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This Love Thing

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CAROLINE MURPHY
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The best thing that ever happened to me started at the worst moment.

As a child I had every intention of following directions all the way up until the day I died and went to heaven and was greeted by God Himself, thanking me with a hug for being so nice and good and well-behaved. That was my plan. I went to an Episcopalian school Monday through Friday and Catholic Church on Sundays. I loved Jesus, prayers, hymns and, above all, God. You can imagine, then, the devastating startle that came the day it occurred to me that despite all of that, I might be... gay.

I can't remember what led me to understand what it was that I... was; all I remember was the ensuing mantra that followed: "Dear God, please don't let me be gay. Dear God, please don't let me be gay." And I meant it. I was 10, I think.

Now, as a side note, I also recall knowing deep-down that everything was going to be OK. It was a knowing that I can't help but liken to when religious people say that God "spoke" to their hearts. God was whispering (very loudly, mind you), "This is important. You'll understand. This is good." But the panic was too loud to hear it. I just kept thinking, "No, no, I know You'll love me no matter what, and I'll do whatever You want, but I don't want to be gay -- I want to be normal. I want to follow the directions; that's what I'm good at, even if the directions are vague, even if the directions are wrong. I want to be normal -- just in case!"

And so I tried. I dated plenty of boys and, in so doing, had to go against all the other virtues that I now know are simply the avenues by which we get to know God, honesty and love being the first two that come to mind. When it became too difficult, I tried to drink enough to make it tolerable. For those of you who are straight and think being gay is wrong and unnatural, I can understand. That's how I felt about being straight. For me, it was unnatural.

On the plus side, I got to sit on the high horse of abstinence. Easily. I couldn't understand why it was so difficult for my friends. I felt sorry for them. I dated boys, of course, like I said, as I'd do anything to appear normal, but I was able to practice abstinence with them, clinging to the scriptures that demanded celibacy, looking down with pity on all the people around me who couldn't follow a simple set of rules. And I was miserable, not just because I was living dishonestly, but because I think Jesus really meant it when he said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Judging is hard, and, of course, judging is easy. What it does is force the judger into a reality where God's love is conditional and finite, where God's creative abilities are faulty and unreliable, where God's role is punisher of that which He created, and God's punishment for momentary human weakness is eternal damnation, and God's ability to get the sinner there is so incompetent that He needs our help in the condemning, where God's plan for each of us is so fragile that it can be easily thwarted by our finite mistakes, and God's voice is so tired that for the most part He stopped speaking thousands of years ago, save for a few special people today who will gladly act as the middlemen between those ancient words and our modern ears.

I believed in that God. For a while, too. And I loved that God as best as I could, but I loved that God from a prison. And God is freedom. And so finally, when I realized that as much as I wanted to, there were rules I wouldn't be able to follow and conditions I wouldn't be able to meet, I was set free. Not free from God, but free with God. And I have to tell you: it truly is Heaven on Earth.

And so I am forever grateful that I am gay. Truly. For one, my partner is gay, and so that works out great. She's my soul mate, my wife. Marriage or not, that's what God told me. But as wonderful as our relationship is, the reason I am truly grateful for being gay is that it forced me to put the books down and talk to God directly. And in so doing, two things became clear and loud and real and the bar by which I hope every decision I now make is made: God is Love, and God is everything -- not theoretically, but literally, practically, experientially. And I almost missed it. If things had gone my way, I would've missed it. I would have sat in my celibate cell mistaking superstition for spirituality and treating prayer as an obsessive-compulsive tic. I live today in a world of miracles and grace and wonder, and the only temptation that threatens me is the temptation to place finite human traits onto what is Unconditional and Infinite.

I don't know what's going to happen legally. I hope love under any and all circumstances is encouraged. I hope that people realize that until it is, we as a country are going to continue making heroes out of the bullies who drive innocent children to kill themselves -- or hang them from fences.

More than anything, though, I hope to God that a few lines in a text four-times-translated over thousands of years doesn't speak louder than God Himself -- not just so my marriage to Heather will be recognized when we visit my parents in Texas, but because, like I said before, this Love thing is not to be missed.

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