I kept myself locked up
’Til he walked up and smiled at me
The heart I had to hide
He broke inside and set it free
And I couldn’t help it when he held me to his chest
A friend was not enough
I fell in love
And made a mess
He had warm eyes, I made up more lies
To pretend that I was his
I let my guard down and poured my heart out
He said ”I love you but just not like this”
He said ”I love you but just not like this”

Time is fading
And I’m still waiting
For some love and happiness
I made a promise but to be honest
I just want someone to love like this
I just want someone to love like this
I just want someone to love like this

Tim be Told – Like this – (från albumet Love and Happiness)

Kanske är den viktigaste uppgiften för dagens traditionella kyrka att lägga sitt öra mot bröstet på sina regnbågsfärgade syskon och stilla lyssna på deras hjärtslag. Här följer några texter av Tim be Told, Wesley Hill, Sam Smith och Vicky Beeching.

Jag är väl medveten om att olycklig kärlek och hjärtesorg är något som också är vanligt i heterosexuella personers liv. Det är inte det hjärtskärande traumat i sig som är vårt samtals problem. Det stora dilemmat i dessa livsöden uppstår när individens enda utväg ur sin smärta innebär att de tivingar sig sjäva att stänga sin inre dörr och sluta hoppas, sluta längta. I kärlekssorgen hos en person som tillhör en bejakad norm kan blicken alltid vändas utåt och framåt. För den som lever med ett hjärta fyllt av förbjuden kärlek leder sorgen inåt, till ensamhet och mörker.

För den som i det tysta bär en förbjuden sexualitet är det inte enbart kärleksrelationer som blir minerad mark, även de vanliga vänskapsrelationerna blir med tiden ett hot. I umgänget med singlar av motsatt kön vet de att de plötsligt kan överraskas av inviter från vännen om att bli ett par. När de då med svårformulerade förklaringar avvisar inviten så brister också det som fram till dess var en vacker vänskap. I vänskapen med personer av samma kön lever den som är gay med det svårnavigerade dilemmat att varje steg av fördjupning och närhet i relationen riskerar att tända en gnista som förvandlar den avslappnade vänskapen till en plats fylld av brinnande längtan. Även i dessa situationer finns det så många berättelser om att den vänskap som tidigare var hälsosam förvandlas till en trigger och ett hot.

Givetvis kan kyrkan vifta undan dessa berättelser och hävda att vi har andra mer grundläggande fokus som kristna – vårt evangelium handlar inte om att göra livet bekvämt och lättnavigerat för människor i deras kärleksbekymmer. På det teologiska planet kan man säkerligen komma undan med tal om karaktärsdanande korsteologi. Det finns gott om berättelser i kyrkans historia ifrån trons vittnen som offrat mycket mer än detta.

Men, är det rätt väg att gå? Utifrån min erfarenhet efter att ha samtalat om dessa frågor i våra frikyrkliga sammanhang under de senaste åren så finns det uppenbara problem med en sådan hållning, kanske främst i mötet med kristna föräldrar. Kristna ledare bör fundera över vilken makt eller möjlighet kyrkan har att bestämma över vår tids föräldrar? Vid ett församlingssamtal i Pingstkyrkan i Sävar reste sig en pappa och sa:

Om något av mina barn kommer till mig och berättar att de är gay, då kommer jag att famna och acceptera dem fullt ut. Jag tänker inte utsätta mitt barn för detta.

I Immanuelskyrkan hade vi vid ett tillfälle besök av en man i 30-årsåldern som var gay. Han berättade ärligt om sin uppväxt i en pingstförsamling som lett fram till att han idag helhjärtat valt celibatet som livsväg för sitt liv. Berättelsen var vacker och smärtsam, fyllda av både stor vånda men också lärleksfull omsorg och förbön. Berättelsen tog oss med på en omtumlande och djupt smärtsam kamp som slutligen efter 15-års bearbetning i andlig vägledning landade i en nyfunnen vila i livet som celibat.

Efter samlingen pratade jag med flera av församlingens medlemmar som lyssnat till berättelsen. För en person så var det en positiv berättelse som gav dem en bekräftelse om att det finns en möjlig väg också inom ramen för en traditionell teologi för äktenskapet. För en annan, en förälder, så var reaktionen den motsatta. Hon sa:

Det är just detta bemötande och denna långa livskamp som jag inte vill att mina barn ska hamna i. Att landa i sin identitet ska inte kräva 15-års kamp i andlig vägledning.

