Monday, May 07, 2007

"The Book: Even More"

The Odyssey continues. The previous "chapter" can be found here.

I have always been a person of faith. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and went to Catholic school. I had a falling out with the church in my high school and college days. When I did come back to the church, it was to the ELCA Lutheran church. I chose this church because it felt like the Catholic church but without all the guilt.
Christianity has always been a major force in my life. I have always felt that my life was in the hands of God. Now believing my life was in the hands of God was not in some Purpose Driven Life kind of way, but more as a loving parent would look after a child. God was there, not necessarily to prevent me from doing wrong, but to help me to pick myself up after something wrong had occurred.
And following this parent/child metaphor, I, as the dutiful child, wanted to keep the parent happy. I tried to do what I had been told was pleasing to God. I tried to avoid those things that I was told were bad and tried to do what was good. I guess you could probably have called me a “Goody-goody.”
So, how does the goody-goody deal with thoughts and feelings that he knows would be unacceptable for the parent, God? The goody-goody repressed it all. The goody-goody tries extra hard to be good. The goody-goody tries so hard to follow all the rules so that parent will love him. The goody-goody doesn’t, the goody-goody tries but then feels all the guilt.
Maybe it was, in part, this guilt that got me into the ministry. I think I may have been trying to REALLY appease God. If I gave my life to God, then either God would “cure” me of being gay or give me the strength to live a celibate life. OR maybe God would bring a “good woman” into my life and I would fall in love and have kids and be all kinds of happy. I believed (and still do believe) that God could do anything, so if I just kept the faith and prayed really, really hard, God would find some way to get me through this whole thing.
What became a problem is when I would really, really pray and nothing seemed to happen. Sometimes it seemed as if it actually got harder to ignore the men I would see. I would be talking to some man and a fleeting image of me kissing him would go through my mind. I didn’t even feel attracted to him but suddenly, in my minds eye, I would be in a lip lock with this person. When these images would flash through my head, I would try to do the old, “get thee behind me Satan” and ask Jesus to come into my life.
I don’t think it would be too far from the truth to say that my homosexuality dictated the career choices I made. I know that I prove the old adage that people go into psychology to figure themselves out. I wanted to know why I was different and how I could become “normal.” So I followed the path of psychology because it was easier, coming from my blue-collar background, to become a psychologist than to go to a psychologist. And I am pretty sure that I went into ministry to get on God’s good side. (Gosh, if I gave my life to God, God would have to make me acceptable, right?) Maybe I just needed to learn how to pray right or something and then the great miracle would happen and I would be happily hetero.
I think this is one of the more hurtful things about the fundamentalist point of view: no matter how you look at it, it all comes down to the person being bad. Either the gay person did something bad to make him gay. Or his parents did something bad. Or he didn’t pray right. Or he didn’t really want to leave the gay “lifestyle.” Or he really didn’t… Whatever you can come up with, when the miracle doesn’t come, the only person you can blame is yourself.
It was this point of view that helped to move me to the brink of suicide. I don’t say suicide lightly. It is a very serious thing and not something that should ever be joked about. But suicide began to look like the only way out: I was unacceptable to society. I was unacceptable to my church. Even God didn’t think I was trying hard enough. I was tired from repressing my emotions. I was feeling like a shell of a person and a two-faced liar. I was feeling like my life was a sham and if anyone really knew me, they would reject me just as God appeared to be rejecting me. When you feel your friends are not really your friends because they don’t really know you; your family would reject you because you are not the perfect child; and even God has abandoned you; there is not a whole lot to live for.
What I was to find out later was that although I felt as if my faith had failed me, it was my faith that pulled me through.

It continues here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As one raised in Protestantism, I was raised in "salvation by faith" and not by "works righteousness", meaning we SAID that there was nothing we could do to make ourselves acceptable to God. He loved us as we were and poured out his grace (undeserved love).

We SAID it, but we didn't LIVE it. I grew up in an atmosphere in which I too tried to compensate. I tried to make myself acceptable to God. I thought I could make him take away my "gayness" if I were only good enough. I was trying to control God; I was not allowing God to control me.

A few years ago, in a miracle of grace, I came to realize it all. There was nothing I needed to do to please God. In truth there was nothing I could do. I realized how much he loved me even as I was, even as a gay man. I stopped trying to control or manipulate him to get what I wanted - even by prayer. I learned to offer up my prayers and to leave it all in his hands. I knew that life stinks. I did not like it, but I learned to live with it, knowing that he will see me through and that nothing ultimately separates me from him - even if I am gay.