Monday, May 19, 2008

The Light Within

Part 1 of In the Footsteps of Spring, an exploration of the coming out process as a spiritual journey.

“The Light Within” is an attempt to depict my experience of the first phase of the coming out journey. For me, this phase can best be described as an interior movement of the soul, a conversion. It’s about moving from the closet of ignorance and denial into the light of self-acceptance.

“The Light Within” is also an attempt to give voice to something that’s very difficult to comprehend and explain: what it was that I experienced that motivated this movement, this conversion. I believe it was the breaking through of what theologian Joan Timmerman describes as the “hidden-from-the senses transcendent divine reality.” It’s a reality that I can distinctly recall infusing my frightened, 14-year-old self on more than one occasion during an especially fearful and anxious period of my adolescence.

I now look back and talk about the life-saving “calm from both beyond and within” that I experienced as a boy, as God’s transforming love – a love that calls each one of us to accept, embody, and express the gift of our sexuality (the “Light within”) in loving and life-giving ways; a love that calls us out from all of our various closets of fear and denial. In retrospect, this experience marked the beginning of my long journey of self-acceptance as a gay man.

The quotations I share, and which were especially meaningful to me during my experience of this particular time in my life, are from Psalm 40.

________________________


The Light Within
By Michael J. Bayly

There is a Light within me,
deep at my core.
In relating to others
it lights my way.
A part of me, holy,
this Light
deep within.


As a child
I celebrated the Light
– as a child does,

trustingly, spontaneously,
without shame.

Too soon I realized
that my light was different.

They had names for the Light I possessed,
they who did not possess it.
Like great dark clouds
these names gathered around me.
They clung to me.

In time
I myself began to fear the Light,

began to perceive it as something
destructive and distorted.
The years passed.
I had not the words
nor the courage

to hold forth my Light.
I feared what it would reveal
about myself,
about my life.


I built a wall, a façade.
The flow of my energies was fragmented.
I turned inwards
and declared my Light
darkness.



For years one can slumber
but the Light remains.

A boy of fourteen,
plagued by fear and doubt.
At night I roamed the darkened house,
the silent garden - lost.
A stranger in the midst
of family and friends.

Alone but for the fear
which like a wild beast,
a coiling serpent within,
dragged me deeper
into darkness.

Each night I would pray
to the God of the psalmist
who likewise had prayed:

. . . troubles surround me;
my sins have overtaken me;
I cannot see my way.
They outnumber the hairs on my head,
and my heart fails me.

Be pleased, Yahweh, to rescue me.
Yahweh, come quickly and help me!

. . . Poor and needy as I am,
God has me in mind.
You my helper, my savior,
my God, do not delay.

And then came the calm.

It was a gift
from both beyond
and within.
It rose like a tide
and quelled
the fiery beast of fear.
It allowed me to walk
upon the sacred ground
of my own true Self.

Here I cultivated a garden,
a resting place
wherein I drew strength.
And the calm became
a splashing fountain
that resounded my name.


In time
I came to look upon the Light
that I had so greatly feared,
to approach its flame.
And to perceive the source of both
the calm and the Light,
the fountain and the flame,
as being one and the same.

I waited, I waited for Yahweh.
Then he stooped to me
and heard my cry for help.

He pulled me up
from the seething chasm,
from the mud of the mire.
He set my feet on rock,
and made my footsteps firm.


NEXT: Part 2: “Shards of Summer”

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Introduction to In the Footsteps of Spring


Image 1: “A Differing Light” by Celelia.
Image 2: “Despair” by James McPherson.
Image 3: “Youth of Fountain” by Sindala.

1 comment:

kevin57 said...

Thank you, Michael, for sharing the conversion dimension of your spiritual journeying to wholeness. In the midst of doctrinal and political disputes involved for us gays, the personal must always be recalled, invoked, and celebrated.