Jag är övertygad om att ett nära lyssnande, där vi i tystnaden hör hjärtslagen, kommer att hjälpa oss som kyrka att finna den rätta vägen.

Utdrag ur boken Spiritual Friendship av Wesley Hill

I was sitting at my desk waiting for the phone call.

Yesterday, I had asked for this call. “Be sure to call me and let me know how it goes,” I had said to my friend.

That morning he had said to me, “I’m going to talk to her tonight.” He would take her out for dinner, tell her how he felt. They would verbalize what had been till that point left unsaid but which was obvious to anyone who knew them: that they liked each other, that they wanted to be together.

I had known this was coming. I had told myself and told him I was happy about it, that it made me smile to think of them as a couple.

“You have to call me immediately,” I had said. “I want to hear how it goes.”

He called. My stomach seized up. I was not expecting that visceral reaction. Why am I getting a lump in my throat?

“Wes,” he said. I could hear the grin he couldn’t suppress.

My voice was suddenly quavery, cracking. Hide that, I thought. “How’s it going?” I said, willing cheerfulness. I didn’t think he heard the concealed croak. I was surprising myself with my unsteady emotions. I thought I was prepared for this.

“Good,” he said. “How was last night?” I sound happy, I thought.

“Yeah, good,” he said. “We talked. And we both feel the same way. We talked about being together. We’re both really happy about it. We like each other.” He laughed. He was smiling.

The conversation trailed off. We talked about what we’d each do that night, what work we had left for the afternoon. We said good-bye.

I was unprepared for what happened next.

My hands were shaking as I placed the phone on the desk. And the tears came almost immediately.

I knelt down and folded my knees under my stomach. Gripping the side of the bed, I sobbed. My eyes stung, I cried so much.

The next day I stepped into the shower. I couldn’t stop crying. I covered my face with my hands, feeling the hot water cascading over my fingers, seeping in with the tears.

I got dressed, walked into town. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

In line at the coffee shop, I felt numb, hearing the faint ring that lingers after a detonation. As soon as I placed my order, I turned away quickly because the tears were back, surging, spilling.

Quickly I crossed the room to the staircase, hoping no one was watching. I pulled off my glasses, which were foggy from the heat of the crying. I pressed my thumbs into the corners of my eyes and tried to regain composure.

Over the previous several years, my friend and I had become especially close. We liked each other from the time of our first meeting, and our friendship had deepened through many evenings spent talking late into the night.

I have never had a friend who loved me so deeply, or whom I’ve loved so much, I frequently thought, although it’s a sappy thing to say to yourself, and I shook my head at my own sappiness as I thought it and as I thought of him, and I grinned at my good luck to be loved like this.

This felt like an undoing of that love, and I shook my head at that too, telling myself, “No, I shouldn’t feel this way, shouldn’t feel sad.

I should be happy for them.

It’s now the three of us who are best friends. I haven’t lost a friend, I’ve gained one.”

But in spite of my protestations to myself, it did feel like loss. It felt like my best friend was being taken away, like the boat was shoving off from the dock, and the rope was fraying my fingers as it whipped through my hands and splashed in the water. A few nights later my friend came over to my apartment. We hadn’t spoken for the past two days, since that phone call. Several times I had picked up my cell to call him but had decided against it at the last second. Too pathetic, I told myself. But the third day, he came over.

I made a pizza, opened a bottle of wine. We watched a couple of YouTube videos as we ate. We laughed. It felt like it used to feel, before the eternity of the last forty-eight hours. I forgot that she existed, that she was in his life now, that things were different.

After the pizza was gone, there were silences. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I moved them from my crumpled napkin to the back of my chair, then back, sweaty-palmed, to the table.

“Wes, how are you?” my friend said, and in a fraction of an instant, as if a fuse had blown and the room were plunged into blackness, I started to cry. I clenched my fists and swallowed and gritted my teeth, imploring myself to stop.

I didn’t want him to see how difficult this was, how I felt as though I’d lost all equilibrium, how I’d never felt so unsteady and sad and bereft.

But I couldn’t stop, and I hid my face in my hands and kept crying. My body was heaving, and I thought, I’ve heard people talking about “heaving sobs” and this is what they feel like. This is what it’s like when the floodgates inside are opened up and your body is kind of swept along in the tide of it.

