There was some satisfaction in being the resilient one — that against all odds, I was forging my own path. Honestly, it’s the only thing that I remember receiving praise for.
But whatever satisfaction I did have, it was fleeting and I had grown tired of doing this on my own. The independent spirit did not come without cost, but in a single-parent home, there wasn’t much choice. My adolescence became another casualty.
Because of this upbringing, I grew up not knowing the comfort of having someone else to rely on. I became self-sufficient, needing no one and hating when I did. Tirelessly manifesting my destiny.
For years, I was ignorant of the reality that I can’t do this. I spent so much time fighting that, even now, I do not know how to rest.
But there was no time for rest. Because if not me, who else would be there? I was learning that everything I could ever need would come from me and me alone.
And if I messed up in any of this, God would be waiting. I have always imagined God lurking in church corners, behind white walls, watching and waiting for me to mess up.
Throughout my life, I’ve carried memories of hurts and letdowns that would continue to replicate themselves. These memories would color my worldview.
Abandonment became a recurring hurt from my childhood. One memory stands out.
I was at a cousin’s house out-of-state, and my dad said that he’d come for me the next day. I didn’t know my family very well and spent the night there nervously playing games in the attic. I still remember the endless chants of skittles, dittles, what’s so high, silly games. When the next day came, I anxiously waited on the stairs for my dad, eyes locked on the door.
He didn’t come.
As I grew older, my dad’s disgust for me grew more apparent. Looking back, I think maybe he didn’t know how to handle having a “gay” son. Whatever it was, I experienced what I thought to be anger, and in his anger he would humiliate me every chance he had. Body shame was his go-to method of humiliation.
In many ways, I felt that I was the lesser child.
I am the lesser.
God had his fun, too. I remember being in a church service, and the preacher called me out in front of the whole church. As I was walking to my seat, he told everyone that I had a spirit of rebellion.
Not that I was broken, not that I needed help, but that I was bad. Now, God was also not to be trusted. He had turned everyone against me and would continue to do so.
Mistrust, anger, and loneliness would be pillars that upheld many of my false beliefs when I began to question my sexuality. In shame, I realized that this would be another fight I’d have to face on my own.
When I first started noticing other guys in middle school, I saw in them what I wanted to be — thoughts fueled not by my desire to be better, but by the voices of my father that said I should be better. There was no attraction; they were my friends, friends that were better than me in every way. They were tall, muscular and good at sports, what every young man should be.
I don’t remember thinking of myself as gay. There was always something wrong with me, and I was beginning to see it.
In high school, my identity was still being formed. But the me that existed was worth protecting. I desperately tried to be normal. There was no place for different in high school.
As time progressed, the attractions grew and so did my self-hatred. I guarded my secret with all that I had, never losing face. I was coming to terms that I was attracted to guys, and every sermon that included homosexuality reminded me that there was something wrong with me. I began to ask what I did to deserve the “skip heaven and go straight to hell” card?
God gave no answer. In my quest for answers, I went to the world.
I found answers in porn. But none of its answers matched what I knew to be true. Porn offered a feast for my eyes but nothing of substance.
Still, I searched.
And then I found a blog.
I had no idea that other Christians struggled with homosexuality.
This blog would change my life.
Have you experienced shame from your father? Have you ever reached the end of your rope with God or church?
* Photo courtesy spapax, Creative Commons.