Friday, November 21, 2008

That Was Then...

-->I don't how I got to this point in my life, where publicly recording my heart and its perplexities seems constructive, even beneficial. I have never considered sharing myself in this way, even under the guise of a pseudonym, until...well, pretty much this very moment. Then again, I never considered the possibility of a lot of things, especially the current state of my life before me. As I face this daunting ascent up the face of a seemingly insurmountable summit, it's as if I'm being coaxed up a hundred different paths by a hundred different voices. I envision each of my limbs bound tightly by the hands of those I love as they each run in different directions, pulling me apart into little pieces. Sometimes it feels like that. Three months ago I could never have imagined how hard I'd collide with reality, almost as if I stepped off the plane that day, missed the stairs entirely, and landed face-first on icy, hard pavement.

Let me explain. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or a Mormon if you must, and I recently returned home from a proselyting service mission in Seoul, South Korea. I served for a period of 24 months as a full-time missionary and experienced the most transforming, eternally significant two years of my life so far. For the first time in my life I saw myself as I had always longed to see myself: a child of a Heavenly Father. I felt self-worth, the lasting joy that only comes from teaching of the Savior, and the incredible sustaining power of His hand in the midst of my trials. I finally felt like my prayers were answered. I finally understood the scriptures. I finally felt worthy of His love.

Before this important period of breakthroughs however, things weren't always so... spiritually stable. In fact, I went through some pretty dark days where I felt as if I were standing helpless in the eye of a raging storm, a bloody battle, a crushing collapse of all things good around me. I have "battled" (how I hate this expression!) same-gender attraction for as long as I can remember, and from time to time, I have, in quiet acts of desperation, lost the solid footing the Gospel of Jesus Christ has given me, forsaking that which I know is right and true for something else. Something uncertain and tangling.

Everyday was a struggle between what I thought I knew and what I felt within me. The attraction I felt was paralyzing; I couldn't move or breathe when it was in the room. I have vivid recollections of tromping home from grade school in two feet of snow, sobbing hysterically because I was recognizing this "disease" and knew not what to do. It is the bitterest confusion a human can experience. Later, my dear friend, also gay, quoted a statement to me concerning same-gender attraction: " foreign to our understanding, yet so central to our very being." I couldn't sum up the travails of my childhood any clearer.

After years of lying, hiding and pretending, I finally decided to get my act together and become worthy for a mission. During this period of refinement I endured the most exquisite pain and confusion I had yet experienced, but it resulted in refinement and recovery, lessening the load I bore. This period put a lot of things into perspective and opened my eyes to the incredible depth and eternal impact of the Atonement. It prepared me for the 24 months of refining and discover I would experience on the streets of Korea. In Korea I felt invincible, untouchable to the fiery darts of the adversary and for once, felt like I'd buried my demons. But I was naive. The attraction hadn't gone away, it was merely bottled up within me, festering and brewing until the day when it could be tapped into again. I foolishly thought I had achieved the impossible, ridding myself of a large portion of... myself!

The plane touched down on August 29th, 2008, and as I exited the plane with my parents in tow, I felt an instant conflict surge within me: I was no longer a missionary, and I'd lost the safety net beneath me. It wasn't even seven days after I returned home and came back to BYU that the neglected, but never forgotten feelings erupted within me, and I found myself at a foreboding fork-in-the-road. I had a choice to make. I'm still making my trek up its steep and slippery slopes, but in the end, I chose emancipation. I choose acceptance.