Thursday, March 29, 2007

Drama Queen

I'm sitting in a café wondering if Beloved will happen by. It is near her place of business, and she often ducks in for a cup of coffee before starting her day. I came over on an impulse, realizing that I could as easily do what I planned to do (reading, sermon preparation) here as at home.

I was in my car the other day, pondering my search process. I began to wonder about it. Am I just being a big drama queen? (That sounded a bit Carrie Bradshaw-esque.)

People have lived their true identities quietly and with integrity for as long as there have been GLBT people-- i.e., forever.

The real work of the gospel is all there in Luke 4... bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free. It's all there in Matthew 25... giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcome to the stranger, clothing to the naked, presence to those in prison. Why do I need to make it all about me?

[Interlude during which Beloved came! And we had coffee and talked about what's in the paper this morning! And she invited me to see her newly cleared-and-ready-for-planting garden! Such perversion... such aberration and abomination...]

I have been reading Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's book The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus' Final Week in Jerusalem. Early in the book, in the context of discussion Jesus' actions in the Temple, they offer the following description of "sacrifice."

How, then, did people create, maintain, or restore good relations with a divine being? What visible acts could they do to reach an Invisible Being? Again, they could give a gift or share a meal. In sacrifice as gift, an offerer took a valuable animal or other foodstuff and gave it to God by having it burned on the altar... No doubt the smoke and smell rising upward symbolized the transition of the gift from earth to heaven, from human being to God. In sacrifice as meal, the animal was transferred to God by having its blood poured over the altar and was then returned to the offerer as divine food for a feast with God. In other words, the offerer did not so much invite God to a meal as God invited the offerer to a meal.

That understanding of sacrifice clarifies the etymology of the term. It derives from the Latin sacrum facer, "to make" (facer) "sacred" (sacrum). In a sacrifice the animal is made sacred and is given to God as a sacred gift or returned to the offerer as a sacred meal. That sense of sacrifice should never be confused with either suffering or substitution.

Here's my question: what is the correct sacrifice for me to make? How do I make my life a holy offering to God? Do I do it by seeking to live "out" and that as quickly as possible? Or do I do it by continuing as I have, not exactly below the radar but not exactly above it, seeking to serve wherever health and joy seem possible, whether in or out?

Is there a right answer? Am I just being a drama queen?


sharecropper said...

Drama queens seldom consider the theology of their behavior much less the consequences. Apparently, in beginning this blog, you have reached a point of decision. Barbara Brown Taylor in her book "Leaving Church" wrote that (in the Episcopal Church) priests are called to be a wholesome example (a term certainly in controversy throughout the Anglican Communion now). Each pastor must decide what is wholesome, what is holy, what is sacred and live in that manner as much as possible. You are in my prayers.

steve said...

Is there a right answer?

My sense is that there is no single right answer, no answer that is universally true for all people and across all circumstances. But that is another question, perhaps, from the issue of whether there is a "right" answer for you.

I would not pretend to be able to know what that answer is. Indeed, nobody should, save you. But in my experience, the right answer tends to involve the choice that allows you to live your life with the most joy.

Prayers and blessings to you as you continue down the road of discovering what that means for you.

June Butler said...

Cecilia, I don't know the answer for you, but you are most definitely not "just a drama queen". Drama queens don't read Borg-Crossan. ;o)

I will pray for you and your partner and your family.

Grace said...

Dearest Sister,

You are not a drama queen!! You are a thousand time more spiritual than me. And, in the end, whatever decisions made are surely between you and the Lord. God is faithful!

But, I'll tell you the truth. Spiritually, I would not be able to deal with this situation for five minutes. Part of the whole purpose of church, in my book, is for Christians to love and encourage each other spiritually, to share fellowhip.

How in God's name is this supposed to happen if folks are expected to lead double lives, unable to be open and honest about who they actually are? What nonsense!! For me there would be little point of church at all, really.

I personally am orthodox, and evangelical in the faith of Lutheran background. I would be infinitely more concerned that my pastor loved God, cared for people, for her relationship with the Lord, whether she was actually able to affirm the central tenets of our faith, such as the unique divinity of Jesus, etc., then to stress over "sexual orientation."

God have mercy!!

Love, and prayers for you, ((Cecilia)))

KJ said...

I suspect you already know the answer, and as many have experienced before you, fear grips and strangles. That is absolutely understandable, logical and normal.

Would it help to step away from an "in" vs. "out" paradigm? What if the goal were to live authentically and transparently precisely as we are? When that happens, the Spirit can actually use us the way He intends as opposed to the way we want.

That may be impossible for our detractors to understand, but that does not make it not true.

