What’s IN your mind?April 19, 2007
I have a bunch of phrases, thoughts, or concepts floating around my head. I’m sure we all do. Some of those things are brought to my attention on a daily basis, others are recurring on some odd schedule that I haven’t figured out yet. I know only that I recognize them as being a part of me because they pop up every so often. It’s not so much “what’s ON my mind” as it is “what’s IN my mind.”
I blame my dad for some of them, like the punch line to some corny joke he told me when I was a kid. A little boy sees his father in the shower and points to his pecker and asks “what’s that?” Daddy is a little shaken and responds “that’s my nerve” which satisfies the boy’s curiosity and he goes on his way. A few days later, in a restaurant, the boy has to use the restroom, but being all grown up, he insists on going by himself, no need for dad’s help. The boy mistakenly enters the Ladies’ Room and makes use of the facilities. A pompous woman sees the child and makes the remark “Well! You’ve got some nerve!” to which the little boy replies “If you think that’s something, you should see my dad’s!”
Thanks, Dad. That punch line pops up in my head every time I hear someone say something like “he’s got some nerve!” If I do say it aloud, I end up having to tell the joke because no one has a clue as to why I’m saying the phrase, and the joke ends up falling flat, because I’ve already revealed the punch line.
“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Thanks, Auntie Mame. My high school mounted a performance of this musical when I was a junior. I was the pianist for the production and so I spent many hours at the rehearsals. I had plenty of time to ponder the meaning of that line, although I recall it being delivered with a slight variation in the musical version of the story. I’m sorry to say that it took me nearly twenty years to learn the lesson of that line. Now, when I’m hesitant to try something new, I recall this quote and go for it. I don’t want to regret taking a pass on something when I’m on my deathbed. Twenty-two years after I first heard that line, I had the chance to pull my chair up to the banquet table and do something I’d never done: take to the stage in a musical production of Mame in the role of Ito. I don’t know how good I was in the role, but I know that I had a lot of fun.
Nothing you can do can make God love you more, or love you less. I remember driving my car through the tunnels of Pittsburgh and receiving this revelation. It was 1985, I had just graduated from college and I had taken a job as a music director for a charismatic church. At that point, I had no idea where my spiritual journey would take me, and I find it amazing that I end up here as a progressive gay Christian when I started as a conservative, fundamentalist, charismatic, deeply closeted, scared young person. I recognized this thought that God’s love for me was not something to be earned nor lost, as a clear message from God. I felt wrapped in God’s love that day and for several days after that. I confess that I lost sight of that revelation and lost my way in this world. The journey became dark and dangerous. In spite of having this revelation, I had serious doubts that God could love me.
2004, on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey: it’s been 11 months since I separated from my wife. I’ve come out of the closet, my boyfriend has moved in with me, and I’m on a little vacation with my teenaged children. They like to sleep in, so on the last day of this vacation, I get up early and go for a walk on the beach. These few days with my kids have been very nearly perfect, so while I’m walking and praying, I ask God “why?” “Why is this vacation different from the others that I’ve attempted with my family?” I didn’t expect an answer, spiritual things didn’t seem to be going all that well for me at that point, yet I heard something that morning. It wasn’t a loud voice, and it wasn’t the crashing of the waves, but there, in the power of the ocean, in the glory of the creation, I heard God speak to me. This is what God said: “You are finally being the person I created you to be. This is what you can expect from now on.” I had to stop right there. I was stunned. I knew this was not my imagination, it was not my own will creating what I longed to hear. This was a quickening in my spirit, almost a shockwave of a message from God. For nearly twenty years, I had attempted to live as a straight man, hiding my attractions for men. Now I was hearing that my new life, living as a gay man, was pleasing to God, and that the blessings in my life were because I was being true to the design of the Creator. I’d just been invited to the banquet, and there was no way I was going to starve!
And what about the title of this blog? “this terrestrial ball” how clever! A fancy reference to the planet earth. Well, yes, it is a reference to our big blue marble, but it’s also a line from a hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”. I’ve always contemplated the double entendre of the line “this terrestrial ball” thinking that the writer may have intended us to imagine dancing the night away, dressed to the nines, reveling in the glory of God’s presence. I can’t sing the hymn without thinking of being at that ball, catching a glimpse of Cinderella as she slips out just before midnight, and my prince taking me in his arms to dance the night away.