Picture Advent Day 3: Wait

Picture Advent Day 3: Wait

Art- Icon of black Madonna from side altar of Altlerchenfelder church from 19th century. July 27, 2013. Vienna.

By Kimi Floyd Reisch
December 1, 2020

#ONAPictureAdvent 2020

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

Mary gave birth to a child, watched the child grow, and then ultimately watched her child die because of who God had called them to be. Over the years, as the parent of a transgender child and a two-spirit transgender person, this has been a truth I have returned to over and over.

The teachings of Jesus center my faith, but as the parent of a transgender child, I turn to Mary just as often to find wisdom and guidance. Mary stood up and held her head up high when she was a young single mother who knew her pregnancy could mean a sentence of death by stoning. Mary believed in a God who was always with her, a God who would stand beside her as she faced down the patriarchal Jewish leaders. It was Mary who protected and defended her child. Until ultimately, Mary was the one who knew the pain of watching her son up on that cross, knowing he would die, and she would lose him.

My son – like Mary’s – is who he is, born into a beautiful God-created body. As a parent, I can honestly say that I have never witnessed the face of God’s love more than when I saw the first real smile on my child’s face as he looked in the mirror and saw himself for the first time after medical affirmation.

In Galatians 5, Paul advises the Jewish people that living in Christ means living according to the will of God over the law of man, and he restates Jesus’ commandment in Matthew 22. “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. (Galatians 5:14) God requires that we be fully authentic, but even more God commands us to authentically love each other.

If you only love a person if they agree to live as less than their fully authentic selves, that is not in line with the commandment. Only by loving each other, greeting another fully authentic person with our equally authentic soul, can we access the fruit of the Spirit. A life without “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” is one bereft of the grace of salvation given on the cross. (Galatians 5:22)

Not all parents are able to face their fears the way Mary did. Too many still reject their children when their vision of who their child should be collapses. They claim Biblical mandates divide people into two rigid gender categories. They identify verses and name them as support for their decision to cast their child aside. Instead of stopping to remember that God gave this child to them – this child that God always knew and saw as Beloved. No one has to come out to God.

In Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, Nadia Bolz-Weber reflects on Mary’s legacy. “There is a reason Mary is everywhere…but I don’t think her image is everywhere because she is a reminder to be obedient, and I don’t think it has to do with social revolution. Images of Mary remind us of God’s favor. Mary is what it looks like to believe that we already are who God says we are.”

Transgender and gender-nonconforming people are already who God says that they are. The transition of the physical body is done to bring the whole being into alignment, so that the outer reflects the same inner that God created.

As people of faith, we all must someday face the conflict between the person the world wants us to become and the person God knows us to be.

Transgender and gender diverse people of faith choose to see themselves through God’s eyes first, and they know God never rejected them. They have come through their process of affirmation knowing who God calls them be, and they have chosen to walk in the path of Christ, which is always one of authenticity and truth. The promise of life after death does not mean God will wave the Bible around like a magic wand, erasing the pain we experience when humans reject us. But it does remind us. God commands us to love.

God tells us to love – fully, compassionately, and without quantification. We wait for the birth of Mary’s child again this Advent – a child she loves exactly as God commanded, without fear or rejection because of who he came to be.

Prayer: Spirit of life and love that resides within and among us, we go through this season of waiting with all that we are, with an open heart, and with a love for justice.

We hold in love and prayer all the ways that transgender people have survived and thrived in a hostile world. We hold in love and prayer all who recognize the significance of gender justice for all people.

On this day, we commit and recommit to creating a world where people of all genders can know peace, love, and justice. We commit and recommit to living lives of compassion and care for all of humanity. We commit and recommit to the healing work of relationship-building that will help every person know, no matter their gender or sexuality, that they are loved and valued. We commit to try harder and to see others in the same way God sees them. (adapted from the Transforming Hearts Collective)