I met Leigh during my short stint working at Edward Jones. She was my go-to resource when I had no idea how to do whatever it was I needed to accomplish - and if she didn't know the answer, she'd go out of her way to research and figure it out. The girl knows everything about that company.
Thanks to Facebook, we quickly pieced together a string of mutual friendships we had and bonded over shared stories. Our work-only relationship grew more personal and we quickly opened up to deeper conversations - asking questions, comparing perceptions, and forming individual understanding. We agree on most things, always receptive and reflective in our discussions, but more importantly, we laugh together. Thanks, Bitmoji.
Leigh is one of the easiest women I've ever had the privilege of getting to know. And she puts up with my sometimes annoying desire to understand and support the LGBTQ community with unending grace, allowing me to say the wrong things while gently correcting me and providing a clearer picture. I'm honored to feature her ongoing discovery process.
Responses by Leigh Baldridge
What do you believe, and why?
I thought I knew how I would answer this, but sitting in a church this Christmas, watching a play with my family and hearing my mom pray... I don't know what I believe - or why I should believe in a book that was written so many years ago. I don't want to attach myself to the Christian label, but I still find myself saying I'm a Christian, albeit with much more hesitation than I used to.
So I can't answer this question explicitly, except to say I believe in God and I believe in love. And I believe that God is love. I believe people will fail us, but God never will.
How did you discover your beliefs?
I was raised in Christianity. We were the kind of family who attended church regularly and I was the kind of good Christian girl who went to youth group and was actively involved in YoungLife. But three years ago, at 23, I started to question everything I believed. I came to the realization that if I'm going to have beliefs (spiritual/religious or otherwise), they need to be mine and mine alone.
You see, three years ago, I started a romantic relationship with a woman. I'm a woman. In the traditional Christian world I grew up in, my relationship was not accepted. I began to see sides of people I love that I did not agree with - people who taught me my beliefs, everything I stood for, and suddenly, they weren't treating me and my partner with the love and respect we deserved. We were doing something "wrong", and they felt it was their job to point out how I needed to "get back on track."
All this time I thought Jesus was love, and that, as Christians, we were called to show his love to others. The Christians I know were only loving me on their terms, and only when my actions matched what they thought was "right." Did I really believe that too? Was that the kind of Christian I was?
I've learned a lot about myself - and others over the past three years - and I question what I believe every day because of the people I love who were supposed to love me back. Just love me.
Recently, my relationship with this woman ended, and everything was "made right" in their eyes. "I was back". To me, this is completely absurd. I don't believe Jesus' love for me changed because of my relationship status.
How do you interact with your beliefs?
I changed as a person when, while in a relationship with a woman, people openly disagreed with me, with who I am. So I figure, at this point, what do I have to lose?
I don't go to church. I don't read the bible. But I pray to God and I manifest*, and I'm currently learning how to interact with what I'm choosing to believe.
In September, I joined a group of women online who empower each other in the roots of manifestation, i.e. The Law of Attraction. And a lot of people I know would completely disagree with it because I'm learning life is not about "waiting for God's timing". Nothing is going to happen if you literally sit around and wait. The God I believe in is a God of action, and he supports my action, so I need to take it.
What I've appreciated about this manifesting group is that we address whoever or whatever we want. Sometimes I address God and other times I address the universe.
*Some may see prayer and manifestation as the same thing, but to me, manifesting is when I need to take action and give thanks. When I pray, I'm asking for guidance and I give thanks, too. You can never be too grateful.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
I don't doubt my belief in God, I doubt the people who taught me the beliefs I am currently deconstructing, and reconstructing. I allow myself to explore and trust the process while maintaining a healthy balance of skepticism. I ask questions. Lots of questions. But only to people I trust. I don't remember the last time I had a deep conversation with my parents. Now, I have deep conversations with the people who accept me fully for who I am and understand that I have my own beliefs and opinions. I'm open to discard the things - the beliefs - that don't work for me.
Liz recently asked me how I believe the Christian community can support the LGBTQ community. After thinking about it, I came up with a few examples of what not to do. If you believe God created us all, then accept us (LGBTQ) as we are.
- Don't say, "I love you, but I disagree with your lifestyle choices." Say I love you - and leave it at that. However, if you believe that being a gay Christian is ok, tell me that. Knowing who I can approach for love and extended support it helpful.
- Please don't try to change me. This is who I am, and I am with my significant other for a reason - just like you are with yours for a reason. I am not going to try to change who you are. We can simply agree to disagree.
- I do not believe that my relationship is a sin, so do not tell me that homosexuality is a sin.
To the Christians who look at my relationship the same as any other relationship - thank you for valuing me and being love.
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.