know, there were no examples for me to follow or to learn from. I don’t remember one openly gay person in high school or at the first college I attended. I am sure there were some, but I just didn’t see them. How could I not see them? How did I miss them? Is it because I accept everyone right where they are? They are who they are.
I had a friend try to tell me that she was gay, in 1979. She was living with another woman and said they shared the same bed.
I told her I would rather have my own room/bed. I had no clue she was gay. She was just a great friend. I knew her and her partner, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to open up to a friend and say: “we are gay.” It was definitely a different time then.
Yes, looking back over my life, I wish I had realized I knew a gay person. Wait – I did know one when I went to the University of Illinois. She and I had a discussion one night about her being gay and how she wondered why could God hate her for being gay. She knew that being gay meant she was a sinner, separated from God.
I told her then that I believed God loved her – no matter what. I just felt inside it was wrong to call her a sinner. We aren’t supposed to judge others, only God does that.
I kept thinking of the verse John 3:16-17: “16 For God so loved the world that God gave the Creator’s only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (RSV)
I used the verses to tell her what I believed – God sent Jesus to love me, to enable me to be saved. God loves us unconditionally, and if she believed that, then not to worry, she was loved by God.
I hadn’t done enough studying of the Bible at the time to create a solid argument that would relieve her worries about being gay. I told her I have known my whole life that God loved me unconditionally and that God loved her too. I just knew it!! BUT we both were lacking the knowledge to convince ourselves fully.
My self-reflection had me looking back and remembering walking the boardwalk with family and pointing out a “good rack” to Dad. He always did like chesty woman. 😊 That didn’t seem unusual, just something we did. We were just people watching and pointing out the good, the bad, and the ones that were unique in one way or another.
I remember not wanting to share my bed with any other girl, but when I needed to, I would hug the edge of the bed so I wouldn’t touch the other person. I always said I was a light sleeper and someone moving in bed would wake me, but I realize now that there was more there that I couldn’t identify within myself at the time.
The world and I have come along way. I know God loves me. I go to a church that teaches that God loves us no matter what. We are all prodigal children, so loved by our parents that they will come running to welcome us home once we turn to them for help.
My pastor keeps telling us that “we are all uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God and that is enough” – love yourselves as God loves you. Accept who you are, stop holding it in, stop restraining yourself because the world sees you as different.
I just realized I didn’t mean to share all of this, but LOVE is a strong emotion. We all are loved and can love – there should be no limits to our ability to love another.
I have lots of limits that were placed upon me when I was younger, but I keep working on them daily, breaking them down. God loves me. God loves you. No restriction because John 3:17 says Jesus didn’t come to point fingers, but to save, to love us and help us realize that unconditional love does exist.
It is truly amazing what the unfortunate death of a 17-year-old causes you to think about. None of us knows how much time we have here on earth, so let me say again, I love you, bro, thanks for loving me too.
The longtime Vicar of Education for Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Alyce Keener (she/her) has felt a twofold calling from an early age toward teaching and toward God. Her religious education started in earnest at her first vacation Bible school, which spurred the realization at a very young age of how important God and Jesus were in her life. She began to pray daily and later began studying the Bible in earnest in college, where she became involved with the Navigators, later taking classes at Moody Bible Institute. Born in Ohio, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Illinois, and was active in local churches, serving on a missions committee, helping develop a church library, leading educational programs and directing a young adults program.