Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The times, they were a’changin’. I had worked before – for a brief time in my mother’s library, and in the cafeteria. Now I needed to make some serious money. Mom’s secretary was Dell Weldon, wife of Pete who had the accident with me on his tandem bicycle years before. Dell reported to me that Pete informed her, “I think it’s time we let the kids buy their own vitamins.” That sort of summed up the life-cycle changes for me. Here are Dell and Pete in later years with Helen Young.

I wrote a prayer: “I admit before You, Lord – You’ve made me precious to a lot of folks. One reason why I want to be precious to one person is so I can have him with me wherever I am. You’ve kept me moving so much! I have to keep loving and being loved by groups – and then I leave them. What is Your will here?”
We return to the narrative from my journal, written in 1979-80 and reflecting back on divinity school days. “I went home for the summer, and proceeded to hibernate emotionally for the next three months. I lived with Momma and worked in the Payson Library as a pretend professional. What a joke. (The only real professional thing was the bucks, which all went directly to Vanderbilt the next fall.) […and the one ‘faculty meeting’ I attended, feeling like an imposter about to be discovered and thrown out.]
“I don’t remember my relationship to the girls that summer. Marilyn and Sara were living in an apartment in Pasadena and going to Fuller Seminary for a counseling degree. Caren Houser I remember only once from that summer. She and Kenny Waters and I went to church once together and afterward, while we were eating, I complained in my new Yalie tone of voice about how June Nichols [a Bible teacher from Church on the Way who had come to Belmont the year before to teach about women’s submission] just didn’t speak to the questions I was facing – not that she was wrong, just that she was not helpful.” (I wish I had written down some of the things that came out of my mouth that year! It would be so wonderful to rethink those thoughts from this perspective.) Here are Caren, Sara and Kenny Waters in the yard at the beach house.

“That was the summer of my salvation by Kenny Waters. He would call on Wednesday afternoons and ask if I wanted to go to Church on the Way with him. He not only saved me from the Malibu Church of Christ, but also from a negation of my womanhood. With Danny’s rejection and Mike’s emotional blockade, I was really vulnerable to more radical self-doubt than I’d already experience in the waiting years. We had some good talks. I enjoyed his future orientation, planning books and trips and projects. It felt so lively after Danny’s denial of future and Mike’s submission to the academic system. But despite the sharing, old Kenny was reserved and defensive of his emotions, and again I was frustrated, trying not to receive his reservation as rejection of me, but having a hard time with it…
“It had been a long summer of being mostly alone. I wasn’t yet ready to really be at home with myself enough to feel and think and grow with the alone time. Yet I was past my romantic period of fantasy and cleverness, music and books. Overall, the summer was pretty dull. I was numb, and sort of holding my breath. I wasn’t relating to anyone on a deep level, and except for Kenny, nothing new was happening. Here’s a meditation or prayer I wrote after one visit to Church on the Way, the First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California (as they always announce at the start of every teaching tape I’ve ever listened to from there.)

23. August 1976
Whenever the Lord leads me to touch someone else’s hand, He’s there with His hand on mine…
If He puts someone on my heart, I can take it because the Lord is there covering both of us while I’m caring for that one…
Whenever I’m led to minister to someone, while I’m holding them, the Lord is ministering at the same time to both of us, holding us…

Holy Lord God
Cover me
Impart to me gentleness
that in holding I do not grasp
that in covering I do not smother
Impart to me confidence in Your holding me
so that I may battle from a firm position of strength
that in speaking I may not shout
that in hearing I may not misunderstand
that in standing I may not struggle and thereby
lose ground You have claimed in me
nor ground on which You would establish the other
Minister to me Your peace
Your hope
Your faith
Your love
Circumcise my ears that I may hear Your voice
Circumcise my mouth that I may speak Your words
Circumcise my heart that I may feel and receive
others and their hearts as Your heart feels and
receives the pain and the joy of Your children.
Glory to Your holy and matchless
Your high and perfect
Your rich and gracefull

The reader will kindly allow a brief departure from the 1980 journal entry for a report on what I actually did that summer. I spent eight hours a day doing boring, mostly cataloguing, work at Pepperdine’s Payson Library. I discovered at that early age that it literally hurt my hands to be in contact with paper and cardstock for that long a time. My muscles felt irritated by the repetitive motions, and I thought, “Uh-oh, not a good career choice, this library thing.” In my spare time, I forced myself to read the Tolkein trilogy, since it was on the Must Do list for my generation. I had loved The Hobbit, but it was hard getting through the final volume of the trilogy.

