Wednesday, January 26, 2005

My story and I'm sticking to it

My feet were frozen to the church floor. God and I had already talked this thing out and I knew what I had to do. Through the meditations, private prayer, and out loud ranting and raving God and I had come to an agreement. I was being called to leadership of this militant church body. I began to feel the light tugging on my heart months before this day. Denial and avoidance were my new closest companions. Surely, God could not use such a filthy specimen as myself. Although, I had asked God fervently to use me as a vessel, I never envisioned that I would be called for this task. Just last night I had stayed up into the wee hours of the morning praying out loud to God to inhabit this sinful flesh and use me for thy will, not my own. I thought I heard the call, I understood Gods desire. Preach to the homosexuals and tell them that there is a better life. They can repent and be delivered from homosexuality and the proof could be found in my very own deliverance. Sleep came fitfully. My excited anticipation was more than I could stand. God had granted me a new day. My alarm had gone off at 7:30am this morning, but I was already awake by that time. I raced into the shower and turned up my favorite Kirk Franklin album. Indeed God had done exactly as was promised. Arriving to church early, I kissed every Mother of the church and shook Pastor Jones hand eagerly. Now the moment of truth had come. Altar call was starting. In the Missionary Baptist tradition this was the time for anybody to come to the front of the church and in front of the entire congregation confess, repent, ask for special prayer, dedicate, or rededicate their lives to Christ, or profess a calling. That last one was done very rarely and was met with the most thunderous applause and shouts of praise. The choir was singing, “Come To Jesus”, and the Pastor was waiting arms stretched. One by One hungry seeking soul, after hungry seeking soul marched to the front of the church. The Deacons had neatly laid out a row of folding chairs and now like a military guard a deacon stood behind each chair. I couldn’t move. Fear and trepidation engulfed me. Finally, I summoned the courage to stand up. My feet felt like lead weights. Each shoe must have weighed 300 pounds. I began to walk and with each stride I felt a shackle being released from my ankles. Though my knees were shaking furiously and my palms were soaked with sweat, I swallowed hard and sat down right in front of Deacon Reed. Deacon Reed had a majestic mane of silver grey hair that reminded me of my late grandfather. He placed his hands on my shoulder as I began to weep uncontrollably. When it was finally my turn to speak I explained to the congregation that I had been wrestling with this, but I felt God was calling me to preach. Just saying the words was like releasing freedom. Speaking those words out loud was like a ton of bricks flying off of my shoulders. Surrounded by family and friends, I was congratulated and encouraged. A good looking, clean cut, educated, single black man had just announced that he would be working for God for the rest of his life and the women of the church started salivating on the spot. I instantly felt as if I had a target on my back. Weeks before I preached my first sermon and already I felt the responsibility of ministering to and liberating an entire congregation. Within a few months I had preached my first sermon and my cloak of secrecy and denial had only grown longer and thicker.

A young woman in the congregation had set her sites on me. She had told most of the women and a few of the men of her intentions before she ever said a word to me. By the time Sadja approached me I was ready. I put on my best “young minister” smile and proceeded to charm her. Truth be told, she actually charmed me. A southern gentile woman, she had recently graduated from Tennessee State University and was a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Sadja was a beautiful little chocolate drop a reminded me of CeCe Winans, who also happened to be her role model. I was immediately intrigued by her and asked her out to dinner. I had been praying incessantly for God to remove this horrible temptation for men from within me and I believed that by sending Sadja my way God was giving me a way out. As the weeks and months passed on word traveled like wild fire throughout the congregation about the budding relationship between Sadja and myself. Everything was perfection on the surface. I was the up and coming young preacher and she was the beautiful young virtuous black woman having just graduated from college. We were a hit!! I was welcomed into social circles that had previously been closed to me. Suddenly other young couples wanted to have dinner with us and invite us over. The women of the church would make little jokes with us and all of the men were more open to me. I had finally been accepted into “THE” club and it felt great.

