Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lent Day 2: An Acceptable Time

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. ~2 Corinthians 6:1-10

I meant to blog about the daily lectionary readings.

But the Ash Wednesday readings will not let me go.

A friend sent me a long note in response to my post on secrets. She said, in essence, come now. That's not really what your remaining closeted is about. It's about one of two things. It's either about shame or it's about self-interest.

She writes:

The first, shame, is pretty easy to address: If as you say, God made you who you are and God loves you as you are - WTF is there to hide? So, if shame is the real reason you are closeted, the fact that you are "hiding," does a huge disservice to the people you serve as a minister. Imagine - you have a gay parishioner struggling with her identity, and she becomes aware somehow that the preacher she respects and trusts is "hiding" the fact of her own lesbianism - that would have to be very, very confusing. It would shatter any trust she might have had with her minister, and worse - reinforce her own hunch that God, after all, does not love her as she is. In this case, the pastor's own shame prevents her from doing a good job.

The second reason, self-interest, is more complicated. Self-interest isn't a "bad" thing. You could be, literally, killed if you came out in a place like Uganda or Iran. In such a situation, to choose the closet over abject denial of your homosexuality might, seriously, be the most courageous choice you could make. But, if such a person had the chance to move to a place like America, don't you think he or she would burn the fucking closet down the second they stepped off the plane?

For people who are faced with lesser sacrifices - the loss of their families, the loss of their inheritance, the loss of their jobs, etc, the issue of self-interest is thornier. How can you choose to protect some thing over full and transparent expression of your whole self without chipping away, at least a little, at your self esteem? Maybe if you were going to lose custody of your children, you could justify such a choice?

There's more. But I'll end the quote there.

It's good to have friends who are willing to speak honestly with you, even when what they have to say is hard. This friend comes by her hard line honestly. She isn't asking me to risk anything she herself hasn't already lost by being authentic. Her letter combined with Paul's... speaking of "now" as the acceptable time, speaking of good repute and ill repute, being thought of as an impostor but being true, as unknown and yet well-known... together these epistles have made a potent cocktail in my mind and heart today. I have started making some calls and reaching out to some friends who might be able to give me some guidance as to how I might... begin... to do this.

I spoke to my daughter tonight. I told her what is on my heart. I said, Don't be anxious, I don't have any specific plans to do anything just yet. I'm just thinking about it, a lot, and wondering. I told her, it might result in my having to leave this church that we both love, but I wasn't sure what the outcome would be. I waited for her response, with my heart in my mouth.

Well, I think it would be a really good idea, she said. The people at church love you. Even if some people weren't happy, I think most of them would be fine. And even if you ended up needing to leave, I think it's always a better idea to be honest about who you are.

Then I called Beloved. She said, Honestly, I think it's always a bigger deal inside your own head than it is to the rest of the world. After years and years of being closeted at work I found out, when I came out, that they already knew, and mostly didn't care.

I think I have just added another Lenten discipline to my list. I think I will begin to write the sermon I will preach. When. If. As an exercise, you understand. I will begin by trying to figure out what scripture speaks to me most deeply about this... that is, unless I have already found it.


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

and I am praying for each day of Lent.

August said...

that sounds excellent - to start composing the sermon you might give one day. you go girl!

LittleMary said...

i just love that daughter of yours. and beloved. i think she is really right. and thus, i think i am having visions of you preaching...and them standing and clapping and loving you the more for it.

now, the denomination, that is another question. that we will have to deal with.

remember god's promises. remember them.

jsd said...

prayers for you during this season of reflection

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Cecilia--I'm glad someone who has "street cred" could say that to you. To be honest, I thought it...but I've never had to come out.

But I can say that part of the reason I stayed in my marriage for so long was because I feared what people would say, and that I would lose all my friends. For an off-the-scale extrovert who almost defines herself by her friendships, this prospect seemed like Armageddon. Since my husband didn't beat me, cheat on me, or drink/drug/gamble away his paycheck, I was afraid they would think I had no "reason" to leave.

I was amazed by the fact that almost no one who knew us well was surprised, and several of them told me they had wondered how I managed to stay married to him all those years. (One actually said to me, "Let's face it--he was a tool." ;-)

You will have to come out in your own good time, but people who love you will manage to fit in this new piece of information about you and move on. I believe that the only thing that really changes people's minds about GLBTs is knowing and loving one. And when they love the REAL you, I suspect you will find that your ministry is deepened.

Your church will eventually change. That change is in the wind in all the mainline denominations, and there have been many encouraging signs lately. I continue to hold you and Beloved in prayer--and I look forward to the day when you can give that sermon and be who you truly are.


Dr. Laura Marie Grimes said...

Oh, Cecilia, this is so exciting--and what a rapid shift in response to the prayer disciplines you have taken up for Lent, especially Examen.

I will intensify my prayer for your healing and discernment, and especially your knowledge of how very much God delights in you and desires your freedom.

Much love,


Rev. Richard Thornburgh said...

I can understand your uncertainty ... the only question I would raise is, "Is the pulpit the right place from which to announce this?" Fine, if you feel that it is and has to be, but I am slightly wary of the (often personal)temptation to use the pulpit as a place from which to proclaim one's own concerns rather than God's. But the answer to that might be that the equality of his/her children is God's concern ....

No answer, just another thing to consider ....

Cecilia said...

Saintly Ramblings, in fact, I think the pulpit is not the place to announce this to the congregation, though it is potentially the place to do some pastoral care of the congregation after the fact.

The idea of working on the sermon is a kind of exercise for me... an IF I did this, HOW would I do it? It is simply to lay the groundwork for myself theologically and emotionally. Thanks for the question.

Pax, C.

Unknown said...

Such good work on and in yourself, C. I love your daughter's forthright statement; she couldn't be that way without the mother who raised her.