My Journey Out Feed

My Journey Out -- Sidebar: Ruminations on Ministry

I actually don't blog many of my thoughts on ministry. Tim does that a lot, but I generally don't. I'm not sure why I haven't; I just haven't.

Being a minister is such a strange thing. The only other real job I can compare it to was being an academic philosopher where my duties were studying, writing, and teaching. I loved that job and was pretty good at teaching intro level classes. I'm not a great researcher or philosohical writer. I'm not an original or creative philosophical thinker. I did my job, enjoyed it, but it was just that, a job. Life was other things.

But ministry is different. It flows from your religious faith, so it is an elemental part of who you are. It is a calling and not simply a profession. That means a couple of things. The compulsion and drive to do it is different. You are not merely fulfilling an interest or getting a paycheck. Also, if you are called for it, then you are granted some measure of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to fulfill that task. That's what we understand theologically, but it is a scary concept to actually consider in practice. Yet I can also feel it at times, not all the time, but sometimes, when what you need to do in the moment just seems to flow without thinking or planning. Ministry is also different in that it calls for you to give some of yourself away in order to carry out the ministry. This can be dangerous, because you never know for certain how much of yourself to give away. Nor can all people be trusted to receive parts of yourself; you are opened up and can be damaged.

I have not yet developed the ability to easily defend against or bounce back from those moments when vulnerability is taken advantage of. My Dad was afraid this would be a problem for me, and he was right. It is one reason why I spent a decade planning to do something else. I had seen ministers beaten up and broken by the job. In my late teen years I finally really saw the workings of churches and was appalled. That played a big role in my deciding to do something else.

One time David B. and I were attacked for something where neither of us felt we had done anything wrong. We cared deeply for and respected the person we had upset. But as is often the case in church, someone else really made the issue of it. David and I disagreed about how to handle the situation, and part of that was because there are differences of role for pastor and associate pastor. He did the whole mea culpa thing. I was worried that he did this. I warned him that I was afraid he would reveal a weakness that would be exploited later. I never apologized to anyone, but instead went on about my work (though with far less joy and enthusiasm). A few months later I was invited for dinner in the home of the person who was originally offended, and the two of us worked together on projects in my remaining months in that position. David ended up having a difficult time there after that incident. He often was challenged again and again. I saw him sink into melancholy, and he lost the joy of his calling to that place.

I love spending time with my ministry colleagues from around the country. When ministers get together they let their hair down and have a good time. They open up to each other about their struggles and their joys. They help each other. Almost every good and great minister I know well is regularly on the verge of quitting. Many that I know keep their heads "close to the oven," to quote one of them. And these are people of every personality type and every sort of different style, theology, talent, etc. Plus I have plenty of friends who have thrown the towel in. Some of those have horrible stories of what they experienced at the hands of church people. Others just got burned out or gave up.

Not many ministers talk openly about these things outside of their small groups who get together for times of restoration. Blogging has probably made it more common to discuss it, especially with a blog like Gordon Atkinson's.

I think the Book of Jeremiah speaks to this. Jeremiah really didn't want to be a prophet. But the fire in his bones compelled him to. Often he was angry at God for his calling.

I've never had the intensity of emotion that Jeremiah reveals, but I understand what's going on there. I love what I do, much of the time. But sometimes it hurts. Everytime I come close to quitting something keeps me going. Sometimes it is because I discover a new joy or love for my work. But sometimes it is because I am compelled by the calling of the Holy Spirit.


#9 -- My Journey Out: More Dark Days

I was able to find a respite here and there -- a trip to the beach, a retreat, the week in Birmingham, etc. It was in Birmingham that I read Moltmann's In the End, the Beginning -- The Life of Hope, which helped me survive the summer. And ministering to my youth always helps. By its very nature it draws you out of yourself and your own problems. That is part of the significant gift that the faith community gives its members.

But it was only with my vacation that I finally got the break I really needed. And the timing was perfect. The relationship had really been over for months, but there had been communication back and forth in what I was later to describe as a "four month break-up." Finally we were done communicating (and wouldn't again until this year when we were finally able to really talk through everything and come to the civil conclusion that I wrote about in #5.5). So, the trip to Chicago was an important get-away.

