Tuesday, June 9, 2009

They Wish

I had a lovely home visit with an active member of the congregation, an older widow. She's one of those who is not ok with my newly disclosed status.

Like many of the visits I've had lately, our conversation was far-ranging, and I learned much about her that I hadn't known before.

At one point, she said, "I wish you'd told us a long time ago."

I repeated that to Beloved over dinner tonight at our favorite Italian restaurant. She sipped her wine thoughtfully, and said, "What, before they loved you?"

Exactly.

Odd, isn't it? To be complained to about the fact that they love me, and that makes this hard for them. Please know that there is not one ounce of bitterness in my tone when I type this. I say it all senza rancor. But it is a strange thing, to feel apologetic towards these good people because the fact that they love me disrupts their categories and forces them to reckon with something that might... just... be...

Wrong. They might be wrong. About gays. They might be wrong, that we're all damned to hell for our pursuit of what they insist on calling "our lifestyle", as if I'd planned falling in love to go with the curtains and the tchotchkes.

I've gently explained my understanding of scripture, but it has fallen on deaf ears. As I knew it would. And it's not as if I'm trying to convert anyone (to my lifestyle, or acceptance thereof... though with the former, I've been told, fancy toaster door prizes will be awarded!). It's really about the relationships. I want to stay in relationship with these people. I want to continue to be their pastor, even if they vote to end my pastorate. I still want to be their pastor. I still love them.

As they still love me.

Even though they wish they didn't.

21 comments:

Erp said...

Let us hope love wins out.

At least she was willing to allow you into her home and to ask questions and to listen even if not agreeing yet.

For many it may not be so much that they might be wrong but that they were taught wrongly by your predecessors in their lives who they also loved and respected. They are facing the quandary of Peter in Acts 10.

Just me said...

I first thought that I wouldn't want to develop friendships with people who were likely to not accept my loving another woman and found my girlfriend becoming good friends with a evangelical family she had no intention of telling confusing. I still only want people to know that I am gay or a Christian when they know me more so that I am not prejudged - put in a box - not given the opportunity to be good friends. In essence what your lady was saying - to have the opportunity to drop you before caring about you. To be able to maintain prejudiced ideas without the challenge of meeting and liking someone who may choose to live differently to oneself.
I still probably avoid developing good friendships with people who are overtly evangelical - of the type that look at and judge other people's lifestyles -curches where you can't belong if... But I am much more happy to realise that as I come out to more people they are less able to see homosexuals as "them" - divergent - abmormal. Harvey Milk got it right to realise that it is in people knowing and realising that their friends, family, neighbours and pastors are gay that they can know and realise that its not obscene or abmormal - that homosexuals are not the others.
Take care closet buster
Love A

Processing Counselor said...

There will still be some. I'm sorry.

Processing Counselor said...

I'm so sorry. There will always be a few, but those few hurt.

God_Guurrlll said...

The promise of resurrection is that love ultimately overcomes hate and that not even death can contain that.

I was open about having a female partner when I came to my congregation. Love even reached those who did not "approve" of my orientation. They got to know me as a sister in Christ and realized I was part of their family and not just a "them" outside their circle.

Peace and love,

Songbird said...

What a tender and bittersweet feeling.

don't eat alone said...

Cecilia

I remember when I first began reading your blog and learning about your life that I pushed you to come out to your congregation. Most of that had to do with walking a similar road with a friend. Your situations, I learned, were not the same. The love you have shown for your congregation, your God, and yourself as you have so intentionally moved towards wholeness with patience and integrity speaks strongly to the depth of your faith and compassion. Whatever happens, you have been true. Thank you.

Peace,
Milton

revkjarla said...

you are an amazing pastor and person...
and what everyone else said.

I love what Beloved said...

LittleMary said...

well it is just great how you are making everyone deal, i look forward to people telling you that you changed their minds...because that is right around the corner you know.

MaineCelt said...

What everyone else said... and I love the toaster reference.

Mary Sue said...

