Sunday, January 21, 2007

One of the only things I know for sure

I got another e-mail yesterday.

I get these every so often. E-mails from old friends that I used to go to church with. Friends of the family who see my e-mail address on someone's group e-mails. People who know I moved to Denver to do the ex-gay thing but lost touch several years ago.

And they want to know what's going on with me. They tell me about their family and kids (kids whose diapers I've changed and they're now in college). They give me MySpace names. They tell me about their churches and ministries. They ask about my life.

What do I say?

A while back, I was driving down the road and happened to see an old friend, Tim, out working in his backyard.

Tim and his family were more than just friends to me. This was a family that in many ways adopted me when I was making the transition from gay to ex-gay and then, hopefully, to straight. They prayed many hours for me. They held me while I cried. They took me into their home on many occasions when I needed a place to just be. I spent holidays with them.

Oddly enough, we'd met at the first church I'd attended here in Colorado. Then I left and started at another one, two doors from their front door. After they were asked to leave our former church, they ended up at my church. I subsequently moved on to another church (although not because I was trying to get rid of them, which we always joked about). Our relationship survived all these church moves and upheaval, including a period of time where I was still friends with the pastors of the former church and each family was so hurt by the other that I couldn't mention the others' names.

Our relationship didn't survive me no longer being an ex-gay or no longer going to church or identifying as a Christian, though.

Not that they shunned me. I saw them about a year or so after I'd told them that I was finally for sure done with the ex-gay thing. I saw them at the funeral of Tim's sister and they were so happy to see me, and comforted, I think, by the fact that I'd come. I knew they cared about me deeply.

And I knew then, a year ago, and I know now that they still care about me. But it's with a broken heart. It's with a burden for my salvation. It's with a sense that I've failed, or perhaps they've failed me.

So when I drove down the road and caught Tim out of the corner of my eye, I flipped a U-turn, and stopped at the house. We spent about an hour sitting in the shade of the backyard, just catching each other up on our lives. I was matter-of-fact about mine. I'd just come from being on a panel at a community college on human sexuality, and I talked about that a bit. I talked about my blog. I talked about my cats.

It was nice, just catching up and hearing what the whole family had been up to. I got to see their daughter who was like a younger sister to me. (I used to say that she thought the sun rose and set in my backyard. And for a few years for her, I think it did. And I liked that.) It turns out she is going to intern at Ted Haggard's former church after graduation (this was before the Ted Haggard debacle, although I suppose that hasn't changed her plans). I wasn't entirely sure what to say about that, but encouraged her in her future plans all the same.

As I was leaving, I said to Tim, "It's hard when everyone thinks I'm a failure. That I've failed."

He nodded somberly.

"But I didn't fail," I said, quietly. "I'm not a failure."

He nodded his head, I think, and gave me a hug. But he didn't deny that people (our formerly mutual friends and church family) think I'm a failure. He is not one to lie, and I appreciate that about him.

So, back to the e-mail of yesterday. These are friends of the family. Missionaries. YWAM folks. People who had reached out to me during a very troubled time in my early 20s, and again when I was making the move to Denver to be ex-gay. I wrote them, "I can't remember when the last time was that we corresponded - I suspect a long time ago. I probably still identified as ex-gay then. I can't remember. Anyway, I don't anymore. I'm gay, end of story. Never changed; can't imagine I ever will. Just thought I'd put that out there since so many people wonder and are not sure how to broach the topic."

I want people to know about my life, and I certainly want to be honest and out, and I know they want to ask (and I don't want to go several e-mails with them fishing for the information). I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not. The problem though with this crowd, is not so much being hated, but of them being so saddened over my life, and so filled with grief about where I am now in my journey.

But I don't feel like being a project or participating in this game where I can never be on a level playing field with them. I don't want everyone to learn their life lessons about "Loving the Homosexual" with me. I did enough of that when I was ex-gay and constantly having to teach people in churches what that meant, and didn't, and how they could help me (or more to the point, how what they were doing was in fact not helping, but hurting).

I'm done. And yet, these are people I care (cared?) about. And I know in most cases the feeling is mutual. And I am not sure how to have relationships with these folks and have it be anything mutually fulfilling. Are there many evangelical/fundamentalist Christians out there that even know how to have a relationship with a former Christian without feeling superior or like there is a soul in need of rescuing? I know two or three but that about it, and it is so hard to always hope.

Anyway, at this point, all I really know for sure is that I'm not a failure.

And I'll put off checking my e-mail again until tomorrow.

10 comments:

  1. Christine: This is a wonderfully transparent and insightful post....while I recognize it's poignant and serious slant...this part

    "I don't want everyone to learn their life lessons about "Loving the Homosexual" with me."

    did make me chuckle out loud. I so "get" that. I know it's completely different situations, but it sort of sounds like we have similar "tones" in certain ways in our life situations right now.

