I couldn’t sleep last night. I haven’t been sleeping well for a while now. Lately though, when I awaken, instead of turning on the noise of TV, I have simply been attentive to the silence and/or picked up a book to read. I have felt like young Samuel being awakened and finally saying: “Speak. I am listening.” And in this presence I am no longer alone.
Last night I picked up a book by Anthony Gittins entitled A Presence That Disturbs: A Call to Radical Discipleship. I immediately felt myself drawn into the book and its message. At one point, he describes a former prostitute by the name of “Teddy Bear,” who comes to Genesis House, a place in Chicago that helps people get out of prostitution and rebuild their lives. Although Teddy Bear ended up dying at the age of 31 from the ravages of prostitution and drugs, she was finally able to love others, because for the first time in her life, through the people at Genesis House, she was able to love herself.
It is only through a real encounter with love through specific flesh and blood people that we are able to love ourselves and, consequently, touch the heart of Divine Love. Only then can we be energized to go out and change the world – again through touching specific flesh and blood people.
I laid in bed as I read this and realized that, outside of a time in a religious house of formation years ago, I never have had a community of disciples, a spiritual community where I have felt completely and unconditionally loved as a gay man. Outside of that one experience, I have always had to hide in one way or another in the community of faith. Suddenly I realized why I have always felt a disconnect from community, a lack of energy in reaching out to help others, a lack of energy for mission. It is only when we are surrounded by a community that loves us that we can then reach out in love to others. And this goes way beyond being gay. I know of many people who feel they have to hide what they really think and feel about things in religious settings.
So where do we go for community? I am grateful for those friends who surround me with love and whose love and energy I all too infrequently tap into of late. I am grateful for those people who have had the courage to leave the confines of a religion which really does not accept everyone, and who seek to create new realities, new “houses” as it were, where all can find shelter, be called by name, known and loved, fed and refreshed again for mission and purpose in life.