Not only was it time to relax and restore, I also spent a lot of time reflecting. I had just begun therapy a few weeks before and was already beginning the process of learning about myself and coming to terms with things as far back as grief over Dad's death. During the vacation I got to do lots of things I love -- camping out, frisbee golf, art museums, lounging around and reading all day, a farmer's market, the Lincoln Park Zoo, cooking and eating, spending time with the dear friends from Louisa Street days. I went to church with them. It is rare I get to sit in church and not lead. This was helpful, and gave me perspective on things. During the Christian education time, I attended a lecture on Kabbalah and learned important things about our experience of brokenness. If you try to "fix" it or get over it too quickly, then you miss out on a valuable human experience. The lecturer said that you should live into your brokenness, even live a more risky life that runs the risk of being broken more often because that is the true passion of living and what provides real opportunities for growth.

Then the next weekend I was in Austin for the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which was great! In the few days since the vacation I was finally beginning to settle back into ministry. Maybe I would be able to keep doing it. Maybe I would be able to stay at Royal Lane. That Sunday in Austin I attended Highland Park Baptist Church. Two weeks in a row, I got to simply sit in worship; I could have received no greater gift. What I realized while sitting there at Highland Park was that I am a minister. I have felt called since the age of five. It is a more significant and elemental part of who I am than even my sexuality. No matter what, I will always be ministering. These are my gifts; this is my calling.

And so I jumped full steam into the fall. I love this part of the youth ministry year. It is the chance to begin again and refocus. Wednesday nights were going strong. Other aspects of the youth ministry were good. The Youth Council was providing amazing leadership. We were starting a mentoring program. The new seventh graders were being integrated well. The youth put together a wonderful fundraiser for hurricane relief. Also, we were working on new things in adult Sunday school and planning adult retreats for 2005. I was teaching an Adult Bible Study on Sunday nights on the Moltmann book I had read in the summer. The group of people in that study were a gift to each other. It was an amazing group and an amazing study. Everyone opened up and shared stories of great pain -- deaths of parents and spouses, religious persecution that led to fleeing the home country, a mother's suicide, divorces, and other crises and catastrophes. Powerful, powerful stuff. But the continuing testimony of everyone was HOPE! Things were looking up, and I had new energy, new drive, and was refocused.

Which is one reason the attack took me so completely off-guard and thoroughly devastated me. I couldn't imagine how anyone could attack me for the grief I feel over the death of my father. It cut to the bone. I have no deeper nor greater pain. The day after I realized how broad the attack had spread, I was in my therapist's office for an already scheduled appointment, and I simply cried the entire time. I felt betrayed. I even regretted ever having taken the job in Dallas; it hurt that much. Later that day I had lunch with Linda and cried all through the meal as I sought her always kind and wise help and advice. She hurried me on out of the restaurant, and we drove around town for almost three hours just talking. Always in the back of my mind was "If it is this bad when they don't know I'm gay, how bad will it be when they do know?"

I had no emotional energy left. I was completely drained. I was done.

Driving home to Oklahoma one weekend, I kept thinking about it. I had been praying for months, and still hadn't received any answer. Was this it? I didn't know. But I wasn't sure that I wanted to stay around to find out.

So I decided to quit.

Not many people knew this then or now. I didn't even talk with my colleagues about it. The original idea was to quit effective the end of the year. I didn't have anything to go to, nor did I care at that point. I just wanted out. My Dad had always said I shouldn't go into ministry because he had seen it break people; maybe he was right, I thought. I began to make a few plans with some of my Oklahoma friends. Fortunately, Greg talked me into waiting till June. That way I could save money and really formulate a plan. But, most importantly, I could figure out if this is really what I wanted to do and really what God was calling me to. This seemed like wise advice. So, I waited.

And things began to happen.


#8 -- My Journey Out: When Nothing Did

Yeah, then I reached those days when it seemed that absolutely nothing made any sense and the life I had spent all these years building was crumbling to pieces around me.

