Living out loud

Friends, happy September! 

This is the first year in many that I’m not amongst the hordes of children and teens purchasing their new backpacks, pencil cases — yes, I used one in graduate school — or 17-cent notebooks. 

Alas, I am a full fledged adult, launching myself into adulthood. Right now my life involves a lot of travel and trying to maintain contact with friends who have started jobs elsewhere in the country, and keeping relationships with friends from home strong. 

Just last week, in the Charlotte airport, I was text messaging back and forth with a friend from my graduate program and after some conversation, received a message that started with “This might be weird but I’m just gonna say it anyway.” Unsure of where this was going, I read on. 

“Would we be able to do like a religion chat/ exploration/Bible study? Exploring my faith is something I’ve wanted to do since I realized that’s a part of my life I’d like to get in tune with.” Awed and humbled, I immediately went to respond. But I paused, searching for the right words, not wanting to mislead him. For the more I thought about it, the more I became painfully reminded that I’m in no way an expert on Catholicism or theology. 

What did I have to share when I still have questions every day about my faith and struggle with my stance on social issues or even just how to describe why I believe what I believe?

In a way, at its core, it’s a dilemma many face. How do you talk to people about what you cannot see and hold out to them as a tangible thing? 

And then I read the rest of the message. It read, “Totally cool if you don’t feel comfortable but I know this is a big part of your life and I feel like I’d feel comfortable talking to you about how to get started and what to look for, etc.” It was then that I realized that Justin only knew this was a part of my life because I had already been talking about it and he’d already seen me live a life of Christian values that he could recognize. It brought me back to a values exercise we had gone through in class. This exercise was a bidding war, where each student had a certain amount of money to bid and “spend” on their values of choice. Once your money was gone, you were left with the values you bid on and won — no matter what unknown values may come next in the auction. 

When a traditionally Christian value was put up for auction, there were snickers across the room and glances exchanged amongst my peers. Only Justin, myself, and another cohort member bid on this value. Their glances continued and the laughter quieted, and eventually the bidding ceased. But he saw it there. He saw what he knew to be a display of faith in those uncomfortable moments, moments that feel like hours when all eyes are on you and not in the most friendly or understanding of ways. 

The more I reminisced, the more I realized that I was nothing but my authentic self with Justin. He heard me talk about going to Church on Sunday. I was unafraid to be vulnerable in our class conversations about Catholicism being a part of my identity, and he watched me grapple in class with some of our topics. 

This reminder opened my eyes to the fact that this friend who was expressing his trust in me was not doing it without thought and consideration. He saw someone living out loud their values through the easy times and more often, through the difficult. And that was enough for him to find a safe space. 

So this month, I challenge you to be someone’s safe space. We see from Moses that we need not be afraid to be clumsy in our speech, and this is the lesson I’m learning as well as I move forward with my friend in his pursuit of faith. I may misspeak, I’ll share my doubts and questions that make up this journey. But I will continue to live in a way that makes people comfortable enough to approach me about whatever they feel called to. 

Happy living out loud — it’s something that’ll never steer you wrong and will bring people and moments into your life that remind you of why you are who you are. 

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier graduated from Stonehill College and is a graduate student in the College Student Personnel Program at James Madison University in Harrison, Va.

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