Sheep of another pasture

Another pasture

In the blue cool of this evening, I am remembering that these days are as long as the ones in August, just as many days from the solstice.

Unlike August, though, these evenings are cool and soft as feathers; being inside is impossible. I must be outside to the last dregs of the day.

And then to bed, because tomorrow I will stagger out in the wee hours – what we affectionately refer to around here as the “butt-crack-of-dawn” — to fetch the girlchild home. She finished her first year of college, today. (Wow. Where’d that lifetime go?)

She doesn’t know yet what she’s learned. Most of us don’t know, either. But she’ll figure it out. We might be of some help. We might not. But I have faith in her bones and her brain and her ability to chew a question to bits. And in the God who holds her, regardless of whether she feels it. Well, that’s not right. If there’s anything God is not, it’s regardless. God is regard. Period. It’s what love does.

Oh, long days. You are not long enough. There is not enough time to hold everything I want to hold, love everything I want to love, learn everything I want to learn. I am trying to follow the lead of what feels like it is saving my life, or at least that which feels worth losing myself in.

So much seems to depend on what time it is: is it time to be prosaic, bet on the top seed? Or is it time to throw caution like a kite into the gale, and trust the string?

One work is coming to an end, a work that chose me: teaching religious studies. It is not the students’ fault that they are not older, more in love with learning, caught by the throat in a duel with passion. It is not my fault that I am of a generation and type reluctant to throw videos up on the smart wall, insisting instead that they cast pictures into the blank maws of their own minds. It simply is … not a good fit.

Another work is bearing down on me: eleven weeks as a chaplain intern in a nearby hospital. I have asked to be of use; I have seen that prayer sometimes is the only gift I seem able to bear into the world. Fine then. I am about to be in a position to be of use; prayer will be my ready recourse as I reel through the rapids of other peoples’ lives.

I think my unconscious prayer has been to find a job where I can make a living Being Right. I am very fond of being right. God laughs, gently. Puts me in a place where I pay for the privilege of being wrong pretty much every day, the chance to buff the perfectionism right on out of the way.

Why is it so hard to be quiet when I need to be? Why is it equally hard sometimes to speak the word that needs speaking? God incarnate … when and where did you have this struggle? What can I learn from you?

Back when I lived in Dallas, I made some new friends after I came out. They were a Latina couple, leading a Spanish-language worship for gayfolk in the chapel of a local nondenominational mostly gay church. The name came from the Good Shepherd passage where Jesus makes reference to his other sheep: it was something like El Buen Pastor de las Otras Ovejas (the Good Pastor  of [Jesus’] Other Sheep). We sang choritos in Spanish, and I made out most of the sermon, waving off the translation so the Word could just get going. It was precious to me — even though it wasn’t mine and couldn’t be – because it brought together the South Texas part of me and the gay part of me, and those parts wanted to get to know each other.

I had been worshipping in Spanish part of the time for the last few years, in the Mennonite-sponsored Church of Many Peoples, a multicultural and anti-racist church I had the privilege of helping to start. We had African-American-inflected worship sometimes, too …. My gay life rose from the ashes of that church; I had given it all the love I had, from before the beginning and through the end, and I left with only one regret: that it had ended, and with it my opportunity to worship Dios en Español.

Las Otras Ovejas was balm for that wound … for a short time. Like my church, this little community folded under the strain of not enough people, not enough money, not enough support for its prophetic witness.

I’m still hungry for the grass of a certain pasture. What sets us free to find it? Maybe it is as Janis Joplin sang: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. What have I got to lose, but the fear of trying? It’s time to climb; time to climb up to the summer pastures, and go where it is I hear my Shepherd calling. Climb away from these silly people that think love can be legislated; find open space where songs rise straight to God’s heart. What else is to be done, when the world’s labels for you are wrong, but wash them off in the cool fall of God’s grace, and leap to dreams-come-true.

These kids are mostly raised. These works are mostly done. These nights fall so fast. It’s been too long. And I have a hunger that won’t be denied.

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4 Responses to Sheep of another pasture

  1. Shugie says:

    Feed that hunger and face that fear. The only downfall ever, is to never try and to just fall into an unsatisfactory rhythm of life. You’ve helped to teach me that, so you have much more than prayer to give to people, although prayer is wonderful. Bless you,Tam and much luck to you in your upcoming adventures!! Go Rev Go!!!!! xo

  2. jharader says:

    I did not realize that you had Mennonite connections! And I can relate to wanting to make a living “being right.” Having two teenagers is quickly stripping away any illusions I might have in that regard, though.

    • tam121 says:

      Hi, Joanna … yes, I was in the Mennonite Church from 1997 to 2004 (ordained in 2002; resigned my credentials in 2004 when I left the church, knowing it would reject me as a coming-out person). Still have some relationships with folks from the Damascus Road program. And still very Anabaptist in my soul. And yes, my two teenagers are keeping me in touch with my all-too-imperfect reality, too!

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