I set a goal for myself that summer. I had never achieved a real tan in the fifteen years I’d lived in California, and I had often felt like a misfit amidst all the gorgeous golden brown skin on display around me. I would burn, turn lobsterish, then I would peel, then I would be white again. I determined that this summer I would give it my best effort. I sat outside during my lunch hour. I lay out by the pool at my mom’s condo. I went to the beach. I finally turned a very light golden brown. At the end of the summer, I told myself, “You’ve given it your best shot and this is all the results you got. It’s just not worth it. Don’t ever worry about a tan again.” And I haven’t. Now, back to the Journal.
“Being withdrawn as I was, there was no way I could gear up enough to be with Danny and Doug, so I spent the whole summer not calling them. Probably expended a good deal of energy not doing that. I also, not so consciously, was not calling John Gottuso. Then, in God’s timing, I went to a strange Heidelberg Reunion party at Sandy Lemm’s house. I hadn’t been close to any of the people there – except, in that abrasive way, to Karen Davis, aka Kraze. So she was hiding out in the back bedroom, and I sought her out.
“Within moments, I was spilling my proverbial guts – how I introduced the topic I can’t imagine – but there I was telling her about Danny and then Patrick, and Larry at Church on the Way, and my responses to all that. [Note to reader: Larry was a man I happened to sit by at church one night, and when it came time to form the traditional small prayer circle, I turned to him and asked him, ‘Are you struggling with homosexuality?’ He wept and agreed he was, and we prayed together.]
“She couldn’t believe it. She said in her incredible way, ‘I swore to myself, there’s one thing I’m not gonna talk about – especially not to Moore.’ And that was it. Oddly enough, she’d had a parallel experience. About a year previously, within a week or two, four of her male friends had confessed their gayness to her, and it had flipped her directly into that head of, ‘What’s wrong with me??!’ So we, obviously, had a lot to talk about. (I’ve speculated about who the guys were – she never told me – I’m pretty sure I know who one of them was, because four months later I met him at the LAX airport bar to confer about it.)
“The rest of that night’s conversation runs into the other nights, so I can’t distinguish what was said first. But what a connection. Another stage of awakening – I felt vital and alive and dangerous and interested again and here was someone to talk to. We decided we needed to meet again and continue the process. I think for her too it was an important experience, to be able to reflect all those feelings and agonizing thoughts on someone who was equally moved by them. So we met at the Magic Pan in Hollywood and talked some more. I remember it was hard to confess my past without implicating others.
“The most wonderful moment of connection for me was when she was describing some lesbian friends at MCC
[i] and I ran her the rap about that kind of confrontation: ‘How can you deny one whole half of the human race your affection and love? How can you choose to give yourself only to men? How can you deny your feelings? Make up your mind! If you’re gay, why not act on it? You know heterosexuality is fucked up. There’s genuine concern and affection here for you, and great sex…” etc., etc.
“She screeched delightedly, ‘You’ve heard it too!’ and I said, ‘No, I just figured that’s what they’d say.’ It amazed me to hear all that coming out of my mouth. I hadn’t consciously thought it out, much less heard it from anyone, but I’d read enough MS. magazine to get the jargon down. [And Bev Nitschke and I had talked about the pressures certain people at Yale were putting on her to ‘admit she was gay.’ I was doing what I always had done, explaining that gayness is not a fate to which one must resign oneself. That God wouldn’t tell people not to do it if they had no choice in the matter.] In fact, that was the real amazement of talking to Karen – actually talking it out. I hadn’t talked to anyone, verbalized it, felt it, shared it with anyone ever before.
“That night we were walking to our respective cars and she said, almost as an aside, ‘You know, my two roommates are going to this incredible counselor; they think I should go talk to him.’ Out of a dark corner of my mind, I pulled out the question, ‘Is his name possibly John Gottuso?’ We both fell out. ‘WHAT?!’ ‘The same guy.’ ‘Incredible.’ ‘How did you guess?’
“Well, it was too obvious a set-up to ignore. We had to go see Gottuso together. It seems he specialized in counseling lesbians and gays. Lord Almighty. I called him and said, ‘Hi, remember me? I’ve got this friend, and we want to come see you.’ I was oblivious to the fact that he would doubtless assume that we were lovers. He must have been somewhat confused by our denial of that – trying to figure out why we were both so defensive if we weren’t involved, or why we would come to see him together if we weren’t. We showed up at his house in Arcadia and finally started talking at ten p.m. He and his wife had a new baby, and I felt jealous in the old Matt way, watching his wife and thinking, ‘What has she got that he married her? That she’s got him?’
“My memories of that talk are real specific – three of my most intense hours. The first confrontive technique he used was the same as before – the sexual shock test of sitting there with bare chest, just out of the shower with a terrycloth wrap on, which might or might not conceal nakedness down below. Where I only nervously looked occasionally, Karen was crassly verbal. So Gottuso said, ‘Do you want a look? If you do, I’ll give you one – don’t try to steal it.’ He said to Karen, ‘I did this on purpose to see what you two would do with it.’ It was the old, ‘Men’s bodies aren’t mysterious and scary, and the penis is not the focus of my maleness. I am not my penis.’ (I had said something about ‘seeing you’ and that had brought up the issue of ‘who you are’ – ‘You are not your genitals.’ Okay, but really. It was an in-your-face assault on my modesty.)
