Turning 50 is a divider that cuts through life with the sharpest edge. It calls for contemplation and reflection more than it conjures up visions and dreams of the future. When my father turned 50 he lightheartedly announced that he was now in the “death half” (döhalvan) of life. It is the time when (hopefully) ego is discarded and true self is embraced. In the words of Richard Rohr, it is the time to fall upwards.
The last couple of years have been a veritable rollercoaster. I have been spiraling since I left the Salvation Army and what I thought would be what I did for the rest of my life. Until recently the only thing that has kept me afloat has been my relationship to my beloved Anna.
What now? That has been the question that I have tried to crack the last couple of years, what is my purpose, what is the unique gift that I bring to this world? I have had a lot of titles and uniforms throughout my life.
Student, Friend, Salesperson, Manager, Sysadmin, Teacher, Linux proffessional, Christian, Bible study Leader, Pastor, Preacher, Evangelist, Guardian Angel, Trainer, Patrol Leader, IRT member, Blackbelt, Knight, Scholaro, Magistro, Salvation Army soldier, Officer, Captain, Tantra masseur, ISTA faculty, Game Master, Geek, Poet, Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Polyamorist, Primary, Lover, Metamour, Kinkster, Daddy, Theologian, Queer ….. The list goes on and on.
When I was 14 years old I was positively certain that I was going to teach the bible for the rest of my life. When I was 30 I was certain I would do it within the Salvation Army. When my faith was shaken it was process thought and queer theology that allowed me to reconstruct my faith. My foray into eastern mysticism and embodied practices gave me more tools and a deeper understanding of the nature of love, eros, the body and the world. Now I am turning 50 and in my heart I know that 14 year old me was right: studying and teaching the scriptures is my sacred path. I am back where I started as a student only now I get to study ancient languages to take my studies deeper.
Round and round it goes, family, religion, theology, queering, it all comes down to realitionships. The interpersonal and the transpersonal. Parked in the liminal, the space between the real and the hyper-real
The other day I was at my recruitment interview; The very start of the process to become a priest in the Swedish Lutheran church. As I sat there I thought about covenants. The ones I have made and the ones that have been made with me. The ones I have kept and the ones I have failed to keep. I know I am called by the divine to be faithful. Faithful to what? Faithfull to my calling, to my covenant with the divine. I am called to be an outpouring and a manifestation of divine eros towards the church towards god, my neighbor and to myself.
The greatest event of the past year has without a doubt been our wedding; The celebration of my covenant with my beloved – Anna. It wasn’t all butterflies, unicorns and rainbows. The week before the ceremony, we where told by the priest, she could not bless our union because we are polyamorous. How can you promise faithfulness and still be open? Our answer: Faithfulness to us is faithfulness to our covenant, our agreement. We did of course find a priest who not only would bless our union, but one that would do so enthusiastically. We had our ceremony and celebration, and it was a beautiful day surrounded by family and loved ones. In the midst of all that joy and fullness the was some sadness and lack. For all the friends and family that where present the ones that chose not to be present made me, once again, realise that blood is thicker than water! The true meaning of this saying has been lost over time. Today this saying is invoked to say that family comes first and while that is what it sounds like, It is not what it means. The full form of the saying goes like this:
The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb
In the old testament to “make/cut” a covenant (כרת ברית) An animal would be cut in half and the ones enetering into covenant would walk between the pieces and be marked by the blood. The symbolism is the same as the word used in genesis where the man is to cleave to his wife. The understanding of a covenant is that you are cut of, and then joined together in the new covenanted constellation. There are traces left in the english language in the form of “cutting a deal” but I digress into linguistic nerdery.
From where I stand the bond made by “the water of the womb” is very fragile. In the end it is those that you choose to have in your life. The ones that you make a covenant with … those are the ones that will be there – come what may.
Now this could be your biological family if that is your choice (and theirs) if you make a covenant together. It is actively choosing to be a family, to show up, to keep coming back to love. In fair weather and in the storm. It is of course, in the storm that you see who is really with you. These last months while my father has been in hospital and on the hard road to recovery, the family around him has showed up so beautifully, offering near 24/7 support. The family stepped in and made a covenant to be a family in this time of need. I want to write that I could only hope and pray I have that one day, but the truth is: I was chosen, invited and I am part of that.
So on that glorious day of mine and Anna’s wedding surrounded by our real family, the ones that chose to celebrate with us, our covenant was deepened not just between the two of us but with all of those present, chosen family.
This is what it’s all about … it’s all about relationship, the interpersonal and the transpersonal. It’s all family, all relationship, all theology. It’s about coming back to love, coming back home, again and again. It’s not about who you cut out or exclude, it is about who you include. It is about saying, I do.
So here I am turning 50. I am halfway to my bachelors degree on my way to a masters in theology. I may end up in the church again as a priest, I may end up somewhere else …. I will, no matter what, continue to study, wrestle with, question, and queer the scriptures; Hopefully teach at some point, only god knows.
Standing here at the divide between youth and old age, looking back at my labyrinthine journey. I must recognise that blood is thicker than water. It is your chosen family (the ones you have chosen and the ones that have chosen you), the ones that you have made a covenant with, they are the ones that will be there in the end. This is what matters; being in love, surrounded by love with the ones you love.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. … Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.1 Joh 4.7-8, 11-12 (NRSVUE)