Truth or Faith?
Today my heart is heavy, my friends. Being a 41 year old gay male who was
raised Catholic, I have dealt with plenty of judgment, both self and certainly
otherwise. The greater half of my life has been spent in denial, guilt, and in
shame for having feelings and simply being me. The best I could do as a teenager
was to reject my faith in God and especially the church and all that it stood
for. This culminated in raging alcoholism and a total sense of worthlessness
which I turned to numbness through drink. One day I woke up and decided that if this was how life was meant to be lived, I wanted no more of it.
Luckily, some sanity crept in, and I called my doctor, who diagnosed me as an
alcoholic and sent me to treatment. He saved my life, and I am forever grateful
to him for that.
In AA, I heard the word God and recoiled. I almost left AA because I just
“knew” it was just more religious nonsense, and that this time, as an alcoholic
seeking help and being desperate, my life REALLY depended on it. Simply
fantastic; “just my luck” I thought. Luckily for me, I had a friend who was
also an addiction counselor who worked with me on the concept of a Higher
Power. He reassured me that whatever I chose or believed was OK, just as long
as it was a power greater than I was. Wrought with angst, I struggled with this
simple task for months. My friend wouldn’t let go, and finally asked if I ever
felt connected with anything outside of myself that gave me sheer joy. He was
on to something, as the light bulb began to glow. As I searched back, there was
one thing in my life that made me feel serene and whole. And so it was; music
became my Higher Power. I dove into the music of J.S. Bach and fell in love
with the pipe organ. The sheer power and precision of his music helped me reach
an almost trance like state, which today I know as meditation. As my life began
to flourish, my tastes expanded, along with my concept of a Higher Power. On
through Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, well, you get
the idea. My mind began to open up and grow, along with my concept of a Higher
Power. As a result, I got better and remained sober. I even reached a point
where I could begin to refer to my Higher Power as God. It was a God unique to
me, one that really worked in my life. Bits and pieces of other Gods and
religions were added to these fledgling beliefs and felt, later to be absolutely
known as truths. There now was finally a God that worked in my life. A God that loved, nurtured, and accepted me for who I am, shortcomings and all.
Fast forward 20 years. My life was a complete wreck. My health, emotional
state, spiritual state, finances, friendships – it indeed seemed as if
everything in my life had gone sour somehow. The worst of all was my health.
But what was I going to do? There is an old saying in AA that goes “Faith
without works is dead.” Perhaps I was dying because not only had I lost faith,
there was no real effort on my part to seek it and keep it alive all along. This was a
crossroads very similar to when I decided to stop drinking. Action needed to be
taken, and urgently. But where to start?
At Thanksgiving, my favorite aunt asked if I would consider volunteering with
her at a local homeless shelter. Amazed, I told her I had been thinking of
doing the same, but just never did anything concrete about it. We made a pact
to act rather than debate it any longer. I took the orientation a month later,
and started in February. She followed soon after. Instantly, I felt connected
to something more powerful than myself, and to be able to give something back
to the community and those in need made me feel good inside. Finally, I was
once again practicing a faith that worked. Their mission was based on the works
and faith of Jesus Christ, and I jumped right in with both feet. To me, it
didn’t matter what denomination anyone claimed to be. Love and joy was evident in their lives through their faith and daily works.
My main fear and obstacle to my physical health was my smoking. So, after 25
years of heavy smoking, I stopped on December 1. It was difficult at first, but
soon just went away, as if on its own. Next, I focused on exercise by walking,
a bit more, little by little, until I was going 30 minutes per day. I went to
my doctor, and made some suggestions about major adjustments to my medications. She listened and cut the number of meds in half, and then halved the dose on several of the remaining meds I did still take. I felt better by this time, and reworked my diet to include 80% fruits and vegetables. Twelve pounds was
dropped almost immediately, and I increased my exercise to 45 minutes a day. My mind and mood improved dramatically, and I reached out to several Facebook groups, especially one called Gay, Disabled, and Happy. My life once again soared, and I was reunited with a man I was friends with and loved since my college years. He called me one day to say hello. Let me tell you, he had me at hello! I don’t need to tell you that when a miracle happens in your life as he did in mine, you don’t wait around another 20 years to see if the chance comes back a second time. Everything had truly come full circle in my life. My life was so full of love and acceptance that I realized I no longer had room for judgment, negativity, and being critical of self or others.
