I occasionally cry in yoga practice. I want to be a member of the Church. I long for the completion that will come some day when I am finally a member; when my outward relationship with the Church reflects my inward faith and testimony. And when I reflect deeply on such things, as yoga prompts me to do, I sometimes weep. It's not a bad thing at all, actually. The tears come along with a deep, deep comfort; a reassurance that this all will work out eventually. It helps me find patience and hope and love. It's a good thing.
I have a yoga instructor who's particularly sensitive to these kinds of moments. And she'd noticed me crying through a couple of sessions and finally asked me if everything was OK. So we ended up talking a bit about what was going on for me, and that meant explaining to her that I was both gay and Mormon.
Her eyes lit up. "One of my best friends is gay and Mormon," she said. She told me that he practiced yoga as well, in the same studios where we practice. I asked what his name was, and when she told me, I realized I had already met him. I had actually had some classes with him.
"I want you two to meet and talk," she declared. "Sometimes he takes this class. Next time he's here, I'll introduce you."
I told her that would be nice, and we sort of left it at that.
In the weeks after that conversation, I actually occasionally passed him by in the halls on the way to or from a yoga session. I thought about introducing myself, but it just seemed kind of awkward. I tried to imagine how I would start that kind of a conversation. "Hi, I hear you're gay and Mormon! So am I!" Nope. Way too awkward. I had no idea what his Mormonism (or his gayness for that matter) might mean to him. He might consider himself totally ex-Mormon, and might not really be interested in talking to someone who considers himself a believing/practicing (even if excommunicated) Mormon. Neither our gayness nor our Mormon/ex-Mormonness necessarily meant we had a whole lot in common. So we continued to pass each other in the halls from time to time without me approaching him.
But Monday he showed up in the yoga class that I have with this particular instructor who had wanted to introduce us. And sure enough, after the practice was over, she said, "Hey, John, _____ is here today! I want you two to talk!"
When I came out of the locker room, the instructor was sitting there chatting with him. She introduced us, and then departed.
"Well," I smiled a bit sheepishly, "E. thinks we might have something in common worth discussing."
He smiled back. "Are you an artist or a dancer?" he asked.
"Well, no," I replied. OK, so our instructor hadn't told him why she thought we needed to talk. And obviously he wasn't expecting that it might have anything to do with being either gay or Mormon.
I sort of put the ex-communicated gay Mormon thing on the table. He smiled knowingly. "Oh, OK!"
We ended up talking for about a half an hour. I told him bits and pieces of my story, and he told me bits and pieces of his. Eventually, I told him that I had been attending Church in my ward for the last six years. That raised an eyebrow. He asked me what it was that had gotten me going back to Church, and so I told him a bit about the spiritual experience I'd had at Sunstone years ago that set me in this path. I talked about what it meant to me to face up to the fact that I had a testimony after all.
I wasn't sure how he would react to this. Sometimes I've encountered a mixture of anxiety, defensiveness or even hostility from other gay ex-Mormons when I tell them that. But I got none of that from him. I told him what this means to me. He talked about having a testimony, though he hadn't been to Church in many years.
"I still pray," he said, "just the way I was always taught."
"I stopped praying for many years," I said.
We continued to talk for a while about our respective journeys in life, and what we had learned. There was a gentle, graceful spirit there between us as we spoke. There was The Spirit. I felt so grateful for this. I felt so grateful for him, and for the quiet testimony born just in the fact that he still prays.
I spent the rest of the afternoon reflecting on this. I reflected on the incredible way that our Heavenly Father takes care of us. He does not under any circumstances abandon us, even when we've been abandoned by the Church. I wondered how many of us there are out there who have been discarded or pushed away or left feeling there was no home for us in the Church any more, who had this kind of love and faith.
I think there will be a great, wonderful, terrible surprise for all of us in the end, when all things are finally revealed.