He placed his hand on my knee and held it there. I sensed that his eyes were averted, and I thought I heard him murmur something. And I couldn’t stop crying.

At some point, we both stood up, and my friend gave me a long hug, cradling my still-shaking upper body in his arms, and I put my wet face on his shoulder, and he said,

“I’m not walking away from you. I’m not leaving. You’re not losing me.”

The next day I stayed in bed, unable to summon the energy to leave the apartment.

Sometime the next week I checked my email and saw that an old friend would be in the area for a visit. He wanted me to come down to where he would be staying and join him for an overnight trip. He wanted to try to find the grave of an old family friend in a nearby cemetery and wondered if I wanted to accompany him. We could go to a cool bar he knew of and take long walks and smoke our pipes in the warm, crickety nighttime air.

I sent a reply and said, “Yes, I’ll come down,” thinking that this would do me good—to get away, to take my mind off things, to get out of town.

The next day I went to put gas in my car, and before I could walk up to the station’s front desk to pay, it was like when my dad used to turn on the lawn sprinklers and the water would gurgle and pool around the spinning heads of the sprinkler system before they spurted up—that’s what my crying was like, puddling in my hands as I jogged to the bathroom before anyone could see.

The next day I called a long-distance friend. My emotions had scared me with their intensity and abyss-like depths. I told my friend this. She listened with reassuring “mmm’s” and “uh-huh’s” as I threaded my way back to the beginning, to where I thought the pain started, and I described how I felt like I’d lost my best friend and couldn’t get him back, and I was scared this would mean that I’d be alone always, forever. I told her I couldn’t imagine finding another friend like this, not in a million years, and therefore I’d end up as a sixty-year-old single man, without children, sitting alone in an apartment somewhere, forlorn, forgotten.

The friend I called, Julie, is a wise woman, one of the wisest I have ever met. She told me about a moment from twenty years ago when she stood on her driveway as her best friend left for language school in Quebec before she moved to Guinea with her husband to be a missionary.

“I had been depressed,” Julie said, “and she was my lifeline. She held my hand and saw me through it. And now she was leaving, and I didn’t know how to cope with that. And all I could do was stand there on the pavement with my arms around her, clinging, and bawl my eyes out.”

I gripped the phone as I listened to Julie’s story. At one level, it was comforting, knowing she’d been through the same thing. But the comfort was an icy one. It chilled more than it warmed.

I am someone who makes sense of life with the help of books. In times of crisis, I’ll pile up great stacks of them, looking for comfort and insight. Or, changing the metaphor, books become, in those times especially, the lenses through which I construct meaning out of my experiences, the spectacles through which I view the world.

A month or so after my conversation with Julie, I emailed another friend to say that I’d been reading a book that was helping me understand what I was going through.

The book’s title is For Fidelity, and its subtitle—How Intimacy and Commitment Enrich Our Lives—with its promise to elucidate what it was I felt I’d lost and couldn’t recover, was what drew me to the book in the first place.

I included a paragraph from the book in the email:

Real intimacy, as I am defining it, confronts and discredits the radical individualism of our times by demonstrating the profound importance of human relationships. Just as new life depends upon and arises from sexual union, so the new growth that marks a living personality depends upon discoveries that can only happen within some level of intimate relationship, whether between matrimonial partners or between those dearest of friends who so nearly approximate mates. 

Without the clean and honest mirrors of intimate friendships, we are lost in that faceless crowd of faces made to meet the faces that they meet, faces designed to remain safely, anonymously conventional.

This captures what my life with my friend was like, I said in the email. When the book talks about “those dearest of friends who so nearly approximate mates” – “mates” here meaning “spouses,” I took it – that is exactly the kind of commitment my friend and I enjoyed. The intimacy of which our friendship partook wasn’t different in kind from what married partners enjoy; it was more like a different species of the same genus.

We were almost married, I thought, so deep was the affection we felt for each other.

I typed out another paragraph from the book and included it in the email too:

Although matrimonial intimacy is the paradigm of the intimacy that underlies all real community, the fact remains that marriages are different in degree from friendships. . . . We must undress, both emotionally and physically, in order to satisfy our deepest needs for fullest intimacy. But that undressing entails an equally full measure of vulnerability. Thus, complete intimacy cannot develop except within the security or the confidence of a serious and permanent commitment to the relationship. That’s the difference in degree between good friends and marriage partners.