Mom's wedding weekend was difficult. I had just realized that my relationship was over the night before I came to Oklahoma City for the wedding. But I couldn't be sad at my mother's wedding; it would be misinterpreted. Those were an exhausting few days. I found time to cry by hanging out with friends or driving off by myself and sitting beside the lake. This needed to be Mom's and Revis' event, and I didn't want what was going on with me to get in the way of their joy.

In the early months, my joy had overflowed. Now, I tried as hard as I could to keep the pain from overflowing. My house was 2.2 miles from work. Sometimes it took all the energy I could muster during that drive to put on my ministerial role for work. I was so afraid that if people saw me sad or depressed, that they would wonder why, and I wasn't quite ready to tell them. The problem was that I kept bottling it in and then it would explode (see this post). One point in there Linda said to me, "You were smiling yesterday; it was good to see you smile. It had been a long time." That made me feel like I was failing because I was working so hard to put up the front.

I was in a lot of pain during camp and mission trip and all the big summer events. During the Garage Sale I could barely even be present. I kept finding reasons to go places and run errands or just kept leaving and going off on my own for a couple of hours.

On the darkest days I would get up from my desk, because I'd been crying, and would leave through my side door and drive home and spend the day lying in bed crying.

I was more and more exhausted by the effort to fake it when I was in public.

There were two days when I actually went to work intending to resign. I didn't see any other path ahead but that. Was there any future for me in my chosen career? I began to pray, "God, you'll have to create the path ahead, because I don't know what to do. Just give me the perception to see it when the time comes."


#7 -- My Journey Out: When Everything Made Sense

Everything in my life seemed to make sense in a way it hadn't ever before. That was my feeling that winter and spring. Not that I understood or knew how to express everything. I was still taking in the experiences and trying to figure them out. I look back now at what I wrote and said at the time (in this big binder in which I collected almost everything), and much of it was trying to figure out how to conceptualize and verbalize the experiences. How I said it then isn't how I would say it later. Yet, in some general way, it all made sense.

I was happy. Very happy. I even felt better at my job. From the first weekend I felt better at it. In fact, I think this was the period I was best at my job. I was more easy-going and relaxed with people. There was a joyful exuberance that permeated my everyday. And, that was when I conceived and began implementing the six-year plan for the youth ministry at Royal Lane.

During those months I spent a lot of time thinking over the past and realizing things I'd never quite realized before. Or understanding them in a new way. Plus I was having so much fun freeing a part of me that had been shackled for so long. Life was this big breath of fresh air. That's one reason I had so much actual fun telling people during that time. It was such a joy to be free.

The happiest moment occured one evening grilling burgers on his parents' front porch. He turned around with that grin he got when he was both relaxed and happy -- that look of contentment. He grabbed me to kiss me. I said, "But your neighbors are in their front yard." He said, "I don't care."


#6 -- My Journey Out: Telling People

[This first paragraph is the only way I can tell it. I've spent more than a week trying to tell it.]

I spent the rest of the day I told her installing a new ceiling fan. I had to keep busy, because it hadn't gone the way I had expected it to. A total of five months she didn't talk to me.

But most weren't like that. Most were actually enjoyable or meaningful. Some conversations were even fun. Some laughed with joy and expressed congratulations. Some struggled to say "the right thing." Some didn't have much of a reaction at all. Hardly any were shocked.

I took it in phases. Every once and awhile I'd decide to tell a few more people and would tell a handful and then wouldn't tell anyone for a few months. I described it as "gay fatigue," because telling someone usually took a long conversation and even though I was telling them good news, sometimes you'd end up having to comfort and care for the person you were telling. It was exhausting at times.

Different people found out in different ways. Some in person. Others over the phone. I would write cards or letters. These went to either 1) people who lived other places and that I didn't see very regularly or 2) folk who needed to be shocked when they first heard the news and would need time to process it before talking to me. A few even found out via e-mail. And at least one via instant messaging (though that wasn't really planned).