“He asked us to describe ourselves, and demanded that the healthy person is not defined by her roles. That left me up in the air – roles are all I’d ever thought in terms of. Left me feeling really unfinished on that one.
“The Moment for me was when he was talking to Kare about something and he said, ‘Look, Moore knows I accept her completely.’ I DID NOT KNOW THAT. But when he said it, it touched a deep hurt in my heart, and I began to want to believe that and take courage and comfort from it. The experience that most stands out from that night was the feeling of being confronted by someone so violently. Whenever Gottuso turned to Karen and questioned her, I could think clearly. I could hear him, and I could see her confused and flustered, unable to be straight with him. She could not focus and say what she was feeling, without defense. But the minute he turned to me, it went all foggy for me and I couldn’t cope any better than she had.
“I didn’t understand it until I realized it was an incredibly complex series of defenses that sent up that smokescreen. And there was more vulnerability rather than less for the person under fire – because it was so obvious that one was hiding and defending rather than being okay and present. That was my first taste of my own defensiveness and the dissatisfied, frustrating, intolerable sense of not being able to get out from behind that wall and make contact.
“I got a great behavioral revelation from Gottuso. Never before had I heard myself constantly saying, ‘My mother would say…’ I did it constantly until I met him. Noticing it helped me quit. I was taking her with me everywhere.
“I had always feared psychology people, and yet been ferociously attracted to them, because I felt they could see me, they could get behind my cloud and know how I really was inside. And I was afraid, but desperately wanted that too. To be known. Yet, before, I hadn’t trusted that someone could see me – they’d only be seeing a classic case of this or that neurosis.
My parents had always said disparaging things about the psychology people at Pepperdine, and indeed they were a squirrelly bunch. In my freshman year at Pepperdine, I had take an Introduction to Psychology class and found myself feeling resistant to some of it. I chiefly recall the last day of class, when the teacher asked us to line up in order of how open and vulnerable we had been in class. I was infuriated by how unfair that exercise was. Somebody was going to have to be at the end of the line, whether they deserved it or not, taking the least respectable position in terms of the desired qualities of openness and vulnerability. So I marched directly to that place as a silent protest against the injustice. I also knew that I really belonged toward the back of the line, and that made me mad too. I hated being classified and evaluated.
“Well, Gottuso cared about me. So I wanted him to figure me out, and I wanted him to be right. Oh, how I wanted to stay in that house indefinitely. It felt like finally being in good hands. Here was someone who could let me be screwed up, and out in the open, and maybe HELP me too. It was really painful to leave there that night. I felt a little desperate to be heading for Nashville the next week and maybe re-entering my numbness. I knew I was waking up to something, and if I didn’t have help, I was afraid I’d go back to sleep.
“Kare and I talked some more on the way home, coming down somewhat from the intensity, but not enough not to stay awake the rest of the night. We ever dared to talk in the same bed, but it was too dangerous to hold each other, both of us fearing the affection we wanted to have and give as being gay emotion. It was hard to think about not growing together, now that a level of compassion and companionship had been established.
“Incredibly odd experience the next night. It was my last week at home, so Momma had a right to be mystified about my behavior, spending two evenings of it with this strange woman I had never mentioned to her before. But the gutsiness of that lady! I was in bed and she came in and with very little preface simply asked, ‘Are you a lesbian?’ Geez. What a moment. I said, ‘No, Momma, I can assure you that I’m not a lesbian.’ Okay. How I wanted to tell her about Danny, but that was not going to happen for another year.
“How exactly did Gottuso prepare the way for what was to come?…I began to distance myself from [Momma] when I heard myself quoting her, and slowly quit doing that. The focus with Gottuso, though, was my father relationship – yet it was an unfulfilling direction, because everything I was in touch with while talking to him (which wasn’t much) pointed to the classic Electra complex, and neither one of us was satisfied that sex with my father had ever really meant anything to me. It was more a discomfort, an inability, in relating to myself as a woman (like Momma) and therefore an unhealthy identification with male roles, wanting to be like Daddy, to be accepted by him and by other men, but not as a woman. So there was lots of role confusion coupled with a real fear/attraction to the totally mysterious, frightening world of sexuality. That sent me along the paths of sexual roles, and insight into my selfhood – but no, before I could go there, I needed a real close first-time look at how I was, what I sounded like, what my needs and games and relationships were really like. The proverbial Awakening.

