Welcome to Part Four of Justin’s week taking over the Blog! Be kind to him, he’s doing a really brave thing, as we have the honour of being the first to ever receive his story. Find him on Twitter at @thejustingriggs, go say Hi and Well done! – R
After the conversation that I had with Charlie, I realized that there was no going back, so I decided to deal with it. I made the appointment with our Pastor as I had said that I would, and the appointment was set for the very next day. I did not sleep that night. I remember lying in bed replaying that conversation over and over, what I should have said, what I could have said. Maybe not saying anything at all. Over and over it played, like a movie stuck on repeat and no matter how bad it is, you cannot stop watching. Did I potentially just end a friendship that was really important to me, all because of this perceived disease in my being. My cancer had a sense of humour. I thought that maybe I had made the biggest mistake to open up to him, because I don’t think I truly understood what the outcome would be, or even what I wanted it to be.
I eventually fell asleep and woke the next morning determined that today was going to be the day that I finally overcome everything that had become such a challenge over the last few years, and that this would be the first day of things starting to get better. You have to build yourself up in that way, because overthinking a worst case scenario was something that I so easily did, so I decided to focus on the potential silver lining. I met up with the Pastor in a local coffee shop, and our conversation started comfortably easy. For a while we spoke about the generic things happening in life, and nothing really of note was said. I knew that I was going to have to tell him what had happened, but I just did not have the courage yet. So, I kept talking about everything except what was really going on.
I have no idea where the sudden surge of courage came from, but before I knew it, I told him what had happened the night before and about me declaring these feelings towards Charlie. I told him exactly how the conversation went and that we both agreed that I would speak to him in order to get the help that I need to move past this. One of the mistakes that I made is that I made it sound like I am was struggling with this so called battle and that I wanted help to overcome it. I found it ridiculous that how after 4 years of STILL struggling to ‘move past this’, I still believed that I had a disease that I had to beat. So, these were the kinds of phrases that I used. That I really want to move past this, or I really want to change. I don’t want to live the lie version of who I am, but live true to who I was created to be. I also said things like, I am really trying my best to overcome this, and I am still fighting each and every day.
These were all lies of course, and deep down inside I did not believe any of it even as I said it, but felt that I had to say these things about myself because the alternative could be so much worse. What I should have said was that the real struggle I was dealing with was not about the feelings that I had for Charlie, but the thoughts that I had about myself. About not being able to accept myself, or rather, accepting myself but the rejection of others was something that I feared more. How I was taught that God cannot love me in this way was the constant in my mind.
This was the sad truth. How I was taught directly or indirectly that the unconditional love of God came with a condition. That little box that I was supposed to fit into, when all I wanted to do was to love myself and live the authentic life that God intended for me. Is this not what it is all about? If the Bible says that we are to worship God in Spirit and in truth, what if this was my truth? What if my truth was to just to love? Or, was I conditioned to believe that the love I had for God and for people was based on gender and that love for one another was meant to be the same.
I did not have the answer to this, and truth be told I still don’t. I was crying on the inside because all I wanted was acceptance for who I perceived myself to be, which in fact to this day I still believe is not a bad person. Do I make mistakes? Of course I do. Do I make the wrong decisions? Definitely. But then again, did Jesus not die so we no longer have to live bound to these human errors? When He died, He did not re write our human nature, He just gave us a hope to know that we are no longer judged by this. Thank God for that thought, but then, why was I subjected to thoughts of inferiority by other people. Was judgement placed in the hands of those who are supposed to lead us only to make us feel that we will always fall short or even that the mistakes we make will forfeit our eternity with God? This is a very deep statement to make, but these were the thoughts that I had even while having that conversation with the Pastor.
I felt like I did not have the answer, or I couldn’t understand what was right or what was wrong even in that moment. So, I kept on lying, to my Pastor, and to myself. After my explosion of confidence and declaring all these statements about myself, it was finally his turn to speak. The long and short of the conversation that we had was basically that it was okay. He assured me that there was no judgement and that he would take my hand, and walk me through this thing. Like a shepherd would walk with one of his sheep that is sick. This gave me great comfort, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, this could be something that would actually start loosening its grip, that the relentless way of attacking me, the cancer would finally ease up. We ended our meeting on a high note, and I felt the same sense of relief I had after speaking to Charlie. The breaths came easier at this point, and I finally thought that things could get better and a calmness came over me.
The first things that I did after the meeting was to send Charlie a message. I wanted him to know how the meeting had gone, and that I was actually feeling good about what had happened and that he was right to tell me to talk to the Pastor. I didn’t think much of it that he didn’t reply straight away, so later that night I sent him another message. To my surprise, still no reply. An uneasy feeling started to get me worried, but I decided to not make too much of it and I left it to go to bed for the night. I told myself that this was just the old me trying to cause unnecessary anxiety and I had to remind myself that this was supposed to be a good thing. That things were supposed to get better from this point on. So I let the thoughts quiet down and fell asleep.
