The last three months have been really strange for me. I’ve alluded to it in some of my previous posts and this morning I really felt the need to write about it. Let’s call it another attempt at catharsis. I feel like I got a bit “lost” over the last few months. It started with some testing issues that I can’t go into, but the breaking point came when Barry died. Somehow, and I had no idea it was happening at the time, the way I saw the world began to shift. Not in a “life is so unfair and I want to die” kind of way. Just a real sadness and a sense that my picture of the way we are expected to live our lives is different to the reality.
Barry was a minister, and an amazing man. I never kept in touch with him as often as I should have over the last few years, and that’s something I regret, but the significant role he played in my life cannot be disputed. But I loved it when we spoke. And suddenly, he was silent.
Man, did I pray that he wouldn’t be.
My first experience of religion was when I was a child. My mom was catholic and my dad is Methodist and as kids my brother and I were asked to choose which church we wanted to belong to. This meant very little to us; we had hardly spent any time in either so our frame of reference was limited. My brother took the lead and suggested we go to the Methodist church; I think he had friends that went there so knew it was cool. I remember this causing a bit of friction in our family, although I wasn’t sure why. I took it to be my mom feeling rejected by her sons. So my first experience was a tad bitter.
We went to a large Methodist church that I eventually became a part of actively – to the point that I worked for the Church on a full-time basis. I loved it. And loved that my life was significant. People matter (as my friend and author Trevor Hudson says) and I could live that daily.
It was during this time that I met Barry and was the time of my life that I was most at battle with myself internally. I remember someone walking up to me during that time and offering to pray for me. I was quite taken aback by it – most people who knew me saw this gregarious (and slightly overweight) youth pastor who was always making jokes or singing. We sat down and he said “people see boldness when inside you cry”. The tears streamed and I walked out thinking that I was free from this internal battle.
But the battle raged and was exhausting. I believed in a God who said he died for me. I loved a scripture that said he had my name written into the palm of his hands – the same palms that had nails driven through them (yes, I know it should be wrists but work with me you detail-types). This God promised to ease my burden and love me. Nothing could seperate me from his love, Paul wrote.
At the same time I was fighting (to the point of exhaustion) my attraction to men. I was petrified that someone would find out because it would mean that the one thing that God apparently hated within me would have me excluded. I was very aware that something could seperate me from his love, or at least that’s what I was being told. I was fighting something I really felt no control over and had no choice in because admitting it meant exclusion and, at a base-level, unemployment.
I prayed. I fasted. I walked in victory, even though I wasn’t victorious. I spoke my heterosexuality into being. I secretly joined ministries that said they offered Godly solutions. I stood on God’s word (at times literally) screaming for some sense of relief, and I cried. I wanted to please God above all-else.
This wasn’t a temporary quick thing. I went through this for years. I moved to Cape Town and continued my journey to being the man God wanted me to be. I prayed and prayed.
All I ever got in return was silence.
I experienced God through people. But those same people eventually excluded me from the Church and the community that I loved when I exposed my battle with my homosexualty and the fact that I wasn’t seeing God’s victorious hand in it. I assumed that the good came from God and the bad from humanity, but I question that now.
And when I joined the throngs begging God to let a man lost at sea be found and returned to his wife, the church he led and the two young kids who would never know him if he didn’t walk in the door again, I received my usual response.
I have been criticised when writing this blog about my attempts to be gay and a christian. I’ve always tried to respond from a place of strength and to allow people their opinions. Around the time of Barry’s death a person left a comment on a past blog that negated my journey, and reminded me that I had no place in the kingdom of God because I love a man. I went home and prayed about it. And I received my usual response.
I’m disillusioned by silence.
And I’m not sure that you who I thought was out there, really is.
And it breaks my heart.
And it frees me.