Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Abandoned Memoir Chapter 3 Part 3

Turns out Chapter 3 is long. For internet reading it seemed best to do 4 parts. here's part 3. (See the Archives for previous pieces---and one section of Chapter 4 posted early by mistake.)

At that time, as I struggled to find some way to tame my sexual desires, I started looking into the Roman Catholic Church. It makes sense—when you‛re not staying to your own rules very well, find the church with more rules, with a better history of knowing how to practice religious discipline. Of course, I‛d never had said that then. I was drawn to the liturgy, the history, the mystery of the church. The Romans do get some things right. When I moved to Houston, I started attending a Catholic church and reading Catholic writers, among them some mystics. This time in Houston turned out to be the tail-end of my "Catholic period," as I shortly thereafter returned to my Lutheran roots.

It was an intense time of prayer. Mostly, my prayers revolved around delivering me from my homosexual feelings, but prayer can often lead us to into spiritual renewal. I often think of that brief time in Houston in such terms. Spiritual renewal. Through experiences I had in prayer and meditation, I first started getting an idea of what the phrase "grace of God" meant. It was something my campus pastor had tried to tell me a few years before and I was finally getting it. For the first time, I had the feeling that God truly loved me. Not in that "God loves everyone" platitude sort of way, but that God loves and knows me.

I had a friend, Bill Williams, who is dead now. He wrote and spoke of a God who practices triage. We are all in emergency need of healing, but not just from one wound. God, as EMT worker, looks at us and starts to work on the thing that is likely to cause the most damage. In my case (and in Bill‛s, come to think of it—maybe in everyone‛s case), the wound seeping the most life was my fear and mistrust of God. God was judge and I was bad. If I was going to hold to law-based images of God (and I no longer do), God the Spirit started to nudge me toward an understanding of God as advocate, as the lawyer who defends us, who believes our innocence despite all evidence. And God never loses a case.

This was a significant healing, a dramatic turning point in my life with God. Of course, I was simultaneously caught up in the old ways of thinking about God, too. These things take time, and if I experienced anew the goodness and love of God, I did not understand the love of God to let me pursue a homosexual relationship. In fact, in gratefulness to God for such love and grace, I renewed my resolve to become heterosexual.

This resolve lasted six years, or the rest of my twenties. During those six years, I was effectively, functionally asexual. I had set an arbitrary goal of not pursuing a relationship (i.e. dating) for three years, to somehow balance out the three years I was in a relationship, and once those three years passed, I was in a habit of not dating and life went on, celibate and asexual.

Meanwhile, I watched my high school and college friends marry or, in a couple of cases, find same-sex partners. I would sometimes fight off loneliness, but I also had a rich prayer life. If I felt directionless and buffeted about by the late 80s Texas economy, I was also experiencing spiritual highs. When my father died suddenly in 1988, I found new purpose for my life in helping my mother as much as I could. I was laid off at a job in Houston, which gave me reason to move back home to the farm for a time. Eventually, I found work in Austin, moved there, but went to the farm as often as possible to mow Mama‛s grass and do other little chores for her.

In 1990, I felt a call to study theology and started to inquire about doing a two-year Master of Arts in Religion degree. I let myself get sweet-talked into the four-year Master of Divinity degree, however. Still susceptible to good strokes, I heard people say they‛d always knew I‛d be a pastor, what a good pastor I‛d be, what a good boy for going to seminary. Sickening, isn‛t it? But there I was, enrolling in the fall of 1991 to study to be a pastor.

On a campus of Lutherans and Episcopalians, I found myself drawn socially to the liberals, but kept arguing a more conservative line. I dislike those terms, liberal and conservative, but if I recognized the grace of God in one set of students more than in others, I still found myself arguing more for the rules. As such, I wrote a paper for a class on how the Bible does not support a homosexual life, how the church would do well to not ordain homosexuals or bless their relationships.

Some memories are just so embarrassing.

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