An interlude is a piece of music performed during the intermission at a theater. I have a few experiences that don’t fit perfectly into the whole “Name of God” thing but they are very intimate parts of my spirituality. I’ve only invited a handful of people into these stories. Please tread lightly as you walk with me into these places of my soul.
I took my first hit off of a joint at 38 years old. Yes, you can laugh at me for taking so long to realize that Jesus didn’t care if I smoked weed any more or less than he cared if I smoked a cigarette.
For those of you freaking out, drop the judgy face and suck that gasp right back into your mouth. You speed in your Two Ton Death Machine, don’t you? Isn’t that breaking the law just as much as me holding a joint in my hand and lighting it on fire? Both are illegal and speeding is more deadly. Anyway…
One of the people at that party told me I was going to throw up because I was mixing booze & pot and then they started laughing at me. I took the smallest hit in the world as a result. It first, I didn’t feel anything. Then I noticed that my forehead was really on my head. I didn’t realize you could feel it even if you weren’t touching it. And then I felt my jeans against my legs. Like, they were really there, man.
It wasn’t what I expected at all, maybe because I had taken a responsible-sized hit?
One of the older people in the house suggested that I write something because marijuana “opens up” the creative part of your brain. I did. Here it is:
Eternity goes on and on. It doesn’t tire. It doesn’t rest.
It doesn’t need to.
When you don’t die, why would you need to rest?
Maybe that’s why we need to stop… because God didn’t create us to keep going non-stop. He made us to pause.
To enjoy the nothing.
When nothing means everything to us –because we do have an end– we spend most of the millions and billions of years of creation in nothing, in not existing. To voluntarily stop and rest means everything.
When your days are numbered and you surrender action, you reflect on your finite nature, but you also give all of creation the gift of sacrificing your Everything away. You are giving the most finite part of yourself to the part of creation that will never experience finiteness.
Giving away something that something else can’t even imagine exists.
Looking back at this, it feels like bad slam poetry that should be spoken over a really chill drum beat. It also feels like the “Stupid-Smart” revelations people have while smoking pot. However, I used this revelation almost every time I taught men about meditation. I told them that we were laying down the one thing we could give God that he didn’t have- a finite nature. Our time is limited so to give it to God is to give him our most valuable possession.
When I explained it that way, it didn’t sound so Stupid-Smart.
Picking a Weed
I was going on another retreat with the guys that had the drum circles and talked to trees.
When I say it that way, I see why people stay away from those style of retreats. However, every event I went to with these men was life-altering in its spiritual revelations.
For the first time that I can remember, I had an assignment to complete before the event. I was supposed to find a “Grief Symbol.” I was walking to “The Cabin” on the farm to meet with a client as I searched for this symbol. I looked for an out-of-place object, a stick, a rock, or anything else that drew my curiosity. I didn’t see anything. However, I noticed that my legs were getting scratched up by a weed that grew aggressively all over the farm. Cows and Horses didn’t eat it and it just grew right back if you picked it or mowed it. The only way to kill it would have been to Round Up the entire farm, which would have killed all the grass as well as most of the bushes and trees.
I reached down and plucked one of the weeds, taking note that the roots didn’t come up with it. It was weak at the base in order to ensure that the roots stayed in place.
God whispered to me: Transgender.
I stuffed down that whisper because I had to meet with a client. A few days later I tucked that weed into my journal and drove to rural Louisiana for our retreat. On the last evening of the event, we were instructed to walk around the retreat center with our Grief Symbol for about an hour, to prepare ourselves for the ritual that was about to happen. It took me almost the entire hour to come to grips with my symbol and its meaning.
The ceremony was simple: walk up to a sacred fire at the front of the gathering, say a sentence or two if you were so inclined, and listen as the men said, “aho,” a Native American word meaning “I hear/see you.”
I sat in the back of the group and started crying almost as soon as the first man went forward. I finally understood why God led me to that particular Grief Symbol. Just like that weed would always be on the farm, I would always be Trans. The only way to not be Trans would be to kill my heart, which would destroy everything beautiful in my life in the process. I thought about Jesus’ teaching about weeds and wheat, how they grew together and couldn’t be separated without killing everything.
