Last night, I was up late with an amazing gathering of gay, lesbian and bisexual Mormons. I'm in Washington, DC this weekend, at the first Affirmation international leadership gathering of a new Affirmation leadership.
It went really late, later than Randall intended. The reason it went late is because we were going around a table of sixteen of us, each telling our stories. And fortunately Randall started us off by telling us his story in a very unexpurgated way, with all the painful twists and turns of his gay Mormon story. So it took a long time, but he took us on a journey with him. And each one of us in turn followed suit, and told a story. Many winding stories.
As the clock ticked on and it got later and later (and there was some sense of urgency because we have a busy schedule ahead of us today, and we knew that the later we were there telling our stories, the sooner dawn would call us to a new busy day) I was feeling more and more the thick presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, urging us on, giving urgency to the stories we were telling.
Even though the stories were all different, there was a theme I heard repeated again and again and again. Many individuals told, in their own way, of the first "Oh Shit!" moment we had in our lives: The moment we realized we were gay or bi or had feelings of same-sex attraction or were homosexual, or however we defined that for ourselves at the time. (Some of us many years ago, though I won't say how many!) But there was a second, even worse "Oh Shit!" moment.
The real "Oh Shit!" moment was the moment we realized: We still had testimonies of the gospel. For some of us, that moment came short on the heels of our self-understanding of our sexuality. For some us, it took years for that second, most dreadful "Oh Shit!" moment to sink in. But eventually it got us.
The feelings that second moment provoked were always complex. Fear, anger, confusion. Always, "How the bleep do I deal with this?"
But then, there was the: "Oh" moment.
That was the moment the Holy Spirit spoke to us in terms too powerful to deny, and terms too sweet to express in human language. The moment God reassured us we were totally, unconditionally, eternally and completely loved in the fullness of who we were, as we were. Again, when that moment came varied. Sometimes after many twists and turns in an on-rolling road, sometimes almost immediately.
There was a collective "Oh" moment last night too. The moment we realized that it was not Affirmation that had gathered us here, but the Spirit of God. And the moment we realized we were here because God is doing a great work in our midst, and he had a work for us to do.
The lateness of the hour mattered nothing.