Meanwhile, behind closed doors Sadja and I were not the happy couple. I did not feel about her the way that I thought a man was supposed to feel about his woman. I didn’t yearn for alone intimate time with her. I didn’t fantasize about her naked body. My body did not quake with excitement when she kissed me or rubbed up against me. I was prone to disappearing for days and not calling for long periods. When she asked me where I had been or why I hadn’t called I would just say that I was busy. Usually I was creeping around some of my old haunts. Meeting men and sneaking them back to my apartment. Usually these encounters involved alcohol and wild sex. It became an unwritten rule between Sadja and I that on Friday nights I needed alone and regrouping time after a long week. This rule guaranteed that at least once a week I could delve into my secret passions without fear of being caught. On Saturday I would arrange some sort of special date with Sadja and prepare for our Sunday morning dog and pony show. Here come the good preacher and his lovely fiancée. Soon enough Sadja grew tired of the public persona and demanded more private and intimate time. I used the excuse that as good Christian people it would be inappropriate for the two of us to spend the night together. I told her that I loved her so much that I was willing to wait for that intimate time until after our marriage. Although she had grown suspicious of me, she believed me and was thankful to have a man who wasn’t focused on just having sex with her. The truth is, having sex with Sadja was the very last thing on my mind. As we talked more and more about starting a family and getting married we went ahead and got engaged. Although against my better judgment I believed that I was making a faith based decision and that God would work it all out. As our wedding date got closer and closer I agonized about how I would ever be able to have sex with someone that I wasn’t even remotely attracted to. I prayed and prayed for God to help me and I felt assured that by the wedding night, I would magically be able to perform the dirty deed.

As my preaching progressed certain questions started becoming more and more troublesome for me. Being raised in the Baptist tradition I had learned to accept many things without any biblical support. For instance there are strict guidelines about the female roles within the church structure. Women are not allowed to preach Gods word and they are forbidden from directly crossing over the pulpit area. I mean if an ex homosexual can profess deliverance and a calling to preach who is to say that a woman cannot be called to preach. Frequently I would meet with my Pastor and ask questions about where these rules and traditions came from. Although he did not know that I was an ex-homosexual I carefully phrased this question to suggest that no man can tell another that he hasn’t been called by God. Another question I had was about the tradition of unwed pregnant women having to stand before the congregation and confess that they have sinned against the body of Christ. This seemed unusually cruel considering that the offending male never had to succumb to such scrutiny. Needless to say, my questions and concerns led me directly to the biggest question of all. If the church and the god it proposes to represent can forgive crack addicts, prostitutes, cheating husbands, all other sins then why is homosexuality that one sin that seems to be unforgivable. The biggest sin of all time and seemingly there is no cure. Drug addicts can join recovery groups, and fornicators can get married, and prostitutes can get off the street, but as a gay man I cant just stop being who I am. The thoughts and desires do not go away. Praying, fasting, studying, more praying and the desires and thoughts do not go away!!! What about that Pastor?

Depression had become real in my life. As a young Christian I never understood how folks who knew Jesus could ever experience depression. But here I was a depressed, closeted, engaged minister and I was losing my mind. There were days when I could not face the world. I would bury myself in my bed, lock the door, turn off the phone and sulk in the dark clouds that occupied my brain. Sadja could not reach me physically or emotionally. I would pick fights with her so that she would just leave me alone. I wanted a life with her. I wanted the babies and the fairy tale existence, but it just wasn’t real. Between my bouts of depression and seclusion I was still meeting men, renting pornography, and drinking. Sometimes my binges would go on right up until it was time for Sunday morning service. Sadja and I had begun to take separate cars to church. People asked questions but we still managed to keep up appearances.

One Sunday morning I preached what was to be my final sermon in the fundamentalist church. The topic was our dirty little secrets. Those things that we believe God doesn’t see will always come out into the light. I didn’t preach that word very well. Aside from the topic being a little too close to my heart, I included some choice words for those in the congregation that might be wrestling with homosexual desires. My words were not too kind and I was secretly ashamed of myself for publicly admonishing people that were just like me. I was ashamed and after I finished preaching I felt that I had lied from Gods pulpit. After church that day I noticed Sadja sitting alone on a pew in the now empty sanctuary. I went to her and asked her what was wrong. She said that this thing didn’t feel right anymore. She didn’t think she knew me and she wondered if I even cared to know her. Afterwards we went out to dinner and a fight ensued. The subject matter had something to do with her engagement ring and the fact that I could not get it out of layaway yet. That was on the surface. The real reason for the argument was that I couldn’t play this game any longer. I didn’t love Sadja the way a husband is supposed to love his wife.

