Sunday, June 12, 2011
Just What I Needed, Just When I Needed It
I had an experience at church this morning that made up for last week's lousy one. After what happened last week, I wasn't feeling as much in the mood to go to church this morning. This voice nagged in my head, "Why do you even keep going when there are people and forces in the church that judge and shun you?" I mostly ignored the voice because the fact is, most people at church treat me very kindly and acceptingly. I'm certainly not going to let the opinions of two people whose opinions I don't respect anyway deter from going to my LDS ward when, most Sundays, I still very much enjoy attending. But I do admit that the negative voice tried to deter me today.
I'm usually just a minute or two late for Sunday School, but today I was early. As I came in the room, the brother who made the negative comment last week smiled at me and welcomed me and shook my hand. I grabbed his enthusiastically and said hi back. He can have all the prejudices against gay people he want, but I'm not going to let that sour my ability to be courteous and kind to him.
Two other people shook my hands, and then the teacher (we'll call him Brother Jacobs) came up to me before class started and said, "Hey [Cody], I told your mom a couple of months ago that I had wanted to talk to you about something, but I never seem to get the chance. About four or five years ago you were bearing your testimony in Sacrament Meeting, and I was sitting in the back of the chapel. I can't remember exactly what you said, but you said something akin to how we are all needed here and how the Lord loves each one of us for who we are in spite of our imperfections, and I remember that it really uplifted me. I was in a negative place that day and was wondering why I was even there at church and was about to walk out when you got up to share your testimony, and it really hit me how valuable I was to the Lord, and I ended up staying, and I continued coming back because I felt the Lord needed me here. Your testimony and the spirit I felt as you bore it helped me change my perspective, and I've always wanted to thank you for it."
As I nodded, he continued: "It's funny, you never know how the smallest thing you do will affect another person, but what may seem small and insignificant to you really helped me a lot, and I really appreciate it."
I thanked him for his words, thinking it ironic that the very "small and insignificant" words he was now saying to me were very profound and needed at just the time and place I needed to hear them. I'm actually going to write him a letter telling him how much his words meant to me today and how I felt like he was helping me in return for something I was not aware I had done for him until just today.
I remember the testimony he was referring to. I, too, do not recall exactly what I said, but I was struggling very much with my homosexuality still. At the time I thought it might even be the last testimony I would be able to publicly give because I did not know what choices I would be making concerning my sexuality. I know that I said something along the lines of how all of us in church seem happy and content on the outside, but that many of us have secrets and hidden heartaches that nobody knows about except the Lord and how we're silently fighting these battles no one else knows about thinking that we're all alone. I assured everyone in that congregation that no matter what we were going through in life and no matter how alone we felt or how misunderstood we felt, God knew our hearts intimately and loved us for exactly who we were and wanted each one of us there; that there was nothing any of us could do that would cause him to turn his love away from us. I truly believed that and still do. I also reaffirmed my knowledge that the church was true and said that no matter what happened in my life, I would always believe that, and that even if I did things that seemed to contradict that, I still knew it in my heart. I treated it like a "farewell speech" of sorts (although it turned out that I was able to bear my testimony in Sacrament Meeting at least one more time before I was actually excommunicated.
I am grateful it touched Brother Jacobs and am glad that the message that I was trying to get through actually got through. I'm glad he felt the Spirit, and I'm grateful it had a profound and lasting effect on him. I enjoy his lessons greatly, and it makes me sad to think he could have once chosen not to be at church.
I just felt good. I felt validated in away. I felt like I am still making a difference even if my participation is limited. It was just what I needed today. I thank Heavenly Father for prompting Brother Jacobs to give me that message after such a long time. I do not believe it was a coincidence.