Grace for the ‘As Is’

The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift. (Romans 3:21-24)

Grace? You want to talk about grace as a gift? I’ve got grace. Boy, did I get grace! I just got grace delivered to me from God in a big Fed Ex Overnight Express package. I opened the box and there was this beautiful, big red bow on a gift-wrapped box. The gift tag said, “To Betty, Love, Jesus.”

Let me tell you about it. It all started the day of the Millennium March in Washington D.C., April 30, 2000. I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. I was at home taping the March off C-SPAN on cable TV. I wasn’t able to watch all of it because my dear aunt called to say she was coming over. She doesn’t live across town, mind you. She drove down from Canada. She never lets me know ahead of time when she comes. She just shows up.

Actually, she first shows up at my mother’s grave. That is where she spends her quality time when she comes to town. Then, she’ll drive over and visit with me for an hour or so before heading back to the red maple. Never mind that she’s my only remaining aunt, the reigning matriarch of our matrilineal clan. She’s the woman I named my baby after. I love her a lot.

I know she loves me. That’s why she gave me the traditional treatment that she reserves for all her loved ones. She told me my house wasn’t clean enough. She said she was disgraced that I hadn’t lost much weight since I had seen her on U.S. Thanksgiving holidays. “I just can’t believe it!” She exclaimed. “You don’t look like you’ve lost any weight at all! Why, I’m not so sure I’m going to save my clothes for you. You’ll never get into them.” This was a low blow, because she knows I adore vintage clothes. I tried to explain that I was losing weight. It was just coming off slowly. I had been on steroids because of a recent illness. This did not help the weight thing.

When she left, I felt very discouraged. I was not born fat; nor did I grow up that way. I gave birth for the first time when I was over 40 years of age. I put on over fifty pounds with the pregnancy. I added more weight nursing. It never came off. And now my baby is two years old (almost three, but let’s not get that specific).

That Sunday night after tucking the kids into bed, I went to sleep and had a dream. Maybe it was a vision. My mother’s mother use to have what was called prophesying dreams. Everyone made fun of them, but feared them as well. They told the truth. I get a few of those dreams, but rarely, maybe once every ten years or so. This was one of them.

In this dream I heard the voice of God speaking to me. Now, that is a miracle in itself. I was raised fundamentalist, as a Seventh-day Adventist. We were instructed in what God had told somebody else, and that was supposed to be it. It has taken me years to recognize this voice. I wouldn’t normally associate it with God because it is a kind voice. It sounds like a woman’s voice to me. God told me that I was going to find my true love.

Strangely, it was a man. Actually, I’m not sure if it was a man, but it was someone who had a masculine identification. Someone who called himself a man. In the dream, I met him at a family funeral in Canada. I don’t remember seeing my aunt’s feet sticking out from under a tornado-blown house, but that thought occurred to me later on.

My true love wrote funny greeting cards, the kind you can buy in the back of the leather shops when you are searching for a sexy birthday card for a gay male friend. He loved me the way I was, weight and all. And, as I lost weight, he still loved me. He loved me no matter what weight or size I was. In fact, God promised me that I was going to get my “normal,” pre-baby body back. I didn’t have to worry about it. This was already in the works.

We were going to married at my church, Metropolitan Community Church. I remember saying I didn’t want to have sex until after I got married. Most of the other people thought I was really weird. But I said I wanted to provide an example to my daughters. If I couldn’t do it, how could I expect them to do otherwise? And the naysayers said, “Well, you really need to try it out beforehand to make sure you are sexually compatible.”

And, I said, “Love makes a way.” And it did. It was OK. My dream didn’t have any of those details. Well, I didn’t see any pictures, but I could tell you how it felt. Wow! It was great. It was the best intimate contact I’ve ever had in my life. He was kind to me. It was hot and bothered, juicy sex. I had no idea that could be a gift from God. As a child, I remember being promised a star in my crown when I got to heaven. I remember being promised the wholesome feeling of a job well done, even though you may not be recognized or appreciated for doing good deeds. I’ve never connected great sex with God’s plan for me.

