Breathe, FTE, and a Trinity of Reflections

I have not really stopped to breathe since some unknown time before Easter. But, I’ve been here before and I am nowhere nearly as stressed and exhausted as I was back when I was a Sophomore where every class was very hard and there was no time to complete anything. So, I’ll just keep riding this out and weathering this storm, because the last of the big assignments are almost due soon and I will ideally be done soon as well.

Now then, onto some reflections. I recently went to the FTE retreat. FTE – also known as the Forum for Theological Exploration – is an organization that equips and engages with the next generation of church leaders across Christendom. It was a heavy retreat, and going to it after countless of sleepless nights in the lab was certainly not the healthiest choice – but I am happy I went nonetheless. Also, I got to use the sauna at the hotel I stayed at one of the nights, so that’s a win.

The retreat itself was wonderful, I met inspiring people who shared a diversity of perspectives, and I got to learn something from each of them. We talked about everything from how liturgy can be used in activism to change the narratives around issues of social justice, to how sustainable farming practices can be brought to urban communities to help bring healthier foods to poorer residential communities. I engaged in the Theater of the Oppressed, a practice in experience and using the body to feel out and change the perspective surrounding different social justice issues – this was led by a former Marshian by the name of Tyler which made the practice even cooler to engage in. I also learned about holy friction and how to more effectively be an agent who works towards common ground.

Since then, I have had a few reflections and have wrestled with different ideas in my own theological and philosophical perspectives.

First, a big theme at the vocational discernment retreat was to “Find your place, get in your place, and stay in your place until it isn’t you place anymore. Then you find your place, get in your and stay in your place until it isn’t your place anymore. Then you find…” and so on. The problem is, I am not sure if I have a specific place. I don’t know what, if any, particular issues of justice hit me hard. At the retreat this bothered me as I feel as though I am a little too academic about my faith which is perhaps hurting my vocational path. I also just don’t fit in well; I exist in margins, I grew up evangelical, found life in liberal Protestantism, and embraced a kind of Christian religious naturalism. I also am a first generation Colombian American, and spent the first 18 or so years of my life in a community that was majority white. I was the butt of countless, oftentimes annoying, racist jokes and offensive remarks. Then, I came to Boston, and I am often mistaken for not being Latinx, so there’s that. I understand that this partially is due to the inherent nature in being Latinx, in that we are all hybridizations of different cultures and ethnicities and so our shared heritage (if there is one) is not entire homogenous – well except maybe our shared history of being colonized by Iberian states centuries ago – and having cultures shaped by that history. Anyways, I hope to find better clarity about this, but I am sure I will over time.

Second, I do not think human identities can be defined primarily by essential qualities. And yet, I think a lot of people do this – and I think it leads to a significant amount of toxic behaviors and perspectives. My reasoning for this claim is that, in reducing human identities to qualities, one is creating a binary that doesn’t exist (for example, a scientist is rational – would that then make an artist irrational? Or to be masculine is to be principled. Does that now define femininity as unprincipled? [further, could one even be able to truly make the claim that the previously stated identities are even opposites of each other?]) which is dangerous. I do not think the qualities that are often associated with an identity is their essence. I would argue that qualities can be shared between contrasting and differing identities, and that the true markers of identity come from narratives and tradition. Identities are intimately tied to human experience and storytelling – and the qualities of character and identity are expressions of these narratives – but it is the narrative or cultural history itself that defines the human identity. I think this is an important clarification to make as it allows us to better understand the identities we hold to and distill what these identities mean to ourselves and also how they fit into the larger communities, narratives, and contexts we find ourselves in. Further, it also forces us to be a little more respectful towards people who do not share our identities – which will hopefully force us to better engage with and give justice to those who do not share our identities, or stories or narratives. For example, this may force a Christian to take a step back when talking about another religion, because this Christian might not have the full context or narrative that underpins this other identity. This Christian might even go and try to ask an individual of this other religion to explain what their religious identity means to them – and hopefully be able to sit into this other experience a little better. Hopefully, this leads to less hate, a little more respect for differences, and a little healthier dialogue.

Third, I feel like I am flying towards a brick wall: graduation. As my time here as an undergraduate slowly comes to a close, I cannot help but feel that I am not taking enough personal time to reflect, to enjoy the time, and to conclude healthily. There are so many people I need to thank for what they did for me on my undergraduate journey, from mentors here at Marsh Chapel, to professors in ENG, to colleagues and leaders when I worked at Orientation, to classmates who lent me a hand whenever I fell down, to friends who listened to my stress, my struggles, and provided presence and community. I remember when I applied to Boston University, I concluded I had no chance. When I got accepted and was offered the ability to study here, I considered it an act of grace. And where I am now, I also consider an act of grace. I would not be here if it was not for the wonderful people in my life – and I really hope I can genuinely explain this to everyone, instead of simply just thanking God for the people in my life every night as I get ready to go to sleep. On top of all of that, I also am just not really that happy right now. I know why: I am exhausted, I am stressed, and I have not had serious rest in months – but sustaining this is not healthy and it starts to take a toll over time. Hopefully, I can take a break soon.

One Comment

neda posted on June 20, 2023 at 12:08 pm

Can you tell me what day is “Easter” exactly?

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