“This ain't good,” I thought after learning I’d been assigned to work with a retired Marine Colonel sprucing up the church. It was my first volunteer gig there. As a gay man seeking a spiritual home that would honor my wholeness, I desperately wanted to believe the weekly affirmation that I was loved and blessed just the way I was. But in those early days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in my mind, retired + military = anti-gay.
Since I’d made the commitment, I resolved to honor it. But I dreaded the inevitable chit-chat. For gay folk, there are three approaches to such conversations: flat-out lie by switching tell-tale pronouns, evade by omitting gender references, or disclose by telling what is. Lying’s never been a good strategy for me. And though weary of evading, I was adept at it. The colonel, however, was having none of it. Unsatisfied with the ambiguity coloring my responses, he pressed for details but his tone was free of the judgmental energy of a closed mind intent on validating condemnation. He seemed genuinely curious about my life.
Washing windows with the colonel prompted a huge awakening: I realized my own fear of rejection was crippling me. I realized that to a large extent, the isolation and separation I had felt was self-created. I realized that “telling what is” in a loving spiritual community has the power to heal, free and bless.
Of course, awakenings are possible anytime, anywhere. But working, eating and playing together creates a powerful field for divine transformation that simply isn’t as accessible in other environments. As we serve others with willing hearts, we’re blessed with opportunities to transcend perceived limitations. That’s one side of a reciprocal experience. The flip side is we discover a facet of our greatness that supports others in knowing their own. Either way, everybody wins.