God, the Father

The zine I publish (in paper) called “Already Too Much; Never Enough” is usually about being a fat dyke. That used to be scary, to call myself that, to name it and own it and write about it. Lately, it’s not scary. What is scary is this thing I’m doing called seminary. Since facing your fears in a public way is the only avenue I have to recovery, I’ve been working on a third issue dealing with spirituality. The tricky thing? It’s also about alcoholism and addiction. This is a piece from the forthcoming “Already Too Much; Never Enough #3” If you dig paper zines, please contact me and I’ll send you my narcissistic self aggrandizement.

PS- Sorry to 1) not have posted in so long; 2) post shit I’m writing for other things.

heart, al

When I think about religion, I think about my father.
Not, “my father in heaven” not my everlasting father, not God the Father (see: son and the holy spirit.)
I think about my Dad.
When I think about religion, sometimes, this thing happens to me where my body feels like it’s expanding from the inside out. Like a huge bubble is being blown up inside my chest and my head, shoving everything else out. It’s the feeling that makes my face start to water; not heaving sobs like crying, but like the saline is being pushed out of any available crack in my walls. It’s both totally uncomfortable and also kind of neat. I don’t think it’s the holy spirit or the presence of God. I think it’s a sort of incapacitating mystery, a huge desire to know and understand the answers to questions I have that I don’t want to have and sometimes didn’t even know I had.
When I think about my Dad, I feel the same kind of internal pressure. Like everything inside of me is welling up and expanding and pushing on the walls of myself. I don’t know why I have this feeling in connection to my father, I just know that I do. Maybe it’s the same need for answers, the same huge mystery. And then again, maybe it is just a hugeness of emotion for him and about him that I have never had reason to express, never had a forum to let loose.
So I want to tell you about my father, because somehow there is some link between him and religion, spirituality, how I understand God.
It was a minister who first said to me, “you are the spitting image of your father.” It rocked me when she said it. So long I’d been told I was a perfect replica of my mother, an idea which both comforted and suffocated me. The idea that I might in some way resemble my father, even if only physically, startled and scared me. And it felt amazing. And it felt like a doomed prophesy.
My memories of my father are few and far between. They are surprisingly more poignant than the memories of my mother. They are like stories I heard second hand and can’t get out of my head. They are rimmed in tragedy and endowed with incredible mystery. Always he was a strange being who I didn’t understand and who didn’t understand me. We were foreigners, and therefore our interactions were weighted and fascinating. I loved him desparately but didn’t know how to say so; we did not speak the same language.
And while there were moments when the only way I felt I could survive was to have him gone, fucking gone, from my life, there were also moments when his absence would have meant my annihilation. Our connection was and is tenuous, and crucial.
Everyone I’ve ever loved has been my father; I have learned though those love affairs how to talk to echoes of him inside of them. In many ways I have been successful; in others I have failed entirely. I imagine he will keep showing up in everyone I ever love. I am drawn to the brokenness which he exemplifies. I would like to learn how to stop trying to mend this brokenness and instead see the ways in which in truly makes us whole. I would like to learn to tell them and him how deeply I care; I would like to learn how to listen to them say the same.
I don’t know what it means that I remember my father like this; I don’t know what these memories say about how I see and know God. Its all tangled up though, I’m sure. Caught in the cross fire of damaged love and heartache.
And maybe the connection is just that- damaged love and heartache and the sometimes redemption we find in the midst of it. There is no rational reason left to trust that my father loves me. Not because he is a bad person, or because he never tried to tell me, or because he fucked up so irreparably. And not because I stopped trying to understand him, or because I stopped loving him so fiercely. Its not rational because I have no tangible proof, because sometimes when I talk about him I am talking about a stranger with whom I have shared uncountable strange intimacies. Like God, I can’t put my finger on who or what he is, why I feel so entirely bound up in and with him. I feel something palpably, but I have no evidence for it. He is the great mystery with whom I am deeply connected.
Agape is a greek word usually taken to mean the love of God for God’s people. The supreme and ultimate love. What is forgotten, mistranslated, ignored, is that agape is an irrational love, a dangerous love, a love that borders on uncomfortable. A love that has been damaged – that is prepared for damage, that anticipates it. A love that is defiant and crushing and lonely and terrifying. It is a love that suffocates and shoves everything – everything – out of the way, and somehow in the process of doing so, it creates space for the most special and sacred of things. How could something as massive and incomprehensible as God love in any other way? How could we, so broken and busted, feel the love of something so massive as God in any other way?
The love I have for my father is agapic, it’s epic. My love for him is untranslatable and foreign, but in many ways it exists more clearly for me than any other love I have ever felt. In the mess of loving and living with him, I have found the remarkable and the unexpected. When everything else gets pushed aside, I can finally feel the deepest parts of myself, the parts that have been aching to be felt.
And probably, he’ll never know this. Probably I’ll never really know it either. I keep thinking that with enough process conversations, meetings, chances to unpack it all – I’ll finally get it. Just as I think that with enough classes on theology, enough church services, enough conversations – I’ll finally figure God out.
And that’s the trick of it, what keeps it going, keeps it moving, keeps it pushing me forward. I keep thinking that that thing, that thing that happens, will shove it all out until it’s empty.
It’s never empty.