Some of the time I planned to tell the person when the conversation began. Other times I didn't. It arose either via a question or situation or topic, or I just realized suddenly that now was when I wanted to tell them. For example, Laura Picazo. I had wanted to tell Laura for months, but wanted to do it in person. She said to me one night on the phone, "John Eggleston says you've got big news." "Huh." "Yeah, I thought at first, 'Scott's gay,' but then I figured you would tell me that." "Scott's gay." "Oh." "Yeah."

I sorta regret that this part of the story is now over, because I've found it so meaningful. Especially what I considered the big two.

I was mowing my lawn. All I could think about was how sad I was (the break-up) and how I was working hard at getting better. Suddenly I realized that I didn't want to get through this part and then go through another difficult period. I determined right then that if life was going to be "hell" for awhile, then I'd take all the hell at once and get over it all at the same time. So I told Ray, my pastor, that day and my mother two days later. If I was going to lose my job and/or my family, I might as well get it over with.

We were sitting in worship planning, when I leaned back and said, "Ray, I'm gay." The rhyme was not intended nor was I trying to be funny. I just figured I'd say it succintly and get it out there and over with. And Ray was and is a blessing.

I had worried about telling Mom. I simply didn't expect it to go well. Because she was getting married, I put it off. Twice I had decided to tell her and couldn't go through with it. Finally I was determined. Harry agreed to ride with me to OKC on a Friday night and would be there to drive me back home to Dallas if that is what I needed. But I didn't.

We were sitting in the living room on the couch, with Revis in the armchair. I cried the whole time. Mom held my hand the whole time. Revis, my new step-dad, reached over and grabbed my arm and told me how much he loved me and said, "I don't understand why anyone would think this would change anything."

And they've been wonderful every step of the way since. Not just supportive and encouraging, but wanting to play a part in my life. They've asked questions and attended parties when they were the only straight people there. They want to hear about my dates even and have invited my ex over to the house. To many of my gay friends in Dallas, Mom and Revis are heroes.

They are mine as well.


#5.5 -- My Journey Out: Further Addendum

I had planned on writing this before seeing the last comment. I wanted to skipped ahead just a bit to spare folk confusion in my next series of blog posts.

John and I walked a long and often difficult journey in our relationship. We are now friends. As a mutual decision between the two of us, we realized that a longterm romantic relationship would never work. That was a good and right decision that we came to after a lot of talking through issues. It was fully mutual and fully rational. No one had to persuade the other or hurt the other when that decision was made. We are now friends and, as friends, care deeply for one another.

As to the other question, I've not specified the time sequence on purpose. I'm not writing a chronicle or a history. I am telling my story and am trying to unfold it in a storytelling fashion.

Further Addendum
The sixth post that I had planned I've decided not to post. It was to be entitled "The Happiest Moments of My Life." But I've decided that I don't want to share those with an audience this broad. Some of my friends were privileged to the story of my relationship, its high points and low points. For the rest of my friends who want to know that story, I'm sorry, but I'm not sharing that right now.

So I have to adjust course, meaning that a new number six (probably the planned number seven) will be a while in coming. Seven was going to be difficult to write anyway.


#5 -- My Journey Out: What Took You So Long?

That April when my relationship was falling apart, I realized that I didn't have a support system in Dallas. Though I had come out to a small number of friends from college, I was only out to two or three people in Dallas. I needed a support system to help me handle the pain and confusion.

So I called a friend and we met for lunch. I shared my story with him. This friend is also gay. One of the many questions he asked me was "What took you so long?"

And I've puzzled over that one a lot. There are a variety of answers. Maybe no one of them is the sufficient cause, but taken as a set they were sufficient to delay my dealing with my sexuality until I was twenty-nine years of age. I've mentioned a few in the previous posts, but here are some more.

All my life I've tried to live up to the expectations that other people have for me. This year with my therapist we talked about this a lot. It relates not just to my sexuality but in all aspects of my life. These were not expectations imposed on me, per se, but that I freely adopted. When they were praised then that encouraged me to continue to live that way. Just ask folk who knew me as a teenager and how I thought and acted like an old man (as some of my friends even called me). So I had to get over that big time before I could make this step. And since I've been trying to get over it in other areas of my life.

