Prevailing Love

Prevailing Love

I want to thank you for your response to last week’s post.  My readership was about twice its normal size, and a number of you wrote personally to say if I ever happen to see you in an airport, I should introduce myself.  My heart was warmed.  I also appreciated the comments made on Facebook (Paula Stone Williams) and in the comment section of my blog.  If you’ve not read the blog comments, I’d encourage you to do so.

Since several of you have asked, I have not heard from the individual I saw at LaGuardia Airport.  I do not expect to.  I imagine it is a bridge too far.  It is all right.

Your encouragement has meant so much because I am tired.  Last week’s post was painful.  We are made for life-long community.  Our lives are knit together by the continuity of lifetime friendships.  They, along with family, are the thread that runs through our days.  For me, that thread was severed.  It is one of my greatest losses.  I knew it was likely to happen, but I did not realize how complete it would be.  Thousands of my old friends are gone, and it does not look like many will return.  Few remain who can testify of my previous life.

A quick Internet search of the ministries for which I once worked finds, with one notable exception, no acknowledgement I ever existed.  I hesitate to list my previous employers on my curriculum vitae because I know if they are contacted, they will probably not respond.  The same is true of the institutions that granted my degrees.  Sermons I preached that were once on video have been pulled from libraries.  I have been removed from public consciousness.  While not unexpected, it erases my past.

My new friends are wonderful, but they know little of my previous life.  Just today I was talking with one of my new friends who had no idea I was once the CEO of a religious non-profit, or the host of a national television show, or an editor and columnist for a magazine, or an adoption caseworker for 25 years.  That part of my life is not accessible to this new friend.  He only knows Paula, the woman who preaches at his church regularly and prays for people during weekly communion.   In some ways that is wonderful.  I no longer have to contend with people who come alongside because of what I can do for them.  The people who are drawn to me nowadays are not drawn to my accomplishments.  They just like hanging with Paula.

Many new friends expressed shock at seeing a picture of Paul in last week’s post.  Most found it difficult to find Paula in Paul.  Friends from my earlier life find it difficult to find Paul in Paula.  Only a handful see the same person in both photos.

This blog is one place that brings both halves of my life together.  Before I transitioned I decided to chronicle my journey, hoping it might bring understanding and insight to my evangelical friends.  I expected a few dozen might follow along.  I did not know it would be hundreds, then thousands.  For the most part, however, the people from my old life do not offer to come by for a visit.  Early on I would not have been able to receive them.  There were too many open wounds.  Today I would welcome their arrival, particularly if they brought their memories along for the ride.

Mine is a pioneering journey.  They are no well-worn ruts from previous processions of wagon trains.  I know of no other evangelical leader who has followed this particular call.  And I have done it very publicly.  I should not be surprised when mean-spirited correspondence still arrives, or that most remain silent because they do not know what to do.  It goes with the territory.  It is also the reason I am tired.

Which is why your encouragement has been so life-giving.  Nothing feeds a parched soul like a kind word.  Thank you, my friends, for trusting my character enough to walk through your discomfort to remain by my side.  I know it has not been easy, but you have allowed love to prevail, and that is how the light gets through to the dark places.

I am grateful for your love and acceptance.  Truly grateful.

And so it goes.

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18 thoughts on “Prevailing Love

  1. Since we did go to school and graduate together, I knew you as Paul,but to me, you are definitely beautiful Paula!! I understand what you have gone through. I think it helps since I have a wonderful trans grandson. I only think of his previous life when I think of things that happened that should have made me realize he was trans when he was young. I’m not good with expressing words,but I’ll always stand beside you. Janet Huffman

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  2. Paul enriched my life – awesome times at Estes Park and honest, safe conversations when I was a contributing editor. I feel nothing less for Paula. Very much alike in many ways, but Paula is who you are – only more courageous and brave.

