When I was a kid, every Sunday I was taken by my family to Community United Methodist Church in Poughkeepsie, NY. For just about 17 years of Sundays, you would find me at the 11am service wearing “my Sunday best”. In other words, the nicest clothes I had to wear for a church day. My parents and my sister would also be wearing their best and we would walk into church and give the customary greetings to all the people our family knew.
There were plenty of smiles and hugs. There were many who said “it’s good to see you” to us. And there were a lot who thought our family was the family to be. A few years ago I ran into some of my old parent’s friends who knew them before they had passed. I remember telling them how bad things had gotten when I was growing up. How my father was bi-polar and an alcoholic and how my mother was also an alcoholic. They were shocked. They said our family always looked so happy and that many of their friends said they wished they were more like our family.
From the outside looking in, especially seeing us at church on Sunday with us wearing the nicest of clothes, with my mother in the bell choir, and my father being a layman and plenty visible in the church hierarchy, it’s no wonder people thought that. Sadly, it was all an act. That’s what alcoholic families do. They fake it. They cover up the truth. My mother was so deathly afraid that anyone knew just how insane things were in our household.
So there we were, sitting in church each Sunday, together as a family and I remember wishing I was anywhere but in that pew. My parents made everything seem so great with us and I remember the pastor always blessing us and being so kind to us. If he had only known just how much pain we all had inside within the safe confines of our home.
To make matters worse for me back then, I never understood church in the first place. To me, it was a lot of all rising and all sitting, reciting words that weren’t coming from my heart, singing songs that even if they felt inspiring, we weren’t able to clap at the end, and listening to a message that provided a singular viewpoint of the pastor and his relating it to some passages in the Bible.
I’ve learned that God is everything and not just about going to church on a Sunday and practicing a religion. God is in all religions not just one, and He is in nature, He is in all the people we see around us, and He can be in everything I come across each and every day. I can experience a sermon at hearing an uplifting AA message at a meeting. I can experience a reciting of words when I pray on my knees throughout the day. I can experience the church music by singing or listening to an inspiring song on the radio. I can experience my connection to people by just smiling at those that may seem down, by holding the door for those going into a building, or by just reaching out and calling someone and listening to what they are going through.
I didn’t go to any church service today and I’m not currently a member of any church. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to it. I just haven’t met a church today that embraces God in everything especially with me and my sexuality. So while my family may have covered up the truth on Sundays when we were wearing our Sunday best, I too have found many places of worship presenting similar illusions.
Even though many churches say they are, many are not all encompassing, all friendly and all welcoming. I went to church services and got the friendly handshakes, hugs, and
hellos, and was greeted with the usual “I’m so glad you’re here today”,
but when I made attempts to join those churches, I was subsequently rejected because of my sexuality and told I wasn’t welcomed. I dug deeper at those churches and I was truthful about me and I saw their truth. If anyone had dug deeper with my family, they would have seen the truth too.
The thing I’ve learned about church, religion, people, and life in general, is that what I may see with my eyes and hear with my ears isn’t necessarily the whole truth. The whole truth is what rests within my own heart and soul and all those thoughts in between. The whole truth is something that I’ve had to discover through a journey alone in prayer and meditation, and with God. The Bible, The Koran, the Torah, and any other great text are all wonderful tools to use for discernment on who God is within our own being.
I love God and I am truthful to the extreme today on every level of my life. What you hear me say, what you see me do, and how I live my life is as truthful as one is going to get. I don’t paint any illusions nor try to present myself as something other than I am. Using a famous person in the Bible; Jesus, well he did just the same. From what I read in the Bible at least, it seems Jesus never wavered from who He was and what He was all about. Why couldn’t my family have been that way? Why don’t churches just state openly their truths? Why don’t people just be honest about where they are at in their lives? I can’t really answer any of those questions because I’m not any of them. I know for me, I wasn’t truthful about my life because I was afraid of not being accepted and liked.
With the work I’ve done on myself so far, I like myself a lot more today. I’m OK with being alone and I love who I’m becoming. I present who I am to everyone else as the same that I present to myself when I’m alone. I’m rejected a lot today from people who don’t understand me and I’m often attacked on some level for reasons that I don’t even understand. But because I love myself and how I live my life today and because I have God at the helm of my life, none of that matters. I just continue to be honest and truthful because that’s how all the spiritual teachers throughout history have been.
On a final note, I still attend a church service every now and then and I’m not against it. There are some wonderful messages that I can hear and some wonderful music that I can feel at them. What’s different today is that I go to church when I would like to, I wear what I want when I go, and while I’m there, I am exactly who I am just like when I’m not there.
JUST BE YOURSELF. I know I am today.
Peace, Love, Lights, and Joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson