Welcome to Part Five, the final part of Justin’s week taking over the Blog – and dare I say it, I think he’s saved the best ’til last. The ending sends shivers up my spine every time! Find him on Twitter at @thejustingriggs, go say Hi and Well done! – R
I recently learned that you cannot change what happened in your past, but you have a choice as to what you take from those experiences. Sometimes, our reaction to these events have the potential to either change who we are, or to change who we want to become. The difference is entirely up to you. The problem was just that I had no idea who I was anymore. I had no idea where I was going in life, or what I even wanted out of life. I was so sure of my future before all of this started, and I felt like I lost touch with that entirely.
This was such a moment. I asked myself how I could allow life in general to become this bad, and how do I go back? My biggest question was where was God in all of this? I was confused, because I was taught that in every situation, God is with us and that He carries us through it all, and I truly believed this to be true. I asked myself the question that if God was with me in all of this, then where was He?
I forced myself to stand up and fight every single day. Fight for myself and to get to a place where things could get better. I forced myself out of bed every day, I forced myself to think differently about the situation that I found myself in and I worked really hard to just try and be okay. I caught myself thinking the one day that if I had to do all the work and I had to take responsibility and ownership of the situation that I was in, then where did God actually feature in all of this? If you think about a child who is suffering, a father would leave everything to make sure that child is okay, and to pick him up and tell them that it is all okay. I didn’t feel this. In fact, I was made to believe that I had to find my own strength, albeit in God, but that it all rested on how much I was willing to fight for myself to get better. Was God really fighting for me? Was he really ready to pick me up and comfort me and tell me that it is all okay? I wanted to believe it more than anything, because the alternative seemed unreal. The alternative left me in a place where I had nothing, and no one to fight for me but myself. But nevertheless, I fought. Only recently I came to realise that if it was not for the strength that God gave me, even though I did not see it at the time, I would have completely given up and there were moments where I really considered it.
Six months had passed since I sat in the Pastors’ office, and there were a lot of challenges and struggles. I can truthfully say that it was the hardest time of my life. One day I will write about the full journey in that time, but for the purpose of this story I will finish off at the point where I am now.
The purpose of me writing about this is simply – there is hope. I realised over the last few weeks that there are a lot of people that struggle through the same challenges. It might not be the same story but it all comes down to the same thing. There was a time where I thought that I would never be accepted for who I am, and that I will never be good enough. I convinced myself that I am disqualified from the love of God because of my sexuality and I could not forgive myself for it. In fact, I resented God for it. How could the Bible teach us about the unconditional love of God, yet because of this thing I am underserving of it? Or disqualified from it. It took me a very long time, with many nights of tears and there were times where I really lost myself in this thing, but I made it through. I am seeing light again. I feel like I can breathe again.
I am happy to say that I no longer refer to me being gay as having a cancer in my body. The cancer is gone. In fact, I realised that the only disease that made me sick was the society we live in that refuses to accept that there are people that are different. That there are people that show love, experience love or express love in different ways.
Am I completely over what had happened? Definitely not. There are still a lot of things that I have to deal with, a lot of people that I had to let go of. A lot of things that I had to make peace with, and also a lot of things that I had to forgive for. Forgive those people for what they did, mostly forgive myself for what I did, because the truth is that I also had a share in the events that took place, and I take responsibility for it. But I had to let it all go in order for me to move on. I am at a place where I can start loving again. Start trusting again. Rebuild my relationship with God and get back to what it is all about. Getting back to the place where I can look at myself in the mirror and actually be proud of the man that I am. The man that was created by God. Loved by God. Through all of it, God still showed Himself faithful.
So all this said, it all comes down to the fact that nobody can ever tell you who you are or who you are supposed to be. In fact, God has called us to love Him authentically and just as we are, in truth. So I like to think of all this that had happened was maybe necessary for me to come back to my own truth. I wasn’t authentic in the way that I worshipped. I wasn’t authentic in the way that I lead people. There was always a lie inside of me, and the lie was not that I was gay, but that I refused to acknowledge it. Is being gay a sin? Truthfully, I don’t know. But then again, is being racist a sin? Is being an adulterer a sin? There are many different arguments that can be had in this regard, but I decided to no longer focus on the shortcomings or the let downs that could disqualify us from Heaven. I am now focussing on being the best version of myself that I can be. Loving God and loving people. Being someone who stands for those who cannot stand for themselves and believe in someone when nobody else does. This is who are meant to be. This is who we are called to be. Do I still make mistakes? Definitely. Do I still let myself down? For sure. But I am no longer ashamed or judging myself for who I am.
I have realised in all this that there are a lot more people out there who understand and support this community, and I really believe that it is because of this love and support that I can finally stand again. If I could do the same for someone else one day, then I know there was a purpose to everything that I went through. It wasn’t all for nothing. I will forever be grateful for the journey that I had working for the church, but I also know that it is now time for a new season. I don’t know what the future holds, but at least now I know who I am, and this will help me on the road ahead.
So this is why I shared this story. To tell you, reader, that you are loved and valued. That you can be bold in knowing that no one person can take away from who you are. That you are perfect in every way and that life has the potential to be really great. If you are in a similar place as I was, just know, that it does get better. I told myself that and found it really hard to believe, but the reality is, it does get better. Be strong and stand back for no one. Root yourself in the truth which is God, and not the tainted truth the world so often forces on us. Be the unique you you were created to be. You are perfect in every way. Let that light shine, and never allow the world to put it out.
There is a lot more to tell, and I am sure that over time I will share different parts of it, but for now I leave you with these last words.
I prayed one night asking God why I have to go through all of this and does He even love me, because right now I cannot see it, or feel it and find it really hard to believe. This is what He said to me:
“I love you. I formed you. I created you for ME. I called you, and I chose you, you are MY son. I have already paid the price. I love you even though you cannot love yourself. I will love you even though you can’t love ME. Just know, that through it all I am still there. When it seems like all hope is gone and darkness surrounds you, MY love, MY grace will always see you through.”
I truly hope, and trust that by sharing this a life can be touched and changed. Just as mine was. I am a better person because of it. So be true to yourself. Who you are is pretty great.