If you've been reading my blog any over the last year, you know the importance of family to me. Many of you are new to the blog (over 1300 hits today) so you probably haven't read all the other stories that would put this narrative into context with a whole life. This is just part of my life that I'm focusing on talking about at this point in time. Anyway, family has always been so important to me. My existing family and my future family. You my friends know that what I want more than anything in life is children and grandchildren. I've told you on many occasions that my dream in life is not some big ambition or lots of money or influence, it is to sit at my table at Thanksgiving dinner as an old man with my family -- my children and grandchildren -- around me. For SO long I told myself that if this is the life I wanted, then I needed to keep trying it with women. Part of my process of working through my sexuality was coming to terms with the fact that I may not get my greatest wish in life. Maybe a consolation is this promise from God given in Isaiah 56,

and do not let the eunuch say,
"I am just a dry tree."
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

When I came to Royal Lane I met gay men and women who were professionals in longterm, monogamous relationships who were active leaders in their church. Though I had had plenty of gay friends before, I had not had friends like the ones I made at Royal Lane. These were role models for me that the kind of life I wanted to lead was possible. I have expressed my gratitude to all of them on many occasions, but I want to express it here once again.

One of the things I discovered in my final weeks at Royal Lane was how many straight church members had always known. One senior adult told me that she had known since she met me, before I had dealt with it on my own. Her daughter had said the same thing but included the caveat, "I'm not sure how much he knows it yet." That church member said that she had intentionally said and done things to help me in coming out. Another senior adult woman said that she had known I was gay when she met me and had gone around telling folk that Royal Lane had a gay youth minister. She said it was only later that she learned that I wasn't out. This week she thanked me for sparing her having to go back and tell folk she had spoken out of turn.

There is another truth. Had I come out before entering full-time ministry, I never would have gone on into ministry. I wouldn't have thought the life was possible. Yet the one thing most true about me, more important than my sexuality, is that I have felt called to the ministry since I was five years old. My Mom would say that she felt it before I was even born. She didn't share that with me until I was already preaching. How do I know that she felt it way back then? Because she had written it down then and put it away and took it out to show me only after her feeling was confirmed.

In SO many ways, I wish it hadn't taken so long. I feel the waste of years I can never recover. I'd love to have spared myself some needless agony. But, then, I also feel that the way it happened has worked out for the best. Maybe it was the right time?


#4 -- My Journey Out: What About the Women?

My first kiss was in Kindergarten when Kristie Holstein kissed me once when our teacher was out of the room. It completely surprised and shocked me. Kristie and I did end up being "together" off-and-on through third grade.

Except that that story from Scott's past, told now and then, isn't really the truth. Because there is a story from preschool Sunday school class back in Miami, OK. I kissed a boy. And got in trouble. I was told that bad men did that and not to ever do that again. And it was a long, long time before I did. That's the story I should have been telling of my "first kiss" all these years.

In late elementary when classmates started "going together," it never worked out for me. In Junior High I couldn't get dates like other people did. Even in high school, I never dated, though I asked plenty of girls out.

As I got older and heard about all the pre-sexual and sexual encounters that straight and gay friends had when they were children or early adolescents, I was shocked. That just hadn't been a part of my world at all. I think things sexual were such a taboo in the world I grew up in, and I was a good kid who tried to live the way the adults in my life expected me to. I've said often that I think my sexual development was ten years behind other people's because of the influence of conservative Christianity in my upbringing. Those years in Junior High and High School I agonized daily over whether I was a Christian because I was having these thoughts and feelings that I was taught a Christian shouldn't have. If I got aroused, I felt guilty of mortal sin. Much less the confusion when my sexual fantasies were about guys. I kept thinking that maybe because I hadn't had any experiences with women that I was messed up and that once I had dated then I'd be okay.