    You are a success!!!! I think you know where I'm coming from when I say that it's my FIRM belief that no matter what you currently believe about Christ...(i'm not sure there's such a real thing as a "former Christian) he's always known you and believed in you. I'm sad as well that your sexuality has become a marker for your friends...your actions in communicating with them openly and honestly shows Christ to them. That's success.

    I'm also very impressed that you took time away from your outrageously decadent, promiscuous, and disease-ravaged lifestyle to stop and chat. ;) How DO you do it????

    love ya much,
    pam

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  2. You write so beautifully, Christine. I felt like I was reading a story that I wanted to go on.

    When you say you are a former Christian, did you turn from the evangelical concept of religion, or did you turn from God/Christ altogether?

    I went to Sunday School, was bapitized, and was raised as a Christian but I can't say that it was ever in the evangelical or fundamentalist realm. I think we fell more in line with the majority of church goers, as the years went by, church just became a holiday type of event, until it ceased altogether.

    Even though we never went anymore, we still considered it our church. Until our preacher of almost 30 years lost his job when he performed a same-sex committment ceremony and when it was found out his son was gay.

    My family, even my grandmother, in her 80's was irritated with the church over it. She would rant about how the church is supposed to open it's doors, not shut them to people. And so my whole family no longer considered it their church.

    And therein lies the key difference to me between evangelical or fundamentalist religion and the rest of religion. The evangelical side shuts it's doors to nonadherents, and that is not Christlike at all, and you shouldn't feel any loss or remorse over that.

    I've turned from religion because I came to realize that spirituality is something that is within us and religion is something that others use to control us.

    I don't really identify as a Christian anymore either, but for me it's because my faith has retreated inside, where it is my own to have, and not shaped by someone at a pulpit, so when you say you are an ex-Christian, I wondered if it was the same.

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  3. I love this line- "I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not."

    Would I pretend to be straight just so I'll be loved by friends and family?

    May God give me the courage He's given you.

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  4. Hey there Christine... this was a great post and I felt like I was reading about my own life through parts of this... it IS really difficult to deal with people who you know view you as being, in some way, defective. How does one carry on a meaningful relationship with one who regards you as being spiritually or morally inferior? This same dynamic exists in my own family... most noticeably between my parents and I. The phrase "living well is the best revenge" comes to mind, but not in a spirit of vengefulness of course; it is simply with the intent to show those with a skewed perception of you that you aren't a failed mission. In my own life, I am attempting to simply show them by living and putting into practice what I have learned... and one does not need to label themselves as a Christian to live the true teachings of Christ. May you be provided with the courage and wisdom to show them that it was just the game that was defective, not the outcome.

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  5. Christine, I agree with the other comments... you are not a failure.. your post is heartfelt and insightful, and I felt good for reading it because of your honesty and because I indentify with your journey in some ways. Thank you.

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  6. Christine, I know about these e-mails. They come out of no where it seems and hit me with the force of a letter bomb, unearthing feelings for people who I loved and who loved me and with those feelings the fear and uncertainty and even anger about what I do next.

    Failure/Success--yeah I guess it is based on how that is defined and by whom. To me I am successful when I am authentic, honest, vulnerable. Being real is so much harder than "being right". $.02

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  7. Wow, thanks for sharing and bringing back my own memories of my ex-gay days. I do wonder how my old Christian friends are doing, but then I have no idea how I would react to an e-mail. I like your straight-forward disclosure to your old missionary friends.

    ". . . Are there many evangelical/fundamentalist Christians out there that even know how to have a relationship with a former Christian without feeling superior or like there is a soul in need of rescuing? . . . "

    While I often suspect my old Christian friends have written me off as a lost gay friend, I have to admit I'm just as guilty of looking down on conservative Christians as less than enlightened (shhhh, don't tell anyone). However, I really don't think there is any animosity either way. Rather, we have grown to have different perspectives.

    Good luck and let us know how things turned out.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Christine. You brought back memories of my old Christian friends.

    ". . . Are there many evangelical/fundamentalist Christians out there that even know how to have a relationship with a former Christian without feeling superior or like there is a soul in need of rescuing? . . ."

    I suspect my old Christian friends have written me off as the lost gay guy. However, I have to admit that I'm just as guilty as sometimes viewing conservative Christians as less than enlightened (shhh, don't tell anyone). I doubt there is any animosity either way, but that we've simply grown apart.

    Good luck and let us know how things are going.

    [BTW, I had a much longer and certainly more profound post, but Goggle/Blogger lost it. :-( ]

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  9. Good words, Christine. I am grateful to read that you know what we all know - you are not a failure. I am glad that our paths have crossed from time to time and look forward to them crossing again. - Roy

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