As a gay man, I celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision last week to allow same-sex marriages throughout the United States so that gay couples can indeed be joined in holy matrimony. The ruling caused me to remember my own journey from a very confused husband who loved his wife but was torn by his attraction to men. Having been raised a Southern Baptist, I was conflicted but determined to live by the morality rules I had had ingrained in me. During my struggle, I rewrote the words to the hymn, “Just As I Am,” that I had sung in church for years and years. If you don’t know the hymn, then these words will not mean much to you. Here is the revised version of that hymn that I wrote as I was dealing with accepting myself as a gay Christian:
Just as you are, I cannot be,
Though I too am without one plea,
For God’s Son shed His blood for me.
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as you are, I tried to be,
I thought my “dark blot” unsightly;
Yet Jesus said He died for me.
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, I now must be,
For I know Jesus died for me;
No separate eternity.
O Lamb of God, I come.
A few days ago, I was sitting with my partner and Ed Cureg, a close friend from Washington, D.C. We were talking about my blogging. My friend asked how long I had been blogging and how had I gotten the idea to blog in the first place. I knew exactly why and related to him how my good friend Greg Kaspar, who was not only a wonderful writer but also a professional photographer and blogger, talked me into starting to blog in 2010. Because I had always hoped to write something publishable, it seemed like a wonderful idea. With the help of my friend, I found a blogging opportunity at Word Press. I promised myself that I would blog every other day rather than every day as I didn’t want the blogging to become a chore. At this point, Ed seemed satisfied with my explanation for starting to blog, but he had one more question: “Where did the word ‘blog’ come from?” I had never thought of that, so we went right away to the source of everything: Google.com. The word “blog” came from the fusion of two words: “web” and “log.” Now, 725 blogs later, you know the rest of the story.
I was born and raised in South Carolina. I grew up celebrating the idea of Dixieland and the Confederacy. My high school history teacher, Mrs. Workman, glorified the Confederacy, and we spent much more time studying that war than we did World War II. Only after I dealt with my racial prejudice toward people of color did I begin to realize what an affront the flag of the Confederacy was to black people. When I discovered that the flag was not raised at the capital in Columbia until 1961, during the height of the debate regarding civil rights, I realized that the flag should not be given a place of prominence outside the state house. Governor Haley is right to bring it down. The flag is a piece of history and deserves to be in a museum, especially now that it is stained by the blood of nine beautiful people, killed, while worshiping, by a young man who found the Confederate flag a symbol of his hatred for people of color.
When I was a small child, I remember our family going to visit my Aunt Mabel and Uncle Newt in Whiteville, NC. It was always scary going to meet aunts and uncles you rarely saw and going through the process of meeting their children and adapting to their home and environment. Aunt Mabel had three girls and one boy. One of the girls had been born on the same day that my brother was born. After the initial awkward introductions, we were soon at play with our North Carolina cousins. The Canterbury house was in a rural section of Whiteville, and I found that in the evening, when the kids were put to bed and the lights were turned out, it was dark. Now, I don’t mean ordinary dark; I mean pitch black dark. As a small town kid, I was accustomed to there being some light somewhere when the lights were turned off. In this rural setting, there was none. The first night there, I was terrified as I was certain that somehow or other when that light switch was flipped, my retinas stopped functioning. I don’t know how I survived, but I went to sleep and awakened to rejuvenated retinas, praise God!
Three or four years ago, my cardiologist suggested that I join a gym and get some exercise. I could not think of anything I would less rather do, but I had had a heart problem which required stints and, since my insurance would pay for it, I joined the Lifestyles gym. Eventually that led to my entry into a Silver Sneakers class, coach-lead exercise activities that I actually enjoyed. Now, years later, I am still exercising but only on the bike. After a second knee replacement surgery, I have been unable to handle the rigorous exercises done in Silver Sneakers. So, riding the bike is the compromise. I go to the Y every other day, take with me my trusty paperback which I read while pumping the bike. I ride with 13 pounds of pressure for 35 minutes before I kick into “cool down” for two minutes. The knees are still rebelling, but I’m determined my leg strength is going to return and keep me up and moving. Meanwhile, the exercise keeps my heart beating and my high blood pressure in check.
When I was growing up, my parents urged my brother and me to study the Bible and to live by its principles. Much of the Bible was over my head but, as Mark Twain said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” And one of the parts that I did understand that amazed me was the idea that we did not need an enormous faith but only faith the size of a mustard seed. That teaching encouraged me and became even more realistic when I attended a youth group where the leader was talking about the “mustard seed” faith. In order to impress the group, the group leader carefully handed to each person a tiny mustard seed. It was indeed small and should have reinforced my belief that I could be the person of faith that I wanted to be. However, before the group leader had finished the discussion, my mustard seed had rolled out of my hand and embedded itself in the cushion of the chair on which I was sitting. I hope I did not let the loss of that mustard seed retard my faith-building ability.