Growing up, my mom and I were always pretty close. We confided in each other and for the most part, I felt like I could tell her everything. This continued into college when my mom worked at my school (protip: having a parent work at your school can get you a fat discount) where I also later worked. I would often visit her and we would complain about our respective jobs and encourage each other to persevere through our various trials. When she stopped working, we saw each other in person significantly less, so she tried to supplement this with regular phone calls which, for some reason, bothered me. Well, I know the reason, it felt like she was checking up on me because she expected me to be failing at life. Or because she was overly eager to hear news about non-existent love life. In the first instance, it seemed like a distinct lack of trust in my ability to be a successful, productive adult which I felt like I was doing rather well. In the second, I felt like I was disappointing her with my singleness. The chaffing feeling caused by these regular phone calls increased when I finally came out to my parents and I now had the added bonus of knowing that my mom was in constant fear I’d go full gay and end up in a pride parade or something. Eventually, I asked her, in no uncertain terms, to stop calling me so much. I know this is a terrible thing for a child to tell their mother and, while I tried to do it as nicely as possible, I know I still hurt her.
Cut to a few years later, I’m listening to Marilynne Robinson’s book, Home, and agonizing over Old Bowden’s feelings towards his son Jack. He constantly worries about his son and, no matter how many times Jack fails, his father is still there loving him and wishing the best for him. I found myself wishing that I had a parent like that and it finally dawned on me that I do and I pushed her away. What I saw as her being overbearing and not trusting me was actually just her showing me love and attention and while, at some level, I knew this to be the case, all I could see was how it affected me and what I felt about it. One major difference between my relationship with my mom and Jack’s relationship with his father is that Jack, objectively, made some pretty huge mistakes in his life so it makes sense for his father to worry about him and to question his choices and actions. Conversely, I’ve pretty well avoided making moral or ethical mistakes in my life (not to brag or anything) and have chosen to keep all my bad decisions squarely in the realm of indecision and lack of effort (go me!) Anyway, to sum it all up, I was a jerk to my mom and I need to find some way to invite her to be a bigger part of my life again.
This week, I took what could be a pretty big step in a new direction for my life. I met with the youth pastor of my church to talk about what I could do to be a support system for the gay youth at our church and I think it went really well. I feel like I was able to convey my position about the issue well enough and he seemed comfortable with it which is a good first step. It’s an interesting place to be in since I’m still in the process of coming out so this is the first time I’ll be taking on a role where I could be considered a representative of the gay Christian community which is exciting and also a little scary. I hope that I can represent my position well, I hope that I can convey love alongside a desire to devote myself to God and I hope that I can be accepted and welcomed not just in spite of this part of myself, but because of it. I hope that people can appreciate the struggle that living as a celibate gay person can be and that I can point towards the ideals so often discussed at Spiritual Friendship. I really haven’t heard much discussion of homosexuality at my church so I don’t really know where people are at with it. If I had to guess, I’d say most people would be pretty comfortable with the idea and I doubt there will be anyone getting up in arms about it.
Apparently a student has recently come out to his parents who are, understandably, surprised and upset. The youth pastor has suggested that I might meet with him and/or his parents to talk about my experiences and possibly counsel him through this situation. I find myself excited at this prospect and I hope the parents take this opportunity. When I was in high school, I would have killed to have someone who knew what I was going through to talk to so I hope they don’t let fear affect their decision. It’s also hard because I’m trying not to feel like a creeper wanting to talk to young gay boys; that’s really the furthest thing from my mind, but I’m sure that from the outside, it could look a little suspicious. As a (nearly) 30 year old single man, I often worry about what parents think when I’m around their children, but that’s a topic for another time.
I’ve been thinking about what I’ll say to him and that part is a little scary. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to offer extraordinary wisdom and I definitely don’t have all the answers. What I most hope to do is help him understand that he’s not alone, not a freak, not uniquely damaged or sinful. I’d also like to warn him away from some of the mistakes I’ve made: primarily, pursing a particular relationship goal too single-mindedly. Though it may not seem like it, there are a lot of options open to gay Christians, even those choosing to pursue a traditional Christian sexual ethic. All of these options (mixed orientation marriage, celibate same-sex relationships, and singleness) have worked for different people. People have lived, loved, and flourished in a variety of lifestyles and I’d like to convey the hope there is in that and encourage him to keep an open mind because he’s still young and has a lot of time to make a decision. Though I’m not so young anymore, hopefully there’s still time for me too.
Recently, I find myself inexplicably, yet understandably, pissed off. I’m not really sure who I’m angry at, but I think it’s a mix of the Church, American culture, and myself. For whatever reason, I’ve developed into what is generally known as a hopeless romantic (a cruel phrase really, as it implies someone who desperately desires a romance that they have no hope of obtaining), but to an absurd degree. I fawn over the romantic relationships in every piece of media I consume, the more “real” and “raw” the better. While I recognized this about myself years ago and have tried desperately to curb this tendency, I still find myself day dreaming about someone (anyone really) coming along and showing true interest in me, desiring my company, making me a priority in their life. I wonder what it would be like to have someone in the passenger seat on a long drive (or better yet, to be in the passenger seat while someone else drives), to show up at a friend’s wedding and not feel awkward and isolated, or to come home to a family instead of an empty room. I try to convince myself that these things aren’t necessary, that I can still have a good life and I really do believe that’s true, but I can’t shake these intense desires for companionship and that’s what makes me so angry!
I’m not the first to point out how the Church has elevated marriage and set it as the ideal for all people. Sure, people will say that being single is good too and my married friends often express jealousy at my nearly limitless freedom, but that doesn’t change the fact that the church bulletin is full of announcements about family camp and marriage seminars and how to a better husband/father workshops. When it comes down to it, I’m not upset that the church caters to couples and families since they are the majority of the church, but I am frustrated that I was raised to believe that marriage and family are inevitable. I wish it had been clear that some people’s lives don’t go that direction so that I could be better prepared for a more solitary kind of life.
Popular culture has also promoted ideals of love, though not necessarily marriage. So many movies revolve around two people who just aren’t happy and whose lives aren’t fulfilling until they meet and then they spend the rest of their lives together and everything is perfect. Even films that try to avoid this cliche end with the protagonist alone, but with their dream job or some other prize that still ends up feeling like a consolation or sometimes with a feeling of, “it’s gonna be alright.” The truth is, I don’t want just alright. I want to flourish and not simply spend my days on this earth waiting to die. The trouble is, I’ve been so programmed to focus on love, marriage, and relationships that I have a hard time not planning my life around it. I need to work on forging my own path and living a life that makes my Creator proud.