On the first Sunday of Advent 2012, I began to feel an internal pang that called me to walk into a church that morning. Outside the context of academic research, I had never willingly walked into a church on Sunday. In retrospect, I was hungry but I didn’t know what for. At the time, I didn’t know what I was feeling, but I desperately prayed for my desire to be in church to dissipate so that I might be able to be freed from its bondage. I prayed to a God I was not even sure I believed in. I prayed, the way I had prayed in middle school for my homosexuality to go away: I absolutely needed this to be a phase.
I felt a pull from some place I couldn’t explain to fly to Denver, CO and be baptized into a Lutheran congregation I didn’t know and by a pastor with whom I had only exchanged a few e-mails and a Skype conversation.
On this weird baptismal journey, I’ve found myself doing things I can’t explain and participating in activities whose meaning I don’t necessarily understand fully. I find myself saying “yes,” sometimes in defiance of common sense, simply because I can’t wait to see what will happen if I do. I walked around in a black cassock distributing ashes in Spanish on the streets of San Francisco for Ash Wednesday. I held the face of a little boy, of a drunk homeless man who lifted up his filthy San Francisco Giants hat to reveal a head full of sores, of a middle-aged Salvadoran woman who told me the devil is after her. I gave all of them ashes, I held their faces, and I told them all that they, just like me, are dust and to dust they will return.
I told all these people not to be scared, and each time I said it I was reminding myself of the same thing. Recuerda que polvo eres y en polvo te convertiras. La muerte no es el final. No temas. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return. Death isn’t the end. Be not afraid.
Don’t be afraid to have parts of you die so that other parts might live. This is my biggest struggle every day, but it's also been my greatest reward.