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?