#1 Christmas 2013: A Journey of Seven Decembers

simbang-gabi-reflections-2013b“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:8–11 (ESV)

Let me begin this Christmas reflection in self-indulgent writing – my personal spiritual history encapsulated in seven Decembers, spanning a total of 28 years. I write this from the bottom of my heart, hoping that you would realize the beauty of your own journey of love and hope as LGBT and as a Christian. Often, within those 28 years, I found myself crying alone in my room. In my heart, hundreds of fears dwelt: the fear of death, fear of hell, fear of rejection, fear of shame, fear of loneliness, all either real or imagined. But in those times, the Ever Faithful God spoke to me through Psalm 56, which I have held dear since I first read them so many, many years ago… May I tell you about my Journey of Seven Decembers…

The First December (1986): After I decided to come out at age 16, I questioned God for the series of painful and unhappy events in my life that happened thereafter. I had friends who lived openly with their family in an atmosphere of love and support, and seeing them live like that left me wanting and even hoping for the time that I would be accepted too. As I began my struggle for acceptance and love, I encountered silence and rejection On what would be on my father’s final year on earth, I left a a letter underneath the altar telling God about my struggle and need to be accepted by my family. My mother read it, and told me that I could still perhaps change.

The Second December (1988): I joined a youth camp of a conservative Protestant church, which viewed homosexuality as a sin. Although everyone kept on saying that I had already been healed of being gay, I found myself caught in a cycle of denial and indulgence. Each cycle brought more guilt and anger for being gay. I began to blame my relationship with my dead father. Indeed, I asked, if Jesus has already healed me of homosexuality, why do I still feel this way? Can I really be faithful to Jesus and yet believe that a spirit of homosexuality is responsible for the thoughts and actions that I should have already been freed from? I prayed for my gay and lesbian friends that they too would accept Jesus and become free from the sin of homosexuality. I distanced myself from them, ultimately feeling very lonely.

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The Third December (1993): I joined an ex-gay ministry, but the experience left me hating myself even more, almost driving me to suicide. I alienated myself from people, as my gay friends thought I was crazy. Meanwhile, the ex-gay and straight men I befriended were afraid I would suddenly become gay and make sexual advances. I began a painful, spiral journey downward. In my wanderings, I have encountered many other different belief systems that have brought me to further question my faith as a Christian. I began playing a cat and mouse game with God. But I still looked forward to seeing that bottle in heaven mentioned in Psalm 56. With all my tears, that the Eternal God has kept for me; but I still felt that I was gay. I am sinful. I am worthy of death.

The Fourth December (1995): In the confusion, I had already turned away from my Eternal and Faithful Parent, and began to practice beliefs that covered my hungry soul with such darkness. I dabbled with the occult, took refuge in stones, rested my spiritual well-being in tarot cards, and made rituals and spoke to unknown spirits. I walked away and avoided anything Christian. There is no loving God for a gay man. The vestiges of my life as a Christian were my prayers and devotion to the Blessed Virgin; but I remained unsure if God would love a gay man like me and if I would be forgiven for being one. I did not know how to come back, and even if I would, I was scared.

The Fifth December (2010): A month before Christmas, I almost died in the course of my duties as a development worker. I told myself, that I still had a purpose in life. But before that, I observed civil liberties and freedom in the United States that LGBTs in the Philippines could not enjoy. On one hand, I had been in a series of same sex relationships that proved to be difficult. I began to question why I ever became gay if it meant a seemingly endless cycle of loneliness and pain. I refused to hear Mass or even attend any worship services – and this has been so for almost two decades. But I longed to be with my family in church, as I did so many years ago as a young boy. I joined the Pride March in Malate, and I saw the bashers and brushed them off as silly. I saw the contingent of the Metropolitan Community Church, which I dismissed as nothing more but one of those LGBTQ organizations. They won’t be able to do anything to help. Ex-gay or MCC, though at the opposite ends, both appeared to be the same to me. I never thought about God or my faith.

