A year ago the sermon being preached from the morning pulpit was based on the familiar Mary / Martha dichotomy – the approach we take towards serving God. Concluding with a challenge to those of us listening as to which of the two women we more identified with … I who had sat numbly through the previous 40 minutes came to a sudden insight that I was like Lazarus … dead, bound in graveclothes and entombed. Nothing about my life then was worth living for, I might as well have been dead. Everything was in shades of grey and if you could have offered me a way of dying without pain – I’d have taken it with relief. I suppose I was sunk in some kind of deep depression but this was largely internal. Externally, I functioned as my usual easygoing efficient self at work and with relationships – like a zombie – going through the motions – more dead than alive.
The question I have is how a bright, lovable, eager to please and happy child (as evidenced in photos and from family stories) get to where I’d found myself Lazarus-like in thirty-something years?
My parents have always been in some form of Christian ministry – youth leaders when I was a child moving to pastors and eldership in my teens and twenties. My siblings and I grew up in the goldfish bowl – we knew how to behave, what to say etc. Because of my church social position and natural talents – ministering and leading roles came my way in youth, young adulthood and University years. Aside from a slight lapse in late teenage years where I hung out with the “wrong crowd” at secondary school – I’d always done what was expected of me and I’d always tried to do the right thing by my parents, my church and my God.
I suppose I realised my attraction with the male body when I was about 11 years of age and had two ‘fooling-about’ experiences with two boys which resulted in the usual guilty “I’m just going through a phase” denials. However, by the time I was seventeen – I had come to the conclusion that I was gay or at least – very happy. I had a string of girlfriends right through high school and University with chaste kisses and proper Christian boundaries. I’d somehow lost contact with the few gay friends I’d had from school and Uni as I threw myself into ministry and career. Back then – I was popular, confident and I had my life planned out – I was going places and doing great things for God.
Somehow in my mid-teens – I’d come out to my parents but after their initial shock – they’d retreated into a don’t ask don’t tell mentality with me … my mother went into some kind of a praying regime where she believed that if she was faithful enough with her prayers and petitions – I’d find a right partner (female) and everything would be alright. Naturally – I was under implied instructions to not air such linen in public. My siblings are OK with it – I’m still close to them – so I’m luckier than many others really.
By the time most of friends had already been married for a few years – I thought I’d better get with the program and find a suitable life partner. Since I’d had no direct contact with the gay scene or with any gay friends for some time – I had no one to give me any alternatives to my “doing the next right thing” in my life program. Through a miraculous set of circumstances (too long and involved for this time and place to go into) – I met my wife, with whom I fell in love and after a 2 year courtship – got married to. She has always known of my gender preference – I wanted to be upfront about it before we were married. Throughout the years of marriage – I have not been physically unfaithful to her – but gay porn helps me through periods of need / longing that she cannot fulfil. She’s not happy about this but understands the need and just wants me to be open with her about things.
Over the past few years – I’ve found it increasingly harder to put on a front and pretend everything is normal and OK whilst doing the right thing. Brewing underneath an increasing discontent with playing Church and presenting an acceptable social front is a well of anger; anger towards parents who love me but cannot accept my same-sex gender preferences. I’m angry with an institutional Church whom I’ve faithfully served in a whole range of ministries – who will happily take what I can offer in service as long as I do not show them who I really am. I’m mad at God who seems to me perverse in making me as I am and yet denies me an alternative life-choice to what the Church tells me is acceptable. And I suppose I’m angry at myself for making the choices I have taken and finding that “doing the right thing” does not always lead to happiness. I’m angry that I have not had the guts and courage to choose a harder but more honest path. After having gone to Bible College thinking I could sort out my issues – I came away feeling more reluctant to minister and have largely pulled back from all forms of service over the past 6 to 7 years. Perhaps I feel I can no longer serve authentically or maybe I’m trying to ‘punish’ God and his Church by going “on strike” …
My wife asked me recently what I wanted and I said I wanted a new life over. This is of course unrealistic as I cannot retread the past 30 years all over again. My marriage is not at the stage that I want to walk out of it … my wife and I are really good friends and she knows me best in the whole world and loves me despite. We have some good fights and there are days when I think about walking away but then I recall the years of history and meaningful connection and good times and I know I cannot do it.
I’ve been to a psychologist for some sessions and through her advice and with my wife’s support – I have shared about my gay self with a couple of closer male friends from church – they have been as understanding and supportive as they can be and at least I feel “freer” now with them than before. I know with these guys that I don’t have to pretend to be someone different … it’s been a good thing for my soul. I still am not “out” at work and to the main church community where I worship. I’ve bought a whole lot of gay-themed movies and book titles (AVB’s book amongst these) and am sort of living-out a semblance of gay life in third person – not ideal but have learnt a lot. My wife’s sat through a lot of these movies and am now really over the gay-themed stuff – but she’s now reading “A Life of Unlearning” after ploughing through Mel White’s “Stranger at the Gate”. I’m proud of her for walking this journey with me.
How do I now picture my life? It’s like someone has washed away the watercolours and all I’m left with are the dots. I can see outlines and they are not clear. I’m going to have to join up all the dots again before I can see what my life will look like for immediate future. At least things are now not all grey – there are shades colour here and there. I am a little more hopeful and I am less angry at God. I don’t have all the answers – I’m not really sure what the questions to ask are even anymore… a far cry from someone who once thought he knew where he was heading and what he wanted out of life.
Joining and being a part of this forum and putting my story online is scary but feels right as the next step to take … joining up a few more dots maybe. It’s been a crazy up and down year since that sermon but this is where I find myself now … and just perhaps … the stone’s been rolled slightly away from the cave / tunnel I find myself in and someone is calling me to “come out” and take off my grave-clothes.
Thanks for listening.