Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Confession

It's good for the soul, right?

I have been carrying around this guilt for a week. I told a lie. Not just a little white lie, designed to smooth over a social situation, a big one. Not a lie about just anything, a lie about my sleeping habits. Not to just anyone, but to someone whose kindness towards me has been significant.

Scene: Driving with a colleague towards a denominational event. This colleague was a witness, up close and personal, to a horrible, painful time in my life. This colleague saw me coming apart, and reached out to me, prayed with me, offered words of comfort.

This colleague is also clear on the other end of the theological spectrum from myself. This colleague is a self-avowed Conservative, "Bible-believing*," Evangelical, who has made clear and public statements that are anti-gay, anti-inclusion. Despite this, we bonded over my trauma. And this colleague has expressed trust in me, trust I have returned.

Until the drive. In answer to the question, "How are you doing?", a clear reference to me, post-trauma, I responded, "Fine, Great in fact." And then I offered a total bullshit excuse for why I don't sleep in my house every single weekend.

Even as the words tumbled from my mouth, I thought, Stop. No. Don't do that. Say nothing, rather than saying a lie. But I did say it. The colleague sincerely expressed support for me. The rest of our ride, our conversation was lovely, and went on without incident. But. Damn it. The damage was done. Damage to my own soul.

I feel really dreadful. I feel deceitful in a way I hadn't before. There is no way to make amends for this lie without outing myself, in all likelihood, and this would be the wrong, wrong, wrong person to out myself to.

Interestingly, this incident highlighted for me how not-guilty I feel about other aspects of my closeted life. Loving Beloved, sleeping with her, protecting that corner of my life while going about my ministry: check, check, check. But this lie was wrong. I deceived a person who has shown me only kindness (while, yes, doing spiritual violence to God's LGBTQ children... though "violence" belies the gentleness of this person's character).

I am not asking for approval for my lie. I know it was wrong. I simply need to keep myself accountable.

I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned, in thought, word, and deed. May God redeem me, may Christ restore me, may the Spirit amend my life and make me new.

* I hate, loathe, despise and abominate the fact that the phrase "Bible-believing" has been hijacked by biblical conservatives... along with the whole Christian identity, of course. If I didn't "believe" the bible, I'd hardly be a Christian, let alone a minister, struggling with the ethics if lying-as-insurance policy.

18 comments:

LittleMary said...

i hope your confession allows yourself to be compassionate dear one. you owe it to yourself to extend you the compassion that you would extend to the rest of us. ya hear?

Anonymous said...

If i could absolve you, I would. I can only hope that you will absolve yourself. Unfortunately there are heavy costs to staying in the closet...and also heavy costs to leaving it. And, in our society, costs to living outside it altogether.

Would it were not so.

Hugs, dear C.

IT

Joan K said...

You did what you had to do to continue your ministry. I'd say the fault doesn't lie with you but rather in your denomination's homophobia. In a just world you would be able to live your life more openly. Be gentle with yourself. I think all of us who are GLBT are out to varying degrees in different situations. You have to weigh truth and openness vs ones safety. It isn't easy.

PamBG said...

Hugs.

What else is there to say?

KJ said...

I'd be more concerned if it didn't bother you at all.

As the situation currently stands, the full truth is currently in escrow, and when the time comes, distributed to all who need to know, with amends, as necessary (Been there; done that!). That is seldom easy, but often necessary.

Peace of Christ

Doorman-Priest said...

A friend confided something really personal to me recently. It was my story too and I chose not to reciprocate. Are we bad people? No we are saints and sinners. Don't beat yourself up. Your survival instinct is not to be underestimated.

jadedjabber said...

I can relate to the depth of your pain. We often find ourselves in the most impossible situations. I concur with Littlemary. My prayers are with you.

sharecropper said...

Homophobia, survival, confession, absolution, self-forgiveness.

Ya, C. Most of us lie. Most of us are not as honest as you are about lying. Most of us wish we didn't lie, sometimes big, sometimes small.

And, saying nothing is, as you know, sometimes better than making excuses. Your former closeness to this person does not mean that you have to maintain that closeness and confidentiality now.

Give yourself a rest. Say three Hail Marys (of course she never lied, the church does that about her), and be especially nice to the curmudgeon in your congregation.

Pax

Jan said...

Try to remember what Brother Lawrence advised:
I do something wrong, and I ask God's forgiveness, AND GIVE it to God!

Likewise, when I do something good, I thank God, and give it to God.

You did what seemed best at the time; you've confessed--give it to God. Let go.

j said...

It's been a while since I've stopped by here... I need to read up on what's going on in your life... hope you are well.

I like the responses you have received so far... You know, sometimes you need to speak and sometimes you don't... You just need to make sure that you have enough room in the closet so you don't suffocate. I hope and trust that you have a "confessor" [or spiritual director] whom you can trust and work these things out with, besides this blog.