I never was all that lucky with women. Between the ages of 19 and 29 I had only four genuine relationships. The second one lasted two weeks in 1996. The third lasted three months in 2000. And the fourth lasted four months in 2003. The first was the serious one. It lasted two and one half years while I was in college and included us getting engaged and then breaking up my senior year. In between these were various girls I went out with a few times but never considered girlfriends. Even that list I could count on one hand. I spent most of my twenties very, very lonely.

I had just not had a relationship of any kind before college and so much of that one was exploring being with someone else. Neither of us had ever dated anyone before, so the process of holding hands, kissing, etc. was very innocent and slow. We never did anything I'd even remotely consider sexual, even after we were engaged. But then we were good baptist kids!

What was this relationship about, then? Friendship, companionship, affection? I loved her. And still think that that was a genuine feeling. But I now know how different that feeling was from authentic, passionate, love.


We were sitting in his car outside his parents house in early March. "Now I know what everyone else has always been talking about all these years. This is so much more powerful than anything I've ever experienced. I thought I'd experienced passion before, but I hadn't. I thought I'd experienced love before, but I hadn't. I don't even recognize myself with you."

I meant that as a good thing. Any doubt, any confusion, any question I had quickly disappeared when John and I got together. Then all those years before seemed, in so many ways, wasted. Years that I could have been pursuing meaningful relationships that might have worked for me. What took so long?


#3 -- My Journey Out: A Revelation

Matt's response was that he never thought I'd have the balls to do it.

Matt himself had come out, at least to me, our sophomore year in college. We were roommates for three years. The director of admissions had put us in the same room because we were both leaders in our high schools. And we worked well as roommates, so we stayed together.

Our room that year was your basic square. In the SW corner was the door; the bathroom door in the NW corner. The bunkbed was along the north wall, perpendicular to it at the mid-point. Matt's stuff was on the west side, mine on the east. I was sitting in the bean bag on my side of the room when he told me. I don't remember what had precipitated him telling me in that moment. A few months before, the school had discovered that our friend Sean was gay. We had been through months of fighting with university administration. Also, one of our suitemates had moved to another room over the whole ordeal. So we'd been having lots of conversations about the topic in recent months. I guess Matt was finally ready to really deal with it (he had dated seven girls our freshman year).

That time and process with Matt was tough. I wasn't prepared for it at all. As friends we had walked that journey, and I now wanted him to be the first person to know about me.


Back in November after my day of private retreat, when I had prayed and meditated on the topic for hours, I left feeling tranquil and joyful. If I hadn't had plans that night I probably would have called John that afternoon. Instead, I went to see two of my youth play football, and the whole time I was in this great mood. The mood persisted the next day as I went to dinner at the Lucketts' (I had just recruited them to teach in the youth Sunday school). I was bursting with excitement, and it's a wonder I didn't tell people then.

That night I woke up in the middle of the night. I can't do this. What was I thinking. Glad I didn't do anything stupid.

But it wouldn't go away. So for the rest of November I pondered the question.

What I had felt during the day of prayer seemed right. My anxieties and fears were what seemed wrong. Should I talk to someone? Who? Marty I decided. At Thanksgiving, when we would all be home in Shawnee. As the days played out I spent time with Marty, but there were always other people around, and I wanted to have this conversation in private. I wanted his input, his blessing. We never did get to talk then.


The Vickreys hold an open house every year in December for all of the church members. It is a fun event, with great snacks. Sharon wanted me to come stay for most of it so that I could get to know more church members in an informal setting. Most of the day I stood at the door taking coats. I left a little early in order to make it home by seven p.m. so that I could watch Angels in America on HBO. I hurried home. When I got in, I turned the tv on, changed the channel to HBO and . . . nothing. The image was blurred and the sound was garbled. Try the other HBO channels. The same. Except for the Spanish-language. I called the cable company. Having some problem with the line. I watched for about 30 minutes in Spanish (I don't speak Spanish) but gave up and went to bed.

Luckily they played the first three hours over many times that week, and I watched them over and over again. I watched the second three hours the next Sunday night. And I've seen the whole thing or parts of it multiple times since. Every time it's on tv, I watch part of it. And I own a copy and watch it now and then.

