And then were the couples...all the happy couples. There was essentially a line of them waiting to get their engagement pictures taken in front of the chapel.
It seemed like Cupid was a sniper, perched on top on the library, methodically picking off my friends one by one. I tried to get his attention, but alas...I remained a witness at the scene of the crime.
I wanted a girlfriend. I wanted one bad. I wasn't looking for a cover-story or alibi...I was looking for love...for matrimony. I imagined how I would sweep her off her feet, how my epic proposal would blow every Hollywood proposal out of the water. I fantasized about our picture-perfect wedding...the little country church, all of our friends crowded around cheering. I thought about exotic honeymoon locales; I saw our little bungalow-style cottage in some cozy Southern suburb. I imagined our beautiful children, three of them...two boys and one girl...one golden retriever. I knew their names. I saw our family portrait hanging over the fireplace. It was a picture of perfection.
It was perfect. So perfect. I was going to be a godly husband and father to my perfectly beautiful family. It was so...right. Wasn't it? I was on the right path, in the right place, surrounded by hundreds of the right attractive, intelligent, godly, single young ladies--young ladies who wouldn't mind being a pastor's wife. The ratio was in my favor...two girls to every guy. As some of my friends would say (apologies ahead of time for this one), it was a target-rich environment.
There was only one problem. I wasn't all that attracted to the "targets." I was more attracted to the competition.
You'd think this would be a pretty big problem...a game changer, if you will. I mean, what exactly was I planning to do on this honeymoon? There's only so much sightseeing to be done before it starts getting awkward.
But I was oddly unworried by this obstacle. Nothing but a minor complication. Surely I could fake my way through some kissing while we were dating, and then, on the wedding night...well, once we were there and all...you know...I'm sure it'd all work out. Reading Joshua Harris books made me feel a lot better. If we could just be one of those super-godly Christian couples that didn't kiss until their wedding, it would be so easy! I wouldn't have to worry about the physical side of the relationship at all until the deal was done, and I'd get bonus points for my impeccable self-restraint.
I was in denial.
Good ole-fashioned denial...and I was in deep.
I mean, I knew that my friends weren't attracted to other guys like I was. I knew I was different. But I didn't want to be attracted to other guys. I didn't want to be different. Surely that had to count for something. I wasn't choosing this. I was fighting it...with everything I had in me, I was fighting it. It couldn't be true. It wasn't true. Don't you dare tell me I can't change it, because if I can't, well then I have no &@#$% idea what I'm supposed to do.
No...I couldn't admit it. Certainly not to anyone else, but not even to myself. I couldn't admit it because it scared the shit out of me. My only option was to bury my head in the sand and keep plowing ahead. Stay on track. Don't lose sight of the goal. Surely all the details would sort themselves out. If I just played the part, surely I would make it to that happy ending, to that perfect picture..
Midway through college, I started dating girls. As I'm sure you can imagine, this "play the part" approach didn't work too well. There was a lot of frustration, doubt, shame, anxiety, and ultimately...pain.
I never saw the absurdity of it all. I never let myself consider the implications. Of course I was straight. I was normal. I wasn't one of them. I was a Christian. I had grown up in church. I went to a Christian school. I won all the "Christian Character" awards. I led Bible studies. I didn't smoke or drink or cuss. I was a virgin. I was the guy all the parents wanted their sons to be like and their daughters to date. I wanted to find a nice Christian girl and start a nice Christian family. I wanted to be a pastor, for goodness' sake.
I would ask you, brothers and sisters, to enter into this absurdity.
Enter into the story of a scared and lonely young man who desperately wants to change his attractions, his feelings...a young man who's terrified to even admit those feelings to himself.
Enter into his fear that if he even begins to admit those feelings to himself, it would send him down a long, dark path to destruction.
Enter into the confusion of trying to live a life that was not his. Remember all those important, formative conversations you [hopefully] had with your friends and family about relationships and crushes and dating and love...and imagine having to fudge and fake your way through all of it.
I'm not trying to stir up pity. I'm trying to paint a picture of the secret struggle of so many young people...young people sitting in the pews and youth rooms of your churches every week. Young people that you assume are "just fine" because they read their Bibles and have significant others. Young people whose worst fear is you finding out about their secret.
That might hurt. You might think, "Now wait a second! Why would they be afraid of me? They know me. They know I love them." That may be true. They may be well aware of your love, but still, they are afraid. They continue the charade, continuing to fool everyone, including themselves. Welcome to the confusing and complex world of same-sex attraction in the Church.
But why? Why do they live like this? Why are they afraid of you...of us? Why are so many driven to depression, to addictions, to self-harm, to dangerous sexual behaviors? How can we, as the Church, begin to change this? How are we talking about sex and marriage in the Church, and is this helping or hurting? How are we talking about homosexuality? Why does this blog have to be anonymous?
I'm not here to point fingers or throw stones. I love the Church, and I'm not going anywhere. I'm not a separatist, an enemy, an outsider. I'm not trying to advance "the gay agenda." I don't even know what that means.
I write to the Church...to my tribe...to the Body of Christ. I write to my friends, my mentors, my brothers and sisters, my family. I write to those ahead of me on the path of faithfulness, and I write to those behind. I write to those who share my struggle and to those who don't. I write to challenge, but mainly to encourage. I come to you as a brother, a brother whose story may look a little different than yours, but a brother who is following the same Savior on the road to Calvary.
I hope so. For the sake of the gospel, I hope so.
There is so much more to be said. I would love to hear your stories too. I would love for you to engage this conversation...to ask, to share, to challenge, to pray. I welcome your feedback. If you find this blog helpful [shameless plug], please feel free to share it.
I look back at my life and see God's grace and mercy at every turn. I look ahead to the future with the firm hope that He who has brought me safe thus far will lead me safely home. My prayer is that wherever you're coming from...you will be able to do the same.
Grace & peace,
Your Brother Behind the Mask