I doubted I’d ever read a truer paragraph. Not only did it explain why friendship hadn’t satisfied me (it didn’t lead to that deepest sort of mutual vulnerability for which marriage vows create a safe context), but it also explained why friendship could never satisfy – because it didn’t involve “a serious and permanent commitment to the relationship.”

Just let a girl come along, I wrote in my email, and watch what happens: the commitment between you and your friend that you thought was serious and permanent purls away like a ribbon of steam from a cup of coffee.

In his reply, my friend said, among other things, “I wonder if, at this point in your life, reading a book with the title For Fidelity: How Intimacy and Commitment Enrich Our Lives might be a bit like a woman who struggles with anorexia reading a book on dieting.”

Maybe I should lay off the books about fidelity for a while, I decided.

I continued to send emails, make phone calls, and video chat with other long-distance friends. Casting lifelines was what I was doing, or reaching for the ones others were casting to me.

My friend and I decided to keep our distance for a few days, to give us both a breather from the intensity, so I wasn’t talking with him anymore, at least for the time being.

My friend Patricia, after she first heard my narration of what had happened, wrote:

Wesley, Wesley. Oh, this is hard. If I were there I would take your face in my hands and put my nose against yours and gently say: stop. Wesley, you’ve been in love with your friend, as I’m sure you realize.

Your heart is broken. Please breathe.

You can do this. It has been done by many and I know you can go up this path.

I turned my eyes away from those words, wishing I hadn’t read them. No, I thought. No, I don’t realize that. I don’t realize I’ve been in love. That’s not what this is about.

A week later I was sitting outdoors eating lunch with the pastor of my church. It was a bright summer day, and we were at a park. The bluebells had begun to fade, but only just. The sun was hot on our faces. I could feel the last of the dew soaking through the canvas of my sneakers.

I asked for this meeting, thinking, I need to be talking to people here, who are with me face-to-face, who can actually see me and keep an eye on how I’m doing. I was self-aware enough to know that my emotions were obscuring my vision and that, for the sake of my health, I needed to have a few people who could come over and be with me if things become too overwhelming.

I told my pastor the whole story, starting from when I first met my friend to when I received that fateful phone call. My pastor was gentle, astute, not given to overstatement or exaggeration.

“Wes,” he began, and I could tell he was using an intentionally reassuring tone, modulating his voice so as not to alarm me. “It sounds like you’ve been in love with your friend, and you’re trying to pick up the pieces and move on from here. Am I hearing you right?”

I didn’t want to say that that was right, because if I did, then wouldn’t that mean I would have to give up the relationship? If I admitted, “Yes, I’ve been in love with him all this time, even though I’ve tried to hide that fact, even -or  especially – from myself,” then didn’t that mean I was also admitting that the friendship was all wrong? That it had to end? I wasn’t ready for it to end.

I continued to read books, desperate for assurances that my experience wasn’t unique. There was some comfort in knowing that others had been where I was.

I recalled that Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite writers even before I discovered that he was also a celibate gay Christian, fell deeply in love with a man as he was moving to accept a permanent staff position at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto to help care for disabled persons.

Nouwen was a Catholic priest and had taken vows of celibacy. As far as we know, he kept those vows. But that didn’t prevent his falling in love. Nathan was the name of the man for whom Henri developed an affection, and here is what Nouwen writes about the beginning of their relationship in Trosly, France, before the move to Toronto:

Over the past few months we have gradually come to know each other. I was not aware of how significant our relationship had become until he left for a month to visit his friends and family in Canada. I missed his presence greatly and looked forward to his return.

Two days ago he came back and tonight we went out for supper together. I felt a need to let him know how much I had missed him. I told him that his absence had made me aware of a real affection for him that had grown in me since we had come to know each other. He responded with a strong affirmation of our friendship from his side.

As we talked more about past experiences and future plans, it became clear that God had brought us close for a reason. Nathan hopes to begin theological studies in Toronto in September and plans to live at Daybreak during that time.

I am filled with gratitude and joy that God is not only calling me to a new country and a new community, but also offering me a new friendship to make it easier to follow that call.