Cecilia said...

Friends, thank you so much for your responses.

I think this is why I started this blog... so that I could experience ths blessing of the virtual community as I ask these questions.

I think the life I have been leading is moving in the direction of which kj speaks.... not exactly "out," but not in hiding either.

Thank you, thank you for your kindness and prayers. I keep you all in mine as well.

Pax, C.

Judy Vaughan-Sterling said...

One thing I know for sure is that God does not intend us to live tied up in knots! He intends us to live a life of integrity just as he made us. He made you, and you are the way he wants you! You are loved and perfect in His eyes.

You are in my prayers! I know you will make a good decision!

episcopalifem said...

Cecelia - What everybody else said, plus me now.

You are in my prayers.

Unknown said...

You are not a drama queen!

I am the partner of a formerly closeted ELCA (Lutheran) pastor, who struggled with this dilemma as well. (She also had two children living at home at the time, and an intensely homophobic and nasty ex-husband...)

In the end, she opted to live and love openly. We have been together now for almost 10 years, and life just keeps getting better!

That said, it did result in her "resigning" her orders (or else face being put on ecclesiastical trial, with the end result guaranteed). Once she made the decision -- which was hers to make -- we carefully planned and prepared for what would happen "next" BEFORE she came out to her bishop, parish, etc. That helped a lot.

We're now happy Episcopalians - and, as the Spirit would have it - she is in process of becoming an Episcopal priest.

I tell this story, complete with its "happy ending" as a way of sharing some hope with you, not to make your decision for you.

Whatever you (and your beloved) decide, know that Christ will be with you, as Christ is already with you, every step of the way.

Linda in Iowa

Mary Sue said...

Oh, please, girl, you know there was some old woman in Jerusalem visiting her kids for Pesach, president of the Women's Society of Nazareth synagogue, standing there with her arms folded, sniffing in disdain. "Just look at what Mary's idiot boy is doing, LOOK at this mess! Who's gonna pay for all those palm branches? And I'm not cleaning no cloak with no donkey poo on it. We're going to be free, we'll just have to wait a little while, do what the nice Romans say and don't be causing no ruckus. Just WHO does this boy think he is?"

(Why does she sound like my crazy auntie? Nevermind.)

SHE be doing the drama queen act, not you. You be living your life. Now get out there and live your life, young lady, do NOT make me come over there, because I am channeling my great-auntie and in being ridden by the spirit of my great-auntie, I will smack you without mercy until you get up and get about the Lord's business.

Or, in the words of Jayne Cobb, if you can't do something smart, do something right.

Muthah+ said...

Pay attention to the fear that you are experiencing. If there is a problem with you and your congregation, I would suggest to you not to do it. If you have been with your congregation for a while and they love you and support you, then it is right to do so. It is hard enough to come out but it is doubly hard if your primary community is in conflict or is upset over something. Another issue I would take into consideration: Is your bishop supportive?

I have been in this situation and it was not handled well and it has been disasterous for my career

Bill said...

Closeted Pastor, as some have already indicated, there is no right or wrong answer here. And also, as some have already said, the fact that you are here in blogspace indicates that you want to be out, if not totally, at least here where you can talk to people without worry.

The fact that you seem to be sensitive does indicate that psychologically you are in danger. No matter how strong you may think you are, the constant worry about being “outed” and the longing to be yourself, will eventually wear you down.

What you need to guard against is anxiety and depression. You do not want to go where I have been. A suicide attempt and three months in a psychiatric hospital is not a fun thing. If you start feeling emotionally strangled, please talk to some one.

I was so confused, trying to be what everyone expected, that I didn’t realize just how fragile my mind was. I lost my wife, my home, every friend I had, and nearly my life. It was a long hard road back. When I finally told my brother and sister and was accepted with open arms, it was the happiest day of my life.

These days, I am totally open. I am what I am. Take it or leave it. I left the RC Church and joined a progressive Episcopal Church. They accept me totally and I couldn’t be happier. I will never go back to the closet.

These are hard things to talk about and even harder to take action on. One truth I can tell you is that its better not having anything to hide. Another is that being in an environment where you can function and grow spiritually is a wonderful thing. On the day I joined the Episcopal Church, I walked out into the parking lot and I felt as if the weight of the world had just been lifted from my shoulders. I don’t have the words to express how life affirming it is, to just be yourself.

Whatever your decision, I wish to health and happiness.

God Bless.

Unknown said...

I hesitate to offer comment; I'm not walking the road you are on. Please take these thoughts as the offerings of a friend.

