Perspective is a precious thing. Increasingly less able to deny that Fall is coming, we activated our bi-annual rite called “house cleaning”. I freely admit that for whatever reason, I really enjoy crushing dirt like some sort of amped hygienic mercenary. Not only do I enjoy it, but I embrace it for all it’s worth. It’s a zen thing…and don’t even get me started on bathrooms. Boo-yah!
Filled with vim and vigor, we strategically began our campaign in the kitchen. Hardly slobs, I wasn’t expecting much resistance as we mapped out our tactics; start high, work right to left and as we move down, we’ll know we’re done when the freshly mopped floor is left to dry!
What I hadn’t counted on was how different our kitchen looked like from atop the step ladder. The visual was curiously new as I Pine-Sol’d the ceiling and the adjoining soffits, removing them of their greasy particulate treasure at the point of a sudsy rag. And the top of the refrigerator? Grimy resistance-fighters did their best to defend against my 409 airstrike, but to no avail. ‘Clean’ won. Perspective.
The cabinets, back-splash and counters didn’t surprise me much. I look at them pretty much the same every time I go for my first cup of coffee in the morning. But the baseboards surprised me.
Think about it…when was the last time you looked at your kitchen while sitting cross-legged on the floor? Try it…there were little gaps in the toe kick; odd little sticky dots that defied forensics and remnants of me having dropped a half-dozen eggs a month or so earlier. While I thought I’d cleaned up the evidence of my clumsiness, I was clearly mistaken. Even Battalion 409 was acknowledging dried egg as a worthy adversary. Perspective.
The next morning I walked into the kitchen and just stood there for a minute or so, admiring the maniacal shine emanating from every surface in la cocina. It felt pretty good…simple, but a very good feeling. I couldn’t stop smiling as I filled my first cup of coffee. Perspective.
Merriam-Webster calls “perspective” both noun and adjective. In its’ archaic form, it meant an optical glass (as a telescope) which makes sense. Duh! I was looking at those scummy baseboards from two-feet away, and at eye-level to boot – with a telescope. I saw things I wouldn’t have imagined were in our house. We’re not slobs…we like clean, a lot. But there it was, grime for anyone (with the right perspective) to see.
Seeing our kitchen from a new point of view was only the beginning.
It was this week, my son celebrated his 28th birthday. It was also the week we were confronted with two executions – one in Texas and the other in Georgia. It was this week, Randy Phillips called from Ramstein Air Base and asked his father in Alabama, “Will you love me, serious? Like, you’ve always loved me, as long as I live?”. For their part, Republicans claimed the week by charging “class warfare” while Democrats rolled out the “Buffet Rule”. American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were freed from their Iranian ordeal; and last Sunday, 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer took his own life in Buffalo, NY after being bullied at school for being gay. With all of that going on, ‘perspective’ seems a little like an understatement. In the face of a week like ours, it became even more precious as a commodity.
Being raised the way I was, the last person to ever be gay, would be me. I literally can’t remember a time when I hadn’t thrown myself into devotional life…parochial school, bible camps, vacation bible school, sunday school, teen choir, prayer group and on and on. It was at a summer camp-meeting revival when I got what I thought was my ‘call’. I truly believe that, at the time, I felt it. A career of service in the name of others sounded like a pretty good way to go…part of my bargain. But I also remember thinking (a little later) “Yep, that’ll do it!” What better way to eliminate my own original sin (i.e., sexuality) than to enter the pastorate. It was the holiest job I knew. “I’m going to do God proud.” But I still struggled keeping anyone or anything from ever getting close enough to see my ‘insides’. “They won’t love me then.” I flirted with, and dated girls. I followed every behavior pattern I knew for what guys were supposed to like and be like. I avoided any situation that might even remotely cause me sin and discovery. I kept waiting for the ‘it‘ to kick-in. The culmination of all that frenzy was getting married as I entered seminary after attending a church college. I think there was a secret part of me that was hoping it was some sort of inoculation. “Yep, that’ll do it…regular sex within the ‘sanctity of marriage’. I’m in the clear.” Perspective.
Oddly enough, it was several years later, at the birth of our son, that proved to be the watershed of realization for me.
I thought I knew what love was…I really thought I knew this one. My mom and dad told me they loved me. People at church said the same thing. Grandma’s and grandpa’s loved me too. And to this day, I have vivid memories of the morning in 1968 when my dad called me down early and asked me to sit on the bottom stairs with him. He had red eyes…like he’d been crying? I didn’t see that every day but it began to make sense when he told me how Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated the night before. He even talked about Sirhan Sirhan and what his parents must be feeling that same morning. “Son, there’s nothing you can ever do that will ever stop us from loving you…we’re a family and will always be there for you”. Even as a 9-year old, I distinctly remember telling myself, “No…I can think of something”. With better grace, I have come to grips with the sad fact my assumption proved true. Perspective.
Standing there in that delivery room 28-years ago (Lamaze Coach of the Year) witnessing that little boy exiting the womb, all slimy and wet and screaming bloody hell will always be with me. I can count the floor tiles! And then I instantly switch to the moment the attending nurses put him directly into my arms. I cut his cord and wrapped him back up into my strong arms. In that one overwhelming moment , I suddenly understood the love of God. All I thought I ever knew about love went out the window that one glistening second of one day as I held him close and looked into those eyes. Perspective.
But it was in that same moment, the very same realization told my insides that my marriage was a lie. In the months that followed, I came to understand there was no way to find some middle ground in the far-right evangelical world I lived in. Most of my graduate career was spent poring through the ancient texts in their original languages, studying every oft quoted scripture on homosexuality late into the night. And the more I studied, the more I began to wonder about the look in my son’s eyes when he found out (20 or 30 years later) his dad wasn’t what he said he was? I had genuinely come to the point where I truly realized God hadn’t made a mistake. I had.
More next week…
Some helpful source material in support of perspective:
AreYou Surprised : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVAgz6iyK6A&feature=related