But all this gratitude and joy eventually gave way to turmoil. In a later journal entry, written months after Nouwen had moved to Daybreak, he recounts in oblique terms the dissolution of his friendship with Nathan:

As I approached the new life in community, I came to think about my friendship with Nathan as the safe place in the midst of all the transitions and changes. I said to myself, “Well, whatever happens, at least I have a friend to rely on, to go to for support, to be consoled by in hard moments.”

Somehow I made Nathan the center of my emotional stability and related to the life in community as something I would be able to cope with.

In this way my dependence on Nathan prevented me from making the community the true center of my life. Unconsciously I said to myself, “I already have a home. I do not really need another one.”

As I entered community life more deeply, however, I became gradually aware that the call to follow Jesus unreservedly required me to look for God’s guidance more in the common life with handicapped people than in a unique and nurturing friendship.

This discovery created such an excruciating inner pain that it brought me to the edge of despair.

According to Nouwen’s biographers, when Nathan realized the real depth of Nouwen’s feelings for him, he withdrew. For the first time, Nouwen was forced to recognize what had happened: he had sought friendship and ended up wanting more than the friend was able to give.

When Nouwen finally published his description of what happened, he left out Nathan’s name. But you can tell he’d finally owned up to the true character of what he’d felt.

Going to L’Arche and living with very vulnerable people, I had gradually let go of my inner guards and opened my heart more fully to others.

Among my many friends, one had been able to touch me in a way I had never been touched before. Our friendship encouraged me to allow myself to be loved and cared for with greater trust and confidence.

It was a totally new experience for me, and it brought me immense joy and peace. It seemed as if a door of my interior life had been opened, a door that had remained locked during my youth and most of my adult life.

But this deeply satisfying friendship became the road to my anguish, because soon I discovered that the enormous space that had been opened for me could not be filled by the one who had opened it.

I became possessive, needy, and dependent, and when the friendship finally had to be interrupted, I fell apart. I felt abandoned, rejected, and betrayed.

The following months proved to be the darkest in Nouwen’s life. He eventually wrote about the place of peace he arrived at, speaking of the “inner voice of love” that he heard at the end of the anguish. It’s a picture of rest, of still waters after a squall.

Truthfully, though, that’s not the image I took away from reading Nouwen’s account and spending time with his biographers. I pictured him instead in his room, alone, receiving the Blessed Sacrament away from the community to which he belonged, unable to meet the gaze of anyone but the priest who tipped the chalice toward his lips.

“The body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in everlasting life,” the priest said, and I pictured Nouwen crying.

I imagined him in his therapist’s office, curled in a fetal position.

I pictured the therapist, per the regimen they had already agreed on, placing his arms around Nouwen’s weeping form and holding him, speaking in hushed tones,

“You’re safe. You’re loved. Your heart is greater than your wounds.”

I pictured the alienation, the loneliness.

Until the start of this chapter, I have been trying in this book to sketch an attractive, enticing view of friendship. Friendship is a fully honorable love in its own right, I’ve argued. Friendship is worthy of recognition and celebration, alongside other forms of love like marriage and kinship.

Indeed, friendship might even be seen as a kind of kinship itself, strengthened and made more like the love between siblings or spouses.

But all that can ring somewhat hollow if you’ve never had a friendship that approximates that vision, or if you’ve lost one, in part through your own selfishness and neediness, like I did.

I wish I could say that my friend and I found a way through this tangle of grief and somehow managed to attain an even richer intimacy, but we didn’t.

I took a job elsewhere, hundreds of miles from where my friend eventually settled, and we each moved on with our lives. For a while, we worked hard to try to stay in touch and remain friends, in spite of the awkwardness of my intensely negative reaction to what, for my friend, was some of the happiest news one could ever report. We tried talking, again, about what had happened, but the collision of my ongoing sense of loss and loneliness with his burgeoning joy at newfound love ultimately proved combustible, and we decided a season of not speaking to each other would be for the best.

That season turned into months and then years, and the friendship slowly dwindled.

Now I go whole weeks and months without thinking of my friend’s name or remembering what happened between us. But then something will happen – I’ll see one of his Facebook posts, or someone will ask me about that season of my life, or a stranger’s face will trigger a flood of memories – and it will all come cascading back into mind.

