The original article was written in 2005, by a group I belonged to then called “RevGalBlogPals.” I wasn’t a minister, just a velveteen one, and they let me join anyway. The questions are so good, I want to try and answer them every few years.
Am I content with who I am becoming?
Finally, blessedly, yes. I have been trying to help myself for years, but it wasn’t until I met my current pastor that I felt safe enough to be able to let my guard down and just let her take care of me in the way that my pastor should have been doing all along. Because my dad was a pastor when I was little, I am a terrible parishioner… in exactly the same way that a doctor is a terrible patient. Every pastor who’s parented a child will smile when they read this. It is true. Learning to see what other people see in their pastors when they haven’t grown up in the church has been so freeing.
Do my family and friends recognize the authenticity of my Christian spirituality?
I hope so. I think everyone is surprised at the way I approach it, though. I don’t modify my fucking language, I dress however the hell I want, and I don’t care if you like my hair or not. People think that I am an immature Christian because they see my image and not my voice. My image is not for you. It’s for scared teenagers who need someone who looks like they do, talks the way they do, and spends their time in the world looking like an acceptable person to befriend even though they know I’m over 30. Senior pastors, I am THAT youth pastor. You know the one. The one that brings more teens into your church than you know what to do with but at the same time, cannot get me to behave when the bishop comes. Yup, that’s me. Deal.
At the same time, I have been to the mountaintop in terms of sin and have walked away every time because I know for sure that my God is stronger than my temptation for wrongdoing. God is that voice in my head that tells me not to be an asshole. God hears my anger when God tells me that I’m doing something wrong and I don’t want to be told that I’m doing something wrong I want to do what I want to do and you’re not going to stop me goddamnit I’m going to do what I want… God is capable of taking your rage. God is capable of taking your furious justifications for wrongdoing and calmly listens until you are finished. All the way until you are finished. God is the moment that dawns on you when you realize what you’ve really been fighting. God already knows you feel bad, and isn’t adding punishment to what you will already give yourself. God is that one consciousness that sees all the evil in you and just waits for you to figure out on your own which kind of person you choose to be.
Is my prayer life improving?
Everything that I’ve felt my entire life is starting to deepen. If I prayed in my childhood, now I’m praying more, because I feel the same urges I always have, it’s just that now it’s weighted with more meaning. When I concentrate on praying, I have no idea how much time goes by. I am so focused on God seeing everything that it takes me a while to get it all ready. I hem and haw and think and look off into space until a memory catches, and when the dam breaks, God is there to just receive. God receives whatever I feel about the memory that broke me open. Sometimes it’s joy, and sometimes it’s pain. God is a safe space because God has heard me use very colorful language on a number of topics. So, yes. The best thing that has ever happened to me is that I’m not afraid of God anymore. God doesn’t give a fuck whether I say fuck or not. God doesn’t care if I’m gay or not. In fact, I’m pretty sure God has never even noticed. Actually, the one thing God has ever said to me about sexuality is that I was right for being afraid of Angelina Jolie.
Have I maintained a genuine awe of God?
Awe doesn’t even begin to cover it. You only get as much out of a relationship as you put into it, and I learned that lesson indelibly seeing the movie Shadowlands. The movie is about C.S. “Jack” Lewis, a revered theologian and children’s book author. There is one scene that brings me to tears every time, and here it is:
Harry: Christopher can scoff, Jack, but I know how hard you’ve been praying; and now God is answering your prayers.
C. S. Lewis: That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.
I pray because God’s reaction is not my responsibility. I pray because God is big enough to take all my shit. God is big enough to let me be anxious and needy and self-serving and mean and snobby and generous and loving and gorgeous and human because I AM ALL OF IT AND SO IS GOD.
The awe is breathtaking.
Is my lifestyle distinctive?
I may need a few more parameters, but I think I know what you mean. I have no problem talking about my spirituality in public. I think Jesus was one of the best preachers and teachers in the entire history of the world, and I am not threatened by any theological doctrine in all of creation. My God is bigger than all of them combined and you still wouldn’t be able to see a fourth of it. My lifestyle is distinctive BECAUSE YOU CANNOT SAY THAT YOU KNOW GOD BETTER THAN I DO, BITCH! Because the truth is that no one knows God. But we try to anthropomorphize God, anyway. I’m tired of conservative Christians tell me that I’m an outcast, and not because I’m a lesbian. Because even if I was straight I couldn’t swallow their hypocrisy. It makes me feel crazy when I show up at a church and there are clearly imbalances of power between men and women and for people to tell me that I’m a hideous sinner because I don’t realize that women’s subservience is how it’s supposed to be. I’m sorry, what? Jesus was the Gloria Steinem of his day. Do you have any idea how many kinds of weird it was for Jesus to allow Mary of Bethany to sit with him and all the other men while he lectured? Do you know how many rabbinical laws were broken before dinner? Can you imagine having enough power to be able to walk into a room and say, “I’m not going to let you get away with your inequality bullshit as long as I’m here?” If Jesus walked on earth, there is no way he would recognize Christianity. And he for damn sure wouldn’t recognize the whitey with his name on it.
Is my “spiritual feeding” the right diet for me?
It is now. I think that everything I am has led me to this church, and I will not stray. The thing that sets Bridgeport apart is that it is the first church that gave me a chance. They listened to my first sermons, they taught me how to lead a crowd, they’re just there for everything I could need as someone who wants to preach without necessarily being a pastor. My congregation feeds me by being willing to hear me think out loud. I pray just as incessantly as Jack Lewis because I don’t feel a need to prepare for it. Praying is thinking and thinking is praying. I believe all religions have that in common.
Is obedience in small matters built into my reflexes?
Yes, to the point where it has become detrimental to me and I’m trying to undo it. I can’t live this life anymore where people are content to walk all over me and just expect that their behavior is okay. Obedience is a blessing, but so is self-preservation.
Is there enough celebration in my life?
My celebration never ceases to amaze me. I love my friends, I love my family, and I love my wife. She is the cream in my coffee, and grieving her loss would be like trying to replace one of my legs, or Waffle House or something like that. Something that MATTERS.
Am I generous?
I am generous when I remember to live in the vision of bounty instead of scarcity. I cannot be generous when I feel afraid that I will not have enough. When I do have enough, I shower generosity on everything because I am so grateful for what has been given to me.
Do I have a quiet centre to my life?
My quiet center is my friend _______. There are two names that go here, and they both know who they are. One is local, one is not. One sees me all the time, one I’ve never met. But when we are online together, magic happens. We are able to talk about things that are absent in our daily lives but present in the arcs of our lives. It is a deep, abiding love that allows both of us to feel supported all the time and chastised when we need it. Because I want to know the truth, even when it’s bad.
Have I defined my unique ministry?
You’re looking at it right now. 😉