I had a conversation with a newly found friend the other day — a man, like me, in a long-time committed partnership with a man, who has also been active for some years in the Church after a long time away. Both of us are of a certain age. (I’m turning 50 this year, which, in a family with many centenarians, I consider something like the midpoint of my life!) Both of us, while at one point having been very angry at the Church and having experienced some turbulence in our relationships with families of origin, find ourselves now craving reconciliation more than self-assertion. I’m generally told I’m something of a rara avis. Our conversation was at least proof that I am merely rara, not singularis.
There was a moment in our conversation where he made an odd admission — odd enough any way in most of the circles I travel in. It’s an admission I’ve occasionally made myself. Like me, he felt that God blessed his committed relationship with his husband, and in some way that was very clear to him, held him to that commitment. But he wondered out loud if that commitment could be eternal. “Maybe God holds me to my commitment, because God takes commitment seriously, even if mine wasn’t quite the right commitment.”
I shared with him a spiritual experience I once had, in which I pleaded with the Lord to please help me understand what to make of the seeming contradiction I experienced between feeling inspired to commit to a life-long relationship with a man, and the Church’s position on same-sex marriage. I’d received a clear answer to my prayer: “You’re not going to get an answer that question at this time.”
I countered, it seemed to me equally likely that our relationships were blessed not only for this life, but for all eternity.
We laughed together. Quite true! And wouldn’t that be a delightful surprise.
But if I were being honest, I had to say that I simply didn’t know on either score. What we did know was that everything will all work out eventually. And where we are now — in a loving, committed, same-sex relationship and active in the Church and on good terms with our devout LDS families — feels like the right place to be.
As a side note, his devout Mormon family — like mine, and like Daniel Parkinson’s, and like Josh Weed’s — has been unconditionally loving toward him. In his case, like mine and like Daniel’s, they have welcomed and defended his relationship with his same-sex spouse, in spite of some of his early insecurity and lashing out over the issue, and in spite of their unwavering devotion to the LDS Church. I’m hearing enough of these unconditionally loving Mormon family stories, and know enough of the specifics of how that depth of love and acceptance flows from a deep, deep commitment to the Gospel, that I’m starting to insist, even if these stories are unconventional, they reflect a truer appreciation of Church teaching than the stories where gay kids are emotionally brutalized by their families. The infamous case of Christ v. Culture, folks! If the Gospel were easy to live, we wouldn’t need the Church.
Maybe it is this foundation of familial love that we had each experienced that has enabled me and my fellow rare bird to be more comfortable dwelling in a place of ultimate uncertainty but proximal security. My friend said something about the power of a “daily bread” / “manna” approach to the Gospel. God, give me what I need today; not for yesterday because that’s done; not for tomorrow, because tomorrow’s not here yet. Just for today, for right now.
We live in a world where people react. It’s the logic of commerce (stimulus-response), of law (suits and counter-suits), of the media (the never-ending stream of one-upping sound bites), of politics (the dance of framing and counter-framing, and the bloodless violence of majoritarian rule and minoritarian revolt), and of religion (reformation and counter-reformation). For those of us caught in the middle — say, for instance, gay people caught in the turmoil of public referenda designed to determine by a majority vote whether our kind of love will cause the collapse of civilization — it’s impossible to make it past breakfast without already having your stomach tied up in knots.
Allowing ourselves to dwell in the “maybe, maybe not” can open us up to the “this I know” grounded in love and acceptance of self and others. It brings us into a space where we can stop fighting and start appreciating.
This is the spiritual principle at the root of the scriptural phrase, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” The moment we start judging — reacting — we take ourselves out of the space that allows us to simply experience divine grace without judgment. Forgiveness is the key to our salvation, and letting go — with time and patience — is the key to knowledge.
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