Though I presently live alone, focused on a life of prayer, parenting and teaching (when invited to do so in person or through writing), I am a lover of men in a community where my transgender-masculine identity and presentation render such love especially challenging, where such covenants between men are not always celebrated. Because of this (perceived by others as a conflict, whereas I experience only wholeness and grace), many things in my life have been shifting lately, more quickly and publicly than desired. Daily prayer and meditation throughout the day, expressing gratitude for the very relationships and identity that have led to this conflict, have been more important than ever, keeping me sane, serene, and grateful rather than scared and reactionary. I have been more sleepless than usual in recent weeks, so my daily prayers now begin before I wake, before I even open my eyes, well before dawn. Alone, for now, in my morning and evening prayers, I have sought guidance on how to pray from the writings of those whose prayers are rooted in our shared love for Hebrew Scriptures -- Jewish, Muslim, and Christian -- praying no longer in conflict with the way God created me, or in denial of loving partnership, but with gratitude for my growing feelings of wholeness (no longer chasing after what, for me, can only be an illusion of "conformity" in gender or sexual identities).
The words that God speaks to Jacob in a lonely dream while he wanders, cast out of his maternal home to a distant family, now speak to me, as well. God promises this lonely wanderer, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back, for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you," fulfilling the promise that "by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves" (Genesis 28:14-15 NRSV). I can no longer feel bereft or ashamed of who I am when I know that God is with me. I can instead trust God's work through the children of my body and the children of my heart (those I mentor in ministry and teaching), through whom others are indeed blessed, as I already see. I give thanks to my God for all these blessed and blessing children of mine.
But there is more: This Jacob, a driven man, arrives at the home of his mother's family, where he has never been before, and right away starts giving orders to the local shepherds to roll the stone covering from the communal well (too big for one person to lift, so that no one family would hoard the precious shared water). He wants his maternal family's livestock watered now. Again, I see myself in Jacob, a person who, by nature, all too often seeks to speak with authority and take charge where it may not be his place to do so. The shepherds deny Jacob's impatient request and insist instead on waiting for Rachel, the lead shepherd, the one in charge. It is then, when Jacob sees Rachel, the one who would be the love of his life, that he alone rolls the impossibly heavy stone from the communal well and waters her flock. Only then, having served her in her work, does he embrace his future spouse. And as he embraces her, he, the strong, "take-charge" man, weeps out loud, humbled at last by selfless love itself. It is through her and their descendants together that all families of the Earth will bless themselves as God had promised him. I identify with Jacob, as a lover of men. I know that my Rachel will be, and is, a man whom I will love as Jacob loved Rachel, laboring, serving, and waiting.
Today, like Jacob, who waited 14 years to be united with Rachel, I am in a season of love that waits. Like Jacob I am focused on shared labor, on service. So my prayer every morning includes asking God to help roll away a stone that will allow God's flock to be nourished by God's Living Water. I ask that all I give away in such service be Living Water and nothing else. And, like Jacob, I wait lovingly for my own Rachel. For Jacob, 14 years seemed as if they were "but a few days because of the love he had for her" (Genesis 29: 30 NRSV), a love that preserved him as he labored and waited.
To pray with gratitude, not with impatience, shame, or self-hatred, for a love that serves and waits rather than yet embracing, I seek guidance from the Muslim mystic Kahlil Gibran, who taught the following way of praying of love: waking "at dawn with a winged heart [to] give thanks for another day of loving" before I even open my eyes, before I then ask God's help with rolling a stone from the well of Living Water to water God's flock. Throughout the day, as Gibran teaches, I give thanks for loving and fall asleep with a prayer for the beloved (and Beloved) in my heart, "a song of praise for loving." The Hebrew Psalms proclaim to God, "The day is thine, the night also is thine" (Ps 74.16), and so these prayers of gratitude for this love between men rightfully belong to the God on rising in the morning and drifting to sleep at night, the God who made every Jacob and Rachel. Until the day I will embrace my own Rachel, my own shepherd, I likewise gratefully pray this Hebrew prayer of blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has such as this in Your universe," giving praise to God for loving itself and giving gratitude for the beauty of such love and of such a beloved, as well. The love between partners who love like this is not to be hidden or denied, as some who pray would claim. Rather, such love is the fulfillment of divine promise and thus is to be celebrated as a love through which all on Earth may bless themselves.