I've been doing a good chunk of reading since I finished my final integrative project back at the beginning of January, reading that includes Phileena Heuertz's Pilgrimage of a Soul, Henri Nouwen's The Inner Voice of Love, an A Year with Thomas Merton. Throw in Parker Palmer's A Hidden Wholeness and a couple of others and you've got the last month of my life. Slowly but surely, between my personal time reading, time spent on my therapist's couch, and time in conversations with numerous friends, I've begun to reach a particular realization...
I desperately want to die...
I don't mean literally. I don't mean the kind of self-deprecating false asceticism that one finds in many mainline Protestant and Evangelical circles. That's not the kind of death I'm talking about.
I have a false self, and I have a true self. I want one to live, and in order for that to happen, the other needs to die. Over the past few months, years even, I've become increasingly aware of various parts of my false self: codependance, promiscuity, binge eating, using my diagnosis of chronic depression as a crutch or a means of garnering attention or pity, flirtation, flamboyance, just to name a few.
Just tonight I pulled up a document I created back in 2008 when I first started working at Illinois Action for Children. I would get to work 30-45 minutes early—mostly to avoid the super-crowded buses at that time of the morning—and I found that time to be particularly fruitful for writing down my thoughts. Shadow Talk, I called it. 30 some odd pages of my stream of consciousness, and scanning over it tonight, there are some things that still have not changed, though my self-awareness and insight about said topics has grown immensely.
I just finished Phileena's chapter on Death this evening, only after watching a movie called The Way, a film starring Martin Sheen about a father who decides to finish the journey his son died during, a journey along the Camino de Santiago, a journey that Phileena and her husband Chris also took, and one that I would like to someday also take. But I cannot wait to travel to Spain to die. I cannot wait much longer at all.
Often in Christian circles we hear people talk about dying daily, and while I think their version frequently misses the mark of what the original canonical writers meant, the daily part I think they got right. I think I do need to die a little bit every day. Sometimes, it needs to happen in a moment. Sometimes, it happens even faster than that. But it's always a process, and it's one I'm beginning to realize is necessary for becoming the man I want to be, the man who lives up to the vows he made to his partner, vows to be better for him so that he can be his best self.
I need to let die my seemingly insatiable desire for attention and affirmation. I need to release my reliance upon my sexual orientation as the key component to my identity, and with it the stereotypes I've clung to in order to survive. I need to stop protecting my ideal body image and start believing that I really am a beautiful person. There are other deaths that need to happen, some of which I'm aware and some that have yet to surface.
Death is terrifying, and my last real experience with the literal death of Nanny does not make it look altogether appealing. But sometimes the casket is where we need to be.
Sometimes we need to surrender to death
It's painful. It's agonizing. But it's necessary. All I ask for during this time is an extra dose of grace. This isn't going to be pretty. I'm probably going to lose some friends. Even scarier, I'm going to lose part of who I currently am. I don't fully know what is going to happen, where it will lead me, how long it will take, or who I will be in the end. But I know I want this. I know I want to be better than I am, and not because some divine being is dragging me in this direction, kicking and screaming. I know there's one involved in all of this, but as far as he/she/it/they and I are concerned, it's time to start over—as much as one can while in the middle of seminary at least. I don't want my forefathers' faith. I want my own. No one elses.