Celebrating mass in a mine site. Photo by author

Celebrating mass in a mine site. Photo by author

The Sixth December (2012): Throughout the year, I found myself working for a mining company in the Cordilleras. For my me time, I would walk and jog almost daily underneath the multitude of stars at dawn . Nature at its finest, as I inhaled the invigorating air. Deep in my heart, I knew that God created all that I could see, but I could not reconcile my innermost being with the divine. God seemed so far away. Before I left for my Christmas break, the head of my department, a kind and good-natured woman in her 60s, asked me to join our company partners to hear mass for all employees and miners at the tunnel. It was a novel idea, to hear mass deep in the gold mine, not realizing that it would herald my return to God and a deeper understanding of my struggle.

The Seventh December (2013): This December marks my fourth month as a member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Quezon City (MCCQC). In August, I took my rite of membership and began active in the liturgical and non-liturgical activities in service of the community. In November, I became an honored guest at the household of Pastor Myke of MCC Metro Baguio, during which, I realize now, so much healing had taken place. Having participated as a contingent of the church in the Pride March, I came face to face with the bashers. Again. I faced the all too familiar signs and words that brought so much anger and pain in my heart. I saw myself in one of the young male bashers who was crying as he held aloft his placard. While I stood beside him, I felt healed of the years of pain and loneliness I that I believed was part of being gay. I realized that the basher is not my enemy, but the messages in the placards he and his colleagues were holding.

Worship Service with Moms Dec 15 2013

Looking back at my seven Decembers, I realize how God is for me and always has been for me. Whereas once, I shun the thought of singing praises, I wake up with praises singing in my head, hearing my pastor’s voice and that of the Rainbow Ensemble like a happy and welcome LSS. I hear their songs especially when I look out from my kitchen window to drink coffee as I enjoy the morning sunlight come into my kitchen. I am not afraid now, as I prepare my life as a member of my community church. There is still so much to forgive, but I am reminded of that bottle in heaven. Oh, there surely shall be difficult and painful mornings. Not all will be of sunshine. There shall be stormy and cold nights, but what matters now, is that I am home in an inclusive church that teaches me how it is to love – how it is to be proud to be LGBTQ and be Christian at the same time.

The evening of the December 15th, on the 3rd Advent Sunday, a long, unfulfilled wish came to being: My mother and I held hands as we heard the message of joy. As the pink candle flickered at the altar, she whispered: “Isn’t that cloth décor at the altar yours? I recognize it.” She knew I would not have part of my precious textile collections placed anywhere. I felt so much joy to be with my mother, who told me later that our little church would grow. Indeed, there is joy, and I share this joy though this reflection-diary. Even joyful was to see two other gay men, with their mothers. It was a night of blessed affirmation and happiness, of celebration and remembrance. Indeed, the seventh December is one of joy and hope. Hope that our parents would one day stand with us, accept us as who we are, and be thankful to the Ever Living Creator. I could not find myself to completely sing the Lord’s Prayer, the complete joy I felt was overwhelming, holding hands with my mother. I felt weak to the knees, but my heart was leaping..When my mother and I took part in the Eucharist, I truly felt home with Christ my Redeemer, God the Loving Parent, and the Holy Spirit who continues to quicken me.

marco photo 2Let me end my reflection, with one part of the MCC Statement of faith. “I am free from loneliness, despair and degradation. I have joy in my heart. I am MCC, and I look forward to my next seven Decembers wherever may I be, and I shall share this joy.” I claim too, that God continually keeps that same wonderful bottle of tears until the day I shall see them after I have been called home.

Prayer: “I have shed tears for so many reasons, for people and things that either I hold dear or have hurt me. Thank you, Parent God, for keeping my precious tears. As they dry, let my life be a mighty placard of God’s words and wonders. Let my life be a march for others to join and follow you. Let my life be a joy for others far and near.”

Written by: Marco Puzon