A WOMAN’S STORY by K.W
“Can I call her mom?” I was referring to my housemother. I was in fourth grade. We’d turn off the flashlights we used to play tag on the ceiling of our dorm rooms when we heard the click, click, click of her shoes coming down the hall to check on us. Short and stout, she inspected our hands for dirt when we all ran into line after the bell rang summoning us to breakfast. She kept us in line, all right. But my English housemother wasn’t all discipline and sternness. I remember knocking timidly on her door one night when I couldn’t sleep. She invited me in. I sat down in an ornate chair with her English mementos around me, an ornate throw rug under my feet. She poured me a hot cup of cocoa. But she wasn’t mom. I grew up in a missionary boarding school, surrounded by adults who set parameters, who supervised and organized events by day and night to give us kids a well-rounded experience of life. It must have been exhausting for them, giving beyond normal working hours of their time and energy. But it was with my peers that I touched the pulse of daily life. We operated like a subgroup within the larger community, like a clandestine Lord of the Flies gang. We were in a community, but not a family. We partially raised ourselves.
My parents, who loved me dearly, were fifteen hundred miles away in North-East India. I remember growing up with the tribal people in my early years. After I went into boarding school, I got regular care packages and letters from my mother. I missed home like crazy, especially the first two weeks each time I left my family.
I was an inquisitive kid. I asked why about everything, and I don’t mean casually. I went after the answers like a bull-dog on a pant leg. I meant to know. “Because I said so,” “It’s a mystery,” and other such nonsense didn’t cut it for me. I looked for answers in Western religion, Eastern religion, and no religion. When it came to sexuality, I went after it with gusto too — with a woman, as it turned out. Who knows why. Maybe because I couldn’t stand the game-playing that dating seemed to be. Maybe because an ultra-conservative housemother of one of my friends asked us if we were sleeping together and it planted the idea in my head. Maybe I felt cut off from some part of mother love. I had been a colicky kid. Mom stopped breast feeding me because she thought her milk might be part of the problem. I chose a woman, but not without intense inner turmoil and a searing conscience. (Keep in mind I was in a Christian high school that kicked folks out for smoking, tobacco that is.) I was in conflict, but it set the course of my sexuality for years to come.
When I returned to the United States, I tumbled through the times of my life — seeking answers in the gay community, the new age community, at Bible school, colleges, various schools of hard knocks, and some rollicking meadows. I built up experiences and knowledge galore. But nothing put the final x factor on the equation of life, and I remained restless.
“My parents’ love and prayers kept me alive long enough to find Where Grace Abounds.”
In 1987, I heard of Where Grace Abounds, a ministry that worked with people who were in conflict with their sexual feelings and had relational difficulties. I thought I’d check it out, see if God still wanted to work on something in me. It was my excessive anger that actually propelled me to pick up the phone. When I met with Mary Heathman, she prayed for me. “If there are any unresolved issues you desire to put your finger on, Lord, bring them to the surface.” I left that initial meeting. Two days later, I called Mary up. “Help! I have a spiritual, emotional fever.” Well, I didn’t know what that was about, except that I must still have some unresolved issues! So I started attending Where Grace Abounds meetings.
My parents’ love and prayers kept me alive long enough to find Where Grace Abounds. There, I further soaked in unconditional love. I experimented with relating. At times, I felt young inside. God met me at that young place, held the colicky child. God wove a cocoon of love around me through the love of a friend. I began to grow up internally. I wobbled around with permeable boundaries, including sexualizing emotional needs. But God kept after me like the old hound from heaven, or the bull dog on the pant leg — with persistent patience. He had for me a love that would not let me go, and I finally started tasting that love. It touched me through group members, through deep, emotional friendship, through unexpected words from off the wall places. God, in the midst of my confusion, fear, anger, defiance, continued to woo me. I finally let him be the final x factor of the equation of life. I finally dared to hope that he might really be the Answer that had been whispering to me in all the answers. I leaped into what I hoped was his love and salvation, trusting all the tenderness I had experienced with my parents and with women wasn’t a mirage. I pulled my fingers off of myself, brittle and atrophied as they were in their tenacious grasp, and jumped. I wasn’t sure if it was to my death or to the salvation I’d heard Jesus offered. Saved from what…to what…who knew? But away from this place of endless self-effort, anyway, away from this place of restless striving.
I have heard it said that when you sneeze, you are as close to death as you can be. Is that because you forcefully expelled all that air? I don’t know. But I disagree. You are as close to death as you can be when you leap into the arms of God. I was in shock, between worlds. Is that being dead and buried with Christ — leaping in desperation, and your first point of contact is the grave? I think so. But it is not the last point of contact. After the days in the grave is the resurrection. Over the past several years, God has anchored a peace in me…could it be the peace that passes understanding, finally? He leads me by quieter waters, could it be because I’m not so busy stirring them? I am coming to expect him to be a part of my life, and I’m liking that. I expect to wrestle with him, and I am glad he invites a good discussion. We talk, argue, I still do my own thing, but want more and more to do his. More of me is beginning to really believe God is good, and he is not holding out on me. The journey continues.
Oh, about my sexuality. You know, I’m growing up. I had to grow up past an internal three month old to really see men as more that a peripheral extension of myself. I got a hug from a co-worker the other day. He commented on his “razor sharp whiskers.” And you know what? I liked them. One more place where God is broadening my world and giving me more things I can enjoy. The adventure continues!