My birthday was beautiful. By dinnertime, when I was heading out to see the Mormons, it rained one of those really lovely summer rains, which makes everything that’s green look really, really green.
I took the back roads out of my little town, in a direction that I never go in, because it only leads deep into farmlands — or, to the Latter Day Saints Church. Nothing else is out that way, but, wow, is it gorgeous. So many trees, so many tall green cornfields. An old cemetery, a bunch of really old barns. The remains of the old Erie Canal here and there.
Dinner with the Mormon elders was wonderful, and they readily accommodated my being a vegetarian. The dinner they made for me was so incredibly good. Most of the conversation was about local archeological finds. I won’t go into the details of that now. But I’ll say that these Mormons are so kind, so knowledgeable, and what we discuss is, truly, quite fascinating to me — and something I know a lot about.
The missionaries are gone now, so it is only the elders. They did not say, “When are you going to join us and get baptized (as a Latter Day Saint)?” Instead, they say, “When can you come see us again? We’ll talk some more.” They are so loving, so patient; they have all of eternity, really, to get me to repent.
As I was driving home, along Black Run Road, it had stopped raining but everything still had that early evening, summer-rained-on look. It was captivating. I was so grateful that God had finally brought me out to the Hinterlands, the only place that has ever felt like home to me.
And, as much as I enjoyed the evening, and as much love as these people have — these men who ask such seemingly casual questions, and then listen so intently to every word I say in reply; taking mental notes, looking for that way into me: “How can we get this girl to repent?” — I know that what stands between me and every other sect of organized Christianity is: I refuse to repent. I’m a sinner and I thrive on being a sinner; it is the only kind of woman I know how to be.
But don’t be fooled. I don’t actually believe in sin. And yet I am an ordained minister. I studied hard to get my degree, to receive my ordination. I have all the framed documents on my wall, stating all the “things I am” in connection to Our Lord, Jesus Christ. I have my Authority to marry you, or to preside at your funeral. I have my accumulated credit hours that shows I can come visit you in the hospital or in Hospice; I can counsel you if your marriage is in trouble, or if you’re enduring an unspeakable loss.
And I take it seriously. If you come to me for spiritual help, I’m with you. I can help Jesus find you; but in his own time and at your own pace — assuming you want that kind of spiritual relationship. I am not here to condemn, or to cajole, or to even persuade. I’m only here to help you allow yourself to make room for whatever needs to come in.
Like any minister, I walk daily with Christ, hourly; and I take seriously his call to me to be one of his representatives here on Earth. And what Jesus has told me as we walk together, is that there is no such thing as sin. It’s a word we made up here in the physical, which has no meaning anywhere else. Jesus tells me that not only are we born “forgiven,” there is nothing to forgive; ever. Because the God who dreamed us into being, loves us too much to ever condemn us for anything. It is we, the physical, who condemn each other and who create words & labels, concepts & ideas.
I don’t consider myself “a sinner,” but when I view myself from the outside, as a woman who is a minister somewhere in the overarching scope of Christianity, I know I am considered a sinner, based on the overarching understanding of what they think Christ taught: I am still a bisexual fetishist, who doesn’t believe in chastity by any stretch of any definition of that word. If I were to become a Latter Day Saint (not all followers of Joseph Smith are Latter Day Saints), unless I were to live a lie, I would only wind up being excommunicated for my irredeemable behavior, eventually. After all the truly horrible shit I’ve endured in my life, do we really need to add a label like that to who I am — excommunicated for my sex life?
On the surface, I look redeemed. I don’t smoke anymore, but that’s only because, several years ago, it became impossible to find Chesterfield cigarettes for sale anywhere. And they were the only brand I liked, so, true to my stubborn, obstinate nature, I chose to quit smoking rather than to change brands.
I don’t do recreational drugs anymore (haven’t for a long time) because I don’t enjoy them. I barely drink alcohol anymore because my life is so intensely beautiful now, that I don’t need a drink to filter my life through anymore. (I know — all you long-time loyal readers who know me so well, must now pick yourselves up off the floor! The shock that I no longer smoke Chesterfields, I no longer drink Wild Turkey…)
And if you do still do all these things, I don’t condemn it. You’re still welcome in my home. I would never dream of getting you to repent; what I will always, always be “guilty” of, however, is taking every chance I can find to lead you toward clarity about the nature of Love — love yourself; watch how you talk about yourself to yourself; use your mind and open it about who you really are: Love, in spirit form, taking on the guise of a human being. For now.
That is the kind of minister I am, because that is the kind of minister I truly believe Christ has asked me to be. I can go fuck my brains out, if I want to, with all my BDSM shenanigans (and without the benefit of marriage, and sometimes without the benefit of the “opposite” sex), but when someone is in pain, or doubt, or turmoil , or crisis, or despair, then it is my job to stop fucking around and to listen to your pain and to shout at you if I have to, to get you not to go down that road to despair; to wait for Love, because Love always, always comes. Often, in a nanosecond. Of course, it is my belief that Christ can bring you that kind of Love, if you want it from him.
It’s my job to try to get you to hear, but then it’s also my job to respect whatever voice you choose to follow.
So that was my beautiful birthday, gang, and my beautiful evening drive along Black Run Road after a summer rain. And, of course, I will see the Mormons again, because I really, really cherish them. And the rest of the time, I’m here in my beautiful old house in the Hinterlands, alone with my unbelievably erotic Muse, learning all I can about the redeeming power of Love — trying to keep up with what he teaches me; trying to write it all down.