God told me that I should go and serve in the community, in my community of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people — that I would meet my true love there. Not right away, but eventually. And that we would be able to accomplish many wonderful things together that we wouldn’t be able to do individually. That we could substantially contribute to building and nurturing the community. I love community organizing anyway, and it doesn’t seem like work to me. The idea of creating something greater with others than what I could do by myself appeals to me. This is not a problem, I thought.

Then, God told me, “You are a high quality person, and you deserve someone who treats you like a high quality person. You are a prized woman. You are worth a lot.”

The alarm clock woke me up and severed me from my delicious dream. This was getting hot. I got up, went to the bathroom, and went back to bed, hoping to continue the dream, which I did. The following night the dream continued on, as I had hoped. It looked at the future. I was told to go back to my church, especially the Sunday of Mother’s Day. I had hoped to continue the dream the next night, but wasn’t able to, and haven’t since.

When I finally got up that Monday morning I couldn’t really believe that I had had this dream. It was just too weird. I mean, I’ve been a lesbian for over 20 years. I’m out to everyone I know. I’ve even been on local TV nightly news, with my name and “lesbian mother” under it. The last time I dated a biologic male was when I was in high school. Actually, that guy is now serving several life sentences on death row. I met him at camp meeting. He treated me better than a lot of people I have dated. Let me just say that my track record for partners isn’t that great. That God would give me the gift of a true love is almost a joke. Actually, it would take the miraculous power of God for me to find me a true love.

But, I didn’t “convert” to heterosexuality in my dream. There was no talk and no feel of that. I was still me, still a child of God, absolutely beloved the way I am now, “as is.” And then I thought, “What am I going to tell my girlfriend?” I don’t think she would be very thrilled about this dream.

In fact, I didn’t tell many people. I told my best friend, a gay man, and he was totally supportive. I told a straight woman friend who had a very hard time trying to think about me as straight (her idea, not mine). She said that maybe it was just an impression, maybe it wasn’t literal.

And I replied, “No, I got the message. I’m going to have a true love, and he’s a man.” But, I added, “Regardless of what happens, it just felt so good to be told that I am a prized woman. The place where I was in my dream was so wonderful. It was like being in the center of God’s will. I can’t really describe it. I felt perfect peace and light all around me. The quality of light was hard to describe. The closest thing to that is when people talk about ‘near death’ experiences, when they talk about the tunnel and the light. I didn’t get the tunnel. I got the light. I can still feel this phenomenal light and peace, but I can’t describe it in words.”

And then, I started to lose weight. I could feel it before I got on the scales. I know I was eating less (the mechanical process of weight loss isn’t a mystery or a miracle). But the gift that I received was that my nervous cravings were gone. I had lost having the “munchies.” I was back to losing weight the way I normally do. It was as if the dream was a toggle switch for turning my normal self “on.” I exercised, ate right and lost. But what a gift!

How could I ever explain it to anyone?

My Friends: “You’re losing weight. How are you doing that? Why now, after three years?”

Me: “I got a dream from God. She said I was going to meet my true love, and he’s a man. And I’m going to get my normal body back, and everything will be OK. Oh yeah, and God promised me really great sex with my husband.”

This will go over really well with the folks back in Kansas.

I proposed it to my younger daughters over dinner that week. “How would you girls like to get a Daddy?”

“Ick” said my middle daughter, “You’re a lesbian. You’re not supposed to do that. I have two moms. I don’t have a dad.”

“No,” said my toddler, who says no to everything, “Icky, icky.”

I can just tell that everyone is going to be really happy about this.

Then, the next week, my girlfriend called me up in the evening. I was trying to get the kids bathed and put in bed. She was upset. “I have something to tell you. I’ve been stealing narcotics from the hospital and using them. I’m going to turn myself in to the nursing supervisor in the morning.” I did not see this coming. I had no clue whatsoever. I have known this woman almost 20 years, and have been with her off and on for a number of years, and I am absolutely unprepared for this.

She knows I am very “hard line” about drugs and illegal stuff. I’d drop a dime in heartbeat. She probably worked very hard to hide this from me. I mentally flipped on my nursing cap and went to work. “Are you by yourself? Do you have anything you can hurt yourself with?” Etc. Etc. By bedtime she had been whisked away to an in-patient detox unit where she could be safe and sound, and we were officially broken up.

