The Stories Told On The Margins

I met her on a dating app. Over a year had passed since I had left my home in Fresno and after several months of connecting with scammers and fake profiles, I connected with a queer woman who was just about my age. She was cute, with gorgeous blue eyes and a genuine smile that conveyed a joy that had been a missing piece of my own life. We started chatting just before the pandemic hit online, and before we knew it, we had struck up a pretty good friendship. Only one problem: she was married; in an open relationship, having come out to her husband as gay at the end of last year.

I remember reasoning with myself and telling me that the only thing I was interested in at the moment was casual dating anyway - I wasn’t wanting a serious relationship, especially since the pain of divorce was still fresh in my memory and living as a single mom with her parents. So when we met up in person for coffee and lunch after several months of chatting on the app, that was the mindset I was in. And, as far as I knew, that was the mindset that she was in too.

Famous last words.

Within the two months following that first date, our relationship began to deepen, and we found ourselves beyond the point of casual dating. But what did this mean, and what would it result in? Time will only tell. In the meantime, I am finding myself wrapped up in a relationship that only years earlier I would have condemned because my faith told me to.

It’s one thing to sit back from the comfort of our pews on Sunday (or laptops in our socially-distanced world) and hear the statistics of people like myself. Trans. Queer. Dating a married woman. By all accounts, from a distance, I am the type of person to be avoided at all costs, as if these were things that were contagious. But look closer — and there’s a real person there. A real story. A human being — created in and bearing the image of God. When was the last time you sat with someone like me and listened to our stories?

And yet that is what Jesus continually called his followers to. Away from the comfort of the Temple Mount. Away from the “normalcy” that religion demanded and towards the margins where the outcasts were kept at a “safe distance” from the Church. The woman at the well. The Samaritans. The lepers. The tax collectors. The prostitutes.

But it wasn’t just Jesus.

God called Jonah to Ninevah. Esther to the king’s harem. Throughout Scripture, God is on a quest for those at the margins. So I ask you, how do you see me? As a statistic to be used as an example in your Sunday church services? A prayer request for your small group? Or as a bearer of the image of God whose story could possibly be worth listening to? That there could possibly be more to my story than a person who has walked away from the popular center where Evangelical Christianity sits?

I love the story of the Woman at the Well. Jesus knew that a woman coming to the well at the heat of the day meant that she wasn’t the type that would mix with the religious normality that would usually come to draw their water earlier. He knew that those that would venture to the well to perform this task at this time of the day were probably avoiding the eyes, stares, gossip, and outright judgment that happens when the marginalized enter into spaces where the community is. Rather than judging her, he sits. He asks her for a drink and begins a conversation. And by the end of this conversation, she has been affirmed to the point where she is running back into the center of her community to tell everyone about the encounter she had just had with the Son of God.

The marginalized made the religious leaders uncomfortable.

That fear and discomfort was passed down to their followers, creating a society where every effort was made to make the marginalized invisible. Those that didn’t fit into the “norm” of their culture were pushed to the edges and ignored. Take the man at the pool of Bethesda. The disabled, sick, and lame were forced to stay here - at a place away from the public view, behind the temple. Here they waited for healing that, for many of them, would never come. Yet Jesus goes out of his way to visit and bring healing. Hope. That is the story of Jesus. The disabled, sick, blind, and lame were not statistics. They were people with stories. And Jesus knew that. But do we?

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned since coming out, it’s that there is life out here on the margins.

Rachel Held Evans said it so well in her book, Searching for Sunday, when she wrote, “here they [the LGBTQ+ Christian community] were, when they had every right in the world to run as far away from the church as their legs would carry them, worshipping together, praying together, healing together. Here they were, being the church that had rejected them. I felt simultaneously furious at Christianity’s enormous capacity to wound and awed by its miraculous capacity to heal.”

Each person on the margins has a story to tell.

Did I set out to be here? To be an outcast from the Church? Did I wake up one morning and decide that I was going to find love in a lesbian relationship with a married woman? No. But this is where I am. And I believe it is where God has called me at the moment. I don’t know where God will call me from here. But what I do know is that these experiences are opening my eyes to the very real presence of God in places where I previously believed He wasn’t.

What are some of the places that you believe God is absent? Are there people or communities that you have always believed are forsaken by God? Or that they have turned their back on God? Perhaps it might be time to listen to their stories. Go out from the comfort of your churches and sit at the margins. You might just be surprised at what - or who - you find there.

One response to “The Stories Told On The Margins”

  1. This is so beautful, so vulnerable, and so faithful. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us that God wants us to push past cultural norms, status-quo, and even our own discomfort to see the humanity and God-Createdness in every person. You are a light, Ellie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *