Yesterday at church we had a special service for recommitment of couples. It was quite a moving experience as we had four families represented each talking about what family means to them and how their family was formed. We had a young couple who has known each other only a year and a half and only been married 5 months. Yet, there is a strong commitment there. We had an older couple that has been together for decades. We had a single woman who has not yet found her “Prince Charming” but who has love to spare and is adopting a deaf girl from Guatemala. And, we had a lesbian couple united in a wedding ceremony a year ago.
Nexus is a church that recognizes all types of families and committed couples. Yesterday, we went around the room and each couple told how long they had been together. You may or may not know that we have several homosexual couples that attend Nexus. Interestingly, the homosexual couples there had been together for an average of over 7 years each (with the longest being together 17). That blows the stereotype that the “gay lifestyle” is not one of commitment right out of the water.
As part of the service, each couple in attendance pledged our support to each other again. Furthermore, we each pledged support to the other couples there, affirming our own relationships and theirs. It was so cool.
Dana spoke on behalf of herself and her partner Cheri. Dana and Cheri have known each other for 7 years and have been “married” for almost a year. I put married in quote marks because, of course, their marriage is not recognized by the state of Ohio. As Dana spoke of her life journey and how she really didn’t even seek a “happy ending” because such a thing really doesn’t exist outside of the romance novels and movies that she loves so much, my heart was overflowing with joy for her; realizing that she had found her soul mate in Cheri and the love they both have for their little girl, CJ. I have had the privilege of getting to know Dana and Cheri a little better over the last few months and while the thought of lesbian “wedding” would have grossed me out not so very long ago. And, the ideas of weddings even now is boring at best, I found myself wishing I could have been there for Dana’s and Cheri’s celebration because I could tell just from her five minute talk how special that must have been. I’m not easily moved to tears and, of course, I didn’t allow any to fall from my eyes. But, I was crying on the inside as I thought about how their relationship and the fact that, at Nexus, they have found a place where they can share it and receive love and support for it. I have finally realized that what I think about the union between two people doesn't matter at all, what matters is the fulfillment they find in each other.
As I sat through the service yesterday, I flashed back to another spring day about 13 or 14 years ago. I was fed up with the conservative churches we had been attending with all of their talk of eternal damnation and intolerance for anyone other than Christians just like themselves. While seeking a new place to attend, I ran across the Unitarian Universalists. I visited once and had talked Ty into attending with me. We just happened to visit on a day that I now realize was similar to the day that Nexus had yesterday. A lesbian woman spoke about her relationship with her partner and the church affirmed that there were “all kinds of families”. Unfortunately, my response to such a declaration at that time was nothing like my response yesterday. I thought there are not “all kinds of families”. While I definitely would not have condemned homosexuals to hell or said that G-d loved them any less. I left the UU church shaking my head at such a teaching. Surely, in the name of "tolerance" they had gone goo far. I was not ready to say that two women living with a child was a true “family”. Just a few years ago, Ohio had a marriage protection law up for vote and I, thinking I was voting to “protect” marriage voted for it. My, what a difference a few years makes. Yesterday I was sitting there affirming families headed up by homosexuals and I’ve been advocating for gay marriage.
I don’t have any guilt or shame for the way I once felt. There’s no point in that. I am more of the Buddhist mindset that there is no "sin" or right and wrong and consequently no need for guilt or shame. There is skillful and unskillful behavior. There is behavior that is beneficial and behavior that is no beneficial. So, I don't spend any time beating myself up over how I once felt. Nor do I feel any pride or superiority for the the progress I have made. I am very happy to know that I am open to change, am open to admitting that I’m wrong about something and that even though I was pretty sure I was right about how I felt. I hold such convictions loosely and am always open to further revelation. The UCC has a saying that I quote so often that it has become cliche’. But, for me, G-d is still speaking and, as long as I am able to draw breath, I am determined to keep listening. Often the spiritual journey seems so long and such an uphill climb with two steps forward and one step back. Often progress seems to come painfully slowly, if at all. I’ve often heard it said that life only makes sense as you look backwards at it . I think that is so often true. Some people resist change. Change is something that I truly embrace and seek out (except for the changes coming along with my aging body). I say this with all humility, yesterday was one of those moments where I could look back, see a couple of milestones I have passed and see some appreciable progress. That gave me a an overwhelming sense of gratitude.