Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (1995, Black Swan)
This is the story of a life told from the perspective of Ruby Lennox, from the moment of conception (yes really) and into mature adulthood. The telling of the story spans many generations in her family, and there are lots of births, and deaths, marriages and journeys of self discovery.
The story draws you in and Ruby’s personality unfolds delightfully in the telling. She emerges in the story through tremendous pressures, particularly childhood bereavement, to be a self aware adult. Her ‘success’ as such arises from a sense of survival and a growing sense of self.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and its themes resonated for me with another book.
The Exuberant Church by Barbara Glasson (2011, Darton, Longman and Todd).
In this book about mission and the church, Barbara reflects on the transformative process of coming out. Firstly as it is often spoken of in the experience of LGBT people; that it can be a process of acknowledging what ‘I am not’, then the expressed realisation of who ‘I am’, followed by an on-going process of discovering how to flourish with this identity. Moreover, that this is not simply an experience for an individual, but one that can propel individuals into prophetic communities.
In her book, Barbara explores whether these elements of the process of ‘coming out’ can be recognised by others, for example, coming out as a survivor, or as someone with a disability. She asks whether we can speak of God ‘coming out’ or the ‘coming out’ of the church, or culture?
The two books together
These two different books tell stories of people’s experiences of life changing transformations that include critical periods of disconnection and disillusionment. They are about a ‘coming out’ process. The telling of the stories enables and encourages others. For Ruby Lennox the good news is you can survive and make a possible life for yourself and your children. For ‘The Exuberant Church’ the good news is that in community we can be challenged to keep discovering what it means to be a ‘new creation’ and explore life in all its fullness.
Is right to learn from the key themes of a specific ‘coming out’ as experienced by LGBT people, or is it an appropriation of their experience? It has helped me to engage with a vision of transformative processes that are good for the individual and life giving for the community. So, is ‘coming out’ transformative for us all?
Image copyright: shutterstock.com/IrinaK