You know, even though I'm way out of the closet and have been for a long time, I'm surprised by the places I find myself where people are clueless [not that everyone needs to know... I'm just always surprised when there are assumptions and those assumptions are totally heterocentric]. Perhaps, it's because there was a time when I would walk into a room of clergy-types and they would know exactly who I was because of all of the news coverage of my big fat gay ordination. Half of the room would see me as a prophet, the other half as the devil.

The journey you are on is difficult, to be sure. Of course, it can be quite difficult on the other side... Keep your wits about you, keep your prayer life active, and make sure that you give yourself the grace to make it through moments such as these.

MadPriest said...

Imagine you are living in Poland during the early 1940s. You are sheltering a family of Jews in your attic. There is a knock on the door. You answer it and come face to face with a Nazi soldier. He asks you for the names of all the people living in your house. You lie to him.

You lie to him because his ideology is based on a falsehood and the consequences of his ideology are evil.

It's an extreme analogy but basically it contains the same elements as your situation with your friend. It is her ideology that is based on falsehood. The consequences of this ideology we know only too well - basically, people die because of it. At the very least, in your case, your life would be destroyed should your friend decide to put ideology before friendship.

An action is not in itself good or bad. It is the probable or actual result of an action that makes the action sinful. From a utilitarian point of view your choice of action (the lie) had a lesser possibility of resulting in evil than the other option you had. The only reason I can see for you telling the truth in this situation is if your need to be open about yourself is greater than your need to protect your life from those who would destroy it. Even here, it is not your fault that you have to make such an unfair choice, it is the fault of those who would do you harm.

By the authority invested in me by Her majesty The Queen Of England, you are forgiven. Now go and sin some more - the life given to us by God is to be enjoyed.

Jennifer said...

I am often grateful for our daily meals--for Eucharist with a little "e." It is wonderfully, oddly connected to this good conversation--to acknowledge that the place where you sometimes seek your invisibility (through subtle and sometimes obvious overeating and weight gain) is also where you can be truly seen, known, absolved, and forgiven. Break for yourself some crusty bread, pour a little cup of juice or wine, come before God and remember that this little lie was taken care of long ago....even as you are taking care of it in your soul with God right now. Thank you for being you.

Anonymous said...

If we're not out, we all do this - we evade, we lie, we proffer explanations that satisfy.

My mother has recently died at an advanced age. When she used to ask me about getting married, I lied. I knew the truthful answer would be so so difficult for her to accept, and I wasn't ready to destroy our relationship. My brothers have never asked the question, but they may. I shall cross that bridge when I come to it.

I'm with the Mad One - as another fellow priest I pronounce God's absolution. In his forgiveness Jesus wipes the slate clean. There's isn't an angel writing everything down in a little black book. The sin is forgiven, gone, swept away. We all need to realise this when we confess, and move on.

The continuing sin lies with those (we love) who put us in this position, and who have never asked forgiveness for the pain they cause.

RevDrKate said...

Amen to what everyone has said. Peace my sister.

Suzer said...

It is commendable that you are so honest, both with yourself and with us, as to bare your soul about this and ask forgiveness. I am certain that the One who can offer that forgiveness already has.

I also want to point out that the hearer of the lie, the "lied to", perhaps, is also damaged by the lie. In this instance, the colleague from whom you have hidden the truth (with understandable reason), is also hurt by the lie. It is worth considering -- if and when you are able to fully come out (if ever) -- this colleague's feelings as well. She may be hurt to know she has been lied to, hurt that you did not/could not share your whole self. Hurt that you are not really who you appear to be to her. I would hope that she would be glad that you would finally be able to be truthful, but I suspect there would be some pain there for her as well.

As someone who has been hurt by the lies and obfuscations of a closeted pastor, I know that the "lied to" can be damaged by the lie as well.

And what is really awful is that in our world there is a need for the lie at all, the need to protect ourselves, our jobs, our lovers, from a society and religious system that discriminates. I suppose that is where the greater evil resides, but it is worth noting how the evil damages everyone -- not just the liar.

I pray for change in this broken world of ours.

Mother Laura said...

Coming in on this late, dear Cecilia, and there is plenty of wisdom here. So I will just say thank you for sharing this. And how much I love and honor you for seeking integrity and conversion and authentic repentance even while caring for yourself and naming the sinfulness of the structure you are constrained by. I identify with your struggle very much myself as I work within the misogyny and sexism of the church at large and the Independent Catholic movement, yet know I must balance the call to prophetic challenge with attention to the pride and violence that abides in my own heart....

Diane said...

I can't add anything but my (o)

Certified Healing Coach said...

I was never a closeted pastor but I was closeted. And I lied all the time.

I tried to play a game with it...

"Why am I single? Well, I guess I haven't found the right person!" And I'd say it wasn't really a lie.

I think it's just something you have to do at times.

But I understand your guilt.

As others have said, I hope you've forgiven yourself!

(((Hugs)))

Jeanine