Three years ago I restarted my life after working for the church for more than 11 years. I was single again after being married for 13 years, living 3000 miles away from my hometown without knowing what to expect ahead. I was 40 years old, overweight, in debt, jobless, confused and in pain. I had finally graduated from university but I did not have any experience in my resume besides my church work. I was a wounded human being trying to make sense of his life. For three months I lived out of the mercy and grace of my close friends, and my sister Maria. I was in the midst of moving to California to live closer to family. The church that brought me to the United States was in complete silence, and that silence was very loud in my heart. I knew in my mind this was going to happen when I came out while still serving as a local pastor in the United Methodist Church, but knowing about, and experience it is something totally different. I do not wish anybody to go through this.
During this time I wrote my so famous unpublished book “The Way of Simplicity”, a memoir of my life in 365 pages. My online blog, Uncomplicated Spirituality, for the months of August 2010 had an article titled “Contemplative Life” where I wrote this:
There is nothing like the contemplative life, when I give to myself the opportunity to quite down all the noises around me, all the voices who tell me who I am or where to go, all the frustration, anxiety, hurt and bitter. It is a moment where I can try to understand the deepest longing of my soul, and the refreshment of my spirit. Therefore if, “Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there” (Signature of Jesus – quote by William Shannon), then a contemplative life is not discovering what it will be, but acknowledging what is already there. I like the definition of salvation that Brennan Manning has, it is not to escape the flames of eternal damnation like we are used to hear, but “an ongoing process of becoming increasingly conscious.”
After more than 80 applications submitted, I found a job, and in this place I was introduced to the immigrants rights movement, and social justice in general. Popular education and organizing became my motto, and the struggle of the oppressed became a very strong motivation to fight for it. I went from a full time preacher in the church, to a full time minister con mi gente. (With my people). In the last 3 years I have moved twice, one to Knoxville, Tennessee, and lately to Birmingham Alabama. I have lived in four different houses, and now I live in one of the smallest places I have ever lived before. I have met wonderful people in this movement, people I have learned so much. In the meantime, my father a strong pillar in my life left to join his ancestors. The imagine of his eyes saying good bye to us while he whispered “me voy, me voy” (I am leaving, I am leaving) still in my mind as it was only yesterday.
BUT, I am still in debt, and still seeking for the direction of my life. I am still confused trying to find the answers of all my questions. I am faithless, churchless, cashless, boyfriend less, and surprisingly, without social life. Coming out was not the end of the road, but the beginning of rebuilding a life, and let me tell you it has not been easy, but it has been worth it. I do not regret the decision I have made in the last 3 years. My life has been giving 180 degrees turns many times, and honestly I do not have any idea where I will turn next. I am, little by little, taking control of my life, and a result of this is my strong commitment to be in the best shape ever when I turn 45 years old. I am still walking in this journey of mine.
“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
– Pema Chödron, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living.