Breath of the Spirit: Loving Ourselves
We’ve heard the directive, “To love our neighbors as ourselves,” so often it can feel like a cliché. Today’s reflection asks what we are to do with such a sentiment when Church and society have advocated so strongly that we not love who we are.
Sunday, September 10, 2023: Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
A reflection by delfín bautista
Part of my approach for writing for Breath of the Spirit is exploring how the readings of the day interact with each other. Today I am going to take on a different approach and zoom into and onto just one of the readings that has sparked many thoughts and insights.
The redactor of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome calls the community, and by extension us, to love our neighbors in the same ways we love ourselves. This verse has become central for many of us in our solidarity with those pushed to the margins and in our commitment to justice, equity, and liberation. However, I struggle with this message as a person living with and through gender dysphoria—how can I ripple love from myself and for myself when I experience a disconnect with my body, appearance, and expression? I wrestle with Paul’s message seeing its potential to bring wholeness to myself as well as create spaces where others can experience wholeness. But it is not easy. As trans people, many of us experience coerced expectations and impositions of the gender binary through messages that our bodies are bad: when transition is reduced to just medical procedures; when we hear there is only one way to be trans; when our identities and access to resources is legislated and pathologized. How can we love ourselves so that we can love others, when both church and society make it difficult to accomplish step one? I am cautious of the word healing, as I don’t want to medicalize or clinicalize the journey of dysphoria and euphoria. Yes, we have our hurts, wounds, and traumas that need healing. However, who I am as a trans person through my adventure of affirmation seems less about healing and more about wholeness and celebration. I seek to embrace myself as a reflection and embodiment of God’s voice, presence, and experience in the world—being mindful that how this happens for me will be different for other trans people, which is divinely awesome!
In many ways, Paul was urging the community in Rome to practice self-care as well as communal-care. To live out and to live into Jesus’ prophetic understanding of love, we need to care for ourselves and for each other. Self-care is not necessarily about the spa or a mani-pedi or an expensive vacation. For me, at this moment, it is about discovering and rediscovering that as I live into my wholeness, God is present in me and through me. It is a reminder that it is totally okay and encouraged for others to journey with me and experience God’s love in their solidarity with me. And it is also okay and encouraged for others to walk a different path to experience and share the Divine Embrace. How are we hearing and experiencing God’s voice, presence, and love when we care for ourselves and in our care for each other? How is God in our midst when we care for self and community? How is God is loving you and me as we are, as well as into whom we can become?
mx. delfin w. bautista, MSW, MDiv. (they/elle/delfin) is a native of Miami, FL, is of Cuban and Salvadoran heritage, and currently serves as the Director for the Lionel Cantu Queer Resource Center at UC-Santa Cruz. A social worker and activist theologian, delfin is passionate about intersectional justice and liberation, especially around the experiences of queer and trans people of color. delfin currently serves on the board of directors for both Soulforce and enfleshed.