29 March 2009
Sitting on a worn, weatherbeaten white marble bench in the peaceful, green Shakespeare Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, shafts of afternoon sunlight darting through the cherry blossoms overhead, as the blossoms' sweet fragrance scents the cool air, two grey squirrels scampering fearlessly through the shrubs not 5 feet from me. Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna playing softly on the iPod, the perfect peaceful soundtrack for this beautiful garden.
This morning I went to services at Grace Cathedral in the city and enjoyed it very much. Yes, that picture there is the actual place. The soaring architecture and music speaks to my soul in ways that, sadly, LDS services don't. How I wish it were otherwise. If only I could take the LDS theology and put it into everything else Episcopalian, it would be the perfect place for me.
Yesterday I attended the Sunstone Symposium which by sheer dumb luck just happened to be not two miles from my office. I spent the whole day drinking in presentations about fascinating LDS-related topics that would NEVER be discussed in regular church meetings: scriptural analysis, church history, sociology. Immensely interesting and stimulating. Total brain candy. We are supposed to worship God with all of our mind, among other things, and the Symposium was almost like church in that respect. The presenter for the first session I attended converted to the LDS church with his family as a child, served a mission, married in the temple, but gradually grew dissatisfied and finally found what he thought was his best home in the RLDS Church, now Community of Christ. Very interesting to talk to him afterward; we swapped e-mail addresses. This was the first public event in which I was not afraid to let people know that I was gay. I didn't go out of my way to bring it up, but I didn't shy away from references either. It is wonderful to savor some growing courage.
Today as I drove into the city the hills were green and pastoral, the sky blue, the sun bright. Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna also playing on the stereo (am I addicted? yes) and I sang along with gusto. My spirits were high. It is a beautiful day! My life is so good in so many ways! Ways I never could have imagined a few years ago as I was forced into crashing, flaming wreckage. What I thought was a fatal disaster, never to be recovered from, has proven to be one of the greatest blessings of my life. Funny how that works sometimes. I was set free from a marriage that, despite my best efforts, had become hell on earth. It gave me a new opportunity to wrestle with my faith and really mature and grow and decide where I wanted my life to go. It opened the door for me to gather my courage, face "the integrated me," come out, and learn that God loves the gay part of Rob too, just as much as everything else about him. Life had been an endlessly escalating cacophony of discord and stress and doubt and fear and shame and worry; now there is still stress, of course, but I am no longer at war with myself. I can still scarcely believe how happy I am as a result.
I hope I don't come across as Johnny One Note. But nearly eight months after coming out, I am still as joyous and giddy as ever and I just have to write it down. The peace and contentment I feel are beyond anything I ever dreamed possible. I guess when you've been silently fighting World War Three with yourself all alone for a couple of decades and have resigned yourself to the internal chaos raging on till you die, then suddenly pffft--it vanishes and all is peace--it's the most incredible relief. Like walking inexorably toward the gas chamber then just as they strap you in, the governor calls and you are instantly taken outside and set free into the sunlight. You gasp and laugh and run and whoop and holler and jump and throw your fists in the air! Whoa! I'm finally alive and free! (insert burst of incredibly relieved laughter here) I have no choice but to ascribe to inspiration the prompting to finally come out. Nothing else could explain the miraculous results.
All things in life fade somewhat with time but I hope this feeling never goes away completely. I never want to lose this feeling of gratitude and peace and contentment. This knowledge that God really does love all of who and what I am. Nor do I ever want to lose the delight of reaching out and finding new friends and relationships that coming out has made possible, friends and brothers I can talk to and rely on and help and steady and to whom I can look for comfort when I need it too. Friends and brethren, you will never know how much you mean to me.
It's also truly amazing how this experience has deepened my faith and grounded it where it always should have been. Now that I finally feel safe being honest with God about myself, my spiritual confidence has grown tremendously, in ways I never anticipated but which I think I couldn't have done if I'd stayed shackled to the old paradigms. I no longer see life and others through Mormon Culture-colored lenses. I really can now see them simply as other children of God, whom He loves just as much as me, so who am I to accord them anything less? The "love your neighbor as yourself" commandment finally makes sense! I think I can finally do it! And I'm actually eager to try! Surely God and the Savior are pleased. It's hard to do that when you are fighting a losing battle to kill off part of yourself inside, because if you hate part of yourself, how can you love others completely? My reliance on the Atonement is deeper and stronger than ever before, because I have had a microscopic taste of protracted, silent, agony and suffering and have learned too well of my own fallibility. To think that someone would love me enough to suffer for all of my sins so I wouldn't have to face any more pain--I am awed into silence. I now comprehend it better than I ever did before because I thought my own pain would go on forever. Now it's stopped. How can I not have indescribable gratitude to the One who made my redemption possible, and who I believe finally whispered to me that it was okay to finally step into the sunshine?
All of this is why I have such a hard time with those in the LDS Church who bemoan homosexuality as a burden to suffer and struggle with, and who patronizingly assert that I shouldn't worry because death will magically take it away. The Savior said we should judge all things by their fruits. Well, every fruit of my coming out is good. Greater happiness, stronger faith, enhanced relationships, more self-confidence, and more ability to love all of God's children. This is no struggle, no burden. This is liberation. I don't want this taken away. Would that I could stay this happy forever. I don't know all of God's purposes or designs for me or anyone else, but I have absolute faith that He knows what is best for me and that if my heart continues to desire what is good and true and right, then He will in His own good time bless me with everything I hope for. And He will do so for all of my brethren too. The road may be rocky sometimes but I trust its builder.
Spes mea in Deo est. With all my brethren, in te Domine speramus.
Posted by Rob at 7:51 PM