This Good Friday was my 42nd birthday. This is the first time I’ve started to feel old on my birthday… it must be some combination of starting to go take medication for high blood pressure,  the anxieties I have about coming out and what that means for my future, and feeling like I don’t have the energy to shovel snow anymore. Could this be the beginning of andropause? 

My oldest daughter had drawn me a beautiful “Happy B-day Daddy-O” poster to hang above my chair, and I quickly opened my presents (3 CDs and a book about prayer by Philip Yancey). We then piled into my friend’s truck (all five of us in the front seat) to go to the ecumenical Good Friday service… it was packed, we were late, so I sat on the stairs with my son sitting on the step in front of me. The worship was inspiring, the sermon encouraging. It felt good to be there… but still, I left wondering why the message of the cross of Christ seems so irrelevant to so many people in our world. Where do people find hope in this life, without Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection? 

I have been reading John Dominic Crossan’s autobiography. I am surprising –perhaps even shocking – myself by reading a scholar who is known for his liberal positions and was a former co-chair of the infamous (infamous in evangelical circles at least) Jesus Seminar. Below I will list a few quotes that will give a glimpse of some of the insights of this Catholic theologian.

When asked this question about his long hours spent in a monastic choir and Latin chant: “how can one have a personal relationship with God in prayer when all was set and programmed, all was ritual, formal, and liturgical?” Crossan proposes this analogy: “Does singing the national anthem communally enlarge or diminish personal and individual patriotism?” (p. 60). Today’s communal worship at a local high school certainly had the effect of strengthening my individual faith and my relationship with God.

Later in the book another metaphor of Crossan’s rings true for me. Earlier in his autobiography, Crossan describes the difficulty he has with pitch – a significant problem for a monk who spends hours a day as part of a monastic choir.  On page 86 of his autobiography, discussing leaving the priesthood and forsaking his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, Crossan remarks, “earlier, not even a pitch pipe in my ear could make me hold a tune I did not get. Later, not even a vow of obedience could make me sing a song I did not hear.”

This metaphor somehow speaks to my present dilemma: a gay man in a straight marriage. For years I felt that the drive to be obedient to what I believed was God’s law and God’s will for me was enough to keep me faithful to my marriage vows. This is no longer enough. My own journey, studies, and experiences have brought me to the place of loving and accepting myself as a gay man, and experiencing God’s love and acceptance of me as a gay man. For now, my value system and sense of honour and respect keeps me faithful to an amazing woman. But will this always be enough? For how much longer can I sing a song that I do not hear?