The Journey of the Magi

The Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

– Thomas Stearns Eliot, 1927

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Imagination

My greeting to the guests at our rehearsal dinner.
I delayed publication until after the ceremony.


I never imagined being married.

Of course, lesbians couldn’t marry. But it was more than that.

It was more than that I didn’t expect to be married. It was more than that I didn’t expect to have a wedding, to be a bride.

I never even imagined it. Never even imagined being married. Never even imagined being a bride.


My fiancée says that, when she was a girl, she wanted what every little ranch girl wants: To get married, have children, raise children, get children married, spoil grandchildren.


I never had that aspiration.

It wasn’t because I am a lesbian. It wasn’t because lesbians couldn’t marry.

Even as a very young girl, before I knew that I was a lesbian, I didn’t dream, or daydream, or even imagine being married. Didn’t dream, or daydream or imagine being a bride.

When I played with Barbie dolls – Yes, I played with Barbie dolls – my Barbie wasn’t a bride. Barbie wasn’t married to Ken.

It wasn’t latent lesbianism. It wasn’t a latent feminist fantasy of an independent woman. It was simply want of imagination.

I realized I was a lesbian when I was in high school. I did things that I’m not proud of. Things that disgust me. Things that you may have heard rumored. Things that made marriage even more unimaginable.


I was baptized, raised and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. I broke Mother’s heart when I left the Church. I didn’t leave because I was a lesbian. Even after I left the Church, I believed that being a lesbian was a sin.

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says,

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I had inhuman self-mastery. It made me the best engineer you’ve ever seen.

But I was wasting my life. I was wasting my capacity to love and be loved.


I could have married a man. Had children. Gradually and resolutely approached Christian perfection.

But it would have been morally appalling.

I could have tolerated knowing I would never be emotionally or romantically or physically fulfilled. I have fortitude enough to sublimate myself for the sake of my soul and for the sake of children to love.

But for him, for a husband? It would have been an unpardonable sin against him. It would have been morally abominable to do that to someone, someone who loved me.

Can you imagine loving someone – dedicating your life to someone – who cannot love you as you love? Who cannot love you as you deserve to be loved?

Can you imagine loving someone incapable of love and desire and passion for you? Someone you want to fulfill?

One of the things that I have learned so well from my fiancée is that it is more blessed to give – emotionally, romantically, physically – than to receive. The most amazing thing about love is not one’s own rapture, but the rapture of another.

Even if I had been the greatest actress, even if I could deceive a man for his entire life, even if he never had an inkling of it, the deception would have been morally repulsive. What would it have made me? A moral monster.

How could I withhold that from someone – deceive someone – who loved me enough to dedicate his life to me? How long before my own moral depravity would overcome me, either in guilt or shame or in a perverted moral center?


I never imagined being married. I never imagined being a bride. But my poverty of imagination was greater than that. I never imagined loving someone. I never imagined being loved.

I don’t mean that I thought that I was unlovable. I don’t mean that I thought I was incapable of love. I wasn’t depressed or even unhappy. I didn’t pity myself. I didn’t consider myself pitiable. My life was fulfilling. But love was just something outside of my imagination. My impoverished imagination.


I was extraordinarily fortunate to have found a compassionate and inquisitive minister. I came into his office and declared, without preface, “I am a lesbian.”

He laughed at my forwardness, the baldness of my declaration. He asked me what I wanted to do about it. What I wanted him to do about it. Being a Protestant, he couldn’t offer me absolution. But, as a Protestant, he would help me look into scripture – and solely to scripture, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Although he is not a Calvinist, he seemed guided by the Westminster Confession:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.


I won’t detail our investigation, our hermeneutic and theological wrestling. I will only say this: In the end, I must always come to the words of our Savior:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This is how Christ himself would have us interpret God’s law. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

My love of this woman, and of my God, is wholly in the letter and spirit of those two commandments.


Two years ago, after showing me to a calm in my soul, the minister asked me to meet with a woman. He said she was a lesbian comfortable in her conservative Christian faith.

We met for dinner. I immediately knew that she was the most extraordinary person I had ever met. Brilliant beyond imagining, cultured, cosmopolitan, beautiful, charming, successful – yet the friendliest, happiest, least conceited person I had ever met. She immediately put me at ease, treated me as an equal, was interested in me.

It was the most wonderful dinner of my life. It was the most wonderful two hours of conversation of my life.

As we left, standing on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, she touched my cheek. I nearly fainted. My heart stopped. Literally stopped.

