I spent the third, fourth and fifth decades of my life trying to reconcile my sexuality with my faith and the public face of my life.
For almost 20 years now I have spent much of my time and effort trying to share what I learned in that school of hard knocks over those three decades of intense study, introspection, self hate, prayer, denial and finally reconciliation.
My mother and father married just before World War II began. It was a time of great world turmoil. It became obvious that try as it may to stay out of the European Wars, the United States would be dragged into the conflict. My parents desperately wanted a child before my Dad was shipped off to war, but it was not to be. In fact even after the war had ended and my Dad returned home unscathed by it all, still no child was conceived.
My mother was a religious woman. Ultimately she had prayed for seven years for a child and her prayers had gone unanswered. Finally, in an attempt to bargain with God, she promised God that if He would giver her a child, she would dedicate that child to His service. It seemed to my mother that her prayer was answered when I was born some nine months later.
As I have mentioned in this blog many times, I was raised in the church. Eventually, my mother told me the story of her promise to God and how and why that promise had come about. She felt that because of her promise and God's seeming answer, I was destined to be a minister of the Gospel.
From a very young age, I had an unnatural interest in religion. Most kids think very little about it, but I was always interested in it. I was always listening and taking it all in. But along about my 9th and 10th years something different began to happen. I no longer was just taking it all in, I was also beginning to recognize that some of what I was taking in did not make sense to me and because it didn't make sense, I began to question. My Baptist Sunday School teacher was not accustomed to questions from ten year olds. In particular he was not accustomed to, nor did he appreciate, questions which implied by their very asking that the Bible was not the literal word of God. He went to my Dad and told him, "you had better get a hold of that boy because he is on his way to Hell."
And in a way he was right. I was on my way to Hell. Not the fire and brimstone Hell he imagined but an almost 30 year long quest for understanding of my faith, my sexuality and how two seemingly incompatible things could come together in one life.
I never told my mother about my knowing I was different sexually; but honestly, I think she knew it. Nevertheless, she encouraged me to do my own thinking, be respectful and tolerant of the views of others and work out my own salvation with God. I was almost 50 years old and my mother had been dead for almost 30 years by the time I worked it all out for myself.
During that time, I never felt the call of God to preach the Gospel as my mother had thought I would. But four months before my 50th birthday the call to share the Gospel of Christ came in a most unusual and unexpected way. I met a man. His name was Mike. He was a fundamental Christian who had struggled his entire life with his sexuality including during his 25 years of marriage, the birth of his four children and the death of one of those children. He saw himself as an abomination. He was convinced God had taken his oldest child from him because of his abominable sexual desires. After years of struggle, he was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. He knew he was on his way to Hell and he had decided it might as well be sooner than later. He had planned his own suicide and was about to carry it out when he met me.
For some reason that I can see only as the will of God, he spilled out his story to me including his imminent suicide on the night we met. I was shocked. I was scared shitless to put it bluntly. Yet the school of hard knocks that had been my own life had given me the tools I needed for this unforeseen moment and I almost reflexively put all those years of learning into gear. I told him I could help him. I told him there was another way. I begged him for time to talk with him assuring him I could help him to relieve his pain and self hate. Though he resisted and wanted to resist, like a dying man grasping at any straw, he agreed to give me some time.
As I have mentioned before in this blog, it took three years, but the time came when Mike saw that he was not an abomination to God but rather a beloved son. Now, all these years later, Mike is alive and well and happy living openly as a partnered homosexual man.
Since Mike, there have been many many other men who have come into my life in one way or the other. Some I have met face to face, most I have only met over the internet. Many of them have responded to what I've had to tell them of the Grace of God and God's unconditional love for them. Some have not responded. Some I'm afraid, have ended up where Mike was about to end up and have taken their own lives or ruined their lives with alcohol or drugs in a desperate attempt to relieve the pain.
Most of the stories of the men I have dealt with have not been so dramatic as Mike's story, but a couple of them have been very dramatic indeed. Somehow, I never put it all together that I had in fact taken the road my Mother predicted for me until recently when a friend who has gotten to know me well over the past few years commented on my "ministering" to other men concerning their sexuality. When he said that word, it shocked me. For some reason I had never thought about it in those terms; but when I protested the use of that word to him, he held firm that it was the correct word. I guess maybe it is.
One of the things that has always bothered me when in my dealings with other men who are at a critical juncture in their lives is that I have no formal credentials to do what I do. My wife is a licensed counselor and psychotherapist but that is the same as saying, "I slept in a Holiday Inn last night." It doesn't give me any standing. I know the Bible well, but I do not have a degree in theology.
One of the men whom I could not reach several years ago confronted me with my lack of credentials. He said to me that his preacher tells him that men like him are going to Hell. "Who are you?" he asked, "to say differently." In spite of all the guys who have responded to my attempts to help, those words from that man that i could not reach still ring in my ears after all these years. He was right, I simply don't have recognized credentials. I have experience, I have decades of reading and study behind me, I have the reconciliation of my own faith with my bisexuality, but I don't have credentials.
I found the sermon on the blog of a fellow blogger who is listed in my blog roll. I have blogged about Joe Blow, The Closet Professor, before. He often comes up with blog pieces I enjoy and this particular one is a great one.
For those of you who need credentials from someone to help you build new paradigms of faith and self understanding, I hope you'll carefully and thoughtfully read, "A Sermon By The Reverend Doctor Kathlyn James."(click on the link to read Rev. James' Sermon) It could change your life.
My thanks to The Closet Professor for finding it and posting it to his blog.
Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.
But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.
I look forward to hearing from each of you.
The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.
I look forward to hearing from each of you.