Cherubim Speaks The Truth

(Note: This started as one long post but grew in two directions. Here’s part two.)

 

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved Madeleine L’Engle’s books. A Wrinkle In Time was way out there with other dimensions and deep subjects for a kid’s book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet had its big mystery with time travel and runes and unicorns drinking moonbeams, Many Waters had half-naked Sandy and Dennys on the cover…

The book I was never fond of was A Wind in the Door. There was something about it that made the book unpleasant to read. I read it two or three times but I never knew why I didn’t like the book, just that I needed to leave it alone. Years later, I’ve finally figured out the problem. I recently read A Wind in the Door again and realized that my distaste for the book had nothing to do with the book itself; it had to do with me and my secret.

In the book, Meg Murry must accomplish a series of tasks with a cherubim (singular) that looks not unlike a drive of dragons, all flame and eyes and wings. Proginoskes is a Namer. He supposes that since Meg has been paired with him, she must be a Namer as well.

When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.

That was my problem with the book. When I was 10 (assuming that’s when I read it) the last thing I wanted was to be more particularly the particular person I was supposed to be. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid of that person. He was weird. He was different. If someone found out about him, I just thought I’d die. Every moment of every day was spent worrying about somebody finding out about him.

So when this book came along and tried to tell me that it was okay, even good, to let people know the real me I didn’t know what to do with it. The concept didn’t match up with what I knew of the world. Deep down I knew that Progo was right, but I also knew that it didn’t matter. I required myself to become some other person and oddly enough, the more I did that, the less human I felt. Progo was right again.

Fast forward 25 years, and I find myself still having to purposefully not hide when I interact with people. Fighting against my years of training, I have to remind myself that the person I hid for so long isn’t so bad after all. I still have to make a conscious decision not to hide, and I’ll probably be making that conscious decision for the rest of my life.

That’s one reason I tell people that we can’t wait for people to get used to the idea of having one of The Gays around, especially in the church. Our job as Namers is to make each other feel more human. The church is the source of so much of the pain, so much of the un-Naming, that boys and girls internalize as they figure out that they’re gay.

In some cases, I don’t even think it’s something that the church sets out to do. Silence, both from the pulpit and from the programs in the church, goes a long way toward negatively reinforcing what the kids are already thinking. So we need to make a concerted effort to reinforce specifically to kids and gay teens that God wants them to be, as Proginoskes said, more particularly the particular person he made them each to be.

He wants them to be Named.

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4 thoughts on “Cherubim Speaks The Truth

  1. A beautiful, heart-wrenching piece of soul searching this is. Thank you for having the courage to write it, and to share it with the world.

    As an adult I’ve grown to love A Wrinkle in Time, but when we read it in school (I was about 12) I didn’t like it, and couldn’t have explained why.

    Many years later, I realized it was because the Charles Wallace character was uncomfortably familiar. Like Charles I was noticeably, precociously verbal. The way most of the other kids seemed to immediately hate him, before they hardly even knew him: I found this even more familiar.

    The story about the Illinois boy tagged as “gay” by the bus driver: it brought back painful memories. I was bullied (at school, and at home). Often I blamed myself. After all I was the only one repeatedly being treated this way. Sometimes the teachers reinforced this: “You bring it on yourself, because you’re not like the other kids.”

    On the rare occasions grown-ups tried to help, usually they made things worse: they called further attention to my situation, punishing the bullies mildly enough to make them angry (and eager for revenge against me), but not firmly enough to stop the bullying.

    In gym class at age ten, a group of boys forced me inside a locker. In the hole in the locker’s door where one might put a lock, they put a pencil stub. This prevented me from opening the door. I could have been freed, if just one of my classmates had (on their way out of the locker room) pushed the pencil out.

    No one did.

    I remained in that tiny, dark and uncomfortable space for what seemed forever. Probably it was less than an hour, but you know how elastic one’s sense of time can be, at that age. Particularly if you’re bored, or frightened.

    When a teacher finally noticed my absence, apparently he thought it would be appropriate to have one of the bullies “take responsibility,” by sending him to let me out.

    Yes, I was relieved to stand up and move freely again. But it was not what I wanted to see at that moment: the face of one of my tormentors.

    That teacher’s idiotic decision gave the bullies even greater power over me. Should I have been thankful to them, that one of them finally opened the door? (After being caged all that time. Only after being forced to do it.)

    I am in my forties and still have nightmares of being pursued, attacked and imprisoned. I am agoraphobic, and tend to regard people as threatening. Although I have the ability to trust and to love, it doesn’t come easily.

    Reading about the boy in Bourbonnais, I felt sad. After so many years, these things are still happening. Will we ever learn?

  2. A beautiful, heart-wrenching piece of soul searching this is. Thank you for having the courage to write it, and to share it with the world.

    As an adult I’ve grown to love A Wrinkle in Time, but when we read it in school (I was about 12) I didn’t like it, and couldn’t have explained why.

    Many years later, I realized it was because the Charles Wallace character was uncomfortably familiar. Like Charles I was noticeably, precociously verbal. The way most of the other kids seemed to immediately hate him, before they hardly even knew him: I found this even more familiar.

    The story about the Illinois boy tagged as “gay” by the bus driver: it brought back painful memories. I was bullied (at school, and at home). Often I blamed myself. After all I was the only one repeatedly being treated this way. Sometimes the teachers reinforced this: “You bring it on yourself, because you’re not like the other kids.”

    On the rare occasions grown-ups tried to help, usually they made things worse: they called further attention to my situation, punishing the bullies mildly enough to make them angry (and eager for revenge against me), but not firmly enough to stop the bullying.

    In gym class at age ten, a group of boys forced me inside a locker. In the hole in the locker’s door where one might put a lock, they put a pencil stub. This prevented me from opening the door. I could have been freed, if just one of my classmates had (on their way out of the locker room) pushed the pencil out.

    No one did.

    I remained in that tiny, dark and uncomfortable space for what seemed forever. Probably it was less than an hour, but you know how elastic one’s sense of time can be, at that age. Particularly if you’re bored, or frightened.

    When a teacher finally noticed my absence, apparently he thought it would be appropriate to have one of the bullies “take responsibility,” by sending him to let me out.

    Yes, I was relieved to stand up and move freely again. But it was not what I wanted to see at that moment: the face of one of my tormentors.

    That teacher’s idiotic decision gave the bullies even greater power over me. Should I have been thankful to them, that one of them finally opened the door? (After being caged all that time. Only after being forced to do it.)

    I am in my forties and still have nightmares of being pursued, attacked and imprisoned. I am agoraphobic, and tend to regard people as threatening. Although I have the ability to trust and to love, it doesn’t come easily.

    Reading about the boy in Bourbonnais, I felt sad. After so many years, these things are still happening. Will we ever learn?

  3. cwm » Thanks for your comment, cwm. I do think we’ll learn eventually, though I’m afraid we’re a long way off. Society has romanticized this kind of thing to allow for ideas like “boys will be boys”. Events like you describe call for a change not just in what we expect from children, but in how we expect authority figures like your teacher to react to child-on-child abuse.

  4. cwm » Thanks for your comment, cwm. I do think we’ll learn eventually, though I’m afraid we’re a long way off. Society has romanticized this kind of thing to allow for ideas like “boys will be boys”. Events like you describe call for a change not just in what we expect from children, but in how we expect authority figures like your teacher to react to child-on-child abuse.

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