by Carson Tueller, Affirmation President
As we prepare for the coming of Christmas in only a few weeks, our Affirmation family has been on my mind and in my heart.
It was only a few weeks ago that I decided to put up my Christmas tree. It stands in the corner of my living room, wrapped with a burlap ribbon from top to bottom. Red and gold ornaments hang from the ends of the branches, and small white lights twinkle beneath it all. Under my tree is a checkered tree skirt that my mother made me a few years ago, and it looks just like the one my family has. It reminds me of all the Christmases of my childhood.
As I’ve rolled past this tree from day to day, I’ve found myself reflecting on the many holiday seasons I’ve experienced, and what quickly come to mind are memories of pure joy. I remember a warm house with nativities in almost every room. I remember the feeling of singing “Hark! The Harold Angels Sing!”, and listening to my mother read the Biblical Christmas story by candlelight as my siblings and I huddled on the couch in our pajamas. But even more than all of that, I remember celebrating the life of Jesus Christ. The hope of his message and what his life represented is what made Christmas sacred to me.
I also remember the first Christmas I had after coming out. I was a young returned missionary, barely 22 years old. Hard questions around faith and my place in the plan of salvation had set in, and when Christmas arrived, those questions seemed to dampen the joy of the season for me. Celebrating Christmas was a bit more (or a lot more) complicated. Instead of rejoicing at the Savior’s birth, I wondered if he could love someone like me. Instead of feeling gratitude for his sacrifice, I worried that being gay made me unsalvageable. My heart ached to feel that familiar Christmas spirit. I wanted tears to roll down my cheeks as I sang Christmas hymns. I was desperate to have the warmth in my soul that had accompanied the season so often before. But what remained that year was loss and confusion. I wondered if Christmas would ever be beautiful again.
But one Christmas at a time, and as I reconciled my sexual identity with my faith, this time of year became a season to celebrate again, though different from before. The process by which I found peace was a long one, a process that many of you know too well. I’m grateful that after years of struggle, I can finally experience peace again. I look forward to family gatherings, Christmas caroling, and seeing the lights on Temple Square as much as ever.
For some, this time of year brings our families closer together, while others of us may not be comfortable or welcome at home or in our communities. Some of us may find Christmastime to be faith-affirming, while others may be struggling to define or understand their spiritual identities. As we find ourselves in the midst of Holiday celebration, it is my wish that each of us be gentle with ourselves in our processes, wherever we are along the way. If you are struggling, I urge you to trust that time and experience will add to your strength. Remember that however you feel now is not an indicator of how you will feel tomorrow, or next month, or next year. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself time.
Affirmation exists to support you in your moments of need. If you are lonely or hurting, reach out. You need not experience this time of year alone. We love you, we are aware of you, and we wish you the best that this time of year has to offer.