Beauty from Brokenness

By: John Winslow
March 31, 2016

During FTE’s retreat, I discovered that what I desire and what causes me pain are inextricably linked – and that it is at the intersection of these things that I find my vocation.

If you ask any of my closest friends what my guiding mantra in life is, they will tell you “his wound is his strength.” I got those words tattooed on my chest immediately after the moment they became the truest for me – the moment I came out to my family. More than marking a single event in my life, for me these words summarize what it is to be a person of faith: using the pain and darkness in the world as fuel for grace and light.

So, in the midst of struggling in discerning my vocation, when I heard Marlon Hall begin our FTE Regional Discernment Retreat with the phrase “excavate beauty from brokenness” – his own mantra – I knew I was in the right place.

Strangely, it had never occurred to me to think about my vocation through the lens of this phrase – to think about what irritates me and causes me pain as the place to look for my purpose. As a Jesuit-educated Roman Catholic, the Ignatian discernment process is one I have often utilized. One of the central tenets of Ignatian discernment is that God speaks to us in our desires – that what we truly and deeply find ourselves longing for most is a way that God communicates with us.

During FTE’s retreat, I discovered that what I desire and what causes me pain are inextricably linked – and that it is at the intersection of these things that I find my vocation. We were urged throughout the retreat to turn our irritation into intrigue and our intrigue into innovation.

So, I found myself reflecting on my woundedness once again – the things that cause me the most profound pain. I thought about how I have never felt comfortable holding the hand of another man at Mass. I thought about how the best thing I have come to expect from the leadership of my church is invisibility. I thought about how I cannot have the holiest and most sacred relationship in my life celebrated in the sacrament of marriage.

Whatever it is that lights a fire in your belly – whatever it is that makes you angry and causes you pain – that is where you look for how God is calling you to unearth the Kingdom that is Christ’s justice. And that is where I have learned to go: as a result of my experience on the FTE discernment retreat, I have begun the application process for my Master’s in Divinity degree. God’s call to pursue justice in the church and with the church for my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in the most profound and urgent source of pain and intrigue in my life – and it’s a call FTE has helped me learn to answer.

Tags: Thinking Out Loud


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