My journal account continues, “Then there were two lonely, fearful, anticipating weeks in Nashville, getting settled at Hospital Hospitality House and into classes at Vanderbilt, and then I met Marty…His friendship served me in so many ways…Here was someone who liked me, liked who I was on all levels, who could befriend me in the new places I hadn’t dared to look before. He was that gentle mirror without which I couldn’t begin to see my outward behavioral bondages[ii]. He was a companion who held my hand as I walked down those dark halls in my past. He was the encourager, who said, ‘You can write. You can think. You can create. You can feel. You can hurt. You can grow. You can dare, and fail, and dare again. It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.’
“He encouraged me in my attempt to relate to my own painful identity as a misfit in standard American roles. He encouraged me not to run from my pain, but to use the pain, be with the pain, feel it and move past it. To be in a hurting place and be willing to stay there until somehow God could work His changes. Not to deny reality. Not to cover and hide and pretend. Gosh. To feel was an amazing new thing. I never knew I didn’t allow myself to feel. The whole rationalistic, legalistic view that feelings were bad, wrong, dangerous – because we believed they couldn’t be changed, dealt with, we had denied them, yet continually suffered because our actions were based on them, and not on rational truth, rightness, like we tried to claim. Marty referred to me as a woman, and every time I heard the word it shocked me into an awareness that I didn’t see myself that way.”

