Saturday, January 26, 2013

The REAL "Oh Shit!" Moment

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.


Martin Kokol said...

This is really really important. The first oh, shit moment might be the voice for our body - the second oh shit moment could be considered the voice of our Spirit. The final "oh" moment is the work for our Souls. I think this might be a great opening comment for all future meetings - oh shit, oh shit, and ohhhhhhh. THanks for a great offering here!

Dean said...

My first "Oh, shit" moment came when I realized years earlier that I still felt spiritual presence after I left church activity. That preceeded my "Oh, shit" acknowledgment of being gay by several years. Some of my friends have a very hard time accepting or understanding that a gay man still has spiritual feelings. Likewise, other friends have a hard time accepting that I feel spiritual experences outside of the Mormon church.

J G-W said...

Martin - YES! That's a beautiful insight. Part of what I have come to realize is that gay people are not the only ones who wrestle with these kinds of disconnects. If the Powers that Be have a vested interest in anything, though, it is in dividing us against ourselves in this way, body vs. spirit.

I love the insights in Mormon revelation that remind us: it is in the harmonious union of spirit and element that we find fullness of joy!

J G-W said...

Dean - I think that was what was so powerful for me hearing story after story. Our hunger to connect spiritually (the vertical connection!) is every bit as necessary to us as our hunger to connect physically (the horizontal connection).

This is why I have always admired individuals in every phase of the LGBT/SSA Mormon spectrum -- from Evergreen, to North Star, to Affirmation. Because all of us in our own ways are acknowledging the power of the yearning for spiritual connection, even if we differ in our approach to fostering that spiritual connection.

Nobody who truly knows and loves an LGBT person would slander us with the accusation that we lack spiritual yearnings and experiences -- no matter where we stand on the spectrum.

John Chr1s said...

This beautiful, truly. I'm not Mormon, I need to add, but because of my up bringing I feel like I can relate quite well to this. It's a relief to find that I am not the only gay in this village for it started to feel like in order to be gay you had to have this strong resentment towards God and the church, and that you sign yourself over to a purely bodily existence. Thanks.

J G-W said...

Thanks, John. I think a lot of us in the LGBT community are discovering this -- even those of us in the "difficult" religions! It feels very much to me like a gay "revival" is under way... God works in mysterious ways...

Geoffrey McGrath said...

Many members prefer to hold their silence while believing the church is wrong on this issue, as it was regarding polygamy 110 years ago, and with regard to race as recently as 1978. Eventually the process of perfecting the saints caught up to where society as a whole had all ready arrived. These members prefer to hold their silence rather than disturb those that speak boldly now--we are a consummately polite people after all. But our silence in the past perhaps delayed our progress longer than it might have. Civil #MarriageEquality makes good sense, and doesn't impact our separate sacred Temple Marriage covenants, not even a little. The public debate within the Church may never happen--but change will, for we are not yet perfected.

Geoffrey McGrath said...
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