In two days Jonathan and I will speak for TED Women 2018 here in Palm Springs, California. We’ve been preparing for months, with multiple rewrites and rehearsals. The week has finally come. Our flights arrived yesterday afternoon.
I don’t think I’m quite as nervous as I was last year for TEDxMileHigh, but I’m still plenty nervous. I’ve gone over the talk so many times it has become pretty boring to me, but that didn’t stop me from forgetting lines twice in my first rehearsal after I got on site here at LaQuinta Resort. I mean, there is a giant television production truck outside the auditorium, like it’s an NFL game or something. And inside, cameras everywhere. Yep, adequately intimidating.
It is true that I have been speaking for large crowds for decades. But there is a reason you get to speak to large crowds. It’s because you prepare until you’re sick of preparing. I know of no other way to put together a talk that does not waste people’s time. Winging it is not an option. I’m not good enough to wing it. And as today’s practice showed, I’m not even that great at memorization.
Jonathan and I are talking about my transition from Paul to Paula, and how it affected his life. It’s not an easy talk, just as his book, She’s My Dad, is not an easy read. But both are good, redemptively good. I must admit, however, that telling the story over and over is not easy. With each recitation of our TED talk, I am reminded how much pain my family endured, and still endures.
There is a line in the TED talk in which I say, “But the call toward authenticity asks you to trust that the truth will not only set you free, it will set everyone free. I decided to stake my life on it.” And so I did. My family’s story is theirs to tell. Jonathan told his story in his book. I can only speak of my own life.
My life is not as easy as it was before I transitioned. It is not as comfortable, and I am certainly nowhere near as financially secure. But I cannot tell you how much it means to live authentically, especially when it comes to my spiritual life. It’s like I used to see God through a glass darkly. Now I experience the Trinity – the glory of God, the unparalleled love of Jesus, the mothering of Spirit, breathing hope into my renewing soul. And then, joy of joys, I get to serve as a pastor, and work side by side with co-pastors who are in love with the same Jesus I adore.
I have a lot of readers who are astonished I am still a Christian. I remind those people that I felt called by God to transition. It was that call that gave me the endurance I needed to face the pain and rejection I knew I would experience. And that call sustains me still.
Which brings me back to TED. As I watched the video crews scurrying about and talked with the TED staff yesterday, I thought, “And why am I here?” “Who am I to receive this honor?” Then I saw the welcome sign, reminding me of the theme of this year’s event, SHOWING UP.
Ah yes, that’s why I am here. Because I dared to show up. And Jonathan dared to show up with me. We both lost our standing in the denomination of which our family has been a part for over five generations. But that was not our decision. It was theirs. So we moved on. Being true to the call demanded it.
Thursday afternoon we will give our talk about the narrow path, redemption, love, and authenticity. Jubi will be here supporting Jonathan. Jen Jepsen will be here supporting me. Cathy will be watching from Jonathan and Jubi’s New York apartment as she stays with their girls. And if you are so inclined, you might offer a little prayer around 2:30 Pacific Time. Because to the two of us, this thing is holy – all of it.