I got on a cleaning kick this morning. Amazingly. I tend to be somewhat of a slob. Not a terrible one. Just a bit disorganized, and more than a bit lazy about housework. Of course, living with a former Navy man has spoiled me a tad. The Man cleans about everything that does not and a few things that do move. This morning I tackled my bathroom (yes, we do have separate bathrooms – I recommend it for all housemates. It cuts down on conflicting grooming schedules). He cleans his bathroom. I clean mine. Mine stays quite clean. It’s the clutter that gets out of hand. But I cleaned and cleared this morning. And the mind jumps. It landed rather logically on “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” And my mind jumped again.
I did not know when we first started dating, but The Man does not believe in God. I write this with some reluctance. Some of my family members read my essays, and my relatives are largely Christian. I do not want them trying to redeem him and save his soul. The Man’s father, heart in the right place, does much of that already.
When I did discover that my guy was a “non-believer,” it made no matter to me. Though I was raised a Southern Baptist, I had given up on church. After coming out as a homosexual, it was not so much a decision as a result. I heard from friends and relatives that I was going to Hell. People would tell me that they were praying for my soul. I endured sermons about the evils of homosexuality. Really Christians? Really?!
Abandoning the Christian faith, I still felt the need to worship. So I started attending a local Buddhist temple. I enjoyed the serenity of the religion, though I did not delve too deeply in the tenets of the faith. Not doing my homework resulted in the following anecdote:
One Saturday morning, The Man and I were relaxing at the house. The doorbell rang. The Man walked to the front window. He returned to the living room. “Don’t go to the door. It’s two ladies with bibles.”
“Oh, geez.” I stood and rolled my eyes at The Man. When I opened the door, the well-dressed women began by telling me about Jesus and his “infinite grace.” Then they invited me to their church. I thanked them but told them that I already attended a temple.
“Temple?” They asked.
Yes, temple. I replied.
“What kind of temple?” They asked.
Buddhist temple. I replied. I’m a Buddhist.
“Oh! Tell us about that.” They requested.
I babbled something about our belief that all beings were naturally good and that by striving to do well we meet our highest evolution. It even sounded like bullshit to me.
“Is there another person here?” They asked.
Yes, my partner is here. But you probably do not want to talk to him. I said
At ‘him,’ their eyes widened.
He’s an atheist. I explained.
Eyes wider still.
They offered me a pamphlet and left quickly.
And after hearing myself having a difficult time describing my new religion, I stopped attending temple.
Ultimately here I am, sharing a home with the most holy, righteous, cheerful, kind, and caring man that I have ever met. Ok, so he’s not Godly. He doesn’t force his views on others. He doesn’t go door to door preaching of an untended universe. He keeps a smile on his face without the assistance of a spiritual family. Ok, maybe he is godly.
Cleanliness was the first priority with my grandmother. Also, she was one of the godliest women I’d ever met. Before she passed, we had a conversation one afternoon. I had recently come out and was raw-nerved due to my separation with the church. I asked her. “Maw-maw, do you think that I’m going to Hell?”
She gave me a direct look to the eye. “Of course not. You’ve got a good heart. God knows that.”
My cleaning this morning brought my grandmother back to me. And today that was the only godliness I needed.