As one person reminded me in the comments section yesterday, Lent is ultimately about grace given and received. If you ask me, Lent is also about a journey towards love, so it seems only fitting that today, on Valentine’s Day, we begin what I hope will grow into a broader conversation about the nature of love: its definition and who gets to define it; how it is expressed; the ways it is portrayed in popular culture; how it relates to friendship and community; and the list could go on. If you have something you’d like to contribute to the conversation, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Today’s post, to get us started comes from Caitlin Michelle Desjardins. Caitlin is a student in Theology at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Her academic interests include Children’s Spirituality, Death and Grief, Sexual Ethics and Food Justice. After spending a summer with the Sisters of Grandchamp, an ecumenical community of Sisters in Switzerland, she has a burgeoning interest in monastic expressions of faith. She is a classical harpist, and can most often be found drinking tea or exploring the children’s section of the library. You can contact her via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thanks to Caitlin for this excellent post.
For a long time now, I’ve pondered the definition of love. To be more precise, I’ve not only pondered the definition of love, but more importantly, who gets to define ‘love’: especially in the Church and especially in the midst of difficult controversies like the rights and roles of women, and the inclusion or exclusion of gay and lesbian peoples. I’ll confess my pondering hasn’t emerged ex nihlio, but has come out of numerous conversations in my life over the last years where I’ve been uncomfortable with the ways I’ve heard love defined and where others have insisted ‘their’ definition of love is definitive, disregarding that I was being hurt by it.
You see, I’m a young, Mennonite woman. I also happen to be gay. For the most part my experience embodying this identity has been supported and even celebrated, particularly by other feisty young Mennonites and even from unexpected places, like my partner’s 90 year old grandfather. And though I choose to focus on the support I’ve received as a woman and a lesbian, I can’t forget the times I have not experienced support. I can’t ignore the hurt in me left from violent words and actions, long letters written by friends-of-friends of my parents, painful phone calls and circular conversations with others who—I realized too late—really had no intention of listening to me. The crux of this: each and every painful memory I have of being challenged, each and every time someone wrote me a letter, called me, sat me down to express their disapproval at my “choices”, they did so, and made it very clear at the outset, “only because they love me”.