When I saw the call for writers for this issue of Whosoever, I knew the time had come for me to answer my own call to explore who I am within the confines of a affirming congregation. After a long search for a place where my partner and I could come together with others and worship the God others had tried to tell us didn’t want “our kind,” we finally had the opportunity to attend an “Affirming” church of the United Church of Canada.
Just as we decided to try this church, the children’s Education department decided to explore the Scripture passage Mark 2:1-12 (also found in Luke 5: 17-26; Matthew 9: 1-8) where a paralyzed man was let down through the roof by his friends so that Jesus could heal him. One way they decided to look at the passage was to do a workshop where the kids could experience disabilities while making submarine sandwiches. Well, who better to help others experience what it’s like to have a disability than someone who has a disability? I was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and over the last year have begun walking with a cane and using a wheelchair when doing lots of walking or standing.
Suddenly I understood something in a new way. In thinking over the passage through the eyes of someone who doesn’t live with those kinds of limits in their life, I understood that I have something outside of my sexual orientation and who I have chosen to spend my life with to share with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Being a lesbian doesn’t take away the other parts of who I am-it simply adds a different dimension to my life.
No one has experienced life quite the way I have, and I have things to teach others. In preparing for teaching these children what life is like with a disability, I have another opportunity to teach them-that who you are is all the different parts of you. You’re not just a person with a disability, or a gay man, or a lesbian. You’re more than just a label. You’re uniquely designed by God with gifts and talents that can always be shared and welcomed by the right friends to journey with.
May God guide us all to the right place and companions to share our gifts with. Amen! So be it!
South Carolina native Lana Phillips is a certified life coach and former social worker who studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a bachelor’s in psychology and English at Erskine College and an M.Ed. in educational and counseling psychology at the University of Louisville.