In the last days of 2005, I experienced a catharsis, an awakening that stripped me of the armor I had used to protect myself for decades. I realized that I had been hiding in fear of just about everything and thus had been at the whim of the currents of life, almost totally without direction. While I had made good use of what had floated my way, it was time to take the helm. I had to confront my fears.
Fear does not disappear just because you decide to face it. I created then a mantra I have used whenever trepidation raises its ugly head:
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
I picture in my mind how someone who has no fear would act, and then I do what I pictured. Taking that step can be uncomfortable to terrifying. It is equally comforting to exhilarating to have stepped through the fear. The dread disappears only after I act. That is not to say that it always turns out well. But to have taken the step, to have gone through the mental and emotional contortions required to be able to step, is a life-giving moment regardless of the consequences.
One aspect of my newfound determination was to realize that I needed to speak up against the vitriol being hurled against the LGBT community by people claiming to be Christians. (Their claim is often the only evidence they offer that I can find.) The silent majority of Christians need to be shown how to offer a grace-filled welcome. Maybe I could be a willing leader, at least in my own church.
How do I start? What can I do? I went online. A friend sent me a link to JoeMyGod, and thus began my education on the current state of affairs. I used Joe's bloglist to find more blogs. What's this one? Thoughtful, interesting: bookmark. Next: WHOA backbuttonbackbutton. Next: angry, intelligent, literate: bookmark. Next: sweet, sarcastic, open: bookmark. Next: Whoa--wait. Ooh. No, backbutton. Next: foodie. I suppose. Next: hilarious, sexy, poignant: bookmark. And so on, over the years gleaning my bookmarks from link to link, finding those that tell me the heart of today's people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, Christian and not. It is in those stories that I found the means to deal with my issues regarding my faith. It will be the same stories--your stories--that will turn the hearts of those who will hear.
I find myself talking to strangers about a subject that risks discomfort and means a great deal to me. (It would have to, since I am way over on the spectrum for introversion.) I have a growing network of support, people who are willing to help me in a sacrificial way on each step of my journey. It is an amazing experience to be a witness to the next civil victory, marriage equality, that I believe I will live to see on a federal level. It is my fervent hope to see a spiritual victory as well, as Christians embrace the radical love exemplified by Christ.
Father Geoffrey Farrow, a Catholic priest serving in Fresno, was removed from his pulpit last fall when he spoke against Proposition 8. Immediately following that service, Father Geoff came out as a gay man. The importance of supporting his community--Christian and otherwise--was greater than his fear. In an interview with Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times, he closed with a simple expression of a great truth:
When he was in seminary, Farrow interned as deacon at St. Vincent's Medical Center and worked with terminally ill patients. As the end nears, Farrow told me, people say the things they never could utter. They are "more alive than ever . . . because they realize the futility of fear." He found them all contemplating the same questions.
"Were you true to your conscience? Did you do what you felt was right?"
And one more.
"What do you have in the end but the love you gave away?"
Each day I try to face my fears--that never really go away--because if I don't, how can I ask others to do the same? Do you think you have no power? You're right, so long as you choose not to act. So I turn to you, Projectors:
What would you do if you weren't afraid?