I don't really see myself as a Christian. I see myself as someone who tries to live - on a daily basis - to the best of my ability, according to the teachings and example of Christ.
You know what I mean. Love my neighbor. Love my enemy. Do not judge. Forgive in the way I hope to be forgiven. Give all I possess to the poor.
I don't see my life as a journey of these ideals. I see my life as a journey toward them - ever seeking to become more able to touch them - never able to completely achieve them, but never wanting to stop trying to get closer than I was able to be in the days or weeks before.
On Valentine's Day, I added a heart pendant to the necklace I wear every day that already had a cross on it. The image of the heart together with the cross made a statement to me about what it means to me to try to live according to Christian values. Without the love, it isn't really what I hope it to be.
One does not need to identify as a Christian to embrace love. Love is a way of living, not a religious belief. But I can't see how I could identify with Christian values without devoting myself to learning to embrace the love.
Of course, I mostly fail to live up to these challenges. The good news is that my humanness is expected and forgiven. The God of my understanding knows that I am human - created me as human.
So for me, it follows that I become more able to approach these ideals if I ask for assistance. How do I learn to pray for those who persecute me? I pray for God to help me be more able to see them as God sees them.
How do I believe God sees them? I find that answer in I Corinthians 13: 4-5. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.
I have long believed that this passage describes how I am asked to love. I have come to believe that this passage first describes how I am loved by God. My ability to love others is intertwined with my ability to receive God's love as it is intended - unconditionally.
I am not saying that anyone else needs to receive God's unconditional love to be able to love unconditionally. I am saying that I do. I am human. I am also damaged. I am injured. I have endured a lifetime of believing that my faith was at odds with my transgender identity. I have come to know that my faith was at odds with my inability to trust God enough to embrace my authentic self.
Who knew? I wish they had told me. Or maybe not. Had I not lived this journey as it was presented to me, I would surely not be at this place at this time. And for the first time in my life, at this place at this time is a place of peace, a time of joy, a journey that seems more in alignment with God than ever before.
It turns out that faith was never a barrier to me being able to live authentically. It turns out that faith is a vehicle upon which authenticity is of great importance.
There are many who tell me that who I am is dictated by the body into which I was born. God tells me that who I am is a gift that was placed in my soul. I have listened to the many. I have listened to God. Somewhere along the way I have made a choice to believe what God is telling me.
In making that choice I also removed the spiritual blockade to being able to receive God's love as it was intended - unconditionally. Now I can get on about the business of learning how better to love others in the way it is intended - unconditionally.
I am at a place in the journey where there are two sets of footprints in the sand. That has not always been so. When there was only one set of footprints in the sand, I was being carried by God's love. Today, it is completely different. I have found my ability to walk with God. Two sets of footprints in the sand. One set of footprints belongs to me.