I have just turned down a paying job because they wanted me to disagree with homosexuality.
They also wanted me to sign a contract stating that I had never had premarital sex.
This past year has been one of remarkable growth and self-study. I’ve taken huge steps to discovering who and why I am, working closely with a therapist (can’t recommend one highly enough), my church, and life coach/inspirational greats such as Martha Beck, Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brené Brown. Learning how to value my time, work, and soul has been a daily struggle, but, so far, a rewarding one.
In Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong (something I have post-it noted like crazy), she talks about her specialties, shame and vulnerability, but also about faith. Brown states that the death of faith is not disbelief, it’s certainty.
This line has stuck with me, tumbling in my head like a rum barrel down a white water river. Since reading it, I’ve quoted it several times in conversation. Most of the time I give her credit for the thought, other times I silently pretend I was the genius with enough wherewithal to have come up with it. Regardless, the statement has clung to me, shedding insight into my past loss of faith and my present situation, sitting at this desk, a blank line on a form taunting me with definiteness.
After my grandfather died (the Poppop of my 9/11 story) and my father moved out, I was questioning my faith a lot. I was being abandoned left and right and justice and goodness did not seem to be rewarded. I was born and raised in the church and felt that it was the only place I could turn to with my flagging belief.
The night before church, I had a dream where my Poppop had come to me. He knew that I had never heard him sing which, according to anyone who ever had, was a travesty. His voice had been as rich and warm as an overstuffed leather recliner. In this dream, he asked me to lie down in the street with my head in his lap so he could solve the silence once and for all. I don’t remember what he sang, but I remember feeling safe and small and warm there in his lap with his buttery voice surrounding me.
My faith had been restored.
Absolutely elated, I told my Sunday School teacher the very next morning, excitedly recounting every last detail of my angelic visit. The teacher looked at me and said, “No. It’s not possible. You were just thinking of him a lot. He had been on your mind. There’s no such thing as angels anymore.”
I was destroyed. This certainty, this finality of the verdict, was my spiritual undoing. The mysticism and ambiguity of faith was decimated by ruthless, hard fact. It left me lifeless.
From there on, I slowly extricated myself from the church, removing myself from my once-sturdy foundation of faith. I had needed to believe that my grandfather was looking down on me from Heaven and that God would be loving enough to allow our final song. I was told I was wrong and so I stopped believing.
Through my exploits with travel and exercise, I was able to rekindle a faith of sorts. I began seeing the divine in the Swiss Alps, in the lushness of Hyde Park, in the snow on an icy Schuylkill River, and in the sun glittering through the wisteria-covered walls in Rome. I began to focus on gratitude and thankfulness – making all efforts to be gracious and acknowledging the blessings life had given me: the essentials of food, water, and shelter, the beauty of God’s great world, and the awe-inspiring people who gave that world color. Some of those people just happen to be gay, and yet it never seemed to matter, so long as I had focused on what I believed was divine: Love, Forgiveness, and Gratitude.
I found my way back to the church, thanks in a large part to the commanding sermons of my beloved uncle. His focus on understanding, forgiveness, and, above all other things, love, spoke to my belief about God and the people who occupy his world. I began to attend church regularly, even volunteering in the office when staff got short-handed. I began to listen to hymns plucked out on a solo piano as I wrote and read in my bedroom, finding comfort in the well-known melodies of love and peace. I even purchased a cross to wear, reminding me that love, love above all else, will define me.
And so, here I sit, a contract in hand, the paper asking me to refuse my core belief in love. Sign on that line if you refute sexuality. There, smack dab in the midst of a nondiscrimination policy, between biblical quotes on the sin of sexuality, was the thing I learned to hate in my faith: certainty, fact.
It took a lot to walk away from that job. The school itself was a warm, inviting, generous place. They had shown me nothing but kindness and it pains me to think that I can’t help to educate the eager minds within those walls, but it would have been even harder for me to walk away from Love, from my friends who have shown me tenderness and selfless devotion and from my other students who are struggling (or thriving!) within the LGBT community.
It would have been impossible to walk away from my faith in an all-loving God.
The universe is not for me to know or put restrictions and limitations on. The universe is for me to wonder at and be grateful for. At the center of my universe is the most beautiful and pure thing in it: Love.
For me, that’s all my faith needs.