Wow, that was fast. I had to smile. “God, that was easy. That was way too easy. But, I have to say, that was rather brilliant in your strategy. Not only is this an expeditious break-up process, but it will certainly help me from going back to her again. Plus, it’s an explanation that she can understand for why we must stay broken up. And she will finally leave me alone. Suddenly, I feel a tiny bit scared and alone. I had this dream, but now my life is changing, in real life time. Can I really go forward with this? But, I think about the perfect peace and the wonderful light, my normal body and a wonderful, caring husband that I have terrific sex with. By Jove, I can do this!

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and am I ready to go to church or what? The impression from my dream continuation on that first Monday night was that I was supposed to go to this church on this Sunday. I knew that my true love wasn’t going to be there. But I needed to be there anyway. I was halfway hoping that there would be a special recognition for mothers, maybe carnations or something, so I’d have at least one present to take home for Mother’s Day. My younger kids aren’t advanced enough to think of this on their own, and nobody’s prompting them.

There were no carnations. There was a guest speaker, the Rev. Elder Don Eastman. I think he is like the number two guy in my denomination. The number one guy is a great charismatic leader, while Don is the one who gets the business done. I do like him a lot, as I am a number two, supportive type person as well. His sermons are usually pretty cerebral and the business-of-the-church oriented, and I enjoy them. On Mother’s Day, he spoke about dreams — dreams and visions. How God speaks to us in dreams and visions. How very important it is to listen to God when God speaks to us in dreams and visions. I coughed and nearly burst out laughing.

I said to God, “OK, OK, you’re shouting. Is this really necessary? I GOT the message. See, it’s Sunday and I’m here. I’m doing the first leg of this journey. You don’t have to worry about me not following through. That was a great promise. You don’t have to worry.” But then, see, God is God and knows everything, so maybe God knows something I don’t. Like, maybe I’m a tiny bit more thickheaded and stubborn than I think I am.

Upon further reflection, another possibility is that maybe the road is really going to be rough and hard. Maybe it’s going to take years. Maybe I would be tempted to give up and become discouraged before I found my true love. Maybe I needed that extra clear sign the way that Gideon needed the extra sign before he went into battle. I always thought Gideon was kind of dumb needing that extra fleece. Why, he should have just taken it at face value. I mean, it’s written in the Bible, and all Gideon had to do was to look up the chapter and verses with his name and he’d see it right there, plus the future.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way. It’s a faith thing. I guess this is why the Bible is endearing to me. It’s filled with stories about suckers and losers and sinners who are redeemed and have radically changed lives. It really gives me hope. If Gideon could do it, I can do it. If Mary Magdalene and the bleeding woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe could have faith and be so brave, maybe I could be too. They were richly rewarded, more than society told them they ought to be. They went way out of their social norms to reach out to Jesus. Jesus heard them and responded to them emotionally, physically, and mentally. That’s another thing I like about Jesus.

OK, so my healing. This has been neat. I was promised I’d get my normal body back, and that my true love would appreciate and respect it. What a nice touch. It’s like adding a pretty bow to an already lovely present inside a gift box. Thanks, Jesus.

I can’t help solve anyone’s weight problems. I couldn’t even solve my own. This was the gift. It was free and it was for me. I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. I wasn’t obligated to do anything in the future to keep it. It just fries my mind to think of it. Why would God do this? Why would God do this for me? In my dream God said I was a prized woman. That I was a really terrific person and deserved unconditionally for good things to happen to me. To acknowledge this and remind myself, I created a label for a vest I sewed that said, “Prized Woman.” A friend laughed when I showed it to her. But I can feel God’s grace in my bones. It feels so good. God is so good.

That’s the grace — the gifts that God has given to me. I’ve gotten one of the gifts. I’m getting my normal body back. I feel secure in the hope for the other gifts, although I suspect they may be a long time in coming. I do believe God gives you a brain, and it’s your job to use it the best way you can. I checked out library books about understanding transsexuals and transgender liberation. I’ve called some local support groups, and have gotten some responses from women and feminine identified persons. But, I haven’t gotten a call returned from any of the men or persons with a masculine identification. What does it take to get a man to call you back? Another miracle from God, I guess.