I thought, “I am going to die, right here.”

Then, “Thank you, God, for letting me die happy.”


I didn’t die, of course. But, for the first time, I imagined love.

I wasn’t in love, not yet. I didn’t know enough about love to know if I was in love, and I knew it. I knew that I didn’t know enough about her – or, frankly, about myself – to be in love.

But in that instant, I could imagine it. It – the imagining – was the most extraordinary thing in the world. Not only that I could love, but that I could be loved. Be loved not as a friend or a sister or a daughter, but as God’s gift for another. To love someone not as a friend or a sibling or a parent, but as God’s gift to me.


You know the rest. We fell in love. I moved to New York. She nearly died. We proposed and accepted marriage. We gave each other these rings. We bought dresses and planned this wedding.


But you don’t know all the rest.

I still could not imagine being a bride. The ceremony tomorrow seemed only that: a celebration of the life to come, a life together.


My fiancée decided in her childhood imaginings that she wanted to be married under the order for service from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. She told me this when we became engaged. I read the order for service and agreed. We’re neither of us Episcopal, but we are traditionalists. Beyond that, the order for service seemed to both of us to say whatever we might write in personal vows, and say it more eloquently – certainly more eloquently than I could.


Last Sunday, after church, we sat with the minister who introduced us and will officiate tomorrow. We read the order for service together. And then, with the same power as the moment of imagining when she touched my cheek, I imagined being her bride. Being her wife. Her being my bride. Her being my wife.


I’m not an imaginative woman. I’m not given much to self-reflection and certainly not to self-absorption. I’m not easily distracted, especially by abstract ideas or flights of fancy.

So I’ve seemed odd this week. The better you know me, the odder I have probably seemed.

Someone who didn’t know me well might write it off as pre-wedding jitters or pre-wedding excitement. Someone who didn’t know my mother, or my fiancée’s mother, or our sisters, and the thoroughness and excellence of their preparation might write it off as distraction by the thousand details of a wedding.


But it’s this: I am reveling in the a dream. A dream of a wedding. A dream of being married. Imagining what it will be like, tomorrow, to stand in God’s presence and declare, reverently and deliberately, that I will have this woman to be my wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage, to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as we both shall live.

And for her, tomorrow, to stand in God’s presence and declare, reverently and deliberately, that she will have this woman to be her wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage, to love me, comfort me, honor and keep me, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to me as long as we both shall live.

A Prayer for Independence Day

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Faith

I intended this blog to explore my Christian faith, my traditionalist, conservative values and my love for another woman. Instead, it has exclusively addressed the last.

Partly, that’s because life with her has been such a revelation to me. Partly, it’s been that after a dozen utterly unmemorable years, my world is alive with joy and meaning that I never imagined. Partly it’s that everything in the last year has been new to me. I want to babble like a kid coming out of a movie.

But part of it is that I’ve found it difficult to express ideas about faith and values that are probably foreign to most people who read this.


One of the most startling things about New York is its pervasive secularism. Faith is as embarrassing topic as an alcoholic uncle would be back home. My Love warned me about that before I came out here, so I haven’t committed that faux pas at a fancy dinner. Still, it’s disorienting,

So I’m not sure how to address it. I don’t even know if anyone would be interested in it. If New Yorkers are any indication, I suspect most people would just click on after the first couple of sentences.


If that sounds like I’m ashamed of my faith, or afraid of what people will think, or afraid of losing followers – well, I’m not. It’s just honest perplexity.

I’m just not sure how to proceed. We don’t speak a common language. We don’t have a common cultural base.

It may just be my anecdata, but most people – believer and non-believer both – seem to stop thinking critically about God when they’re teenagers, if not before. If they think about God after that, it’s to read something that reinforces their belief – either the latest God-is-love inspirational or the latest Dawkins screed. Neither stands up to critical thought, but people aren’t looking for critical thought. They are looking for something to reinforce their uncritical thought.


I’m not condescending.

I understand that for most people, thinking critically about God isn’t as important as their job, or their kids, or the latest Bond film. It’s just not a part of daily life.

I’ve struggled with faith every day of my life. I had to. I could not accept the Catholic doctrine of my upbringing. But I could see that my argument was with Rome, not with God. It took a long time to find Him, although He was there all the time.

At 15, my fiancée became a thoroughgoing atheist. At 20, she heard the still small voice. She was just too damn self-aware and too damn logical and too damn brilliant to ignore it.

So I’m planning to write about faith. Even if you have none, I would value your attention.