The Angels in America film, based on Tony Kushner's play, was simply a revelation. I identified with the characters. And I was inspired. Words are inadequate to describe the feelings I get watching this film.

Sitting in my house in mid-December 2003 I watched the final installment. In the closing scene, it is five years after the main action and some of the major characters are meeting. Prior speaks directly into the camera giving this benediction:

We are not going away.
We will not die secret deaths anymore.
The world only spins forward.
We will be citizens. Time has come.

Bye now.
You are fabulous, each and every one.
And I bless you.
More life.
The Great Work begins.


I stood up from the couch and knew that I had the courage to do this.


#2 -- My Journey Out: Beginnings

The night before everyone kept asking when I was leaving to drive home for Christmas. "I'm going to try to leave by 6 a.m.," I would say. The women at church always responded with looks of concern. The men just kinda nodded with the acknowledgment that that was early. "Yeah that's why I'm going to rush right out after the second service," I'd say next. We have two Christmas Eve services.

Six a.m. was early. I'd been up for an hour getting cleaned up and finishing my packing. All the gifts were already in the car. I wasn't sure how long the drive would be, probably close to six hours, so I was trying to get there by noon. I hate arriving late to a family get-together. I hate being the one everyone is waiting on.

The day before I had spent mostly alone, until I went up to the church in the afternoon to help get things ready. I had spent the day cleaning the house and getting it ready for my return. I'd put the flannel sheets on the bed because they are so warm, and they make me feel like I'm being hugged. I had also got everything I could packed into the car in order to make the morning go more quickly.

Close to six I was cleaned up and dressed and the car was ready. I turned down the thermostat, left open the doors on the kitchen and bathroom sinks, took one look around and paused for a moment. When I returned all would be different.


Back in October I'd seen him again. He came to town for the weekend to spend time with his sister Sarah and her husband Lucas. They invited me to hang out with them that weekend.

I had a youth Halloween Party that Saturday night. I went dressed as "the Paint Nazi," a name the kids started calling me on the mission trip that previous summer because I'm such a stickler for painting properly. When I got to Lucas and Sarah's I changed clothes. I had brought my nice jeans and a nice shirt. Why? We were just sitting around the apartment, not even going out to do anything.

John was there; that's why. John supposedly had a crush on me. Sarah had said for years that she wanted to set me up with her brother, that we were perfect for each other. The only problem was that I was "straight" (she would have said it with the quotes). Back in the spring of 2001 I had met John for the first time at Sarah's apartment, when she and Kelli Kiser lived right next door to my house in Shawnee. At that time, I was preparing to move from Shawnee to Fayetteville. John laughs about how unattractive my outfit was that night we met -- Star Trek t- shirt, shorts that he thought were too short (though he admitted that's what folk were wearing then), and Tevas (which he doesn't like).

But why was I now dressing up for this guy? That thought bothered me for weeks.


So, on Christmas morning I was finally headed north for Miami and Grandpa's house for Christmas with the family. But all I was thinking about as I drove was John. I'd specially picked the music for the drive -- Elton John, Indigo Girls, Rufus Wainwright, etc. You see, John was coming to visit the weekend after Christmas. In two days I'd be driving back to Dallas, and John would be there that evening. For the five hours of the drive, that's all I could think about.

The Tuesday before Christmas it looked as if John wasn't going to come to Dallas. Originally, he was coming for the weekend to stay with Lucas and Sarah and to hear me preach that Sunday. On Tuesday Lucas and Sarah found out that they'd have to leave town for the weekend and go with Lucas' family to a wedding in Arizona. I was excited, because this solved my problem really. I had been wondering how I'd get a chance to talk to John if he was at Lucas and Sarah's. Now all I'd have to do was invite him to go ahead and come for the weekend and stay at my house.

That Tuesday night Sarah and Lucas came over to my house. We were sitting in the living room chatting casually when Sarah said, "You're being cruel. You know John has a crush on you and now you've invited him to stay the weekend with you." I said, "I'm not trying to be cruel." The conversation went on its way. Then they were getting ready to go when I said again "I'm not trying to be cruel, about John." Sarah looked at me. I then added, "I want to explore the possibility of a relationship with him."

