Did you ever know someone in whose presence you felt connected, peaceful and refreshed? We literally are healed by such people. We draw strength from them. When we walk about life alone, or trying to do it all ourselves this may work for a while. But gradually we loose our life force and begin to whither on the vine. Conversely when we open ourselves to healing presence in others, life takes on new meaning and it’s as if our spirit comes alive with this new food. “Not by bread alone do we live!” We need the “food” of others in order to live well in this life.
Some of us, because of past hurts, tend to crawl into our shells, afraid to depend on others, afraid to open our hearts or even ask for simple help. Perhaps this initially feels the safer way to go about life; but gradually we begin to die, perhaps not physically, but our spirits begin to whither. Is this any way to live?
It’s no accident that creeds, mission statemets and the 12 Steps begin with the word “we.” None of us can do it alone. Yes, in opening ourselves to others, to groups, to churches, to lovers – we may indeed get hurt. But what’s the alternative? A safe, but lifeless existence?
Who are the people from whom you can draw healing and strength? How are you called to be healing presence for others?
Remember how exciting it was when we finally realized who we were, when we began to love ourselves instead of hating and dreading the truth of who we were? Remember when we began to find others like us out there? I will never forget the utter joy and excitement of finding others who were like me. I literally shook inside I was so excited. It was some friends of mine who I found out were gay that helped me love myself as I was. Suddenly I went from being so frightened and holding all of this inside to speaking it openly.
I will also never forget the first time I went to a gay bar. A bar is not the best atmosphere in the world, but we had, in those days, no other place to openly gather. I will never forget the first time I walked in a gay bar. I was so nervous and out of my comfort zone that I was shaking all over. I forced myself to walk in and when I did I was astounded to see hundreds of gay men just like myself. I saw men dancing with each other, laughing, holding hands, touching and holding each other and kissing. I was astounded because for the first time in my life I saw reflected in my waking dream what I had always known, deep inside me, to be true and right and good. I felt that I had come home! I finally had found my “tribe,” as it were, my own kind, . . . and I loved it! Instead of cowering in a corner worrying for their eternal salvation, these men were celebrating who they were! What a gift they were to me that late night so long ago. I knew then that I was not alone.
Finding a community is indeed among life’s best treasures and without it, life is somehow impoverished. Do you have a community where you can be yourself, whether you are gay or straight? Is there a place where you feel at home, a group that feels like it’s your tribe? If you don’t have that, what can you do to seek that out? It’s out there. In being ourselves, letting other people know who we are, stepping outside of our comfort zone and taking a risk, we will discover the grace of finding our own.
This past week I have been with the religious community that I left some 10 years ago. I had spent about 20 years of my life with this community. I had been asked to come and help them with their bi-annual Assembly. I accepted the invitation to help, but to be honest, I was nervous about being there with them. What would they think of my presence? How would they treat me?
I cannot tell you what a wonderful pleasure it has been to be with these men again! They welcomed me with open arms and many told me how much I was missed, how much I was loved and how very happy they were that I was there with them. And these men knew me, my gifts and my flaws and they know and cherish me as a gay man. It was a very affirming experience. It was wonderful to be around this group of wonderful, holy, sexy men for a week. It reminded me of the type of man that my heart seeks. These men are holy men, spiritual and open, yet very much down to earth, to say the least! Such a combination in a man has seemed difficult for me to find since I’ve left. Of course they, like me, are not perfect and there are some pretty screwed up men among them; but I sat back and observed how those who were screwed up were treated. I found a lot of tolerance. The grace of community is that it is a witness to the possibility of different types of people and personalities, viewpoints and political philosophies coming together and respecting one another in love. And in the world in which we live, such a witness is needed!
This experience reminded me of the importance of community, specifically a community of faith. This has been missing in my life. I yearn to be a part of a community of faith where I can worship in spirit and in truth. It reminds me again how alone the journey feels sometimes because I don’t have a community of faith where I can lay my head and feel at home. Work circumstances prevent that right now; or perhaps it‘s just fear. Maybe this experience was meant to beckon me to search and seek again; to examine my willingness to leave all things and follow – to give up house, home, financial security, geography, friends and family. Am I willing? Am I willing to risk without guarantee in order to follow? It reminds me of Eckhart Tolle who left his native land of England to move to California because something within him felt compelled; and he only had $1000.00 to his name! Perhaps if we risk life becomes more of an adventure than the stayed feeling that pervades my living now. Believe me, there are many advantages of this “stayed feeling,” a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood, a good paying job doing when I love do to. But I increasingly do not believe in the direction of the church in which I serve and my home isn’t there.
Am I being called to sell everything? To risk? Are you? Anyone know of a good community of faith?