Spiritual Affirmation

Pride From The Ashes Of Pain

by Nicole King

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?” -Kahlil Gibran

Last Sunday I marched in the Dallas Pride Parade with my church, Grace United Methodist, a Reconciling congregation. It had been six years since attending my last Pride Parade, where I nervously hid in the crowd, closeted. But I was in a different place this time.

As the Grace UMC group lined up to march, I found myself full of excitement and joy, clueless as to what was about to happen deep in my heart.

I took a moment to observe my surroundings. Our church’s truck bore the holy words of Lady Gaga, “Born This Way,” hanging from a banner on its side. In the cab of the truck were children and youth of all skin colors and nationalities passing out water. Our church banner was carried by two men, one gay and one straight, one white and one black, with the words of our mission statement, “Out of Many, God Makes us One.”

As I looked around at the faces and signs around me, I could feel myself healing. There were two people in the lineup that especially spoke to this healing. Shirley Dunn, our church secretary, was the first person I met when walking into Grace. From day one she made it clear that her embrace around me as a gay person was unconditional. She was the first person who began reconciling me to the Church. The second was my pastor, Rev. Judith Reedy, who has spoken countless messages of healing, affirmation, hope, love and justice from the pulpit, and her door has always been open for me as I’ve had questions or struggles.

Seeing Judith and Shirley, along with the rest of the Grace community, gave me the pride to march, knowing that I was cherished and fully affirmed in my identity. Nearing the crowd, I felt an unexpected sensation come over me. I suddenly realized why the LGBTQ community not only needs a Pride parade, but why it is essential to our healing. The crowd become louder and louder, and my heart became so full of joy that it was nearly too painful to contain.

It was through the experience of such profound joy that I realized the immense suffering I had endured.

Six years ago, when I began my coming out journey, I had no support, no affirmation, and no safe place to live into who I was. It wasn’t until experiencing the joy I felt at Pride that I was able to feel how deep those cuts and wounds were. Surrounded by and marching with my Reconciling community, I realized how much healing had taken place in the walls of my church, and how intensely angry and pained I was to not have had the support I needed during my coming out process. I now understand Pride.

Our Pride rises out of the ashes of pain, and out of seeing ourselves for who we are. We are a beautiful, strong, and resilient community. We are brave, we are bold, and we are healing. I am certain that I would not have felt the depth of joy on that day, had I not experienced the depth of sorrow carved within me.

As I proudly marched with my Reconciling family, each step represented the many nights I spent crying for not understanding why I couldn’t be different. The shackles fell away.

As I proudly marched with my Reconciling family, I remembered the pain of being told I wasn’t godly enough to serve in ministry at my previous church. The shackles fell away.

As I proudly marched with my Reconciling family, the lie of being told that God would take away anyone I loved as long as I was gay rang in my mind. The shackles fell away.

My hope is that the Church can be a space where the sorrows of the LGBTQ community are unmasked, where the carvings of our woundedness are filled with the joy of healing.

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight….” -Kahlil Gibran

Originally published by Reconciling Ministries Network; Photo via Nicole King