by Paddy Noble
Ko Hikurangi te Maunga (My sacred Mountain is Hikurangi)
Ko Waiapu te Awa (My sacred River is theWaiapu)
Ko Ngati Porou te Iwi (My tribe is Ngati Porou)
Ko Paddy taku inoga (My name is Paddy)
Anei toku turanga (This story is who I am and where I come from)
My people are a proud people. Sometimes I think we are too proud we forget those around us. My people, Maori, are not always accepting of me and people like me but we manage to get along at certain times. I once thought God existed only the in Church my family attended nonetheless as I grew older God was beyond my own reasoning and I gave up trying to define God, the gender of God, and the scope of God’s love. We as theologians tend to put God in our box of reasoning and should let God be God, the Great Spirit, and let us be who we are in Peace and Love with each other.
As I got older I discovered my attraction to other men. I wasn’t feeling very happy about this and suffered many days of confusion. I also discovered that being Maori and being Christian became both my strength and my burden. Being Maori was my sense of pride and strength in who I am and being Christian was the foundation of my spirit. But at the same I was let down by both because it conflicted with what I was feeling deep inside of me, I was finding myself attracted to my own gender, finding love among male friends and companionship and eventually sexual attraction.
I had no place to feel! I was told that God loves us through his son Jesus Christ and that we must be good Christians! So as I grew up I grew more confused about the feelings I had. And then I was made to believe that Maori people could not have accepted gay or lesbian people. It was a sign of weakness and if we showed this as a warrior we were weak!
Aue, Aue taukuri eee. (I am full of sorrow and pain!)
Aue taku manawa (My heart beats for the uncertain)
Na te Atua e paopaongia ia au. Hhas God abandon me?)
E te Atua e aha ai? (Why God?) Ka kino au? (Am I bad)
He taumaha taku ngakau (My heart weights heavy on me)
One day I was sitting in Church listening to the reading of the Gospel John 13.23 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”... 25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
I wondered what it was like to recline on Jesus and seek comfort in his embrace. I wondered in all our fractured self it would be nice to have someone to comfort and hold on to. It was the disciple that Jesus loved that found this peace. If that disciple was a man and Jesus loved him. Could Jesus also love me who had the same feelings and intimate love to another man? I lamented this lament many times. I saw what the church was doing to both me and my own people. Our theology became changed.
Our God was a god of jealousy, obsessed with sending people to hell, obsessed with telling queer people that we were going to hell. How could God do this? Jesus never condemned anyone to hell. Jesus understood the people on the periphery. Is not our God through Jesus the God of the periphery?
I became trapped and couldn’t climb out of this. And yet somewhere I dreamt many dreams. My grandfather taught us the meaning of Christianity of what it meant to be Maori outside of society’s expectations. From a young age I was prone interpreting dreams and experiencing dreams. One night I dreamt about walking in my grandparent’s garden back home. I dreamt I was walking in the garden and I saw diamonds floating down from the sky slowly. After the diamonds had come down with different colors I saw a golden altar come down. I knew I was in the presence of God. I woke that morning with a deep sense of peace inside of me. It was as if God had touched me and all my worries and woes had left me. I felt then strength of love and renewal with God.
Several years later I spoke with one of the deans at the seminary explaining to him that God is calling me to minister to gay and lesbian people. It was a ministry of my own self-discovery, seeking Gods love and care and guidance. It was a ministry where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were welcome to God’s home of prayer and love. It was a ministry where love, acceptance and nurture and healing exist.
The dean’s words were of comfort and encouragement. He encouraged me on this journey and told me that the day Jesus was stoned and persecuted for what he believed I too will also have this same persecution. He said that God will accept us but others won’t. He blessed me and sent me on my journey.
I am still traveling this journey. I am in constant conflict with my own people on this matter. I am in battle with the established Church. But I know that the journey I am on is one that has picked up many people and found healing and acceptance along the way.
So now I am in Cambodia and my journey has taken me to work in Cambodia a far difference from the comfort of Aotearoa, and a different context of religious and spiritual meaning.
If my journey has found me here it is not because of fate! It is not because the dean of my seminary blessed me and sent me on my way. It is because the entirety of whom I am has brought me here, being Maori, being Christian and being Gay, it is all these in one nurtured and inspired by the nurturing spirit of God. This is how I understand the triune God of the Trinity.