Recently I received an email that had that effect. It was from a friend of mine who wrestles with his own same-sex attraction, and the poignancy and grace with which he expressed his questions immediately took me back to my experience with my friend:

Regardless of what I call myself (bisexual or gay), I really do want to experience marital joy, even though I have troubling anxieties and doubts about whether I could achieve the physical or sexual bond with a woman. Based on a deep friendship in graduate school, I am more confident about developing emotional and spiritual intimacy with a woman.

When God says “It is not good that man should be alone,” I know that is true, so true. And I also know that no amount of friendship, hospitality, or service will ever be a substitute for a fitting “helper.”

It would take a special woman to love me and accept me for who I am. My baggage is heavy. My history is messy. I do not expect my same-sex attraction will ever disappear, but it may very well diminish in a healthy, happy, and holy union with a woman.

My homosexual disposition will persist as a thorn in my side until the end of my days, but I imagine it would be more endurable with a helper than alone.

What I cannot imagine, what causes me to wince in terror, is the thought of being celibate in my 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond.

Perhaps I lack your strength or contentment for celibacy.

Perhaps I have not experienced the relational support to joyfully pursue a vocation of celibacy.

Whatever the case, I’m profoundly restless in my celibacy, so restless that at times I feel like I’m suffocating under the burden of it.

Call it weakness, I just need to be needed, and not needed by a friend who closes the distance with a phone call, drive, or flight.

I need to be needed by a companion who is there when I return from work, there when I walk in the park, there when I prepare a meal for dinner, there when I read from a book out loud, there when I go to bed, there when I wake up, there when I cry or laugh, there when I am sick.

In short, I desire a covenantal relationship where my helper and I witness each other’s “moments of being” (Virginia Woolf’s lovely expression), otherwise I dread the thought of having those moments forever unwitnessed.

Sure, God witnesses my moments of being, but that is not enough.

I need the face of God in a watchful and loving human face.

In my reply, I told my friend I knew exactly where he was coming from. Friendship, I said, doesn’t solve the problem of loneliness so much as it shifts its coordinates. Just as marriage isn’t a magic bullet for the pain of loneliness, neither is friendship. It does, we hope, pull us out of ourselves, orienting our vision to our neighbors.

But no, I said, it´s not enough.

It’s never enough.

– Hill, Wesley. Spiritual Friendship. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Vicky Beeching

– Beeching, Vicky, Undivided, William Collins: 2018

Del 1 – Förälskad

As my female classmates and I arrived at the legal age of consent to have sex (sixteen years old in the UK), conversations about ”fancying boys” became more serious and progressed further. Some of the older girls were claiming to have ”gone all the way.” I’m sure much of it was just bravado, but a number of my peers at school were now sexually active.

This, in turn, would bring a new degree of heartache for me. Once, on my way to a science lesson, the blue-eyed girl in my class whom I’d fallen for three years earlier and still couldn’t seem to get over said she wanted to go on a walk with me at break time to tell me something. Getting to spend time with her alone was the Holy Grail for me, and I thought about nothing else all morning.

We met at lunchtime and walked across the school field to the secluded area where tall trees lined the edges. It was June and unseasonably hot with scorching sunshine, so we tied our sweaters around our waists and kicked at the dry grass. Leaning against a tree, she looked around nervously, scanning for teachers, and reached into her bag. Pulling out a cigarette, she lit it and inhaled the smoke to calm her nerves.

Perhaps one reason I liked her so much was because she was my polar opposite. Known as a troublemaker, she always seemed so sure of herself and willing to challenge the status quo. There was something beautifully dangerous about her.

She cleared her throat, preparing to tell me her news. Ever the optimist, I wondered if she was going to tell me that she liked me – that she was gay. (Of course, she had no idea that I was or that I liked her in that way, as I put immense eneror into hiding it.)

That lunchtime, as she looked into my eyes, nothing could have been further from her mind. ”So,” she began, ”I’ve decided … I mean, I think I’m ready to…” She paused to take another drag of her cigarette. ”I’m ready to have sex with him. I think I’m in love with him,” she said, her face flushed.

Her boyfriend had been keen to sleep with her ever since she’d turned sixteen, and here she was, telling me she was going to do it. I coughed and looked away. She thought I had cigarette smoke in my eyes and apologized, exhaling slowly in the opposite direction.

”So what do you think?” she asked. ”I mean, I know your faith wouldn’t condone it, but apart from that, what do you think, as my friend?