When I woke the next morning, the first thing I did was to check and see if Charlie had maybe responded to my messages, but to my greatest disgust, nothing. What was happening here? I sent him another message asking what was going on, and that I was worried because I was not hearing from him. Out of nowhere I felt myself losing breath again. Could it really be that what I was fearing most was finally happening. That after what I had said, the worst case scenario would actually start playing itself out, and what I feared most would actually become my reality?
Eventually, Charlie responded. As I read his message, I remember feeling like my stomach dropped to my feet, and my heart was about to explode. I read those words and I knew that this was the beginning of the end of a friendship that I treasured more than anything. These were the words that I feared most of all, because it was not at all what I wanted to read, but unfortunately what I was dreading. He could not deal with what I had said. It was too much for him, and he didn’t know how to move forward from here. A brother-ship divinely called, would now be over. This was one of the hardest lessons that I had to learn, because like I mentioned it was all about trust to me. It was all about believing in someone enough that even when you expose that part of who you are to them, they would still be there. In fear of sounding dramatic, it actually felt that all that I had known was now crumbling before my eyes. It was the proverbial end-of-life-as-I-knew-it moment, and there was nothing that I could to stop it. It was too late. I said what I had said, and now it was time for me to bear the consequence.
I think the hardest part for me, looking back at it, was that what I had told him had actually nothing to do with him. It was about something that I was going through, and even though it involved him, it was still about what I felt and me as a person. It was never intended to become something that he now had to deal with. All I wanted was his assurance that it would not change our friendship. The way he chose to deal with the information that I gave him took me by surprise, and really that is what hurt the most. It was never supposed to become about him. It was always just supposed to be about how I finally decided to take a step towards what I thought was the right direction and allowed my vulnerability to get me to a place of actual healing.
A few days had passed after he sent that message, and then a few weeks. We stopped talking entirely. He refused to acknowledge me, refused to speak to me, refused to forgive me. Or maybe that is an unfair statement to make. Maybe he did forgive me, but still did not know how to show it or even how to move past it. But I thought to myself that it is okay, because I knew he needed to deal with whatever was happening so that we can move past all of it, even if that meant that I have to give him time to do so. So even though it was really hard, I understood. I put aside the hurt and disappointment I felt and allowed him the time he needed to move past it, and find a way for us to be friends again. I really wanted to just go back to where things were before, and I knew that in order for that to happen I needed to give him space to be okay with it. I needed to give him time to see me as a friend again, and to trust me again to bare himself before me as he once did.
If I’m honest, there were moments where I resented him and really just wanted him to get over whatever insecurity he felt towards a man dealing with homosexuality, dealing with the ‘religious consequence’ of what it meant to be gay, and really just dealing with me, but I knew that it was unfair. I couldn’t resent him, because what I had told him was big, and it was a big deal. There are always two sides to any situation, and unfortunately this was his. So I had to allow him his own journey to self-discovery.
A few weeks had passed since all of this started, and unfortunately it was not getting any better. Even though it was such a hard thing to do, I had to make peace with the fact that maybe this really was the end to our friendship. We still hadn’t spoken, and in fact, more and more of the friends that I had made started distancing themselves. I think that ultimately what it was about was that most of them believed that the lifestyle that I was in a way easing myself into, was something that they could not accept, and in turn could not accept me for. I can, to this day, not say with any real fact why they reacted the way that they did, but the fact of the matter was that I was pushed away, and this was what I had feared the most.
I was called into the Pastors’ office, one last time, and a part of me knew what the conversation was going to be about, but then again I was not ready for it. I believe that there was a part of me that knew what was coming, but nothing can really prepare you for the words. What it had all come down to was that because of what had happened with Charlie, the church felt that I could not represent what they stood for with all that was going on, and they felt that it would be better that I stepped down from all forms of serving immediately. This was very hard to hear, and in truth I could not even speak or respond. The Pastor continued and said that because of this, they could not see where I would actually serve any purpose working in the church anymore because they could not trust me to lead effectively because of this. My heart was broken.
I have heard people reference the words “my life fell apart”, and I never really grasped what that meant until this moment. It was over. Every sacrifice, every minute spent, all the hard work done in just one single conversation.
In this moment I did the only thing that I thought I could do, so I said that because of this, I will resign. I thought that at least a resignation looked better than a dismissal because I realised that I would have to find another job. It was unreal in so many different ways. But it had all come to this moment, and even though it broke my heart and I thought this was the worst possible thing that could happen, deep down there was a single sense of relief that all the struggle and hurt from the last few years had reached a climax and I knew that healing could begin.
R – Peace be with you.