Spirited Reflection: The gift of flexibility and softness in the face of injustice
When I think of my experience when it comes to generational wisdom, I feel slightly at a crossroad. In one sense, I can see that I have many people in my life who are mentors, whose wisdom I am still learning to recognize and appreciate. I feel as though I still have many relationships to build in order to learn from those who have struggled for justice throughout different eras and contexts than I have. However, I am also becoming more and more aware that I too have a responsibility to make connections with those younger than me and commit to building leadership through care and mentorship. This in-between place is what I keep in mind as I reflect on what gifts can be brought to future generations to help them to walk in another way—the way of all peoples living together in justice and equity.
I identify as a queer person of colour. For some, this act of self-identification may seem like a pretty straight-forward process but it wasn’t. To claim this identity took years of moving through layers of confusion, fear, shame, ignorance, and self-doubt. In my more vulnerable moments, identities such as queer and person of colour were like lifeboats to me, people whose shared identity provided me a place for safety and healing. As crucial as these relationships and community spaces were for my self-discovery, they also isolated me from many other kinds of people. I was left feeling unbalanced—how was I to be in community, especially with the many diverse people in the Church, if I always sought refuge in my personal comfort zone?
In 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Paul speaks about his approach to sharing the Gospel with many different groups of people. Rather than insisting that his way of living or worldview is the most ideal, Paul speaks to the importance of flexibility and accommodation when being in community with others. It is this gift of flexibility and desire to be open to the revealing of Christ in others that I believe is a profound gift the Christian tradition offers. From this perspective, we can ask the following questions: How can I bring with me the lessons I have learned from my queer communities about the Gospel in order to share these with others?
How can I take the lessons I have learned about safety and healing with me into the world without judging those who have not received the same privilege of learning in community? How can we remain soft even when injustice has hardened our hearts? At a time when it feels like the world becomes increasingly polarized with every news headline, I hope what we can gift our children is the ability to let identity politics empower and heal without causing confusion and division within our communities and churches. It is only in retrospect that I realize that healing, finding a sense of wholeness, came from being able to claim a part of my identity from a desire to create connection with others and honour who I am rather than use it as a means to divide or push someone away.
Michiko Bown-Kai is a candidate for ordained ministry in The United Church of Canada. Michiko currently serves as chair of Affirm United/s’affirmer ensemble. In their spare time, Michiko is a highland dancer. They currently reside in Toronto (Dish with One Spoon Covenant) with their fiancé, Seaton.