down and yet…


It’s 3am and I can’t sleep. This is not unusual as I am in the midst of a depressive episode. Part of my experience of depression is “the hole” I fall into. The current cycle started over a week ago. Since its beginning, I have spoken at three different venues. At each of them I have brought a message of hope and encouragement. Though I am struggling personally, the gift that God has given me is shining as brightly as ever. I take pleasure in that, even as my other pleasures fall away. I have been amazed to see God lift so many people up through the gift I’ve been given, even while I personally am struggling.

I don’t understand why it is this way for me. However, I see the pattern in human history. Artists that I admire bring beauty but they suffer. Writers tell the truth but they struggle. Prophets speak of judgement and of hope but they pay a price. Not that I’m in their company but is this what it means to have a gift like the one I have? Is this mental malady the price tag? Can’t I have the gift and forego the pain? Is the answer to that question, NO?

During many of my depressive episodes, I have experienced joy. When the gift is energized by the Spirit, I feel an amazing sense of fulfillment. When the gift is on full power and God is doing great things in the lives of God’s people, I feel a rush just to be a part of that. On the one hand, I feel terrible: I don’t sleep, I withdraw, I am sullen, I overeat. On the other hand, when the gift is at work I am transported and lifted to another plane but I can’t hold on to that feeling.

When the gift is not in use (which is about 98% of the time) and I’m going through a depressive episode, I feel lost. I don’t find joy in my daily work. It feels meaningless and empty. I force myself to get up and go to the job. I hang on and wait for the episode to end. I know it will. It’s just a matter of when. I up my meds and move through it as best I can. One of the points of grace that I come back to again and again is that God uses his flawed servant, even when depression is hitting me hard.

Eucharist and TDOR

logo_remembranceOn Sunday I found myself the chief speaker at an event in the morning and an event in the evening. The event in the morning was Eucharist at the Church of the Ascension in Seattle. The evening event was Transgender Day of Remembrance in Bellevue.

The audiences were different in significant ways. At Ascension, I knew everyone there. They are my church community. At TDOR I knew next to no one.

At Ascension, the audience was not only Christian but Episcopalian. At TDOR the audience was all over the map spiritually.

At Ascension, I used specifically religious language and felt free to do Jesus talk. At TDOR I avoided religious language, quoting instead Frederick Douglas and the Constitution of the United States.

I was the only trans-person at Ascension. Trans folk were everywhere at TDOR.

However there were notable similarities at both events. At both there was a paucity of Black folk. Both events took place in a church building. Both events featured a choir, doing beautiful music. At both events people were moved to tears.

Then there was me and my words. The topics were entirely different on the surface: Christ the King—Transgender Day of Remembrance. The two would seem to have little in common. Yet, when I compare my words at each place to each other there was an eerie similarity. Both messages talked of the reality of pain and marginalization. Both were charged with emotional energy. Both spoke to the presidential election. Both culminated and concluded in a message of hope and a call to action.

One other similarity, and this one surprised me. People were deeply moved by what I said, even though I didn’t think either one of those of those messages was me at my best. Clearly in both places “the gift” was on and at full power. The Spirit was having her way and doing her work in both places.

People came up to me at both places praising me for my prowess as a speaker. It’s a good thing I have lovely brown skin and they can’t see me blush. I blush because I know the truth. I know that I’m a medium for the message. “The gift” is from God. I didn’t will it. I didn’t choose it. I was given no say in the matter. God gave it and God uses it when and where God desires. My job is to show up, be faithful and give God the glory.

At both places I was “the warm up act” to the main event. Interestingly both main events were about remembrance. At Ascension, the main event was Eucharist where we hear that Jesus died in a most violent and hate-filled way and we eat and drink because he said “do this in remembrance of me.” At TDOR we read the names of those in the trans community who have died by acts of hatred and violence. We read their names and we say, “We will remember.”

At both events, I called the hearers to respond to remembrance by acting for justice. The link between thinking and acting, between remembrance and justice was crystal clear for me at both events.

I go out on a bit of a limb with this next similarity. In both places I exercised my role as priest. I preached and led the way in remembrance. At Ascension, I proclaimed the Gospel and distributed the bread, giving people “the bread of heaven.” At TDOR I spoke of hope, proclaimed good news, and led the way in remembrance by speaking the first names and lighting the first candle (a type of Paschal Candle?).

Then the holy conversations afterward. I enjoy that time to hear what people have heard. I love hearing their response and hearing how they have been called or challenged or encouraged.

An amazing day altogether.