”Friend” rang in my ears. That was all I would ever be to her. All I would ever be to any of these girls, now or ever. All I could mumble in response to her question was ”Well, I guess only you can know when you’re ready …”

My heart broke into a hundred pieces as I processed the news she’d shared. It wasn’t that I wanted to sleep with her – my feelings were far more innocent than that, plus I believed that sex should only happen within marriage, as that’s what my church had raised me to think. I just wanted some sort of emotional exclusivity with her, where I was the one she ran to when she was frightened or happy.

I wouldn’t have allowed myself the ”sinful” behavior of kissing or dating her even if she had been interested, as my faith made that impossible for me. Liking her had felt much easier when she was single, but now that she was seriously dating a guy, it was a constant reminder to me that she was falling in love with him and not with me.

Anytime I found myself thinking of her in that way, I shut the feelings down at once, as guilt and shame rushed in. But as we stood there talking, I felt lost in her gaze. She seemed closer than ever, and yet now, based on this news, she’d never been further away.

”I guess we’d better go back for afternoon class,” she said, stubbing her cigarette out on the trunk of the tree. We started our walk back, and when we reached the school entrance, I told her I’d see her later.

I made my way to one of the bathrooms, locked the stall door behind me, and stood with my back against it. Silent tears fell down my cheeks, creating a mess of black mascara. I slid down the back of the door until I was sitting on the floor and, pulling my knees into my chest, I sobbed into the thick blue wool of my school sweater.

Del 2 – Tyler

I was now in my late twenties, and most of my Christian friends were married or engaged. I had no clear answer to give to the guys who asked me out. Many of them were wonderful, and it was tough not to tell them the truth: I just wasn’t attracted to men. Instead, I had to find excuses, none of which seemed to ring true. Usually they walked away feeling hurt and rejected.

One of those situations became extremely serious. I was out on tour and, due to budget constraints, didn’t have a road manager with me, so I was in charge. It was just me and three session musicians, various players chosen from the industry who would rotate depending on who was available that week.

One of these musicians, Tyler (not his real name), told me he’d developed a major crush on me. Tyler believed that he and I were destined to be married and didn’t seem able to take no for an answer. Because I couldn’t talk honestly about my gay orientation, it created a weird vacuum.

He knew I was single, and because we got on like a house on fire and had so much in common, he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t give dating him a try. As the months went on, his crush seemed to turn into an obsession. He was in a lot of emotional pain and became increasingly withdrawn, angry about my lack of romantic interest. I tried to believe it would get easier, not wanting to lose him from my band, as his musicianship was excellent and he could be a thoughtful, kind guy. But for now, that side of him seemed to have been swallowed up by pain.

After the closing night of a weeklong camp where we’d led thousands of young people in worship, I asked my band members where Tyler was. We needed to clear the stage and get ready to leave.

No one knew. I remembered he’d looked very strange duringthe final songs we’d played; his face had been blank and expressionless, rather than engaging with the rest of the band or the sea of people watching us. As soon as we’d finished the song, he’d walked offstage, and no one had seen him since. That had been at least forty-five minutes ago.

A few minutes later, looking as if he’d seen a ghost, one of the team ran up to me and said, ”I don’t know how to tell you this …” He explained that Tyler had tried to commit suicide in a backstage locker room ”We found him there a few minutes ago, struggling to breathe. We’re figuring out what medical help he might need, and also trying to contact his parents.”

It was awful. An unimaginable shock. I felt light-headed, dizzy, and sick. My heart ached for Tyler and the pain that had driven him to this. One of the conference organizers had run over and joined us too. Looking frustrated, he chimed in, ”You need to handle this extremely carefully. I don’t want anyone on the premises who might be a danger to themselves; we have thousands of teenagers here, and we have our brand reputation to protect. Take care of this right away.”

The weight of the situation hit me – I was in charge. I felt totally out of my depth, and my eyes swam as I scrolled through the numbers on my phone, trying to figure out who would even be awake at such a late hour.

The event organizer added a final comment: ”This may be uncomfortable to hear, but I think it’s important to pass on all that we know. When we asked Tyler why he tried to kill himself, he said it was because of you – because you broke his heart by rejecting him.”

I went pale. This was another layer to the storyl hadn’t been ready for. Pausing to catch my breath, I dialed my manager’s number.