A note of explanation: Marty had come to Nashville to be a solo artist, but instead Word Records’ Myrrh label offered us a deal as a group – Marty (above middle), Gary Pigg (above right) and me. We became one of the first contemporary Christian rock bands, Fireworks, and then with an album under our belts, it was time to sign with a booking agent. I decided it was God’s will that I leave the group, one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But it would have been even more painful if I had stayed in the group. Marty’s and my friendship shifted dramatically when Vickie [his high school girlfriend] moved to Nashville. I hadn’t processed anything of Daddy’s abandoning in his death, and the confusion and death I experienced when Marty turned away from our friendship was painful on that kind of level. So a door to my heart slammed shut again, and stayed shut for almost two more years – until the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regard to Jerry Gaston, the September that A Severe Mercy[iii] opened it again.
“Seems like it would be good to reiterate what came up about Daddy when I was with Gottuso. I had realized years before that I ‘needed a strong man’ because I would dominate a weak-willed, insecure or indecisive, accommodating personality. But then the Lord revealed that’s a desire to be dominated, to be irresponsible, and no more truly submissive than if I were controlling. Still, I knew I needed headship
[iv], and the way Gottuso seemed to offer himself was permissive and scary.
“The following spring, I was sitting in Introduction to Counseling [at Vanderbilt Divinity School] and a revelation came regarding my fear of intimacy with men. Not only had I received Momma’s already well-developed defense structure, but I had constructed my own to deal with the imbalance at home. The professor was telling a story about his own family, and a light went on for me.
“He said, ‘You know, the other day my little girl came to me and said, “Daddy, will you marry me?” and I gently told her, “No, honey, I love Mommy and she has me – I’m already taken.”’ He said that every child comes to the point of identifying the same-sex parent as a rival for the love of the other parent, and needs to be firmly assured that the love of that parent is theirs, but not like that – they’ll have to find their own mate.
“As he told his story, I realized that I had never felt that gentle but strong assurance as to what our proper relationships were at home. These were the messages I received from Daddy: ‘You are a treasure, you are extremely intelligent and talented, to be admired, even worshiped. I tell everyone else how wonderful you are, but I can’t tell you. (Why not?) Your mother is our mutual enemy – I don’t understand her, I fear her emotions, especially her anger. I don’t know how to deal with her much of the time. I resent her for hurting you.
“‘I’m angry that you can’t achieve a truce with her, but – I can understand why. I like to be alone with you, but don’t know what to say to you when we are alone together. You are not attractive physically, so you must become remarkably intelligent and informed to compensate. And you are that, so emphasize it in your goals. You will achieve much – I won’t be able to comprehend your thoughts or apprehend your world, but I will honor you as having surpassed me in the fields I respect.’
“Mostly the message was, ‘I don’t have a healthy relationship with your mother – I wish I could be affectionate with you – but since it’s taboo, we’ll have an agreement that you won’t grow up as a woman at all, and that way neither of us will have to deal with the dark sexual issues.’ And then, when I was newly discovering womanhood, groping for identity and definition and acceptance on a person level, and losing in the sexual contest, he left me. Strange that the night of his death I went to a wedding and realized he wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle, to give me away. I felt on some deep level then a hidden message, ‘I don’t want to give you away. I don’t want you to relate healthily as a woman to another man. So I’ll leave and you’ll always feel unreleased.’
Lord! How amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever realized that one before. Only You can provide the release I need. I hardly need to mention that this very lack of permission (to seek a healthy relationship with another man) seems to be the very thing that turned me to unavailable men – they could be trusted to tell me ‘No!’ when I tried to relate intimately to them – and that’s what I was seeking from Daddy, a solid ‘No.’ Then, in his death, he seemed to be saying, ‘That’s right, have relationships with men like me – afraid of intimacy, not able to talk to you as an equal, but appreciative of your talents and tastes, while angered (passively) at the strength of your personality.’ Unavailable men. Of course.” And that's as much as I understood as I looked back a few years, journaling at the age of 27.

[i] Metropolitan Community Church, a church established exclusively for the benefit of homosexual and lesbian people.
[ii] “Bondage” was a word used in Christian Charismatic circles to indicate spiritual oppression, habits of thought that led to sin, personality or character deficits that evidenced a spiritual problem. It had no connection to the sexual connotation that is common outside Christian circles.
[iii] A memoir by Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy included letters from C.S. Lewis and described a romance so intimate, so vulnerable, that I was confronted by my many defenses. Reading it, I realized I had been keeping my friend Jerry Gaston at such a distance that it was actually abusive to him. When I confessed, and promised to change, I discovered that Jerry was more comfortable with the relationship as it had been, and did not want to be closer.
[iv] “Headship” = a reference to the concept that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, this idea has been misinterpreted as license for men to abuse and dominate their wives. See Ephesians 5:21-33.

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