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           The movie Touch of Pink illustrates my journey  
           towards becoming family.  The main character,
           Alim, a young gay man of Indian decent living in   
           London, has an ongoing imaginary friendship
           with the actor Cary Grant.  He tells Cary Grant any
personal difficulty he is experiencing and his imaginary friend
always has the right answer.  

                      Two conflicts in Alim's life keep him
                      coming back to Cary Grant for solace and
                      direction:  Alim is closeted to his pushy
                      but warm and caring mother, and is in a
                      relationship with his lover with whom he feels
immense insecurity.  As long as he is closeted from his mother
and indulges in feelings of rejection from his lover, he clings to
Cary Grant as his only true intimate, his only confidant, his
only significant other.

Alim’s life unravels and he is outed.  His mother is more than
accepting of her son's sexual orientation and his lover. Alim
comes to trust enough to rest secure in his relationship with his
lover.  It is at this point that Cary Grant and Alim have their
final conversation in which Cary Grant kindly, gently steps
aside and fades away.  The imaginary childhood playmate is
no longer needed.

            Alim has at last stepped into family.  He has an
            accepting mother who is able to adjust, and he
            is securely partnered with a loving real
            significant other.  These two characters, his
            accepting mother and his loving partner, were
            already in place; it was Alim who needed to
            make some critical mental changes to make real
            that understanding. Once these changes came into
Alim's life, the imaginary Cary Grant was no longer the
substitute parent and the perfect lover, and so Cary Grant
fades away.

Alim's journey toward family in some ways mirrors my own.  
Jesus was my Cary Grant, the perfect childhood playmate.  
The Bible was my play script from which I could adapt whatever
words I needed to hear from my Cary-Grant-like Jesus.  This,
sadly, was pretty much the totality of my family until age forty-
four.  My playmate-like Jesus was the only person with whom I
could be honest and open about myself and find full
acceptance, understanding, and validation.  Members of my
given family – parents, siblings – did not have the resources or
the power to do so.  I had to hide from my given family for
years and then, unlike Alim's situation with his mother, I was
made an outcast once my parents and siblings knew that I was
gay.  It's no wonder that Jesus took on proportions like that of
a childhood imaginary playmate for thirty one years of my life.

           Unlike the movies where everything resolves in
           90 minutes, my cordial good-bye with my Gary-
           Grant Jesus played out over the course of three  
           years.  Beginning at age forty-one, I rose up  
           daily before anyone was awake and I walked out
           of my house and into the still morning.  With
           tears coursing down my face, I talked with God
           out of my brokenness, and in those arguments and
pleadings that I placed before God, I believe I began to love
the Triune God with my body and mind. With the self
disclosure that was characteristic of my life with God, I prayed,
"Father, I cannot wait for the ascended resurrected Christ to
some day place his physical loving arms around me and hold
me.  I need loving male arms now to cradle me.   Send to me
now, I pray, that man who will tenderly, lovingly hold me."  

         That person I prayed for came into my life more
         than ten years ago.  He held me for literally hours
         on end.  The tender warmth of his physical touch
         and the mutual self disclosure we shared through
         speech, healed my broken spirit.  I revived.  We
         bonded, coupled, committed ourselves in love to each
other, and found in the other meaningfulness and fulfillment
that we had not known prior to our love for each other: "Like
coming home to no home I ever knew" (Sleepless in Seattle),
or Like being family like no family I ever knew.

My Jesus as playmate faded from my life.  He was no longer
the focal point around which everything revolved.  I came to
understand that in this particular area of my need and longing,
Jesus sustains me through his appointed means.  As Eve was
distinct from God and as Eve, not God, satisfied Adam's
incompleteness, so my in-the-flesh-significant-other life-
partner is distinct from Jesus and he, not Jesus, will complete
me in the sense that God intended.  God completed Adam
through Eve his appointed means.  Though God walked with
Adam in the Garden in the cool of the day, God's presence
with Adam did not suffice in all things.  Adam was incomplete
without Eve albeit God was there. Building a life solely around
Jesus as though he was all I needed as family to meet my
needs for belonging, fellowship, community and communion, is
what warped my Jesus into an imaginary playmate.

                     
                     With the realization that Jesus had
                     functioned by-and-large as an imaginary
                     playmate for some thirty years, and along
                     with other faith related questions of doubt
                     and re-examination, I experienced a personal
faith crisis in my mid life years.  It caused me to enter into a
process of rethinking my faith and then mending, rebuilding
and redirecting my faith.  I refer to this process as loving God
with all my mind.  

As I reviewed my thirty years prior to my faith crisis, I became
aware that Jesus had not been real to me, not in the areas of
intimate relationships, fellowship and family.  No, in this area of
my life Jesus had become an imaginary playmate as the
perfect significant other who would fulfill all these needs.  I
didn't need family.  I didn't need a relationship.  I had Jesus.  
But this way of thinking is fatally flawed. I had made Jesus the
end.  Instead, he provides the means to the end.  In this
department of life, he is not the end.

               Suffice it to say, that in these last ten years of
               being family, that is, partnered with my loving
               spouse, life has become real for me.  I
               suppose that's why Cary Grant smiles in
               
Touch of Pink at the end of the movie as he
               fades away for the last and final time while
               looking fondly on Alim:  at last life became real
               for Alim; at last Alim was truly connected to his
               significant others – his mother and partner; at last
family.  When I watched the movie for the second time, I saw
Jesus – that is, the imaginary playmate Jesus - smiling fondly
upon me as he faded away.  

At last a real Jesus who is not someone simply meshed in
with my personal intimate needs so that there is actually no
distinction between what I feel and who Jesus appears to be.  
No, he is the Other, standing apart from me, who has
heard my plea and provided for me by giving me a family, a
significant other.
______________________________________
A Journey towards becoming family:  



By Steve Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep www.othersheep.org
Note:  This article first appeared in the newsletter Presbyterian Welcome, the Winter 2007/08 issue
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This article was first written in
San Diego, CA, while at the ETS
and AAR/SBL conferences,
November 2007, and later
revised the following month back
home in the Bronx.  This article
was written at the request of Rev.
Mieke Vandersall and was first
published in her Presbyterian
Welcome, Winter 2007/08 issue.
This web page was
created and
published March 8,
2008.  Visits to this
web page since
March 8, 2008.
In the three
photos that follow:
Jose Ortiz, left,
with his partner
Steve Parelli, right.
_______________________
Jeus is the Other, standing apart from me . . . no longer someone
simply meshed in with my personal intimate needs