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  3. I’m glad you said the two pictures were you. I kept looking at the man wondering why you had put that picture there or if had appeared like magic like sometimes happens with technology and me. Then I realized it was you before you were Paula. I wonder if that friend even recognized you at the airport. I would not have. I would, however, be happy to reminisce with you if I had known you as Paul. There are precious few women who know what it is truly like to be a man. There is lots you can share and lots you can commiserate with us about now.

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  4. In our 30 + years as friends, it has been an honor & a joy to walk, talk, laugh & cry together. As you have become you, seeing the shackles fall, self emerge & new struggles arise, all make me love you all the more. Praying for a world where you & all LGBTQ+ folks are not only accepted, but celebrated!

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  5. I haven’t commented for a while, but it was just laziness on my part, nothing to do with the contents of your posts.
    I prayed much before your visit with your parents, and I cried as I read. I was so happy for all of you that the visit went well. The unconditional love of a parent is so needed, and I’m glad you still have that from your parents.
    Those who have rejected you are still perpetuating feeling in non believers, who surely must think if this what being a Christian is, then I want no part of it! So sad! I’m so glad God is our judge .

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  6. I never knew Paul and have only seen a picture once, so I too stared for a long time at the juxtaposed photos of past and present. Paul was always Paula waiting to happen, and Paula is built on the bedrock of Paul. You are such a beautiful woman that it is difficult to picture you as a man. One thing remains just the same: those beautiful compassionate eyes. It is right to remember and embrace your past. It is fear which keeps others from going there with you, or coming into your new world. Their loss!

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  7. Paula: I knew you (to a degree) before you transitioned when you spoke often at my church outside of Philadelphia. I have followed along on your blog since you transitioned, but l’ve left my thoughts to myself as I’m not always sure how to respond. This isn’t meant to sound mean – it’s simply my honest response. I know you are loved my many (if nothing else, it’s clear in the comments on your posts). And I think it is important to remember most of all you are loved by God. I don’t proclaim to understand in the least bit what you have gone through and what you are going through. I will tell you that I remember Paul with incredible fondness. For as Paul, you reminded me so much of my own father – well read and well spoken. If we ever run into each other at the airport (or somewhere else), I hope you’ll take the time to say hello. I would appreciate the opportunity to “catch up with you” over a cup of coffee (decaf for me as always).

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  8. I’ve been thinking about the airport incident and wondering whether I’d prefer to be deliberately overlooked as just another person in a crowd or to have the person interact with me but have this aura of dread and disdain about him. I had this happen once in Times Square when I by accident happened upon two men and their wives who were here for an Orchard Group event. I’d known both since my college days. One of the men and his wife couldn’t have been kinder and seemed genuinely happy to see me. The other and his wife looked as if I might have a communicable disease. If you’re going to treat me that way, just pass by on the other side of the road. I’m angered that anyone would treat you, or anyone, that way,

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  9. Paula, as I get older and look back at the relationships of my life, my ex who understandably has her own new life now and is very happy, my best friend prior to transition who didn’t (couldn’t) continue our friendship after transition – they and others have all played a part in making my life what it is today. Via my (not at the time) ex I met a friend who literally saved my life when I was desperately ready to kill myself. My friend who is no longer my friend introduced me to his church and a form of worship that I’ve continued to this day.

    Sometimes God brings people into our lives for a season, and that’s all. They were never meant to be life-long friends, just to contribute to His plan as we follow the path He has laid out for us.

    If it hasn’t struck you yet, I’m sure at some time in the future you’ll be able to look back and see how God brought these folks into your life for a reason, in THAT particular season – and it’s something to be thankful for. Of course I miss my friend and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my ex and wish we could be friends – but God sees the BIG picture and we don’t always get to.

    The pain of losing friends hurts. Those who meant someone special to you no longer wanting to associate with you, it’s painful. But as a child of God we leave it in His hands, we TRUST that there was a reason, even when in the moment – it hurts.

    ….. lessons I’ve learned. Blessings my friend.

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