I recall a time when I thought I had my life well defined and it’s imperfections almost well managed. I say almost, because the force of change and shattering still lay within marginal and for the most part dormant. But only for a while.
A call from deep within to become a whole self engaged me on every side. It all happened, at first barely noticeable and then wave after wave, an onslaught of feeling, of emotion, of conflicting values and unceasing intellectual combat.
It was about sexual orientation, a radical dimension of being alive in the 20th century. From the 1950s I had known an attraction to men. Men were enfleshed power. I wanted my share. There were few words available then to describe what I was feeling, and something taboo and even illegal about sating it.
Change came when it became less an option and more a compulsion. It was experienced as a desperate need, a requirement in order to survive. This change brought me to the necessity to become truly whole; namely, being the faithful to the self I was born to be.
The consequence was dissolution of my family as it morphed into something different, but at least more honest and authentic. Another consequence was the enforced vacating my role of priest for nearly a decade. Perhaps most painful was the loss of friendships and colleagues, who once cared for me, but now “out” cared not at all.
Years of struggle for authenticity, integrity and purposefulness often required intensive therapy and seemingly endless talk. Spiritual direction to bring my faith-self into conformity with my real self was less difficult as I had always held that the love of God was by its nature, inclusive.
Of quiet and inspiring strength were the action and words of my former spouse and friend, who summarized it well at the time of our divorce before the Judge and previously before our Bishop, saying: “If I love him as I say I do, how then can I ask him to be other than who he is fully? What kind of love would it be to demand less? Even if it is painful and inconvenient, to love him is to support him in being the best possible person he can be, even if it means doing life without him with me.” Even though it has been decades ago, I am still stunned breathless writing that.
Photograph by Peter Hershey