Singing the Song of a Loving, Affirming God

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This blog reflection is part of an ongoing series, Pride with Mercy, that began during Pride Month 2019. These reflections grew out of the Sisters of Mercy’s Chapter 2017 Declaration challenging each of us to respond to those who suffer from oppressive systems and to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” We encourage you to forward these posts to someone who might need to read them. Together, may we grow in our tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and extend a hand of welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.

By Anne Boettcher

“Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night…”

I came across this song just the other day while looking for music for a virtual retreat I was helping to plan. It brought back many memories. Written by Dan Schutte, one of the St. Louis Jesuits, it was released the year after I graduated from high school and has accompanied me throughout my adult life. While studying theology in college and later grad school, this song was familiar background during prayer and reflection times.

As a lesbian woman (though I wasn’t aware of my orientation at that time), I’ve always felt extremely blessed to have had teachers in my life who helped me relate to the “Lord” of this song as someone who created me as I am and loves me deeply. Unlike others in the LGBTQ+ family, I’ve never had to contend with a warped image of a judging, wrathful God condemning me for who I would eventually discover myself to be.

When I was teaching theology in a Catholic high school in the 1980s and 1990s, “Here I am, Lord” was a mainstay for masses and other liturgical services. The directness of the dialogue has always grabbed my attention. While I know my God to be kind and loving, She is no pushover; like any good mother, sister, friend, She wants me to grow and become my best self.

The challenge to come to terms with my sexual orientation in my mid 30s was a call more difficult than any I’d faced up to that point. I had studied the few passages in the Bible used to condemn same-sex love (scripture scholar Daniel Helminiak is great), and I knew that loving, consensual same-sex relationships between adults were never talked about there. This lifestyle, in my mind and heart, was not sinful. The challenge to me was acknowledging my orientation in a society that would hate and possibly hurt me for being who I am. Still, when I fearfully asked, “Is it I, Lord” who is a lesbian, I received loving and supportive affirmation.

Some readers may be familiar with my story from the SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) presentation my spouse Mary and I were part of last September. When Mary and I met in the early 2000s, loving her was the most natural, life-giving experience, and her love helped me understand and relate to God’s love for me in deeper and more embodied ways. After we had our commitment ceremony in 2003, we felt called to take time off and serve with other people on the margins. “We will go Lord, if You lead us” became our daily prayer, but we had a difficult time finding a program that would accept us as a couple. We didn’t need to be out to the people with whom we were serving but didn’t want to hide our relationship from the other volunteers. It was really tough feeling called but not being allowed to come as ourselves.

But then we found Mercy Volunteer Corps (MVC), and they said yes! Our first night at orientation retreat, we sat in the chapel for evening prayer, and as they sang “Here I am, Lord,” we looked at each other through happy tears, knowing we’d found a new home.

I am now on staff with MVC supporting the volunteer communities in Sacramento and San Francisco, California, and St. Michaels on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Mercy is still our spiritual home, and Mary and I make our physical home in Tucson, Arizona, where God still calls to us through the saguaros and sunrises of our beautiful desert.