As to living one's "true identity", as you put it; I'm coming to the realization that this is not a real possibility. Our true identities are known to God and, with good fortune and a lot of work, one might come to understand something of it in a lifetime, but for the most part we travel a long road towards self-discovery. The best approach seems to be to just keep moving.

Even straight people have their secrets and little closets to hide in. Where I live and work (Silicon Valley/Software) it can be more shocking to admit that you are a Christian than to come out as Gay, (speaking only partially tongue-in-cheek) so perhaps I can relate just a little bit (revealing my faith would probably not cost me my career, but it would cost me some valued friends, including, perhaps especially, gay friends)

Your paragraph beginning, "the real work of the gospel.." struck me as the right track. You have important work to do and are well suited to it. Just focus on the situation before you, the person before you, and do what you need to in order to live out the gospel.

Yes, it is not "all about you." More often than not it is not even a little "about you". In those situations, your sexual orientation is not relevant; not shameful, just not relevant. So don't bring it up.

Sometimes, however, it really is about you, and you will know that the thing to do, at that moment and with that person, is to talk about your orientation. Reading your earlier entries, that seems to be how it has worked until now.

At some point you will have a group of people who love and value you as a pastor, and don't know or think about you as gay, and a group of friends who love and value you as a gay person and don't know or think about you as a pastor (and a third group who do both.) Perhaps you are destined, in time, to be a bridge between these groups, but don't be too eager to cross that bridge before it's built, nor too fearful of crossing it when it is ready.

Just focus on the steps in front of you, do what keeps the relationships in your life happy and healthy, and trust God to bring you through. Don't create pain for yourself, either by being ashamed of being closeted, or being afraid of being outed. Just stay in Christ, in the moment, and see what develops.

And remember that the "sacrifice" you make in keeping your private life quiet is for the benefit of those unable to know the truth without being drawn into hate and fear. You're doing this for them, banking treasure in heaven.

Prayers & blessings...

serif said...

I wonder if you wish you'd gone with your jessica lange in your twenties. Would you advise your daughter to do that now?

serif said...

You seem to have a sort of childlike timorous longing! awe! for/of your Beloved. Maybe just a frisson of fear as well?

Maybe you're not in a space to be a pastor at this time. Whatever church you're applying to certainly has a right to know who you are, how you live, and what you intend to teach their children.

If you can't be honest about it, you should give it up and look for a job in social work or therapy.

Cecilia said...

Again, I am grateful to all of you for the responses. I am moved that so many have responded in such depth to words from a stranger.

To respond to Serif, no, I don't wish I'd gone for Jessica Lange... I am grateful for my marriage, though it was entered into at a young age and without full knowledge/ understanding of who I was. It may be that what you perceive as a timorous/ awed quality is, at least in part, due to the newness of this part of my life.

What I intend to teach everyone's children is the same thing I have taught as long as I have been in ministry; the radical love of One who so longed for our freedom that God came to live among us and with us and for us. About that there is no conflict.

Thank you, again, all of you, for your prayers and reflections.

Pax, C.

Nina said...

Something I've learned about major decisions: wait to make them until you have counted the cost as well as you can, and have some clarity and peace about the direction you need to go. Also, do lots of listening prayer time. Praying for you.

serif said...

So when it pleased you and was to your advantage, you were glad to be with a man but now you're claiming the same about being with a woman.
And you're asking for everyone to be sorry for you because it's so painful. Do what you want and take the consequences. Stop trying to have one without the other. Stop demanding that there shouldn't be any consequences that you don't like.

Sharon said...

What you are doing is very brave really. It is deeply moving to read your words. Thank you for sharing.

Catherine said...

Clearly you are in a discernment process about both your call and your life. Discernment takes time and questions. It is my humble suggestion that you find a spiritual director to confide in about all of these issues. There is no rush to come to a conclusion about either. You have your hand on the rudder and the Holy Spirit in Her wisdom is speaking to your heart and guiding you. That is the voice to heed ultimately. I think it is delightful to have such a simple anticipatory joy for your Beloved. And she seems to have it for you as well. How healthy and welcome that your love is new everyday and not in a rut! It is obvious that you are mature, intelligent and sensitive to the guiding of God, and that you are spiritually grounded. It is good to ask questions; smart people do that a lot. Remember that though it is good to get our feedback on things, you still need to sift the grain from the chaff and there is some of that here in the not kind or sensible remarks by serif in my opinion. I am also very sensitive and I see it as an enormous gift that is sometimes hard to bear. But at the same time we can intuit and know things that less sensitive people don't "get". It is a quality to love and cherish and not destain.

I offer love, support and the loving embrace of strength to my sister and fellow servant in Christ