There aren’t very many clean breaks in life. At least that’s been my experience so far. More often than not, change comes slowly, incrementally even. Maybe that’s just in our nature as human beings, or just mere inertia, or maybe I over-think things. Yeah, that’s probably about right. In any case, what makes change challenging is when it progresses within while the world without remains remarkably–sometimes discouragingly–the same. Maybe we expect the meta-worlds we inhabit and the world at-large to grow along with us. In a great many ways, I sympathize with parents whose kids leave home for college. Not only are the late teens and early twenties when we really start to define who we are, but when we’re inserted into a world as dynamic and conducive to change as higher education, it can awaken within us parts of ourselves we never knew existed. In fact, it often does.
But some changes are rooted deeper still. As we seek answers to vexing questions and relief from persistent thorns of anxiety, the change can be even slower and even more incremental, a bit like chipping away at the thick wall of a dark and dank prison cell one dusty flake at a time. Reaching the other side and whatever mysterious wonders may there lie makes for fanciful daydreaming, but, deep down, we never think we’ll really get to see it. But, one day and perhaps quite unexpectedly, our makeshift chisels strike just the right spot and, with a gentle shove, the impermeable wall that had separated us from an unknown world beyond comes crashing down in a rain of cracking stone and swirling dust. We’re startled because, after all, we never thought we’d actually get through–it had just been something nice to dream about. Whittling away at the wall was something to do, something to occupy the time. Then we’re quite suddenly straining to see through a misty morning and get our first look at what’s to be seen in this brave new world.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Almost two months ago, I realized (quite suddenly) that I was coming out of the closet. I’d felt it would eventually happen for quite some time before, but it was a surprise when I realized that’s what I was doing. As I sat at my desk one night putting my thoughts into words, I took a look at what I was writing and said to myself, “I think this is me saying I’m okay with the fact I’m gay.” That was a shocking moment, believe you me, as until fairly recently, it’s a place I never thought I’d reach. If you read the open letter I published a few weeks ago, you may understand a bit better the tumultuous intellectual and spiritual process it’s been for me to come to terms with my sexuality. Now I’m here, on the other side of that wall, and I find myself in an awkward and slightly nerve-wracking position, one that perhaps bears if only the slightest similarity to the way a born-and-raised soldier would feel if there were no more wars left to fight. When you’ve fought a battle for greater than half your life, it becomes part of your identity and the process of learning how to be comfortable in the newly-won peace is a struggle all its own.
At no other point in my life have I undergone nearly as much change as I have these past several weeks. With neck-breaking speed, I’ve realized I’m quite comfortable with my sexuality, reconciled that comfort with my Christian faith, come out to my family and worked through the associated awkwardness, departed the United States to live in a foreign country, and started settling in to a new job and a new city that I feel I’m really going to enjoy. That’s some pretty radical shit, guys, especially for a small-town boy from southeast Oklahoma. The thing that impresses me most is how well I’ve kept my cool throughout. I mean, considering everything that’s happened, the fact I only came close to a nervous breakdown once is truly miraculous as far as I’m concerned. That’s got to be worth a few bad-ass points, I’m sure.
I tried to thank everyone individually as the opportunity arose, but just in case I missed anyone and to state it publicly for the record, I am so indescribably appreciative of all the love and support and kind words I’ve received over the past several weeks. I undertook the task of writing my letter hoping for the best but also preparing for the worst. The latter turned out to be unnecessary as the response I’ve received has been warm and more than loving and I am deeply grateful for all the wonderful people I know and who know me. You’re all gems in the Lord’s Crown, at least in my book.
I think it’s important to note that I never really knew for sure what breaking through that wall would look like for me, only that I wanted to do so more than anything. This wall in the world of metaphor was the aggregated mass of all the cultural, familial, and personal expectations about who I am and should be; the personal anxiety and confusion to that end; and a host of other questions, barriers, and quandaries of varying degrees of magnitude. I seldom said this openly, but my struggle was never reducible to a determination to become straight no matter what, as it is for many gay Christians. But, by the same token, it was also never me promising, “Eventually, I’m just going to do what I want and be who I am.” Granted, ultimately I am going to do what I want. That’s just the type of person I am. But, that said, it’s still a bit of an over-simplification as I’m no objectivist and there was always more than just my own personal happiness to consider. Of greater importance was rightness and wrongness as I was able to understand them. Leaving the Lord or the Church behind was never something I gave much thought as I remain quite convinced of the goodness of both, so my process was a bit more complex. In deepest terms, I sought resolution, and closure, and I was okay with whatever form either took as long as I felt I could reconcile them with both my faith and my self.
As the dust settles, however, and as I move beyond the tight enclosure, I’m finding this new world to be quite hazy and ill-defined. It’s still a sunless dawn and only the early birds yet sing. Put more concretely, I don’t have any idea what the hell I’m doing or where I’m going. I mean, not that I had an ironclad grasp of that before, but I did at least have a set of goals I was working toward and few nebulous ideas about how I wanted my life to be. That slate had to be wiped clean though as I began making peace with my sexuality. You know, new wine, and all that jazz. When I wrote, “Ultimately, I simply want to love and to be loved, to know and to be known, to have someone to look after and someone to look after me.,” that’s literally the most tangible statement I could muster as this whole thing is just that new to me. It’s simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.
People have told me that when they first met me, they saw me as the kind of guy who knows exactly what he wants. I was always flattered (I think), but it’s actually more accurate to say I’m the kind of guy who knows exactly what he doesn’t want, and I can be pretty vocal about it. I know that the hedonism and vain self-absorption that seems to pervade so much of gay culture is extremely off-putting to me, but I also know that’s just one side of a very dynamic and diverse social group. In any case, I’m now having to find my way around two very new cultures, both extremely different from one another. I’ve been trying to teach myself to appreciate the journey just as much as if not more than the destination and that’s obviously still a work in progress, but I’m getting better. In those moments when the lack of direction seems overwhelming, I just keep reminding myself that a dawn always eventually becomes a sunrise and the fog always eventually melts away. Plus, I’m a morning person, so I can appreciate the beauty in the gradual build-up of excitement in Nature as the world awakens each morning. One could say that I’ll just learn to love the skies I’m under. Cheers!