Please forgive me for judging you

My badass friend Dylan Scholinski (read his book “The Last Time I wore a Dress”) edited and compiled a zine about a sign held by Christian protesters at Denver pride this year. A sign which read, “Please forgive me for judging you.” Dylan asked me to contribute a piece to the zine. The piece I wrote follows. If you’re interested in the zine in its paper format, please contact me at Andie.Lyons@gmail.com, or write at POB 40671 Denver, Co 80204

I’m not supposed to be religious. I am supposed to be a bad ass radical queer, all perverted public sex and outlandish politics. I’m supposed to be a tried and true lefty with a warranted skepticism for all things God related. I am supposed to sneer at Christians and hurl finely crafted rhetorically complex criticisms at them.

But I can’t. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that maybe you will think I’ve let you down when you read this and realize I am an apologist. I’m sorry that it might undermine your trust in me when I say I believe in things like grace, like forgiveness. I’m sorry that you might think I’ve given into some ridiculous ideology, that I might not have your back anymore. I’m sorry that I’m going to tell you that sometimes, the best we can do is ask for something that is impossibly given and remarkably unwarranted.

I’m not sorry to tell you that I think we, we the reckless radical queers, have done ourselves a disservice to dismiss so wholly the idea of God. I’m not sorry to tell you that sometimes our impassioned speeches beseeching the world for justice have done nothing more than perpetuate the alienation we want to eliminate. I’m not sorry that I am allying myself with ‘the enemy’ long enough to hear what makes their hearts so hard. I’m not sorry to mete out a judgment, upon myself and anyone else who has ever ruthlessly and unapologetically shit-talked people of faith. I’m not sorry that I think that sometimes we are assholes who snidely dismiss one unbelievable ideology while subscribing to another.

Please forgive me for judging you. Please forgive me for judging myself. Forgive me even though I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Forgive me because it’s the only way out, it’s the only way through. Forgive yourselves, even if the thought of doing it makes your stomach clench tight knots. Forgive everyone who has ever wronged you. Do it even if you don’t mean it.

Forgiveness is the remitting of an offense, an offense which alienates us from each other, an offense which keeps us trapped so tightly in our own self involved anger and resentment that we cannot see each other, ever at all. Offenses which have erected walls of fear, of misunderstanding, of trite answers to complex questions, of alienation and lonliness. Offenses which continue to fester unattended, and those which have scarred our faces beyond recognition.

Forgiveness is an almost impossibility. Its unreachable, just touching the tip of the tongue. Say it anyway. Say, “I forgive you.” Say, “I want your forgiveness.”

But be uncompromising. Demand accountability. Never let the sin of broken hearts and devastated worlds and scarred souls be removed or forgotten. Remit them; take them in and make them over, turn them into unforgettable lessons and avenues to something deeper and bigger. Forgive them. Own them. Make them yours and share them amongst yourselves. Give them new life.

In the midst of all that unfurling fucked up judgment, in the face of half-hearted forgiveness, there is grace. An unmerited favor that we can give to each other and ourselves. Grace is illogical, you have to talk yourself into it. Rationalize it however you have to. Because nothing transformative ever came about through simple structures and making sense.

I’m not telling you to turn the other cheek. I’m not telling you to let your face get smashed in. I’m telling you that it will happen; faces will be smashed. But what will you do with that devestation? How can you grow it into something that echoes with pain, never submits? How can it become that new thing you know can exist?

If we want to survive we have to create grace, the gentle lullaby made from vicious pain and the deepest of struggle. Its softness, its sweetness, is not an easy one; it is ringed in multitudes of emotion. This is not the easy way out. It’s not the simple answer. It is a resting spot in the middle of hell; a place to lay our heads until we can keep going again.