By River Damien Sims
The first twenty five years of our life were filled with certainty. We knew who God was and that “He” made us in a certain way, no matter what. But in that certainty we were filled with fear, depression, and a horrible sense of being the “bad boy” because we were queer. The church in which we were raised, educated, and ordained told us we had to be straight or we were a “bad” boy, in fact we were “intrinsically evil.” The time came when we expressed those fears to our district superintendent and he reinforced our “badness” when he kicked us out of the ministry. Thus we lost all friends, all means of making a living, but most importantly that which gave meaning and purpose to our life—God.
It was on the streets of Hollywood as a whore, and terribly alone that we began to understand God in Christ as an always changing and moving, disturbing, and a totally grossing Mystery. All the gods–straightness, wealth, Jesus is the only One, white is best—all failed us. The following of the rules, being dressed in a certain way, being nice to the right people—all failed. They blocked the image of God in life. It was only in unmasking the image of the God who lives in our heart that we could see the panoply of the god images surrounding us, and come to an understanding of the process of life. It was coming to that understanding that we understood that God has always been in our life–from the moment our mother’s egg was fertilized and God knew who we were, and loved us for who we are. Being queer was a gift from that Mystery. God is in us now. And in that evolution growth became the purpose of life. Sister Joan Chittister says that “creation is the process of human growth, and that life is not a program of expectations, and the past is no longer a template forever, but the God of the future, beckoning us beyond ourselves, beyond the present into the eternal growth of God.” What is true of the individual is true of us corporately as well. God was no longer a certainty, but a mystery and our journey became one of faith. Holiness lies in the journey of faith, of questioning, and listening to that inner voice.
We have never returned to the “organized” church because it holds certainty as one of its “gods”, but we have moved out into the Mystery. In that Mystery we have learned obedience to that which is within us, to the One who created us, guides us; we have learned humility, that we are simply creatures of the Mystery, one among many, we have learned to come to view silence as our friend, to spend time simply in waiting, listening and praying, and from that silence we have learned our call to hospitality, to serving others, and that we are one with others, no divisions, simply children of the same Mystery. Community is found in loving our neighbor as ourselves without regard to race, creed, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or any other label we choose to place on others.
For us that Mystery is found to be best expressed in a creed prepared for children by the World Council of Churches:
“We believe in God, who loves us and wants us to love each other. This is our God.
We believe in Jesus, who cared for children and held them in his arms. He wanted a world where every one could live together in peace. This is Jesus Christ.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, who keeps working with us until everything is good and true. This is the Holy Spirit.
We can be the church, which reminds people of God because we love each other. This we believe.”
And in a summary of our own mission in life we prepared during our time on the streets in which we said:
“The best summary for my mission in life can be found in the statement that: ‘Obedience to Christ does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.'” To be a living mystery means to practice the works of mercy, and in the words of Dorothy Day “to live to the point of folly.” Or in the words of Toyohiko Kawaga “I am a free lance, a tramp, a vagabond. I must go until Christ’s work is done. I go like the wind.”
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.S.T., D.Min. candidate
[su_note note_color=”#e6e6e6″ radius=”0″]
Fr. River Damien Sims is a member of the FaithX Network and an occasional contributor The Future of Faith. River is a priest in the Society of Franciscan Workers, an independent Catholic affiliation. He is the director of Temenos Catholic Worker, in San Francisco, California, USA, where he works with street youth and homeless. He has earned BA, MDiv, and Doctor of Sacred Theology degrees, and has received a certificate in spiritual direction from the Vincentian Renewal Center in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.