Welcome to Part Three 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
I had made a friend over the years at the church and we grew really close. We will call him Charlie for the sake of the story. Charlie had always known about my sexuality, but unfortunately also believed that it was wrong and that it was something that I could change or overcome, so we never really spoke about it. He, just like everybody else, believed that if I really wanted to, that I could make the choice to change that part of myself and live the ‘natural’ life that God had intended for me. Even though we never spoke about it, we both knew that it was there and that it was a constant struggle, but we avoided the topic regardless. It was just always the metaphorical gay elephant in the room. In spite of all of that, we still were really close. Only now I realise that this isn’t what friendship is supposed to be.
Don’t get me wrong, the friends I had did accept me in spite of my sexuality, being there was a constant push to try and be different. This was all I knew eventually, that who I am goes against God and that I HAD to change in order for me to live the life that He had intended for me. The cancer was eating away at every part of me that made me who I am, and the people in my life was feeding it.
I saw Charlie as a brother, and he saw me as the same. The bond that we shared was something that I had never experienced with any other person, and we always spoke openly to one another. I accepted him even with his flaws and own things he was dealing with, just the same way he accepted me. We both realised and understood that people had things that they deal with on a daily basis, and I guess we both decided that none of that was going to get in the way of the friendship that we had. I wonder sometimes if that was really what he felt, or was it just one of those things that he never really wanted to bring up or discuss, because he didn’t really know how. Was it a friendship built on solid trust, or was it more of a tolerance to what he chose to avoid? Still, we trusted one another with anything and everything.
One of the most difficult things that I had to admit to myself was that somewhere along the way my feelings for him started going from brotherly love, to a different kind of love that I had never known. Not even in previous relationships that I had. This made things so much worse, because now not only have a got this disease that I am fighting, but also a mix of emotions towards the person that I thought of as a brother. I started seeing this as a threat to our friendship, and it scared me. You have to understand that rejection was and has always been something that I really struggled with, and the thought of this ‘issue’ of mine, rejection seemed like something that could potentially become more real than what I was willing to risk. But no matter how hard I tried; the feelings would not go away. The cancer had spread, and was now more relentless than ever.
There is a lot more to this part of the story, which I will not get into, but I could see that our friendship was busy taking strain and there were a lot of things that we were avoiding. I have to take responsibility for the part that I had in everything that had happened, because a lot of what went wrong was because I crossed multiple lines in our friendship and that is something that I will have to forgive myself for. We started having arguments about the silly stuff, and I knew that I was going to have to talk to him about what was going on. So, I did. I believed that he deserved to know the truth, even though a part of me already knew that there is a really good chance that he already does. People always say that once some doors are opened, that they can never be closed again, but I knew deep down inside that this was a door that I was going to have to open, even if there was a massive risk involved.
I thought for sure that I was going to have a panic attack. My whole body was shaking and I knew that this conversation could go one of two ways. It could be received as a moment of truth and acceptance, and there could be a way to move forward from it, or it could potentially end a friendship that I thought I really needed in my life. I wasn’t even sure why I wanted to tell him, because I knew that it wouldn’t change the way that I felt, but I also realised that it was time to start letting some of the stuff out that I kept hidden for so long. I can honestly say that the intention was never to tell him how I felt, and then hoped that somehow, he would say that he felt the same way and we would end up happily together. That was not what it was about at all. It was purely to try and get some weight off my shoulders and try and feel some sort of relief knowing that I am not carrying this thing alone. That this friendship would be strong enough that even though I expose that part of myself, I have someone willing to stand with me and help me through a really bad time of my life.
I went over to his place to finally have this conversation, but I could not get myself to speak. He saw that I was struggling to say what I really wanted to say so he started asking me what was going on. He said that whatever it was that I could tell him anything and trust him with it. That the only way he could help me is if he knew what was actually going on. This was the key thing to me – he said that I could trust him with whatever. If someone assures you in that way that no matter what you say, you will not be rejected and pushed away, and then that trust is broken, that is something that leaves a really big scar in your life. I remember telling him that he won’t like what I had to say and that is why I was scared to tell him. He assured me that nothing I could say would ever make him think less of me and that he was willing to take my hand and walk through whatever was happening with me.
So, I finally gave in and I told him. It wasn’t an undying confession of love. It was purely a friend, telling another friend that somewhere along the way feelings got mixed up and confused, and I needed a way to move past it. It felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I could finally breathe. It was like running a marathon, and you knew that the finish line was close so you push and push and give it everything that you have to make it across that finish line. And when you finally do, and you fall into the ground, grabbing your chest hoping that that will help you catch a breath. The feeling you get when breath finally comes back to you and you can feel your whole body just ease from tension and finally begin to relax. That is how I felt at that moment. I thought I could breathe again. I thought that it was safe to breathe again.
Charlie was shocked and just blankly stared at me for a moment. He definitely was not expecting that. After a few moments (a few moments that felt like hours) he said that its okay and that he understood. That was the feeling of breath returning to my lungs; it was okay. He said that he really wanted to help me with this, and that he was willing to do what he could to help me. Another breath; I was beginning to breathe easier. He told me that the only way we can work through all of this though is if I speak to our pastor and tell him what was going on. He said that this thing is so much bigger than what he thinks he can handle, so he doesn’t want to handle it on his own. I respected that, because I knew this whole thing was a lot bigger than either one of us, so I agreed and I made an appointment for the next day.
I wish I could say that things started getting better after this, but it didn’t. That night was unfortunately the last time we had an actual conversation. Essentially the last time we spoke as friends; as brothers. The events that followed that meeting changed my whole entire life, and shook everything that I thought I knew about friendship. About love, trust and acceptance. If I had known that things were about to turn for the worst, I would have appreciated the seemingly fresh breath of air that I experienced that night. But then again, you never see the real tragedies of your life until you are standing right in the middle of them.
Peace be with you – R