One day last week, while volunteering, some elderly volunteers were asking me
some rather pointed questions, which I have come to know as “fishing” about my
sexuality. I mean, a forty something single male that worships his dog and has
never been married or had any children? I let them ask, and answered
their indirect questions directly and honestly,letting them think they were
being crafty about pumping me for information. Let them think what they like.
All of a sudden, the man started preaching about “Sodom and Gomorrah” and had this crazy look in his eye. The games were now officially over. I went to the
manager and explained what happened and hinted at that I was gay and didn’t
appreciate how I was just treated. She didn’t get it, so I told her outright,
and said that I didn’t like them asking questions, and that my being gay was
none of their business. She said to simply tell them that I had not found the
right person yet. I countered, “But I cannot lie. Yes, I finally have found the
right man after waiting for 20 years.” I felt good about telling her, as I like
to be honest. She and I then prayed together. Before I left, I asked what the
policy was on gays and lesbians who volunteer. She simply said that she was not
aware of any particular policy, but that it probably would NOT be a good idea
for me to bring Michael around, ever. What…? We are both there serving God
as his humble servants. What if I came in off the street, was addicted to alcohol, drugs, was penniless, hungry and homeless? What if I were those things and reached out to this organization for help? Would they help me as a gay man, or would they let me slide because I would not deny who I am? The answer became clear after a moment. I already was here in the trenches giving what I could to help those in need, and the door had just been slammed shut in my face anyway. Take away our money, food, clothing, shelter, and pride, and we are all still children of God.
Well, today I spoke with my aunt, and she was tickled to hear my good news
about Michael. After she left, I was whistling and just feeling great. The
manager came into the room to work with me, and without thinking much about it, I asked her point blank how she felt about my being gay. She looked right at me and said, “Well, I have to believe that the bible is the word of God. We know
what the bible says.” I countered, “OK, but doesn’t it also say that you should
kill your wife if she is unfaithful?” “That was in the old testament” she
explained. She then went on to talk about the choices we make every day. She
told me a story about how a long time ago, she thought it was God’s Will for
her to have an affair with a married man. She warned me that sometimes what we think is the will of God really isn’t, and is just our will instead, which comes
with consequences. She needn’t preach that one to me as an alcoholic! I
explained, “I have been gay my whole life. God doesn’t make junk. I struggled
with this as a Catholic for years. And, God brought Michael back into my life
when I was finally ready for him.” It was on this note that I left for the day.
So, therein lies my dilemma. I know that I am not the type to bite my tongue
and take a religious lashing from anyone twice my age when I am showing up to
try to do God’s work and simply be a servant and of service to others. I
cannot and will not exclude my boyfriend from anything in my life, let alone
something important to me. Likening my relationship with Michael to her affair
with a married man really makes me feel sad for somebody who I have looked up
to as an example of faith and humanity. Moreover, I know that if I continue,
the behavior will only get worse with time. I defended myself for a long time and
transcended that area of my life. Now, you can either like me or not. I don’t
want or need validation as a gay male, let alone as an adult. I have paid my
taxes as well as for my true sins, and know that only myself or God can judge
me. Today I want to thrive and be where I am celebrated, not merely tolerated.
Don’t dangle the carrot in front of my face today to control who I am to suit
your needs. Control through religion just doesn’t work.
I know as sure as I sit here that God made all of us in his own image. I also know that God wants us to be happy and to serve himself and others. God is also loving, kind, and forgiving. The only sin I see in my situation is if I would continue to volunteer where I am merely tolerated for who I am, and to not be true to myself and my partner. Anything less would be a slap in the face to us both, the gay community as a whole, and even to God himself. How dare I not fully celebrate miracles once God reveals them to me? The past 6 months have been full of miracles in my life, and I owe each and every one of them to the glory of God. I pray that I never, ever forget that.
Yes, sometimes there is a crossroads where faith meets truth. Only we know
which way is the right path. Today, for me, the truth comes first. Only then
may I accept and begin to regain my lost faith. The moment I lose my honesty
with self and others, I begin to lose my faith as well. Without faith, I
truly have nothing.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”
Posted on August 15, 2013, in Disablity, Faith, Hope, Love, Queer as Faith Blog, Relationship, Spirit & Truth, Spiritual Growth and tagged Gay, God, Higher Power, Love, Religion and Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.