I found Rachel Haltiwanger online, only to discover that we have so much in common! We’re both ESL teachers, we’ve both traveled to other countries, and (wait for it) we both live in Nashville! Rachel just moved here from Mexico, so we haven’t met up in person just yet, but plan to soon. Rachel writes about cross-cultural experiences, wrestling with faith, and transparent living. Her love for all people easily shines through her writing. BTW she’s got a great series on misfit faith going on her blog right now. Rachel’s words often challenge me, and I hope they will speak to you, today, too.
Where I Found God: LGBT Yoga
I have been singing “You Found Me” by the Fray since I talked to Karissa about this post over a month ago.
I didn’t find God at the corner of first and Amistad, though. I found Him at the corner of Church and 17th, at the gay community center.
A friend had asked if I would go with her to yoga there because she didn’t want to go alone, at least not for the first time. Having no yoga experience and being straight, it seemed like a perfect fit for an awkward night out, but I wanted to be a good friend so I hesitantly agreed. Sometimes laying down your life might just look like going to yoga class.
I’d been feeling frustrated that the church wasn’t a welcoming place for many LGBT people for a long time, and I’d been feeling distant and doubtful about God for even longer. And as I pulled on my yoga pants and grabbed my borrowed yoga mat, God was just about the last thing on my mind.
I arrived, a few minutes early and anxious. I waited in my car for my friend to arrive so we could walk in together. My head was spinning with questions and nerves. How does one use a yoga mat? And what shoes should I have worn? Would we be going barefoot anyway? Was it going to be weird that I was straight? Surely not, I thought.
She texted that she was heading inside. I texted back: “Me too.”
And I took a deep breath, smiled, and went in.
There were exactly two people inside when I got in there: the man behind the desk who smiled and said, “Hello! Are you here for yoga?” and the man who shook my hand and said, “Welcome! I’m Tony, I’m the yoga teacher.”
If The Fray really want to ask God, “Where were You?” I think I may have an answer. While we’ve been having our arguments and theological debates and intellectual sermons, God’s been hanging out at gay yoga.
We chatted about the center for a while and told funny stories. They talked about how they’d had trouble getting a consistent crowd to yoga (or to anything, it sounded like).
When it became clear that my friend and I were the only two who were going to show, we got a fantastic private yoga lesson from a funny and kind instructor who decided that because it was our first week, he didn’t even want us to give the small “suggested donation.” We centered ourselves and breathed and I found God in the peace of a dark, quiet, gay community center.
God was in the sweat under my palms as I slipped on the mat and laughed until my side hurt.
He was in the gentle voice of the instructor reminding us to breathe, measuring our breaths.
He was in the stolen glances at my friend as we secretly giggled about the situation we’d found ourselves in.
He was in the warm welcome and affirming handshake and invitations to other events of the man behind the front desk.
If God is a God of joy and peace and love (and I believe that he is), then I felt him more present in that hour long yoga class than I have anywhere else in a long time.
Perhaps we have been looking for God in all the wrong places. Just in case, I think I’ll go back to yoga next week.
When she’s not writing or going to yoga class, Rachel teaches English as a Second Language in Nashville, TN. She really hates ketchup, injustice in any form, and dirty dishes, but she loves blogging about languages, culture and Jesus at The Inspired Story. You can also find her on Twitter @raykkel or on Facebook .