Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Touch Me, I'm Dirty

One of the more memorable performing experiences I've had was being in the ensemble for Jesus Christ Superstar. I was cast as one of the singing-dancing apostles in a civic light opera production of the musical, and I had a blast.

During the intermission, there was no break for the thirteen actors playing Jesus and the apostles. Instead, the director wanted us to do a quiet improv' at the foot of the stage, of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

Gary M. played Jesus. Unexpectedly, during dress rehearsal for this improvisation, I began crying when Gary started washing my feet.

"What are you doing?" I asked him. "I should be washing your feet, not the other way around. I am not deserving."

At the time of doing this particular show, I had been involved with ex-gay ministry for almost three years. I saw the support group as a good thing for me. I didn't see the twelve-step program as a bad thing in any way, the way it can be vilified in pro-gay press.

But I freely admit that the ex-gay program only reinforced the shame I felt for being homosexual, shame that I had harbored since the age of twelve.

Don't touch me, I thought, when this real-life representation of Jesus tried to express such humble servitude to me. Don't touch me - I'm too dirty, too sinful. I fall more than short and I am beyond help.

Gary, bless his heart, stayed in character, and quietly explained that that was the reason he had come among us. Still feeling resistant, I continued to cry as I allowed Jesus to wash my feet.

The director told us how pleased he was at the outcome of our improv' rehearsal. Gary gave me a huge bear hug. I was feeling the kind of post-storm relief that I usually felt after throwing up.

I have carried that memory and specific moment with me for almost two decades, now. I will never forget it. Whatever conservative nay-sayers may think or say about the incongruity of homosexuality and Christianity, they can never take that moment away from my memory. They cannot undo the quiet, personal faith that was already in place from years before.

Whatever your beliefs, whatever your reasons for celebrating this season, I wish you a peaceful and joyous holiday.


Mike Valentino said...

I read this and my mouth hung open. And don't make any sexual jokes about that- Jesus is reading your blog.

Peter Varvel said...

MV, thank you, truly.
I hope He is reading my blog, as much as I hope and pray for continued protection.
Merriest of Christmases to you and Bekki and all of the "kids."

quin browne said...

this is why you inspire me.

the Constantly Dramatic One said...

You have nothing to be ashamed of Peter. But I bet you know that already now, right? =)

Movin' said...

Well said. Happy holidays to you!!! Best wishes! (will be leaving on Saturday for my man....woot!)


Lori said...

You know I got a little choked up just reading you pumpkin. *hugz*

Erin said...

Peter, for many years now (decades), I always thought that you are the only person that I know who is definitely getting into heaven.

This memory you have shared is so beautiful. Thank you.