Our relationship died out. I sunk deeper and deeper into depression and I never returned to Little Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. Instead I found my church in a gin bottle and rendered my praise on strange men that could be purchased for $30.00. I immersed myself in every means of sexual gratification and every form of self depreciating behavior. The bottom rung of my downward spiral came on a night when I had decided to pay another man for sex. I knew the guy I wanted to be with because I had paid for his services before. I called him and made arrangements to hook-up. Before we hung up the phone Lance made sure I knew what his asking price was. Though he went up $10.00 from our last encounter, I knew he would be worth it and could handle the job so I agreed. Later that evening I showered, went to the ATM, and ventured into the hood to pick up my date at his mommas house. Lance knew what time to expect me so he was waiting on his front porch. Clad in blue jean shorts and an orange tank top, his well muscled body was fresh out of the shower and slick with lotion. I gave Lance the $40.00 he required and he flashed that Hollywood smile at me. As we drove off to my apartment he asked if he could make stop and pick up a package. Reluctantly I agreed but I knew any drugs he might acquire would only make our own private party better. Lance pointed to the spot where I was supposed to pullover. As he got out of the car I took one more glance at his tight muscular frame and watched him walk around the corner. 20 minutes later lance had not returned from his stop and I was starting to get nervous. I got out of my car and headed back in the direction that he had disappeared into. I looked down the alley and of course I saw nothing. Although I was really upset about losing my 40 bucks I figured I had better get back in my car and get out of this questionable neighborhood. As I turned back towards my car there were three shady characters standing around my green Chevy Blazer. I pensively approached them and asked what was up. One dude asked me for my money and before I could respond that I didn’t have any they began to swing bats, kick me, and level blow after blow. It was only by the grace of God that they didn’t take my car. After the thugs roughed me up for a while they heard a car coming and they left me there shaking and trembling in a pool of my own blood. I thought I had reached my lowest point before, but indeed now I was at rock bottom. I raced home, after stopping at the liquor store, got sloppy drunk and retreated to the only comfort I had in the world, my bed.

Some weeks later, while still in my darkest place, I met a man named Walter. I met Walter while shopping one afternoon. He commented on my choice of cleaning supplies and lamented the fact that “his momma” didn’t use that stuff. Initially I was put off by his boldness, but as our conversation proceeded to the parking lot I found his company to be soothing and inviting. He asked me to dinner and I was more than happy to go with out with him. Walter soon picked up on my current depressed existence and began trying to lift my spirits and get me out of the house some. Our first date was a trip downtown to the local city fireworks presentation. We found a secluded parking lot far enough away from the crowd, but close enough to see all of the show and watched it together. On another one of our outings we visited the local gay pride festival. I had never felt any sort of pride about my homosexual lifestyle. Only shame and guilt defined my sexuality. While there we visited a booth that was occupied by the local gay and lesbian church. The Metropolitan Community Church denomination actually had a local body in my hometown. Walter and I agreed to check it out. During this same period of time I had begun to research and study biblical commentaries. I scoured the libraries and bookstores for information regarding homosexuality, God, and the bible. I began to seek God out for myself and find the true answers to my questions. Fundamentalist religion had burned me and I began to seek a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ not a religious affiliation.

During my search for the truth about Jesus Christ and forging my own relationship with God I began to read things on the internet about Bishops and Priests who were asking the same questions that I was asking. If Jesus came to save man while we were still in our sinful flesh than what sin is it that cannot be forgiven by God? Would God actually create people that were gay? What would be the purpose for that? Do ex-gay ministries actually work? Does God love me exactly as I am? As I pondered and studied all of these questions I also had to revisit my initial calling to preach to and lead Gods people. Could I have misunderstood Gods calling on my life?

I understood, because of my frame of mind, that God wanted me to preach to homosexuals to tell them to repent from their sinful lives. I resisted that and wrestled with God because I wasn’t completely convinced that I was or could be delivered. I do not doubt the power of God to remove any and everything from us. However, I have to ask is it Gods will to remove all things from us. Would God make an entire human race of infinitely different people and expect each and every one of us to act and love the exact same way? God has purposed our lives for unique and specific work and tasks. God has created each and every one of us for an individual and unique role in the greater plan that is this life. I believe that God has indeed placed a calling on my life for ministry to gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, and transgender people however I assumed that Gods intention was for me to try and get the GLBT community to turn away from who they truly are, when in fact Gods intention is that we embrace, honestly and truthfully who we are and walk forward with purpose and direction in our lives with God as the head and guiding force.

Today I am a minister within the largest GLBT Christian church in the Midwest. I am completely and totally convinced that I am walking in Gods appointed purpose for my life and God accepts and loves me for the creature that I was created to be. I thank God everyday for my lessons learned and the trials and tribulations that I have endured to bring me to the person that I am today!!!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home