Don’t even think about singing that song…
Hey, it’s me again. As promised in my last post, here’s a bit more of my story; how I got to where I am now, and how I am still going to who knows where.
But before I say anything important, a little random side note. I got to drive through a TORRENTIAL rainstorm tonight, and it was so much fun! There’s something so exhilarating about careening through puddles on the road that look deep enough to hold the Loch Ness monster. Although that would be impossible, because the Loch Ness monster is in Loch Ness…
Anyways, back to my intended subject material. Please keep your arms, legs, and vital organs inside your chair at all times.
I was raised in a conservative Christian household, and attended a Lutheran church each Sunday. (And I was also raised with Prairie Home Companion, so don’t worry about making Lutheran jokes… most of them aren’t far from the truth…) By most standards we were a good Christian family. And I actually mean that. Obviously there are things we could have done better, but I don’t think changing anything my family did would have brought me to a different place from where I am right now.
I realized from very early on, even before puberty, that I was attracted to other men. In a way, I’m a bit of an anomaly when it comes to how I viewed my same-sex attractions. Probably due to the fact that I never really heard much about homosexuality, I never really viewed my orientation as a “problem”, and I didn’t have an intense feeling of shame over my sexuality. I guess I knew that it would be sinful to act on my desires, and I just assumed I would end up marrying a woman. But because of my lack of exposure to the issue of homosexuality, and because of how early I started being attracted to other men, I didn’t see myself as abnormal. So throughout my childhood and into high school, my sexuality was always on the back burner in my brain.
Then after high school came college, and with it a myriad of new experiences, both emotional and academic. Freshman year was the first time I experienced a full-fledged crush on someone; that wonderful mess of hormonal awkwardness that makes you feel the oh-so-famous “butterflies”… that felt an awful lot like sandpaper to me…
The realization that I had a crush on one of my friends hit me like a bag of bricks. In an effort to stifle my feelings, I started avoiding any physical contact with him, even going so far as to avert my gaze whenever he entered the room. And, doing what any good millennial would, I consulted the internet. All that did, however, was simply to confirm my resolve to stay quiet about my attractions, and stick it out until I got over it. And that was pretty much the end of it. After a few months, I gradually stopped being so enthralled by him, and I pushed the issue of my sexuality to the back burner once again, now that the crisis had been averted.
The next couple years went by just like they had before, with nary a thought about my attractions. This isn’t to say that it was all bad; I grew tremendously during those couple years! I had a class with the professor who would eventually be the first person I came out to, that made me completely restructure how I think about the world, and my place in it. I even started dating a girl which, like any relationship, helped make me much more aware of how to show love to people in the way that they need to be loved.
Then, come junior year, I actually started thinking about how my sexuality and my faith would intersect. I’m still not sure what spurred my sudden interest. I had been struggling with pornography, and that semester was the first semester during which I had completely abstained from pornography, but much to my chagrin, my same-sex attractions didn’t go along with it, thereby coming to my attention as something I needed to deal with separately. I was also at a bit of an impasse with regards to my relationship, realizing that I had no physical attraction to my girlfriend and that, despite dating for multiple months, I had not mentally progressed past the point of friendship.
There was one word that was on the forefront of my mind during this whole time: celibacy. Would pursuing celibacy be a better idea than trying to force myself into a heterosexual relationship? Would I be able to sustain celibacy? One thing I will always remember is how joyful I was during my months of contemplation. Rather than being hit with a bag of bricks, it felt more like being hit with a bag of marshmallows. I came out to my aforementioned professor, and my pastor, and both were extremely helpful in helping me to hash out my thoughts while constantly directing me in ways that I could better serve God. Not once did they try to change or “fix” me. I also came out to a couple close friends, which made it feel like an incredible weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I truly felt like I understood what it meant to be joyful in the midst of trials!
I realized that I had to break off my relationship, seeing as I couldn’t sustain a heterosexual relationship at that time. I had told my girlfriend almost from the start that I was contemplating celibacy, but that didn’t make it any easier to break up with her. It was hard for both of us, but I can honestly say that she is still one of my best friends. Despite being hurt, she has shown me so much compassion, and she has truly loved me more than I deserved. She remains someone that I can always talk to, who will always give me room to process my thoughts, and offer her insight when it’s necessary.
And that brings me to where I am right now. I still have a lot of questions, and I’m still figuring things out. There are a few questions that are especially troubling to me. What if I can’t find a strong Christian community to get involved in? How can I overcome my fear of coming out publicly? How the heck am I supposed to live a life of celibacy in a culture that glorifies sex and relationships? And only a few days ago, the realization hit me that after I graduate from college and move on to graduate school, I will be living on my own for the first time in my life, which is a terrifying thought. Yet in the midst of all of this craziness, I have been able to remain joyful! I am involved in a loving church community, I have two incredibly wise mentors in my life, and I have several very close friends. I have been given all of these things only through the grace of God, and I just need to take one day at a time, working through my own questions, and reveling in the love that I am experiencing!