First, I apologize that it has been so long since I posted. Seminary is back in full-swing for me, and focusing on school work, both inside and outside of class, is taking up a significant amount of my time. Still, I don’t want the circumstances of life to take away from writing which is a much needed creative outlet for me, and I hope that you, the reader, find some benefit from me doing it as well.
My original plan was to finish up my personal story over the summer and then be able to share my reflections of being a gay seminary student with you. Of course, I’m only halfway through my story, but I don’t want these few years of me being in seminary to slip away without putting my reflections into writing, both for my own benefit to reflect on later and, again, hopefully, some of my thoughts will provoke thought in or be of benefit to others.
One thing that seminary has, thankfully, forced me to confront is what is my perspective on God is and how to I allow that to influence my day-to-day life. This pondering of what and who is God is very interesting for me. After having spent 13-years in a very conservative church where I felt that I had a very concrete image of God, it is very different and very freeing to find myself at a point where my understanding of God is far more ambiguous. I find comfort in experiencing God in a way that doesn’t place limiting definitions and parameters on the scope of what such a Being is or how God would think or behave.
I know that no single blog entry, or even an infinite number of entries, would allow me to describe my experience of the divine, but I hope that by sharing some of my thoughts and daily experiences, I can give some insight into what it is to be me. I also hope that this leads to some dialog where we can discuss and compare our experiences of God. As always, I welcome comments. While this blog was initially set up to only allow registered users to leave comments, it should be open for anyone to post now. Please let me know via e-mail if you have issues or difficulty in doing so.
Let me share a small part of my day with you. I am in Cincinnati this weekend. The GLBTQ Center of Greater Cincinnati is hosting a Pride Night at King’s Island this evening, and I’m down here to attend that and catch up with some friends here in Cinci. My former pastor and his partner of 27 years live here, and I’m staying with them as their guest for a long weekend away.
Earlier today, while my hosts were at work, I decided to wander down the street to get something for lunch. I had a sandwich at a Bruegger’s Bagels and then head to the Starbucks next door for coffee. As I enjoyed my turkey club and later my salted caramel mocha, I decided to try to get through some of the textbook reading that I needed to do for next week. The material that I was reading today focused on existentialist approaches to counseling. So, I have in my mind these ponderings of what it is to “be,” what it is to be in relationship with others, and what significance, if any, can I ascribe to any of that in terms of whether or not there is an actual plan or purpose in that “being.”
About 3:00, I decided that I should head back to the home of my hosts as I knew they would be coming home about 4:00, and I would be having dinner with them before my evening at King’s Island. As I walked to my car, I noted a Great Clips was also in the shopping center. I’d been meaning to get a haircut for the past few days at home in Columbus, but I just hadn’t. I hesitated in the parking lot trying to decide whether to go in or not. I figured there would be a wait and who knew how long that would take, but I know how crazy my hair looks after riding a rolling coaster when my hair is too long. I decided I’d just better go ahead and do it. I locked my backpack and computer bag in the car and walked inside.
As I approached the Great Clips, my thoughts turned to the small talk that I knew would take place as my hair was being cut. I am in Cincinnati. I knew that I might be asked what brought me to town. Cincinnati is, historically, a very conservative town, and, while great strides have been made in the last few years, it is still a town where I might be wise to be cautious about being too overt in terms of the activities that brought me too town this weekend. Still, I don’t live here. I knew that I would probably never see the person who cut my hair again. I felt that I should let them know who I am in hopes that it sparks thought and helps open their eyes for the sake of others in the LGBTQ community who do live here. This was my state of mind walking through the door.
When I walked in, there was only one customer getting their hair cut. It was evident that my wait would not be long. One of the employees was on the phone when I walked in. She finished her call and registered my in the system before taking me back to the chair.
She did ask me why I was in town. I explained that I was in town for an event at King’s Island that night. I figured that we would get to follow up questions about the nature of the event or she could look it up later if she wanted to. We never got to that. As she put the cape on me to cut my hair, she asked me if it was too tight. It was pretty snug, but I told her I was fine. She made a comment about them having larger ones if I wanted her to get some since my neck was so thick. Again, I told her I was fine, but that led us into a discussion of my ridiculously large 32-inch neck which makes wearing dress shirts and ties quite an issue.
She explained to me that her husband also has a thick neck and had just been diagnosed with sleep apnea and he was struggling with that and adapting to using a C-PAP. Having been diagnosed with sleep apnea a few years ago and using a C-PAP machine regularly now, I shared with her that it had been a struggle with me at first too. We continued to share back and forth about the similarities and differences between his situation and mine. She shared with me that his sleep deprivation has gotten so bad that he was dealing with feelings of depression because of it. I encouraged her to share my story with him in hopes that it would encourage him to stick with it so that he can see the benefits of using the machine. She thanked me for sharing my experience with her, and I could tell that her words were genuine.
As I walked to my car a second time, I found myself contemplating myself, that woman, her husband, and the God that, in some way, I believe binds us together. Was my spontaneous decision to get a haircut a divine appointment to speak to someone who needed to hear words of encouragement? Was it merely a coincidence? Was my perception of the event influenced by the readings on existential counseling techniques? Having come out of a religious school of though that ascribes spiritual significance to every single thing that happens, I am always about what I choose to perceive as divine intervention in the lives of men, but I am comforted by the notion of God directing me to be a source of comfort and encouragement to someone who needed it. Isn’t that why I chose to pursue a counseling degree at a seminary to begin with?
© Joshua Culbertson 2014