And this month the world comes crashing to an end. Or maybe not. But our nation is prone to doomsday fervor and our society does have a morbid fascination with fiery endings. How else to explain the traction the fictitious planet Nibiru has gained in some quarters? From what I read, this mystery planet supposedly will materialize (perhaps bolt out from behind the sun) and smash into the earth on December 21, a date that figures on the ancient Mayan calendar as the end of a long cycle of calendar time. Perhaps the end of time itself. Bye bye, birdie.
Such claims pique my interest much more than they poke my anxieties. I find people endlessly fascinating, and inexhaustible the number of things we get worked up about. (Please note, the things I get worked up about are no laughing matter: rigged voting machines, rabid raccoons, nylon socks.) Perhaps I can feel at peace facing the apocalypse for having already lived through my fair share of predicted doomsdays, and finding myself none the worse for wear.
Before I came out as a gay man, I regularly attended a local United Methodist Church whose pastor was quite convinced the end of the world was at hand. This I found unnerving. He had a fiery preaching style, worked himself into a sweat most Sunday mornings railing against abortion and homo-SEX-uality.
He was certain the Judgment Day would arrive within the next year or two, before 1993, and he preached it. Listening to his sincere and heartfelt warnings week after week, repeated rapid-fire at about the same decibel level as a low-lying helicopter, I began to wonder if maybe he wasn’t onto something. He sounded so sure of himself. At the time, sincerity and self-confidence carried a lot of pull with me.
During the lengthy Sunday services my wife and I were using Cheerios, board books and little toy cars to keep our three young sons quiet. I began to wonder if I’d get to see them graduate high school before the end of all things.
That I should have been projecting so far into the future now seems poignant. High school graduation? As it turns out, I never saw them enter first grade.
The calendar turned once, twice, and our pastor scratched his head wondering aloud how he could have been mistaken. “I was so sure,” he said. From outside the church came dire warnings about January 1, 2000. Remember those? According to some predictions, the Y2K computer glitch would have airplanes dropping like flies from the sky. Some folks dug in, built bunkers, stockpiled food and guns. Not me. I drove into town on the day before the chaos was to be unleashed, withdrew $20 and bought a four-pack of toilet paper.
You see, by that time, the world had already ended for me. And I had learned the secret that in every ending there is a beginning. In 1995, in the middle of my life, I’d come out to myself and others as a gay man. This marked the end the world as I’d known it. End of my marriage. End of being counted father to my children. End of my job. End of friendships, family relationships, church membership. End of massive amounts of personal energy being funneled into repression, suppression and denial.
In this ending was a beginning. New life, a world of possibilities, different eyes through which to see.
We lgbt people who have come out, who in so doing have rocked our worlds to their very core, who have lived to tell the tale, we have this message, this mystery, to offer the rest of society—or did some angel beat us to the punch?—“Fear not, neither be afraid. For I bring you glad tidings of great joy that shall be to all people.” Life is born in darkness. From the end of all things, the beginning of wonder.
This essay appeared in the December issue of The Community Letter. Photo courtesy WikkiCommons