Friday, October 9, 2009

Spiritual Autobiography: Song of the Redeemed

We pick up this story of me at the point following my dad's funerals in New Hampshire and Florida. My three brothers and I eulogized our father in New Hampshire, but I was on my own for the funeral at St. John's. After much back and forth via email, and discussions, I told Mtr. Lee Shafer that we (my mom and I) wanted to have the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke's gospel read at my father's service. Yes, I know: that's not on the approved reading list for Episcopal funerals, but it was highly appropriate for my dad. Especially as I shared in my eulogy the incredible statement he made when I came out. Here I am, on the phone, tears streaming down my cheeks, my voice quivering and sweaty-palmed telling my dad, Judge Gage, that I'm a lesbian.
He paused for a moment and then said, "Well.... who's to say Jesus Christ wasn't gay?!"
There were a few gasps in the assembled congregation, but then came the laughter. Because this was my dad's way of saying, "You are still my child. And I love you."

And now, we continue...

A strange thing happened after my dad died. Me, the child who had gone far from home... and the Church... began hearing hymns in my head. I figured this was probably just some weirdness from having had to be in Church and select appropriate music for a funeral. I agreed to go to Church on All Saint's Sunday, November 4th, because St. John's did a special ceremony of carrying in banners with the names of the departed. The Church had made one for my dad, so I agreed to carry it.

"OK, great! That's over with," I thought. "Let's get back to normal Sunday crosswords and coffee!"

But the hymns wouldn't quit. In fact, they were becoming constant. And the one that kept rolling back around was "God is working his purpose out". I was getting a little irritated.

On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 10th, with another chorus of the number one hit hymn reminding me that "the earth shall be filled with the glory of God and the waters cover the sea,"I was struggling with whether I was supposed to go back to “that church” in the morning. I finally thought I’d sleep on it, and hope that it would all go away. The next day, there was this voice that boomed in my head:

“Show up!”

This was a command, not a suggestion. So I got dressed and went to church. And I was amazed, as I sat in the service and listened, how deeply I was hearing everything: lessons, psalms, the gospel, the creed. It was as if I had been given new ears. Prayers that had seemed so rote and dead to me were vibrantly alive. As I was leaving, Mtr. Lee Shafer looked at me and said, “You came back!” And I said, “Yeah… ummmm… can I come talk to you?”


So, I met with her, and shared about the hymns in my head, the experience of hearing, "Show up!" and all kinds of other stuff. Towards the end of our discussion she asked me, “What do you need from me?” And I said, I didn’t need anything. Then I thought some more and said, “You know that part of Prayers of the People, Form II, where it says, 'I ask your prayers for those who seek God or a deeper knowledge of him. Pray that they may find and be found by him.' I think that’s what is happening. I can’t stop thinking about God.”

She took to meeting with me regularly, and giving me books to read... which some, like Robert F. Capon's "The Mystery of Christ... and Why We Don't Get It", blew me away. I would come in with lists of questions... and then ask more questions via email... and then shed tears of joy as I discovered piece by piece, bit by bit, that not only had my earthly father loved me, the lesbian, unconditionally, but God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit also offered this same love to me in more ways than I could imagine. And all that noise and screeching from pulpits and pundits about the LGBT community were lies and stumbling blocks, designed to separate me from the greatest love the world could ever know. How cruel is that?

One of the daily songs I had in my head for a while was Canticle 19:

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
Great deeds are they that you have done
Surpassing human understanding
Your ways are the ways of righteousness and truth
O King of all the ages.

When I looked it up in the Prayer Book, I discovered it was called, "The Song of the Redeemed." I cried, and said, "Thank you!"

This brings me to today. I still am living in two worlds, worlds which I would like to bridge. My friends in the LGBT community of Tallahassee are still, on the whole, suspicious and hostile toward Christianity. And so I enjoy the company of bloggers who share in my belief in God... and many are the LGBT faithful. A third world, and like a virtual common community of queerdom. My Episcopalian friends are welcoming, although our Diocese remains skittish about the whole issue of human sexuality.

As for me... I am a work-in-progress. I have no idea where I'm going from here on this journey. But it will be interesting to find out. For now, here I am... and this is where I am.


textjunkie said...

Thank you so much for sharing that!

Anonymous said...

God is still working his purpose out for you, my dear! I know that to be very true. I knew the end of this story and am so glad you wrote it.


SCG said...

textjunkie: Thanks for reading and being part of my journey as one of those in my "third world" of the internet.

Peggins: Not mentioned here is the realization of how there is our time and then there is God's time. My job is to remain tuned to how God is speaking... which is often through signs and symbols more than words. I have a feeling "Show Up!" was necessary because I can be pretty thickheaded. :)

frdougal said...

Thank you for this: beautifully written (that'll be the journalist!) and deeply engaging. So true about the need for "Show up" sometimes. Some of us as seriously dense when it comes to hearing God!

Anonymous said...

Fr. Dougal thanks for being one of Susan's readers and her faith has helped me get through these last few years. I am so glad I took her Dad to Tallahassee.


SCG said...

Thanks again all!

"Show up" is a biggie for sure, frdougal, in so many ways.

And Peggins, you can get to know frdougal in his corner of the blogosphere: