Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Effect of Paradox

         The psychologist Carl Jung made the claim that when an individual holds two contradictory parts of himself together, rather than destroying one another, these two parts will eventually shift, linking like pieces of a puzzle, becoming a third whole that did not yet exist. Holding these two opposites together is like holding the repelling ends of a magnet together. They push away with a fierce energy that seeks to either run from or annihilate the other. Keeping these two paradoxical parts together is uncomfortable, and sometimes altogether painful. But it is the pain and effort involved in this process that Jung claims purify the man like a refining fire.
            The revolution of faith that I experienced was much like this. I could no longer ignore the reality of my sexuality, and I had few options. I could either run from it, deeper into Mormonism. I could dive into my sexuality headfirst, abandoning faith altogether. Or I could muscle the two together.
            I chose to wrestle with the painful issues on both sides. It has been no easy road, and few have been able to see the logic in my choices, but as Jung promised, I have experienced a shifting in these parts. Now my faith and my sexuality fit together perfectly in a whole, no fighting and no fragmentation. This experience has allowed me to step back, in spite of my fears, and see so many issues from a new perspective. Holding to my preconceived conventions is not an option, and there is a liberation that comes along with that letting go.
The effects of this transformation extend far beyond matters of sexuality and faith. It has led me to reconsider the very way in which I view the world. Lines of black and white have blurred and rules of what are and what are not have fallen away. Things that I used to fear I am now stepping into, allowing myself to experience. The deeper connections of all things human, spiritual, and meaningful are becoming more evident to me. As the old grey walls I lived within are crumbling away the radiant colors of the wild are taking flight. Let me give an example.
This past Sunday was Easter. My boyfriend and I went to the Episcopal cathedral for the service, finding the pews full and the folding chairs on the side filling quickly. We took our seats, and listened to the exquisite organ music. As the eleven o’clock hour arrived, a full orchestra began to sound, playing music that my boyfriend said sounded like Star Wars. I smiled at the comparison. The majesty of Star Wars is something I would happily welcome. As the trumpets joined the revelry we all stood, and the clergy stepped into the cathedral, waving massive poles with rainbow colored streamers flying at the top. Other poles bore paper butterflies, the symbol of rebirth, dancing around the tips.
The music grew bolder, and the organ finally joined, shaking the cathedral to its core as we added our voices, singing,

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!

The voices of hundreds of people filled every remaining space in that great stone hall, and the magnificence of it overcame me. Tears came to my eyes and I struggled to sing.

Hymns of Praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ our heavenly king, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!

As the music continued I could not help but feel the divinity in it. My thoughts went to Jesus Christ, and the reason for our massive celebration. There is great power in the belief in a Savior. He is the great unifier, the one who makes right all that seems to have gone wrong, and the one who delivers us from suffering and sorrow. To believe in such a being is to believe that when all is said and done all will be right, for it is all in the hands of a majestic and loving God.

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
Now above the sky he’s king, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

The voices of my fellow worshipers sounded more clearly in my ears, and I realized that in addition to the personal joy faith in the Savior brings, belief in Jesus Christ means that every single person in that room is my brother or sister, that every person outside of that house of worship is as well. Regardless of religion, belief, nationality or race, it doesn’t matter.
I realized then my own tendency to criticize right-wing conservatives and those that speak one thing and do another. If I truly believe in this man Jesus, then they too are to be given mercy and forgiveness. I was then reminded of my own family, who I had not made an effort to talk to in months. Once again, if I believe in Jesus Christ then I need to offer them my love as well.
The music swelled, building until I didn’t think I could contain my emotions, and with all the fervor that could be mustered we sang,

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!

There was a power in the air that was nearly tangible as the music fell to silence. The priest stepped to the front and proclaimed,
“Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
In one voice we replied,
“The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
And as I said it, I knew those words held so much more meaning for me as a Christian.
Easter has become one of my favorite days of the year, because for me it means so much more than simply religious tradition. The new perspective I have gained from holding together the contradictory parts of my life has changed the way I interact with religion, and the world. Life has become more challenging, especially since it’s not plotted out in black and white, but when it all comes together the effect is simply breathtaking. Faith is more potent, more real. Joy is brighter, and comes in more colors. Magic moments come into my life much more often. The world has become a beautiful place since I opened my eyes to see it.
I still deal with conflict and contradiction. I am still learning to love and to forgive. I am still learning how to build a healthy relationship and a satisfying future. I still have my insecurities and my inner demons to battle. But I know from experience how to better sit with my inner paradoxes. Sometimes I simply need to settle into the quiet, inside and out. Other times I have to wrestle with the issues in an emotional free-for-all. But I know that if I hold on long enough, and keep these seemingly contradictory issues in my life together, eventually it will all come together in one magnificent burst of light.


  1. My guy sings in the choir of his UCC congregation. I was not able to attend on Easter Sunday so he told me about the service. I love the variety of music and musical instruments. His church also has a beautiful pipe organ and an excellent organist. I love hearing the music at his church.

  2. Beautiful metaphor! It describes the situation for many religious LGBTQ identified individuals. Thanks so much for posting this!