Lucas was getting up about to leave and when he heard that said, "I guess we're staying. How about a drink?" So I told them the whole story.


After John's October visit I couldn't get him out of my mind. Clearly I was attracted to him and had been the previous times we'd met. He was attracted to me, at least this is what I had heard and sensed. What did this mean? And what was I going to do about it?

For years I'd told myself stories. The story of late was that I was bisexual, but was going to act on my (minimal) attraction to women because that was easier. There was some point in every single day for most of the last decade that I had rehashed this conversation in my head. Why did I have to go through it every day?

Because I think I really did know the truth. I knew that my earliest memories of sexual feelings were homoerotic. I knew that my sexual fantasies had been about men since I had begun to develop sexually in late childhood. I knew that I spent most of my adolescence racked with guilt over my sexual desires and worked as hard as I could to repress them. I knew . . . There was so much I really, really knew, but I was working so hard to deny it and live the way I was expected to.

Now faced with my attraction for John, the old stories weren't working anymore.

By mid-November I realized that there was no way I was going to avoid "this" this time. Finally I had to deal with my sexuality.

Mid-November I took a day of private retreat. There are these church members who have a gorgeous home in the Southern style. The foyer has these heavy antique English doors with brass knobs. The living room has huge comfy leather chairs and big windows that look out over the lake. When I first moved to Dallas they offered their home for private retreat space anytime I needed to get away.

Sitting in the living room of that house I prayed and meditated and thought. What was I considering? "Am I gay?," I wondered. What would happen to my life? My family? My job? Everything and everyone around me? Hours I prayed about this, spending a good deal of the time lying prostrate on the floor.

Finally I felt a peace and tranquility. Maybe what I was about to go through would be a "dark night of the soul," but I had this sense that it would be a positive transformation for me and for other people. I left there that afternoon with an overwhelming joy.

When I told her all of this, Sarah was thrilled. She was so happy for me and so happy for John. For years she had wanted us together. She said she wouldn't say anything to him, but that she would want to hear all when they got back from Arizona.


My drive to Miami didn't seem like five and one-half hours. I was in ecstasy the whole way. I kept rehearsing what I would say to him. I kept imagining how the weekend would play out. I kept dreaming about the possibilities for the future. I was hopeful that a year from then we would be making this drive together.

Christmas with the family was weird. To think what might happen within the next year. How would they respond? Would I even be spending another Christmas with my family? Would I have a family left in another year? I stayed a couple of days longer than everyone else in order to spend time with grandpa and his wife. At the time I figured that would be the last time I'd get to spend with them like that.

My high school friends and I hung out one day. I got to see Amie's new baby boy. It had been almost a year since I'd seen any of these friends, so we were doing a lot of catching up. They wanted to hear all about the break-up with the girlfriend that had occurred months before. As I recounted this story, Jason started talking about my miserable record with women. "Have you tried being gay?," he asked. I almost didn't know how to respond, but just smiled.


The drive back to Dallas was just like the drive to Miami. I never got bored; all I was thinking about was John. When I got home, I put the finishing touches on cleaning the house. Here I was, about to take this major step into a new life. Everything was about to change.


We were watching The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I pushed pause on the DVD player and turned to him, "I want to explore the possibility of a relationship with you." That's what I'd rehearsed. It was both the opening line and the closing line of what took most of an hour to say. I explained my sexual history, my confusion, my excitement, my worries about the future, my desires, what had happened since I'd seen him last. I asked him if he wanted to take all that on, with all the risk, becasue if so I wanted to explore that possibility with him.

He said he did. But we had to go get Tums because he was now so nervous that his stomach was upset. Once we were in the car headed for the convenience store, I reached over and touched his hand and started caressing it and had the most amazing feelings I'd ever had.


After he left that weekend I called my old college roommate, Matt. "I'm dating someone," I said. "His name is John."