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud... and you and your people are being reminded of that, and having to face that a lot of what we're told is love by our culture and our media ISN'T.

Suzer said...

As usual, I offer perhaps a different perspective. While I understand that the automatic framing of this is "I wish you'd told me before so I could have more easily dropped you and not have to wrestle with this," that may not be the whole, or an accurate, picture.

There is such a complex set of emotions that might go through a member of your congregation's mind, even those who do not accept same-sex relationships.

There can be a huge sense of betrayal when a person withholds a major part of their life from others, and then later reveals it. This lady may or may not fit into that category. Being a closeted pastor is being caught between a rock and a hard place -- you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. However, you shouldn't overlook the fact that perhaps there are people who could have accepted you earlier, as you are, even before they came to love you over the years. They might feel betrayed because you didn't trust them enough that they could see past what they might still consider a "sin" or fault on your part, and still accept you as an excellent pastor. Living in fear is difficult, and though they may understand why you held back, in some circumstances it can still feel like a betrayal not to have been trusted with information that would have given them a better sense of you as a whole person. Perhaps they feel robbed of knowing you *as you are* for the past couple of years.

So, I'm not sure this lady means her comment in the way you interpreted it. Perhaps there is a part of her that, though she struggles with the issue of homosexuality, wishes that you hadn't had to fear her reaction, and could instead have trusted her to treat you fairly despite her opinions. Of course, she should also understand, given our society and your particular denomination, that you are only human and there is reason that fear held you back from revealing your whole self.

Just my thoughts. And, as always, of course I could be wrong. :)

Fr Kenny said...

I loved Suzer's comment. There may well be truth in what she says. However, it is often the way that folk don't want to put human faces on to "issues".

There may be some mileage in going back to this person to ask what she really meant, rather than assume what was meant.

My partner's favourite phrase is that "ASSUME" makes an ASS of U and ME.

Cecilia said...

Suzer and Fr Kenny, I certainly agree that a person might have meant other things. But it was clear from the context-- including statements such as "I disagree completely with your lifestyle" and "How can you preach biblical sermons and live like you do?"-- what she meant. She wishes she'd known before she bonded with me.

Pax, C.

Cecilia said...

And I go back to Erp's comment-- and hope-- that love might win out.

But the truth is, I'm talking to at least some people who will have a very hard time getting past their prejudices.

Pax, C.

Erp said...

You wrestled within yourself and have accepted yourself and come out. Now some who thought they knew you are wrestling. It will take some time and some may well never accept you.

In Huckleberry Finn, Huck wrestles over what his instructors in the church have taught and something else:

So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter - and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. Huck Finn.

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. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking - thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and suchlike times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; 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.

Now which way your conflicted congregants will go: accept you, damn the church; accept you, feel the church was misrepresented to them; or reject you and keep the church instruction they've had. Time will tell. As the Quakers would say, hold them in the light.

Cheesehead said...

(o)

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

dearest Colleague and Friend
may joy and peace be with you. Because it is your joy in living, and your peace with yourself that is infectious - even to those who disagree with your theology. I am convinced that we do not change people's minds through debate and clever arguments. People are changed by relationships. And there is at least a chance (albeit small) that some in your church might shift their long held prejudices because of knowing you.

Hugs and Kisses
Pete

Sarah S-D said...

not sure how i missed this. wow. so hard. let love win. yes, let love win. ((((cecilia)))

Jane R said...

Others have said things better than I could.

Sending you love and hugs and prayers, dear sister.

SCG said...

I continue to hold you, the pastor known only to me as Cecilia the [un] Closeted in my prayers. You are walking a very difficult path with your parish. Your presence is making some, like this woman, to take a long, hard look at how well they live into the call to love our neighbors as ourselves.
And I know you don't write with rancor. Because you are writing from a place of love.
They may wish they'd known your sexual orientation earlier. But its better they know you as a vital part of the Body of Christ, rather than that limb they'd rather cut off.
Prayers ascending for you and your parish.