by D. Marie Brumfield
Chicago, IL–“Yea? What else do you think I can handle?” These were the words that I yelled to the sky; I was shaking my head and tears were rolling down my face. “God, I would be good if you just chose someone else,” I cried. Silence.
This is usually how the conversations between God and me get started.
I guess you should probably know who I am and why it matters how I begin my conversations with God.
I am a woman of African descent. I serve as an associate pastor for a predominantly African American church whose congregation is comprised of mostly black LGBTQ folk. I was raised by my black mother and black father in a suburb of Chicago. I am married…
…to a white woman.
Together we are raising 4 teenagers. A 19 yr old black male, an almost 18 yr old year old white female, a 16 year old black male and a 14 year old black gender fluid child. Yikes! I shake my head even writing the description of our family. The looks we get when we’re out in public. Oh, did I mention that I am 5’5” (if I stand up straight) with locs all the way down my back and my spouse is 6’0” with blonde hair and blue eyes. Yea, when we’re all together, we’re a sight to see!
But none of that is enough to render a shaking my fist, yelling at God moment. Nope. For me, that moment was initiated when God reminded me a few short months ago that I have to tell my story. Honestly, God and I are still in conversation about how that story will be told but we’re clear (or at least God is) that the gift I have to be transparent and vulnerable-even when I am trembling in fear-will be my signature. The stories will carry and someone will find strength in my ability to share my life in plain sight.
This is a strange fit for me because I have spent most of my life trying to blend into the background.
I am a compliant first born. I got good grades in school. I didn’t stir a ruckus and I hated being the center of attention.
This was an awesome task because I have spent more than half of my life as an obese child and now adult.
I hate that word. Obese isn’t much better but it’s more clinical so I’m sticking with it.
I couldn’t claim “thick” as some do now because I was more than thick. I was more than chubby. I was obese. As I got older – and bigger – that clinical term shifted to morbidly obese and so that’s where we’ll leave it.
There’s a story connected to the weight and how it spun so out of control but that’s a different story for a different post.
The way our society is set up one would think that I had trouble making friends and being connected as an obese child (I don’t agree with it though I recognize that’s how our culture works). My life was quite the contrary. I had a lot of friends. As a teenager I was in high demand. Girls. Boys. Adults. I was pretty much a magnet for people. Perhaps it was my personality. Maybe it was my charm. It could have been the fact that I was so giving, compliant and a consummate people pleaser (yea, I’m working through those questions in therapy). Nevertheless I was hardly ever alone.
This magnetic personality is still there.
And so is my desire to blend into the background.
For those that know me as a pastor would probably argue that point. Seriously. Every Sunday I stand in front of people; I can usually be found preaching, praying or some other public speaking. For those that knew me growing up, it probably still doesn’t ring true. As a teenager I was on the speech and drama team in school and church found me as the star of more than a few stage productions. As a young adult I sang on the worship team and was the lead sign language interpreter for our Sunday services. So, being up front, on the stage was kind of my thing.
But so is my desire to blend into the background.
I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that if I settled down, got married and started a family I would fade into the background. You know, I would be settled.
I didn’t start out being attracted to women. In fact, if you’d asked me prior to 2008 the idea of being married to a woman wouldn’t have even made the cut. I should probably mention here that I don’t identify as a lesbian and all the questions that identity – or non-identity – raises. But, again, that’s a different story for a different post.
My spouse and I met in the early fall, 2013. We started as casual friends. In November 2013 we went to hang out as I was reeling from my grandmother’s death, Illinois had just signed the marriage equality bill and I was in need of a friend. We spent the entire evening talking, laughing and sharing stories. It was cool!
By December 2013 I was hooked. I had fallen for the way she just let me be regular. To her I was just Dawnn. She listened to me and made me feel special by downplaying all the ‘special-ness’ I felt burdened with by my public persona.
Things moved quickly. Yea, that’s kind of lesbian-esque. You know the joke about what lesbians bring to the 2nd date; a U-Haul! Yea, in that way, I fit the bill. But, I digress.
We got married in 2014 and started building on our blended family in 2015. As crazy as life can get for us with 4 teenagers I figured I am finally settled. I’m married with children. And, despite the configuration of our family, how much more settled can you get than “married with children”?
In May 2016 I graduated from my doctoral program in Pastoral Care and Counseling and found myself staring down the barrel of figuring out my next move. I was feeling a vocational shift and asking God about next steps.
That’s where we pick back up with this shaking my fist and yelling.
A journal reflection, October 2016:
Daughter, you are going to show up for those who need it most. The experiences you’ve encountered as a sexual assault survivor, a morbidly obese woman, a same-gender loving person of African descent, half of an interracial couple raising an eclectic group of kids, parent of a gender fluid child, mental health professional living with a mental illness and clergyperson – you are going to show up.
Silence for a few weeks as I sat with this revelation. I wanted to know what it meant. I was afraid to ask.
Eventually though I grew tired of how not asking was disrupting my sleep. I asked for clarity.
All I got was three words. Write. Vulnerable. Write.
I’m still sitting with these words and figuring it out as I go. I suspect that it’ll eventually sort itself out. But for now anyway I’ll write until it’s more clear.
Why shake my fist and yell at this revelation?
…it feels like too much responsibility. Remember, I just want to blend into the background.
I figure that God could choose anyone else. There have to be folks out there with more spectacular lives. I’m sure of it, in fact.
Did I mention that I am compliant?
At the end of it all – and like any compliant child – I just want to know that I did well.
So, despite my shaking fist and yells to the sky, I’ll do it.
Despite my sometimes paralyzing fear of exposure, I’ll write and share my stories.
Despite my fear of the unknown, I’ll write!
I’m not sure where any of this will land but I’ll write it anyway.
This post is a step in the right direction.