Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Jesus Is a Short, Fat, Gay Man

I consider myself more fortunate than most.  I have been extraordinarily blessed. At times, it simply leaves me speechless.

I am deeply and profoundly loved.

And I know what that means.  And I know how incredible it is.

I sit in awe, wonder, and amazement sometimes. Why me?  Why am I so incredibly blessed?

In particular, there is this man who loves me.  Oh, how he loves me.  Our relationship is special.  It's different.  And everyone knows it.  Other have seen and remarked.  "I love Tim.  You know I do," Meagan once told me.  "But your relationship with Tim is different from anyone else's."  And she was right.

Tim's partner of 22 years comforted me.  I made sure to introduce myself, to let Rob know who I was.  He pulled me into an embrace and said, "Tim loved you so much."  Rob knew that our relationship, mine and Tim's, was different.  It was incredibly special.

When it happened, an email went out to inform the whole community.  Kim and Michael came to my door to tell me in person.  They knew my relationship with Tim was different.  It was special. And everyone knew it.

This man loves me.  It is a love that is extraordinary, powerful, transformative.

I remember when I fist met Tim, I just wasn't sure about him.  He was the director of CPE and I needed the course for my degree.  I just wasn't sure who he was or how he operated.  I was apprehensive and simply wanted to get through the class so I could walk across that stage at the end of the year.

Our phone interview a few weeks later was simply the most awkward experience of my life.  I am not good on the phone.  And I do not, by and large, enjoy talking to anyone on the phone.  There are very few people, with whom I can simply talk on the phone, and you know who you are.  But the vast majority of people--awkward and uncomfortable.  I finished that conversation and thought, "Four months.  I can do anything for four months."

But then we met in person.  We had our first class.  It was all business, and I thought, "Maybe this won't be so bad.  He seems genuine."

And then, we met in person.  One on one.  Just the two of us.  In his small office.  With just a low desk lamp for lighting.

And my heart was heavy.  And my soul was crying out.  I was hurting, and I needed someone, anyone, to hear my story.  To know that I had made a mistake.  And to help me figure out what to do.  How to handle it.  How to fit this new fact into my oh so carefully constructed and fiercely protected idea of who I was supposed to be.  Because quite suddenly, I wasn't perfect.

And everything changed.

Tim loved me.

The biggest moral failure of my life, and Tim loved me anyway.

I did not have to earn it.  I did not have to deserve it.  Nothing could alter or destroy it.  Tim loves me.

Not perfect.  And wholly and holy loved.

How did I get so lucky?

And when I got sick, and landed in the hospital?  Tim is the one who took me to the Emergency Room.  Tim is the one who refused to leave my side for twelve hours while I waited to be seen by a doctor and admitted before being transferred.  Tim is the one who heard my whole story.

Sitting there, I told Tim who I was.  And I told him of my disappointment at suddenly finding myself alone on a journey.  And as I closed my eyes, I saw myself walking down a lane in a wooded glen, Tim walking beside me, and I heard Jesus whisper, "Tim is walking with you on this journey."

And when I told Tim of this vision, he said to me, "Just what you wanted: a short, fat, gay man."

And Tim told everyone "She's my intern."  And because they knew him, and because they knew what that meant, they treated me with far more dignity and respect than my previous experiences with hospital ERs had led me to believe I would receive.  "She's my intern," he would tell them, and they would look at me, and their faces would soften, and they'd tell him, "We'll take good care of her."

And so, when I sat there, waiting to be seen, they checked on me more often than was strictly necessary.  They let Tim stay with me despite the fact that had he been anyone else, he'd have been required to leave.  Twelve hours.  I think he headed home after midnight.

When you are admitted to the hospital for any length of time, they take all of your belongings that came with you and lock them away.  When you are admitted through the ER, you haven't necessarily had time to think through the process, and you end up having to turn over things you might otherwise have left at home.

The hoop earring that used to rest in the upper cartilage of my left ear.  I haven't worn it since.

The ring I used to wear on the second toe of my left foot.  I haven't worn it since.

The small, sterling silver, 2 mm band with a 5 mm square portion from which was cut the outline of a cross.  The ring I used to wear on the ring finger of my left hand.

I had turned over my shoes, my clothes, my cell phone, my earring, my toe ring.  The security guard looked at my finger and said, "That has to go, too."  And I slipped it off my finger and I started to cry.  I held onto it, and looked at the guard, and with tears streaming down my face, I said, "Please.  Please, can I give this to Tim to look after instead?"

"Sure," he told me.  "I understand.  We can have Father Tim hold onto it for you."

And Tim did.  He kept it on his nightstand at home so that he wouldn't lose it.

And everyday, for fifteen days while I was in the hospital, Tim made certain I had visitors.

More fortunate than most who could only have visitors during visiting hours, I was part of the elite.  I was Tim's intern.  Which also meant that those he sent to me were either other interns or other chaplains.  Any time, day or night, if they had a chance to visit, they were permitted.  Hours did not apply.

And when I got out, my extended stay having required me to drop classes for the semester, Tim continued to mentor me.  I was still his intern.  He still loved me.

To everyone else, he was a boss, a teacher, a colleague, a friend, a son, a partner.

He was my mentor.

And that is a different type of relationship.

Tim loved me.

He continued to walk with me.  Figuratively.

And literally.  Every other week, through Riverside Park, as Casey and Willy Wonka, his Golden Retriever and my Yorkshire Terrier, played.

Tim continued to love me.

Tim never turned me away.  He answered my calls, he read my stories, he held me when I cried.

That last night, five hours before it happened, I showed up at his class.  I needed a hug.

And though I had hugged several people throughout the day, I knew it was Tim's hug I was waiting for, it was Tim's hug that would heal the ache in my heart.

And it did.

Tim hugged me.  Tim held me.  Tim breathed with me.  Tim breathed peace to me.  And hope.  And love.  Tim's love for me.  All of it.  And it was hot and strong and smelled of iris.  And I ought to have known at that point that it was coming.  But I missed it.  And then I breathed in laughter.

I headed home, and Tim taught a class.

And five hours later, it was over.  Tim was gone.  He had died.  Suddenly.  With no warning.  In the space of a single instant.  A moment so short, there is no way to measure it.  He was simply gone.  His life here was over.  It was over.

But our relationship is not.  Tim is still with me.  The relationship continues.  It's simply different now.  Tim is still with me.  The relationship has changed, but it has not ended.

I carry with me the love he bestowed so freely upon me.

I carry with me the knowledge of my worth and value as Tim taught me, as only he could.

I carry with me the memories of who I was, and I see within myself the transformation, the resurrection of my true self, that Tim's love called out; peeling away the layers of scars, the scales that had distorted my ability to see myself as I truly am, as God has created me to be, as Tim saw me, always.

Not perfect.  And not needing to be.

Because I am loved.  Wholly, perfectly, holy loved.

And because my faith is an incarnational faith, I know that for exactly nine weeks, six hours, and thirteen minutes, in the autumn of 2007, Tim was the incarnation of Jesus in my life.

My Jesus is a short, fat, gay man.

And because my faith is a resurrection faith, I know that when I too have "shuffled off this mortal coil," I will see Tim again.  Because the relationship hasn't ended.  It's simply changed.

A transcendent love that does, in fact, transcend time, and distance, and even death.

How did I ever get so fucking lucky?

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