Makin' Pearls

by: Kenneth Allen


I was reading Psalm 38 and it hits me like a ton of makeup: I've lived this one before.

Verse 1-2: "O Jehovah, rebuke me not in thy wrath; neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore."

So, I'm hummin' along my Mary-way when all of the sudden I get this tap on the shoulder. Immediately, I think, "Oh God." And wouldn't ya' know it? I was right. I mean, really, who else is gonna stop me in the midst of all this great stuff and say, "Hey, let's take a quick inventory?" Okay, it coulda been the X, but he was never thinking of my edification when he would do something like that.

Verse 3-4: "There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine indignation; neither is there any health in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me."

And yup, to this day, God is the only one who can leave me speechless. And yup, if sin really did take away health, I'd be road-pizza by now. Then it hits me that this is just like when I have to find some big, strappin' lesbian to open the pickle jar for me - or do some electrical work on my house.

Verse 5-8: "My wounds are loathsome and corrupt, because of my foolishness. I am pained and bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with burning; and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am faint and sore bruised: I have groaned by reason of the disquietness of my heart."

Okay, yes, I'll admit it. I'm a gay man, i.e., a good drama can carry me through the day. The role of Camille was meant for me, but alas, I was born a man in the age of the light-hearted comedy. And let's not even go to the loins problem. I'll just say again, "I'm a gay man." Need I say more? Things are beginning to become a little clearer, here. That swish in my step and lightness of gesture is just facing for my masquerade. Haunting phrases made in therapy come to my mind, like "What issues?", "My mother isn't that bad, is she?", and "How many of the twelve can I do and still make an `A'?"

Verse 9-10: "Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart throbbeth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me."

At this point in self-actualization, running can seem the best thing. But this is like that dream I have where I'm in Macy's and I see the Waterford crystal vase marked down to "free" and I'm knocking down perfume spraying salesgirls and racks of slacks to get to it but I can't because my feet are stuck to the cheap mall linoleum that hasn't been really cleaned in ... well, Lord knows when. So, I tell God about the vase. And we talk about my broken heart and ponder where the light in my eyes might have gone.

Verse 11-12: "My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my plague; And my kinsmen stand afar off. They also that seek after my life lay snares for me; And they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and meditate deceits all the day long."

Funny, isn't it? Not funny, funny. And not funny in `that way.' But funny that when your darkest moments come, lovers and friends and relations aren't always there. Matter of fact, being there for you is more their exception than their rule. It is here that I see my role changing from that of Camille, to Cujo. Let us not forget that when it comes to dishing each other, we gay folk ain't got much to be proud of. And I'm not pointing all blame elsewhere. I'll take full responsibility for myself. Let me assure you of two things: 1. If I don't have anything good to say about someone, I go straight to the phone; and 2. If you don't have anything good to say about someone, I expect to here from you within the hour.

Verse 13-16: "But I, as a deaf man, hear not; and I am as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Yea, I am as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs. For in thee, O Jehovah, do I hope: Thou wilt answer, O Lord my God. For I said, lest they rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me."

You know? It is so true. A queen can give the best rendition of "I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," get a standing ovation, more tips than any other queen can get all night, but one slip in her heels as she exits stage left and bam! Laughing stock. A great performer will pull off her next number with more dignity and grace than before and silence her scoffers. By the time the audience staggers out, they've forgotten her turned heel. I am she.

Verse 17-18: "For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin."

Okay, fine. I'm selfish, unloving, greedy, lustful, viscious-tongued, and in too many ways, oh-sooo human. Not to mention, watching Xena is the only time I can see the letter `X' without getting angry. And sorry? At the very least, I should point out that no color in the rainbow goes well with any of these traits. Sorry? I can't even begin to imagine the pains I've caused as I sought lauds for haughtiness instead of humility.

Verse 19-20: "But mine enemies are lively, and are strong; and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied. They also that render evil for good are adversaries unto me, because I follow the thing that is good."

No matter what I say or do or how much I change my surroundings, queens are gonna talk and people aren't going to like me. Ouch. My fingers hurt just trying to type it, much less say that out loud. Faced that fact, let's face another. In some circles, being gay is a license for back-stabbing, hatefulness, and any sin related to pleasure. Any attempt to live against that grain is certain to be met with adversity. I thought I'd seen the worst of that adversity until I met it in someone very close to me. Me. Certainly, there are enough enemies in this life without adding myself to their ranks but oh, how they can be so convincing. Well, as my grandmama used to say, "When the going gets tough, smile, wave, and clutch the pearls." Okay, actually she just said to cling to the pearly gates, but I took a little poetic latitude.

Verse 21-22: "Forsake me not, O Jehovah: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation."

I always wanted a lover who would always be there and would always love me and would always save me when I needed to be saved. It's called co-dependency and it costs a lot to get rid of it and it really never goes away so I don't recommend you try this at home. However, I've found that I can be as co-dependent as I want when it comes to my relationship with Christ. Ahhhh. Isn't that a relief?

A pearl is made from grains of sand. The grain gets trapped in the oyster's shell, causing the oyster an incredible amount of pain. The oyster physically attempts to do something about it by building a resistance to it, hence the luster and grit of the gem. An oyster never made a pearl by ignoring a grain of sand.

Copyright ©2000 by the author
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The Psalms

Kathleen Norris

Praying the Psalms

Thomas Merton


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Also In This Issue:

The United Methodist Church and Spiritual Violence:
The Trial and Defrocking of Rev. Jimmy Creech

A Walk With Joseph






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