Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Celebrating the Queer Child Within (Isaiah 9:6)

To explore this symbol completely, we must acknowledge that the "child" points us to a deeper yearning and desire which is best captured in the symbol of "before."

For to us a child is born,
     to us a son is given,
     and the government will be on his shoulders,
And he will be called
     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
                                                                  Isaiah 9:6

There is something innocent about childhood. Little wonder that when the prophet Isaiah wanted to renew the flagging hope of his people, he wrapped the Sacred's message of expectation and audacity in the metaphor of childbirth and all things new and unadulterated in childhood. Children represent our potential future, a future which may actually break with all the miring mud of our present human duplicity. 

Part of the christian celebration of Christmas is the spiritual journey to find the Christ child in our midst, if not within us. The symbols of the season - evergreens, candles, gift exchange - point to anticipation of all things made new, as when a baby is born. It is the reason why this Isaiah passage is often lifted up in worship this time of the church year. "And he will be called…" is another way of saying, "And our future can become…" For christians we enter this time ready to renew our allegiance to the promised future of God's Christ.

This is the symbol of the child not only in christianity, but in all faiths which acknowledge the renewing work of the Holy in the lives of both individuals and communities. To explore this symbol completely, we must acknowledge that the "child" points us to a deeper yearning and desire which is best captured in the symbol of "before." The innocence and purity of childhood exist before the alienation we encounter in adulthood - before the path of betrayal and disillusionment; before the duplicity of separation from the self just to live with our self; before the ego entices us to abandon the "we" for the "I." 

Hence the emphasis of the world's spiritual traditions to become child-like in faith as the way out of alienation and separation. Baptized, to use a word from my tradition, out of the duality of our world into the single reality of life where separation is but an illusion and alienation a distant memory. The realization that God is among us and in us and, in the mystery of Sacred, a part of us. If we cannot recognize the Sacred in us, how can we recognize the Sacred in others and live into our true roles as co-creators of this world?

Those of us who are sexually or gender diverse know full well the pain of alienation. The dawning realization that we fall under the queer umbrella is also the dawning realization that we are separated from confirming with the wider community. This separation has led others to fail to recognize that God is indeed within us as well. The damage that has been done is immense and continues to claim the lives of wonderful queer people, especially queer youth.

The symbol of the child reminds us that we are not beyond redemption. The potential of a renewed future begins today for those poised for healing. Redemption is at hand for those who can celebrate the rebirth of the child within. And when it happens our name becomes wonderful counselor, mighty god/goddess, everlasting father/mother, prince/princess of peace.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fear of Being Gay (Luke 1:26-29)

To become aware that you are queer is to step into the liminal space between who we are and who others think and want us to be. 

     Six months later, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young woman named Mary; she was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. Upon arriving, the angel said to Mary, "Rejoice, highly favored one! God is with you! Blessed are you among women!"
      Mary was deeply troubled by these words and wondered what the angel's greeting meant. 

At what point did you figure out you are queer? Don't get me wrong, I believe that we are born this way, but living in a heteronormative world it takes a bit of figuring out that we do not fit the "norm." At what point did the figuring out happen for you? I know that for some self-awareness comes early in childhood while for others it takes longer. 

I was thirty-six before I finally found the courage to name and own who I am. The dynamics of my sexual orientation were always with me.  As a youth I repressed and turned a blind eye to them. While it pains me to say so, I was fearful of being gay - or at least fearful of the attitude shown toward those who were queer. Anything that would identify me as one of "them" was immediately suppressed. 

I can understand Mary' s sense of fear and troubled soul in front of Gabriel. For while the angel calls her "favored one," what the angel is asking her to do will cause her to be cursed and despised in her village. There is a correlation between our capacity to be made whole and our willingness to be vulnerable. True wellbeing comes from the place of our deepest pain. The place of pain for Mary was being pregnant out of wedlock. For me it was being gay. 

My fear of being gay had little to do with sex acts and much more to do with my fear of rejection with an almost radical alienation from friends and family. From my perspective, and your's may differ, it is the Christ within which makes us profoundly human. To have my gay-Christ-within rejected would be a life long invitation to walk this earth as an exile. Stott's dark and wounded painting above, gives a visual reference for what I thought life portended for me.

When the Christ within came and named me gay, like Mary, I was scared and confused. To become aware that you are queer is to step into the liminal space between who you are and who others think and want you to be.  I clung to what I knew, for fear of what I did not know. I knew I was not enough and I feared that any friends - queer or straight - I make along the way would not be enough either. 

Like Mary, I trembled. For too many years of my life, through repression, I kept my place of pain tightly sealed - fearful of what lay hidden within escaping, should I ever crack the door. What I didn't have was Mary's courage to trust in a loving and providing God. Then came the day that I was exposed to myself for everything I was and everything I was not. Just as I dreaded, God named it. For Mary the name was "blessed among women." She was the mother of Jesus. I was running from how God created me. There are many names that fit me, most deserve to stick. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Heart of the Divine name me "beloved child of God."

Mary teaches us to be open and ready for God's new thing. Make no mistake, it will emerge out of our deepest vulnerability yet, in its wake, bring wholeness and wellbeing.