Letter to Myself: Impossible Possibilities

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By: Chelsea Achterberg


Image Description: Photo of hand-writtern letters and ink pen with the words “Letter to Myself” in the center with the ELM logo, right of center. 

The week before this was published I turned 30. A day I didn’t really think would be possible. Not as an ordained pastor. Not married to a wonderful woman. Not serving as an Army Chaplain. Certainly not all of them at once. As I reflect on what I would tell my younger self it is this: the situation now is not how it will always be. You will not always be in a place that feels unsafe to be out. You will not always feel the heartache that your relationship won’t be seen as equal. You will not always wonder if serving in the military or the church openly will ever be possible.

What is impossible is relative. At various points the overturning of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell seemed impossible. The overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act seemed impossible. The overturning of the prohibition on out and partnered clergy seemed impossible. That I would be happy, healthy, and living authentically beyond my wildest dreams seemed impossible. But God shows up in the impossible.

This past Easter I performed my first baptism as a pastor. It was an extraordinary day, not simply because it was my first Easter and baptism as an ordained pastor or because babies in baptismal outfits make my heart giddy. No, it was extraordinary because that nearly two year old boy is a cousin of Matthew Shepard, whom he may well grow up to look rather a lot like. It was extraordinary because I poured water and anointed him with oil while wearing the vestments of Cindy Witt, a proclaimer from the historic roster forced out of ministry because of her sexual orientation and relationship. 

I reflected on the lead up to that Easter morning that we, he, his family, and I, were living into possibilities that simply had not existed a few decades earlier. Possibilities I’m not entirely sure any of us really thought might come to pass. And yet, I, an out and partnered pastor, performed a baptism of a little boy whose relative had been tortured and left to die for being the same as me, wearing the stole and chasuble of a pastor who was forced out of parish ministry long before her prime for being the same as me. And yet. 

And yet on Easter, the impossible is so near, the impossible is so close to the possible, that the impossible may well walk up and greet us in the unexpected place if we are only willing to go looking. 

To my younger queer self: the situation now is not how it will always be. Somedays the impossible may come so near to the possible as to be reality. With God, anything is possible. Thanks be to God.


Chelsea Achterberg (she/her) is a southerner who is enjoying adapting to Colorado life. She currently serves as Pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Aurora and as an Army Reserve Chaplain. Chelsea and her wife Mandy enjoy hiking, exploring the west, and the antics of their house rabbit Mosby.

One Reply to “Letter to Myself: Impossible Possibilities”

  1. Thank you for this, Chelsea! Cindy would have loved to know that our struggle made a difference for future generations. Blessings.

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