Monday, March 5, 2007

Greetings from a Dark Place

It is perhaps appropriate that I begin this project in the penitential season... the season of ashes smudged on the forehead, of desires curbed or denied. The season of self-examination, which I so regularly urge in others, and which I so studiously avoid myself.

I am an ordained minister in a US Protestant denomination that, so far, does not accept the gifts of gay and lesbian persons. I was ordained while I was married to a man I deeply loved for more than twenty years. But when our marriage ended I knew that if another relationship was in store for me, it would be with a woman.

I first fell in love with a woman shortly after marrying, in my early twenties. I was in the chorus of a Sondheim play, and there in the alto section was a woman who looked like Jessica Lange and invited me, on a summer night, to her converted loft for chicken florentine and cold, spicy white wine. Her bedroom was painted a deep rose-- "It's my womb," she said. I fled. I was overwhelmed with desire for her. I quit the play, demoralized and shocked that my heart could wander so far away from my new husband. I never saw her again.

We had children. We moved around. In my thirties, I met another woman, more Delta Burke than Jessica Lange. We began as friends. As the days and months passed we swam together, we ate dinner together, and, abruptly, I realized it had happened again. I wandered around in a haze of misery for months, nursing my love and attraction for her by writing bad poetry in the middle of the night. For reasons having nothing to do with me she moved to the other side of the country. The night before she left I confessed my feelings for her. We agreed to remain friends, though my confession added a dimension of pain and fragility to our now long-distance frienship. Again, shocked, demoralized, I went into therapy, where my nice therapist assured me that I wasn't a lesbian, only unhappy about my childhood, my relationship with my mother.

After my marriage ended I deepened a friendship with a longtime acquaintance, a woman who has been out for nearly all her adult life, and who had recently ended a long relationship. We were seeing one another within a month. Partners? No. We can't live together, nor can we marry. My children love her, and know the nature of our relationship. In many parts of the local gay community our relationship is acknowledged. But if the leadership in my local judicatory were to learn of it, if a parishioner were to make an accusation...

I don't know what would happen. Or, I do, but I would prefer not to think about it.

I don't want to pretend I am a victim. I am an educated woman with money in the bank and a roof over my head, and, the truth is, if I were to lose my credentials, I would find other work.

But I love preaching the gospel. I love Jesus, and I love to tell his stories. I love the Holy Spirit, brooding over me with ah! bright wings. I love God, Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver. I love God's good news, the news of welcome, of the open table, of inclusion and healing. I hope to be able to continue to tell the story. At the very least, in this space, I will tell my story.


Wormwood's Doxy said...

Cecilia---I know something of the shock and pain of unexpected love, the fear...and of the consuming love of God you speak of, as well.

I will add you to my prayer list. May God shield and protect you--both in your joy with your parter and in your work on God's behalf.


Nina said...

Cecelia, you have my prayers and support.

There are churches that affirm all people. I am in the difficult beginnings of finding or starting one because I can no longer assent to anyone's exclusion.


sharecropper said...

You're on my prayer list, Cecilia.

June Butler said...

Cecilia, I'll add your name to my prayer list.

Here I am concerned about my rector finding my blog one day. Even if he did and didn't like what he read there, the consequences would be few, as I am a humble parishioner in the pew.

God bless you in your life and in your work. Blessings, too, on your partner and your children.

Mary Sue said...


episcopalifem said...

Cecelia - My heart aches for you. You are on my prayer list - and know that I pray everyday for the inclusion of all God's lovely creations in his churches.

May God hold you, who loves him so dearly, and your beloved in his palm and cradle you with the warmth of his embrace. Know that there are people out here who see you as a person first, and your sexuality as something else about you - like having red hair or brown eyes - a piece of what makes you you, but, not the sum total of you. Blessings.

Aghaveagh said...

One by one, the candles of prayer are lit around your dark place. One by one, voices are lifted up in supplication for you and your loved ones. Please know that many who will never meet you in person nonetheless love you as a sister in Christ, and pray that He will lift you up and strengthen you.


Cecilia said...

I am more moved by all your expressions of support than I can say.

I didn't realize how desperately I needed a community to pray for me.

Pax, C.

steve said...

May I just apologize for the profound idiocy that seems to crop up with alarming frequency in my fellow counselors/therapists when it comes to matters of sexual orientation. I bristled with frustration when I read about how your sexual identity was subtly dismissed by a therapist who should have known better than to try and come to that conclusion for you.

more cows than people said...

blessings on this blogging journey. it will be a blessing for you, i'm sure, and i'm just as sure it will be a blessing for many, many others. thank you, c.

Catherine said...

My sister, my sister, you are loved. and as A said, there will those of us who may never encounter you on the journey in this life but we love you nonetheless. I shall lift you up in my prayers as the incense...
and add you to my blogroll at "Come to the Table..."

bea said...

hugs and prayers from a woman (still) married to a closeted pastor - the stress of always being on alert is crazy