When I was a kid, I had a clear picture of what I wanted my life to look like when I was a “grown up.” I wanted to get married (to a woman), have kids, have a job, and have dinner with my family when I got home. Yes, I am something of a “white-picket fence queer.” That picture seems so mundane, so boring when you compare it to other kids’ ideas. My brother wanted to be a combination of cowboy, cop, and robber. My niece wants to be a scientist, and aunt, and a mum. Other kids want to be astronauts, or doctors, or rock stars, or a whole host of other really awesome, important things. All I wanted was to be a nobody, a family guy, someone that newspapers will never write stories about.
It’s funny how things turn out.
St. Paul, Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
In college, everyone does that “where do you see yourself in five years” game. It’s almost like an icebreaker, but one that they only make you do when you’re supposed to be “self-reflecting.” I never saw the point in it, really. The future is so murky, so uncertain that I never thought it was good to make college kids create a picture. I understand that it’s meant to be a goal-making activity, but that’s not actually how it works in people’s heads. It becomes a plan, a dream, something they think they should have so that if they don’t get there, they feel like failures.
Do you think the saints ever wondered where they would be in five years? If you asked Saint Paul before his conversion, I bet he saw himself being a good Jew in the synagogue, studying the Talmud or the Torah, and still making sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem and eating the Passover meal. I very much doubt he ever envisioned himself as a priest of God, a missionary for Christ, the director of a new religion.
God has a way of messing up our plans. We plan, God laughs – you’ve heard that all before. That seems like a very callous image of God. He cares too much to laugh at our plans. We are not foolish to him, no matter how small or insignificant and meaningless our plans may actually be. He values every life so much that even the smallest plans for the future take on great significance. Our plans are important to God because they are important to us. But still, that doesn’t mean that God won’t interfere, that he won’t tweak our plans ever so slightly, or change them altogether. God is an all-knowing travel agent and we are his most important clients.
White Picket Castle
As I write, I’m listening to a song on Pandora called White Picket Castle. The line goes “Where is your white picket castle?” That’s a good question, but it isn’t entirely original. Jesus said pretty much the same thing millenia ago. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). More colloquially, you could say that “Home is where the heart is.”
There’s one thing no one can ever tell you about coming out as gay, you have to experience it for yourself to understand. Nevertheless, let me try to give the barest hint of what it’s like. Home is never the same. You know that concept of home being a place where you are always welcome, everyone understands who you are, and all there is is love? Usually that’s something people don’t understand until it’s gone. When you come out, for a lot of people, all of that changes. There is no more home because there is nowhere you can go to be completely accepted, no one who has known you forever and doesn’t need you to explain allergies or likes or habits – there is nowhere on earth where love is always present and unconditional. Some of us lose our families completely and what I’ve just said is only a bad description of how it works.
And, truthfully, there is no way to actually describe how it feels. How it feels to lose your home and realize that it was nothing more than a white picket castle.
Communion of the Saints
In the Apostles’ Creed, there is a list of things Christians believe in. It goes like this in the last part of the creed:
I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting.
The punctuation is important here because every concept that is capitalized is a proper noun, a real thing with a name that Christians believe in (notice that “catholic” in its original form simply meant “universal,” not the Roman Catholic Church). Most people kind of get these concepts – we all know about forgiveness and such – but what is the Communion of Saints, exactly? It simply means all Christians living and dead. That’s it. No long explanations here. the Apostles weren’t long winded.
The saints are your family (and mine). For some people, they are the only family that can never change. Earthly families may deny you and throw you out, chosen families may be transitory, but the saints are always there. They are the treasure in heaven where our hearts can always go to. Yes, it is a somewhat supernatural, very mystical, not-always-present type of family, but, hey, sometimes that what “modern family” is like.
Nevertheless, like all good families, the saints like to see each other happy. Living in the world may be a very hard thing and it is not always happy. Home is not always easy to find. The heart can break, sometimes multiple times. They are rooting for us from their eternal home with Christ, the place they would like to see us ultimately end up. But our family in the Communion of the Saints like to see us have an earthly home and a whole heart.
I find that rather comforting. Maybe all those times I had no home to go to, the saints were doing all they could to help me along. Maybe they wanted to make sure I ended up in the good place I am. Maybe…