Usually, I speak of my spirituality in very general terms out of a desire to be respectful of the differences in belief systems of those I make my friends. But this week, as Christmas day approaches, I feel a desire to speak of what this season means to me, not just in the broad spiritual sense of this time but also in very specific terms to me and my life as it is right now.
As many of my friends have come to know, while I profess to seek to make my journey in this life within the context of Christian faith, I’m highly respectful of the fact that others make different choices about spirituality and religion. In terms of the kinds of Christians that most people see and hear or who they have met personally, I’m pretty unorthodox by comparison. But at the same time, and forgive me in advance for the conceit that may well be seen in this statement, I believe that I seek to hew closer to the central teachings of Christ than a lot of people who profess to be Christian.
I believe in taking care of “the least of these” among us. The unfortunate. The wounded. The powerless. Those without a voice or a champion. Those who are impoverished either in material or spiritual realities. The misunderstood. The hated and reviled. I pray for peace and healing and encouragement and comfort for all those who feel themselves rejected or diminished.
But this year, as I seek to celebrate Christmas as I have not done in a long time, I am also praying for myself. There is healing that needs to take place in my spirit. Old wounds that are too long needing to be healed. Broken parts of myself that need mending. And I know from the teachings of my faith that if I can only summon even a little faith that the ever-loving spirit of the divine will gladly surround me with light and love and the chance to be reborn as a whole and healed human being.
In the silences of my heart, I have been seeking the face of God. Looking for the wisdom and the creativity that spoke light itself into being and from that burst of imagination brought the entire universe into life. Looking to be re-created as my best, finest self. This is not a one-time request I make, but rather an ongoing communion between myself and the divine to continually bring me into the world as a man reborn.
It is not by happenstance that I speak of rebirth. Because for Christians, this is a time to contemplate the birth of the man who was a fully enlightened and divine spirit inhabiting a human incarnation. Our greatest teacher. Our example of unconditional love and unending compassion.
I think about Mary giving birth. And in the process think about the physical process of birth itself. As a man, I can only hope to imagine that experience. As a gay man of a certain age, I will never know what it means to be present at the birth of my own child. So the best I can do is reach into my own imagination and try to the best of my ability to consider the experience of giving birth.
There is obviously physical pain for both child and mother. Passing through the birth canal in the midst of gut wrenching contractions has to be something that is as terrifying as it is wondrous. And yet, by the workings of nature, the process for the most part is unstoppable. Once begun in earnest, it must work itself to the conclusion. There is no avoiding the events that take place as a woman gives birth.
How is such a thing endurable, I wonder? And in the quiet of my spirit, I hear a single thought in answer to my question.
To give birth and to be born ultimately requires complete surrender to the event as it unfolds. It is to give yourself over to the forces that cannot be denied. It is to hold on to the knowledge that no matter how painful the experience may be in the moment, that it will eventually pass and a new reality will emerge for both mother and child.
It has always been this way, whether the process takes place in a manger over two thousand years ago or whether it takes place in the delivery room of a modern hospital. And it will likely always be this way, for that is part and parcel of the human experience we embark on as spirits crossing into and eventually out of the theater of experience that is our universe.
What do I want for Christmas this year, more than anything else I might ask for?
It is the thing I ask God for and the thing I ask myself for. To surrender to the rebirth that is the desire of my heart and the necessity of growth. No matter the pain and hardship that comes with being born as a new man, what will carry me through those times of stress and difficulty and challenge is to surrender to the wisdom of what must be.
So this year, I pray for surrender. To give myself over to the way of the human journey and the changes that come with being born. Again. Today. This hour. This very second as I write these words. Let me be reborn again and again, each time moving closer to my finest humanity. Freed from the constraints of fear and worry.
To love myself, to love those whose lives I touch, to love the whole of humanity and ultimately to love the divine source from which I was born, I must be ever ready to surrender.
Surrender to love. To forgiveness, not just for those who I feel or felt have wronged me, but most importantly for myself. To allow myself to be an imperfect man seeking to touch a perfect love. To witness my present challenges and limitations without judgment or condemnation.
I’ve been reading a book I picked up recently by a Buddhist teacher about touching one’s own fear. And it contains a quote by Einstein about the illusion of being an ego separate from all else that surrounds us. He spoke of that sense of false isolation as “an optical delusion of consciousness” that imprisons us and keeps us apart from the abundance of love and hope that can fill our lives if we allow it.
This is my prayer this Christmas. God, give me the wisdom and the courage to surrender. To give myself over to the process of rebirth by which, in faith, I can become whole again. And to relinquish the delusions that separate me from myself, from all others around me, and from the divine.
This is not a gift wrapped in colorful paper and placed under a lighted tree, but a gift that has been placed in my heart from the moment I came into the world.
Let me open it now, and tomorrow, and Christmas, and all the days of my life.