Week Three: Estuary
Years ago I was hiking down a river trail in Maui that eventually led to the ocean. As I reached the end of the river, it began to flow into a small body of water where it became relatively calm. I noticed that there was a sign that said it was an “ESTUARY”. The sign said that an estuary is a biodiverse place, a place of transition, a place that is teeming with life. I also learned that there are freshwater fish that use this space to transition into becoming saltwater fish. It surprised me--I never knew that freshwater fish could become saltwater fish. All my life I had been told that there were two types of fish and that they live in a binary world, either saltwater or freshwater. But the estuary is a place in creation that is non-binary—a safe place where aquatic life can transition from one environment to another.
When I attended my first Q Christian Conference (back when it was known as GCN), I remember being in awe of all the different places people were in their faith journey. It was a space where people could co-exist in spite of their differing theological perspectives. It was a beautiful space where people were allowed to exist and embrace mystery.
I said to myself, “This is an estuary.”
As someone who comes from a very conservative theological background, it was helpful to find a place like Q Christian. My wife and I were at different places in our journey and we needed somewhere that we could co-exist together. It was here that I was no longer being harassed for where God was leading me or my wife in our journey. This experience gave me a concrete example of what love can look like, especially within communities and spectrums of faith.
I was reminded of Richard Rohr’s words when he said, “Love is not about being right, it’s about being connected.” If love is, in fact, the greatest commandment, then we need to figure out how to love in real life and remain connected.
There’s a story in Matthew where Jesus looks at a crowd and “was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest.’”
When Jesus looked at the multitude, he saw people as being harassed. I used to believe this passage was just about personal evangelism—that we needed more workers in the harvest field who would help people pray to receive Christ (there’s nothing in the passage to indicate this). But now I see that Jesus was asking for more workers who would stand in the gap to guard and advocate for people who were being harassed. For Jesus, love took the form of helping to protect vulnerable people.
As a parent of a gay son, my task of love is to help foster an environment where my son and other marginalized people are no longer harassed. This is what love looks like. We are to be estuaries that push back against systemic forms of harassment in order to enable human flourishing. In order to love well, we must always ask—How do I become the kind of person who is moved by compassion to help those who are in the margins?
- Reflect on a time in your life where you’ve felt like saltwater fish in freshwater. Did you feel discomfort? In what ways did this experience help you grow?
- In what ways do you feel helpless now? How can God and your community help?
- Think of a time when you came to the aid of someone who was being harassed. How did you recognize their distress? What did you learn from this experience?
- For Parents: As a parent of an LGBTQIA child, how has God used your love like a safe estuary for your child? How might you be called to create more space for their continual growth?
Danny Cortez was the founding pastor of New Heart, a church that was dismissed from their denomination for becoming an inclusive space for LGBTQ+ people. He currently serves as a board member of Q Christian Fellowship. He is the founder of Estuary Space, a non-profit that helps people and churches navigate through the complexities of faith and sexuality. He serves with NQAPIA to help API families towards acceptance of their queer family members. He also co-founded My Refuge House, a non-profit that restores survivors of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) and abuse. He serves regularly as a hospice chaplain. He earned his M.Div. at Talbot Theological Seminary and is a graduate of Arrow Leadership, BC, Canada. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife Abby and their 4 Filipino children. His twitter handle is @danny_c_cortez