All right then, I’ll go to Hell: Huck and me

One of the ironies of being told that I’m going to Hell (for being a lesbian) is that it takes away the threat of Hell for my other sins.


My irreligious friends:
Please bear with me over the next few posts.
You might find this interesting, too.


In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck travels down the river with Jim, a runaway slave. Jim is captured. (He is held by a man named Phelps!)

Helping Jim escape would be a sin. Jim is property. Freeing him would be stealing. To prevent himself from that sin – to save his soul – Huck writes a letter to Jim’s owner, telling her where to find Jim.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now.

Before Huck sends the letter, he thinks about all the things Jim has done for him. He starts to think of Jim not as property, but as a human being.

and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up.

It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn’t. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.


I’ve not read much literature (that’s my Love’s department), but I’ve read Huck Finn a half-dozen times. Children of an impressionable age – say, younger than 30 years old – should not be permitted to read Huck Finn. Other than the Gospels, it may be the most subversive thing ever written.

We see the screaming irony here: Huck thinks he’s going to Hell for freeing a slave?

More to my point: Huck decides that, if he’s going to Hell anyway, he’d just as well “go the whole hog” of wickedness.


I, a gay Christian, am in Huck’s shoes.

If I’m going to Hell anyway, what incentive do I have to be good? Atheists (gay, straight or other) don’t have any religious incentive to be good, either, but Hell doesn’t frighten them (or Heaven tempt them). When they’re dead, they’re dead. For a Christian, it’s more fraught. There is a real consequence to sin: Hell.

Why should I be good at all? I’m going to Hell anyway. If I obey the civil law (or don’t get caught), what difference does it make how good or bad I am?

It’s bizarrely counterproductive to tell me I am going to Hell. My lesbianism hurts no one, but if I have no fear of Hell, I have no religious hesitation about hurting others.


In coming episodes, guest appearances by
Immanuel Kant, Martin Luther and Fred Phelps …

My story: Ministerial acts

I met with the minister of the church I attended. I was not a member of the church. I knew nothing about him, other than that he preached to the text and that his sermons were conservative, thoughtful and tolerant.

I jumped right in:

“I am a lesbian.”

I had his attention. I told him my story:

I knew when I was an adolescent. I never acted on it.

I fought it by having sex with men. It disgusted me. I do not find men physically, emotionally or sexually attractive.

I buried desire under study and work.

I needed to confront my self and my faith. I had the sense that I was wasting my humanity and betraying God’s image in me.

“I am not depressed or suicidal. But I am tired of struggling with myself.”

Of all the things I thought he might say, I wasn’t expecting what he did say:

“Do you think it would be a sin to act on it? Maybe we should look into that.”

I was nonplussed, and a little irritated:

“I won’t edit scripture to justify my inclinations.”

He was amused:

“I would never suggest that you – we – edit scripture. I suggest that we study scripture. Frankly, this has never come up in my ministry. You are the first person to walk in my office and say, ‘I am a homosexual.’ I have never seriously thought about it. I know what tradition says, but we Protestants reject the authority of tradition. I would be interested to know myself. Shall we find out together?”

So we did. And I was reconciled to my self and God.

My story: Coming out

When I turned 30, I had an immensely satisfying, tremendously successful, career.

There can be few vocations more satisfying than engineering. When I complete a job, there is something there, something tangible and useful, something that serves mankind.

Something about which I could say, with pride, “I built that.” In a century, people might still ask, in wonder, “Who built that?”

But I could feel my life slipping away. I was almost halfway to three score and ten.

I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t happy. In my early 20s, I had given up happiness to free myself of torment. I gave up even a thought of physical or emotional attachment to another person. The most I hoped for was contentment.

As I approached 30, I had the increasing sense that I was wasting my humanity, my capacity to love and be loved.

I had the increasing sense that my refusal to embrace joy and love or to evoke them in others was worse than whatever sin I was trying to avoid. I was betraying God, scorning the spark of humanity He had given me, refusing to embrace the essence of His image. My emptiness darkened. My pride in my accomplishments was fading into inconsequence.

But I could not see how I could break out of that emptiness and inconsequence.

I like men and generally find them attractive as human beings. But I could not find emotional or physical intimacy with a man. Emotional or physical attraction to a woman was a sin.

Finally, I made an appointment to see my minister. Perhaps he could help me find a way out of my physical and emotional dilemma. And, if not, help me to regain my pride and a measure of contentment.

He was the first person to whom I came out of closet.