I did what I taught men to do when I worked with them: I hit the total button in my heart. I didn’t even belong at this retreat… I was Transgendered at a Men’s Retreat. I wasn’t good enough for full-time work in Christian Ministry because of who I was. If I ever told my truth to the world, I knew I’d lose everything I’d invested in my spirituality. I didn’t want to be Trans but… I am who I am. I hated that phrase in that moment.
As I twirled the weed in my fingers I realized that there will always be people who don’t like me just because of who I am. There will always be people who only want the wheat and not the weeds in my life. There will always be people slow to forgive me and quick to judge me.
But the Holy Spirit showed me that I was first and foremost among them. I didn’t like myself and, even worse, I actively hated parts of who I was. I wanted a weed-free pasture more than anyone wanted or expected perfection from me. I judged and withheld forgiveness over my sins more than anyone else.
The question God put before me as I held that weed was the same question my counselor had asked me over multiple years: “Are you ready to let this go?”
After a few minutes of wrestling with the question, I walked silently to the front of the men, who all sat in silence as they watched me. I dropped the weed into the fire and, as I watched it ignite, I said one sentence as I held back tears.
“I’m good enough.”
I’m still not sure who I said it to. Myself? God? These Men? The Church? Maybe all of them?
The voices of all the men saying “aho” hit me like a concussion wave as they responded.
One of my friends was a lesbian. Actually, she still is a lesbian. And she’s still my friend. On the day that the Supreme Court made it legal for everybody to marry whomever they loved, I asked her if she had started infecting people with “the gayness” yet. She smirked and told me that she started as soon as she heard the news. She lacked pretension and was completely comfortable in her own skin. I was totes jeals of her in that aspect.
I would observe her and her girlfriend as they sat outside of the coffee shop I worked at. They were happy together, just sitting, sipping on coffee, and reading. I wanted that with Carrie. I wanted a relationship that was so good that we could sit in silence and be totally content with each other. We didn’t have that while she was in school and I couldn’t wait for her to finish so we would read together and sip coffee.
One week in the summer of 2015, Carrie was on a beach trip with the boys. I invited my friend and her girlfriend over for dinner. Another common friend of ours showed up but bailed pretty early. That night my friend introduced me to something called a “One Hit” or a “One Off” or something like that. It loaded a single hit of weed into a glass pipe that looked like a cigarette and ignited it for you. All you had to do was inhale.
I held in that one hit for a looooong time. All of a sudden I noticed that the leaves on my trees were almost shimmering as the wind blew through them. I exhaled and mildly panicked.
“What is this laced with?!” I asked my friend.
“Nothing,” she replied, “It’s just really good and really strong.”
I had my first paranoid experience with weed an hour later.
We had gone inside so that my friend could make churros. It hit me that I was alone in my house with two lesbians. I played it cool on the outside but, on the inside, I was freaking out. ‘What if they think I’m a stereotypical middle aged man who wants a threesome?!’ ‘What if they try to make a move on me?!’ ‘What if they start flirting with me?!’ ‘I LOVE MY WIFE!’
Part of my brain was watching what was unfolding and found this thought process quite amusing. The other, much louder part, was coming up with a game plan: If any of my paranoid thoughts actually started happening, I was just going to run out of my house. They could steal whatever they wanted from me. I was NOT going to cheat on my wife.
Five minutes later, I calmed the fuck down and ate some churros. Then their phones started exploding. There had been a shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette. It was in a showing of Trainwreck, the Amy Shumer movie. The women that were in my house had planned to be at that showing of the movie before my invitation to come over for dinner cancelled their plans.
I looked at them and said, jokingly, “I just saved your lives.”
We all chuckled and kept eating churros.
The next morning, we weren’t laughing any more. The two women they would have been sitting with had both been shot. One of them was dead and the other was in the ICU. They were both my customers at the coffee shop I worked at.
A little weed –and a Christian willing to accept anyone into their home and love them no matter how different they were– had probably saved two lives.
That’s what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like, at least from where I sit.
It’s full of mistakes and discomfort.
And it saves lives.
Read the next chapter: A god named Intervention