It’s odd to look back on my life and see that this journey in life is one that God has been leading me towards for a long time. It’s humbling to know just how much he loves us. He sent his son Jesus with radical love for us to give us a chance to be redeemed to him. It truly is amazing grace beyond our human understanding.
Years ago, I had bad experiences with the church’s that I attended. This is not uncommon among LGBTQ citizens in this world. I loved my mother but she also made it clear that she would never accept me being gay. Churches I attended made it clear that they didn’t approve.
I always loved God but it broke my heart to be told that I was nothing to him. Honestly, I knew it wasn’t true in my heart but I was angry for a long time with God. I thought “Lord how can you let these people say such hateful things to me. Where is justice for your gay and lesbian children?”
Looking back on my life I think it was a hurt that went both ways. I once was in a service where I had been really hurting over this. A message went out in tongues from the holy spirit. The congregation became silent waiting for the person who would interpret the message. It came fairly quickly. And I knew immediately it was to me. The pain in the voice was so heavy. Full of sorrow as the Lord said to me “My son, why do you go away? My son my son. Do you not know how much I love you? Do you not know that I love you?” There was heartbreak in the message. A pleading for me to come to him. I was not the only person in that church who knew it was for me. I had an older lady come up to me after the service and hug me. She whispered in my ear to hear the words of the lord.
Time went on and I eventually moved to the city of Houston and lived there for 16 years. My mom and I still got along but she never changed her views on gays and lesbians not being able to be serve God. She passed away a couple of years ago.
She wanted me to change a part of myself that I didn’t choose. Nobody chooses to be gay or lesbian or transgendered. It is part of who they are. Nobody would choose such a life if they had a choice. I know for well over a decade, I prayed for God to make me straight. He would only ever reply with “You are as I made you my child.”
I always loved God in my heart but didn’t listen to him much because his church was a hurt that ran too deep. I heard him clearly enough in my life but refused his counsel. Some times I swear I heard him sigh at me.
Fast forward to about 10 years ago. My dad had been sick for a long time and Mom was his caregiver for the last 10-15 years of his life. I was in Houston and had a good job but I had began to get the itch to do something different. Mom called up and I could hear the weariness in her voice. She cried and unloaded that Dad was becoming too much for her on her own. She wasn’t a spring chicken either at that point. She really needed my help with caring for him. I told her that if I could find a job in computers there in Southeast Missouri, that I would try to come back to help her.
Now…. I thought I was safe but God had other plans that were way beyond anything I could see then. I said well lord, I need a job in Southeast Missouri that pays pretty decent in computers or I can’t move back.
Now here’s where I should interject a scene that played out in mind recently when thinking back on this. I can picture God on his throne drinking a beer and listening to this and looking to Jesus and saying “Hold my beer. Watch this!” I can picture him with a grin on his face as he takes his hands and pushes up his sleeves and goes to work.
Not even three days later, an employer only 30 miles from my parents in Poplar Bluff, MO called and was looking for a computer guy to work for them. Well shoot… I looked up to heaven and said “Really???” as a chuckle rang through my thoughts.
I drove to Malden, MO (12 hours one way I might add) and interviewed for the job and drove back after the interview. I was offered the job the following Monday and so I began the long trip back to Poplar Bluff, MO to move back home and help mom with caring for Dad.
As I’m driving back to Missouri, I was thinking and said Lord I have no idea why I’m doing this. I don’t like small towns. He said “because”. I’m thinking great…now he’s quiet. As I approach the Missouri state line, it’s begun raining. I see the Welcome to Missouri sign and look up and there’s a huge rainbow across the sky! I think “Ok…Now you’re just showing off.” and immediately hear laughter in my thoughts. Looking back, I think it was him telling me it was going to be okay.
I stayed with my parents, until my Dad passed away on March 5th, 2015. I still miss him. About the same time, I had begun looking at St. Louis for a better job. The job I was at was tiring and required a lot of daily travel.
After Dad’s funeral, I packed up and moved to St. Louis and took a job that would be the next step in God’s journey for me. I didn’t realize it at the time of course. I took a job at Mercy Retreat Center run by the Religious Sisters of Mercy. It was my first introduction to anyone who had really dedicated their lives to service to God. It was the first time I’d ever worked someplace where I could hear Friars singing down the hall with Gregorian Chants. Honestly it was the most peaceful and easy job I’d ever had. Sadly, it just didn’t pay very well.
About 7 months later, I took a different job where I am still at today. It has been a good job. This is where a blast from my past would come back into my life. An old friend named Sam. (Yet another step from God in his path for me) Sam was always involved with church in various ways but more on the catholic side which I knew absolutely nothing about having been raised in a Pentecostal church. When we finally met and caught up on things (probably been 10 years or longer since I’d seen him.) He invited me to go to his church. I told him Sam, you know how I am about church. I want nothing to do with them. He completely understood this given how well he knew my past and family but told me it was a different kind of church and that I would be welcomed there.
Last year I finally decided to go in. When Sam saw me come in, he was clearly surprised. I couldn’t be more surprised by what I found. Christ Church Cathedral was my first introduction to the Episcopal Church. I went home and wept as God told me “Not all my children understand but these do and it’s why you’re here.”
I was confirmed in the church earlier this year. Beyond that, I found out about Sam’s walk with St. Francis. I knew nothing about Catholic saints when I began this new part of my journey. I know that I have known Sam for over 25 years and have never seen him so happy and so I began my own research into Francis. The more I learned about Francis and his service to God, the more I found myself drawn to it.
Last year I began to really pray and think about it. I asked God “Why am I here? What do you want of me?” and he replied “I am calling you to a life of service.” I’ve asked him if that’s all and his reply has been the same every time “For now”. I’m reminded that God has his own timetable and his own schedule. I submitted my application to the Order of St. Francis and began discernment about whether this was what God wanted. I listened for the response and finally got one. Bare in mind that God has a sense of humor. He said “Why do you ask when you already know the answer. Have I not put it in your heart?”
I was looking for something a bit more “concrete” and decided to wait. I then met with Sam for coffee a few days later and during the conversation he stopped and said “You have the heart of a Franciscan.” Remember…Gods humor as I heard him in my mind start laughing and ask “Clear enough for you?”
I then went to visit one of the sisters at Mercy Center that I had grown fond of and she shared with me that she knew I have a calling or vocation as it’s called. I no longer had any reservations about joining a religious order such as the Franciscans. Had you told me three years ago I would be taking this path, I would have referred you to the local mental hospital for a CT Scan.
Going forward to last week, I entered the order of St. Francis as a postulant and am taking classes at the Episcopal School for Ministry. I had an amazing week and God showed me that my life and service to him is just truly beginning. It wasn’t in my timing but was in his. I now have a lot of new brothers from so many different and diverse walks of life. All of them like me on a path of service to God.
Looking back on the past 15 years, I can see so many times when something happened to turn me down a path that I would not have taken otherwise. I see God’s handiwork in it all and I finally know that my time of Service has begun and it’s the most wonderful and exciting thing that has ever happened in my life.
Amazing and radical love and grace is what God gives us. Thank you for reading. I hope you will do your own research into Francis and who knows, maybe start your own walk someday.