It has been said of me that I’m too afraid of what God thinks of me. That is given as an explanation for why I’ve chosen to live my life in a way inconsistent with what people call my “orientation.”
Christian philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, wrote:
Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world, forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. A person keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there, nevertheless, and he hardly dares think of how he would feel if all this were taken away (Journals, VIII 1 A 363).
I spent a good deal of my childhood in fear of my fate. As a young, gay preteen with plenty of sexual experience by the age of fifteen, I was pretty certain that God wanted nothing to do with me. I believed in him, pretty much always did, but I was also afraid of him because I was certain that he knew my deeds and did not approve of them.
It was even more than my deeds that made me shrink from God. It was my thoughts and feelings that put me in the most fear. At about the age of 12, shortly after being ordained a deacon, I stopped going to church.
It wasn’t so much over my same-sex attraction as it was over my embarrassment over my appearance. My same-sex attraction I could hide fairly well. I couldn’t hide the fact that my hair was long and the only shoes I possessed were sneakers. I had a white shirt that was frayed and too small. I had a clip-on tie.
In the same spirit as being worried about my physical appearance, I had had enough of going to church alone. My mother worked Sundays and my stepfather wasn’t a member. I was ashamed of that. I had endured a few years of being “adopted” for father-son outings. It was a very kind thing that men were doing, but I couldn’t forget that I was somewhat of a project for them.
So, my mother would drop me off in the front of the church building early in the morning for priesthood meeting. I would wait until she drove away to go to work and exit out the back door and down a dirt trail to a neighborhood where a friend lived. He and I would go somewhere in the woods and have some kind of sexual encounter and then spend the rest of the day playing Star Trek. He always got to be Mr. Spock. I hated that. I had to alternate between being Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy. When we were joined by another casual sex partner on those days, the other guy got to be Kirk, so I started having the nickname “Bones”(Kirk’s nickname for McCoy).
Our sexual escapades were fun, but I think we all preferred our role-playing. Despite all of this, I still believed very much in the Church and especially in God. I just didn’t think of myself as acceptable to either.
In quite an existential way, as much as I feared God and my eternal fate, I could not resist praying to God. Those steps of prayer I learned in Primary and reinforced by my mother were pretty powerful. It was somewhat like Kierkegaard’s analogy of the sensation people get who are near the edge of a very tall cliff or building. Though destruction would be the inevitable result of casting myself off, I would feel an almost irresistible urge to jump.
It’s not an entirely apt analogy for me, because in reality, I’m not that afraid of heights. I have known people who were. They’ve told me of this urge to jump off and it is part of what keeps them afraid.
Still, with me, there was this odd combination of fear of God and obsession with getting nearer to God. A more accurate analogy would be to compare me to a moth to the flame. This dichotomy has the current psychological label of angst.
I had it in copious amounts. It was slightly different than what Søren Kierkegaard described above. I wasn’t so much worried that I would be forgotten by God, but that God would not forget me, nor the things I had done and was still doing.
A prayer experience that I have described many times before changed all of that. I won’t reiterate it now, but I went from someone uncertain that God had kind thoughts for to someone who absolutely knew that God loved him. In that experience, I also made a commitment to change, but it wasn’t based on fear as much as hope and faith that God would keep his promises to me.
Now, let me make it clear. I did not start from a point where God did not love me to a point where he did. When I was a young child, I was absolutely convinced there was a Jesus who loved me. Through most of that childhood, I believed it, even when I started doing things that I was told were sins.
I lost that feeling through a gradual onslaught of negative comments from the older male who had been molesting me and my own acceptance of those comments as true. Even more than that, I thought it was true because I came to believe that I deserved the abuse.
The experience I had with God when I turned sixteen did not change God. It changed me and the thoughts I had about God and my understanding of the thoughts he had about me.
Many years later, after my big internet disclosure (about 1995), a coworker said something like this to me:
Rex, someday God is going to say to you, “Rex, my son, I made you gay and you turned your back on it.
By that time, having had so many great experiences with God’s thought towards me, my response to my coworker was easy. I replied something like this:
I don’t have to wait until that “someday” to know what God thinks of me. He has already made it clear to me.
It is a fairly common thing to say that men like me can’t be happy being faithful to the Church or our wives. They say we do it out of the guilt and shame we feel. They say we are wrongly concerned about what God thinks of homosexual behavior, or in a word, angst.
I don’t feel that guilt and shame much and certainly don’t feel a lot of angst about it. I feel good. I’m happy in the life I’ve chosen.
This is a good spot to quote my favorite scripture. It is what the prophet Jeremiah revealed for the Jews carried away into Babylon because of their sins.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11).
These thoughts he has spoken to me in words meant just for me and I feel them far more than all of the worries I once had about my eternal fate.