Coming to terms with who you are is a difficult journey for any young person to embark on. But coming to terms with something about yourself that you were taught is “bad” is even more difficult. Harper Grae had a personal reckoning when she began college and began a life-long journey of self-acceptance and self-love. As she continues to grow in life and love (and even family, with a baby on the way), Grae has penned a letter to her younger self to praise her for getting through the fire and making it to the other side. Read more from her Pride Month blog below…
A letter to 18 year old Harper: A Journey to Pride
Everything you know to be “true and good” will be dismantled by questions and honest answers alongside endless hours of unbiased research and hard conversations; but you will come to know what “true and good” actually means for you.
It’s July 4th, your birthday, and your world seems utterly perfect. You’ll graduate top of your class in high school with so many honors and accolades that you’ll be embarrassed to mention them all. The only thing you’ll have on your mind this summer is picking out your college dorm aesthetic; little do you know in less than a year, your life will welcome in love, heartbreak, depression and an awakening that will cultivate a shift in your life forever.
January of your freshman year, you’ll see her for the first time. She’ll be leading worship at a campus retreat. You weren’t even supposed to be on this retreat- you don’t even go to the church, but you’ll have a tendency of parking your car in the church’s parking lot because it made the walk to campus much shorter, so you think, why not see if this is a place for me. You grew up non denominational, afterall- which in the deepest part of the Bible belt is a fancy word for very conservative, very close minded; yet welcoming with arms open wide… whatever that may mean and this church seems to fit the bill. Back to the retreat…You won’t be sure if it’s her, her voice or the way she made an entire room laugh, but you’ll want to know more about her and she is Christian, so you’ll think to yourself “that’s a win.” You’ll introduce yourself and pull out the “I’m new here and know no one card”– quickly the night will turn into morning and after long conversations about life and your 18 year old struggles, you will both decide you want to be inseparable.
Fast forward to Spring break Freshman year- and you think this girl will be a part of your life forever; you just don’t know in what capacity. You will be entrenched in the church you tried out on a whim because she is there. You will be confused, because you’ll know this church doesn’t align with how you feel about her and you’ll begin to keep secrets; secrets you will only feel comfortable telling her because she keeps the same secrets. One mission trip later and before you know it, the girl and you begin a relationship that not only begins in secrecy but will rattle both of your spirits for years to come.
The deeper your relationship becomes with her- the freer you both feel- the longer your love grows- the tighter you will both hold onto this secret, until one day you will not be able to do it any longer because you will want to share the love y’all have built by screaming it at the top of your lungs to everyone alive. You will then find a fire to search for the ‘why’ behind you both keeping this secret for so long- you will also want to prove to this girl that you can love one another and still be loved by God, but your search for the “why” will be at your forefront. (Why is it wrong to love her? Why are we living different lives in public than we are at home? Why do we listen to people who we don’t even respect? Why do we not research everything ourselves? Why are we willing to give up so much of ourselves to people who know so very little about us?) You will grieve. You will be angry. You will bargain. You will slip in and out of depression. You will then begin to take matters into your own hands because you will refuse to let this battle defeat you. So, you will set fire to unbiased knowledge that will shape you into who you are meant to be. What you will find out will terrify you, enlighten you and uplift you. You will find out what discernment means and what journeying through your faith and spirituality while living true in your sexuality will mean for you. You will learn a dead language to understand the Bible in its original form. Church leaders won’t like what you find out- they won’t be able to answer your questions. They will make you feel small and uneducated. They will make you think your feelings are not worthy. They will bring you into their office to have conversations about your love and sex life- you will not tolerate their banter, which will make them even more mad and eventually kick you out leading worship. Nothing will align with what you were taught as a child, adolescent, and young adult- but you will be able to decipher what is true and good. What will know what love actually means. You will have a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit than you ever have experienced before.
The girl in this story will have served her purpose in your life, your heart will shatter when you realize this– you will grieve for years to come, but you will eventually be thankful for the character she played in your story- this will take time, but it will deliver a strength and resilience in you that will know no bounds because what is better than deeply loving someone, losing them, but coming out on the other side knowing you are better for it all.
You are bold because of the choices you are making today.
You are unapologetic because of the nights you’re crying yourself to sleep while reading scripture, learning Koine Greek, and understanding what faith is actually about.
You are strong because of the people around you.
You know love wins because you experience innocent love with no boundaries.
You have pride in who you are because you’re taking the time alone to figure out exactly who you are without allowing others to steer you one way or the other.
I am proud of you.