My father called me to let me know he was sending me something special and I should keep an eye on the post. Mail from my father was rare. Actually in the ten years I’d been state side I’d never received anything. I was excited!
He sent me religious literature condemning who I was and the life that I led.
I called my sister to ask her advice. She suggested that I should accept my father the way he was.
Not because I was upset, although I was. Or because I didn’t think he had the right to believe what he wanted to believe, even at my expense. It was because he didn’t understand that I existed.
In his mind his son had chosen to be gay. His son had chosen to disavow the family religion, the family God, probably to punish his father. His son was a ‘normal’ heterosexual male who had chosen to sleep with men. It was sex, probably an addiction. His son just needed time to come around, change his mind, see the light. Anything I said to the contrary was a lie, or was the result of some confusion. He believed someone else’s lie rather than my truth.
We all live in a personal world that has a unique map. The problem comes when we think that our world is the world. I’m aware that my my world is just as messed up as my father’s, the difference is that I know that my world is simply that, my world. It is not reality, it is simply me. My life experience and my world map. It’s all I have to work with, but it’s not reality.
In my dad’s world all men were, to some extent, like him. Righteous at one end of their decision making process, an abomination at the other. Married and monogamous at one end, cheaters at the other. Good at one end, evil at the other. No one was really gay, it was a lie. God didn’t talk to people, that was a lie. God behaved the way the Watchtower Bible and Tract society said that God behaved, everything else was a lie. Nothing existed outside the spectrum of my father’s understanding. It was as simple as that.
He’d inherited one hell of a map template for his world.
By the way – marketing tip: If you ever want to sell a map then the way to pass one off as an unquestioned reality is to make sure that it is not a simple map. It needs to be a complicated map with at least two realms. Then the dance across the boundary line becomes the dance between right and wrong, the will of a deity and human will, the spirit and the flesh. Dichotomy fits the psyche well and the average human is unlikely to question such a map without a life and death reason. Religion does this very well. As does patriotic politics. The problem is that none of it’s real, it’s all a construct. But it feels so complete it often goes unquestioned. Sell that and you’ll make a mint. Ask any tv evangelist.
Trouble is that if you think your reality is the only reality then there’s no room for growth. Everything and everybody is already named.
The one safeguard against myopia is God. Or Love. Same thing.
Love someone and you understand that their map is not your map, but that it’s just as likely to be reality.
Love God and you understand that you have no grasp on reality!
Try to make the living God a character on your map and God will simply laugh at you. When you love God you understand that the living One God is bigger than any world, any concept, any religion, any dogma. This God is love itself, is the bridge between the maps and realities of our lives, the Grace that empowers interaction in ways that empower real change. It is the reality we can only imagine.
Loving God and neighbour isn’t a law in the way that ‘don’t covet’ is a law. It’s a law in the way ‘eat food, drink water’ is a law. It’s the choice you make to live a real life. Anything else is a fantasy. Or a nightmare. Everything else is simply a human construct. Everything else is a personal reality that needs to be constantly questioned.
I so, so, wish my father could have known that.
I wish he could have met me.
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31.