I knew, in that first “Do we want to be a couple?” conversation with my partner almost nine years ago, that saying “yes” would change my life dramatically.
I would have to hide.
Or fight for the right to continue working as a Presbyterian minister.
Or walk away from my vocational life as I knew it.
I said “yes.” And a year later I began walking away.
Almost five years ago, I closed the door on that part of my life. In technical Presbyterian parlance, I asked “to be relieved of the exercise of ordained office.” It wasn’t a locked door. I could come back. And I could transfer my credentials to another religious organization.
I knew that saying “yes” would change my life dramatically. I knew, because I’d said “yes” before.
I said “yes” to new friends at college who opened my mind to new ways of being Christian. And that “yes” closed the door to old ways of thinking.
I said “yes” to seminary, a huge leap for someone who grew up believing that there shouldn’t be clergy at all, let alone women clergy. And seminary closed so many doors. The biggest, heaviest closed doors, for me? Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch, and Jesus didn’t die for my sins.
By the time I said “yes” to life with my partner, I had learned to recognize those doors with the great big open spaces on the other side. Beautiful new worlds that would make all the old worlds seem too small to live in.
I had no way of knowing that this rabbit hole would be exponentially deeper than any other I’d chosen to explore.
In the summer of 2001, when I put my hand on that doorknob, prepared to walk through the door, I was a 30-year-old, former fundamentalist, Presbyterian clergywoman living in northwest Ohio. Now I’m an almost-4o, non-theistic Unitarian Universalist living in Girdwood, Alaska.
And I think I’m afraid of opening any more doors. I might wind up on the moon.