Del 3 – Scleroderma

The British hospital was an endless maze of white hallways. Silence permeated every room and stairwell; it felt like a place where time stood still. After the incessant noise and pace of ten years on tour, this building was the polar opposite, and the abrupt stop was a shock to my system. Used to pushing myself relentlessly, with barely a moment to pause and think, suddenly here I was, lying totally still with nothing to stare at but a white ceiling, white walls, and white curtains.

An IV was running into my veins, pumping steroids into my bloodstream to try and stop the disease, scleroderma, before it caused any more damage to my cells. After the drip had transferred all the drugs, I took my chemo tablets and then was wheeled down for an ultrasound scan. The doctors wanted to see how deep the damage ran beneath the surface of my forehead and also to test me for epilepsy, which they said was a common comorbid condition with scleroderma.

Shuttling back and forth to appointments like this became the rhythm of my week. I’d leave my tiny studio apartment for yet more checkups, scans, and IVs, then return home, collapse into bed, and sleep. I was too sick to work, plus my career had been based in the   States for almost a decade now, so I had few work opportunities in the UK. I’d looked highly successful to the large crowds I played in front of, but really things had been financially tight for years. Living on my meager savings, I was in survival mode.

The number one priority was stopping the scarring from spreading, so all the appointments focused on getting drugs into me as fast as possible. One thing I hadn’t really figured out, though, was why I had gotten this aggressive illness in the first place. I was lucky enough to be under the care of one of the UK’s scleroderma specialists, and during one clinic visit I decided to ask him about the cause of the disease.

”Well there’s no proven genetic cause for morphea or scleroderma,” he said. ”It’s pretty mysterious, as are many autoimmune diseases.” He explained that the body was ”fighting against itself,” a phrase that the specialist in California had used too; it was destroying its own healthy cells.

Pausing and looking at me more intently, he continued, ”Often, I find autoimmune conditions like scleroderma have psychological and emotional triggers. People may be genetically predisposed to having one of these diseases, but it may stay dormant for their entire lives— unless they go through something hugely traumatic or stressful, and then it triggers.”

I squirmed in my seat. This was definitely not the direction I’d imagined the conversation going.

He continued, ”Is there something in your life that you’d consider highly stressful or traumatic? Something that weighs heavily on you psychologically, that creates major anxiety? ”

One topic instantly, and obviously, sprang to mind.

Seeing my awkward body language, he quickly added, ”No need to tell me what it is – that’s your private business. But if there is something. please get help and find a solution. It may well have triggered this in your body as a warning sign, like dashboard lights flashing when a car is breaking down. Please don’t ignore anything that could be causing this.”

I felt reflective and melancholy as I made my way out of the doctor’s clinic and into the parking lot. His message rang in my ears: If there is something causing you major strain and trauma, please get help and find a solution. It may well have triggered this in your body as a warning sign.

There was only one thing that had caused vast emotional strain in my life for years.

I’d known I was gay since I was twelve or thirteen. Keeping that hidden for two decades had been wrecking my heart and mind. Now, as I neared the age of thirty, it seemed to be wrecking my body too.

All these years, I’d prayed and fasted, submitted myself to an exorcism, confessed to a Catholic priest, believed that conversion therapy could change a person’s orientation, read the Bible until my eyes were sore, and never acted on my attractions even once. I’d done anything and everything to try and become straight or to shut down any desires for a life partner.

My immune system, my adrenals, and my sympathetic nervous system were all stretched to breaking point from years of living in fight-or-flight mode, constantly terrified someone would find out my closely guarded secret.

Extreme stress, the doctor had told me, was worse than chain-smoking cigarettes all day, every day. I’d never touched a cigarette, and I was a teetotaler, but the impact of a lifetime of psychological trauma was proving how damaging stress could be.

He’d also added that loneliness and isolation had similar physiological effects. It was a lot to process.

Out in the parking lot, it was a gray, rainy afternoon, so I put my umbrella up. I touched the red, inflamed patch of scar tissue on my forehead and felt sick with worry about how this disease might damage me further.

Needing chemo drugs was awful enough. I just hoped I wouldn’t also lose part of my face, like the patients I’d seen on Google. Standing in the rain, holding my umbrella, I felt tears run down my cheeks. Touching my forehead again, I made a decision:

I had to face my gay orientation and decide what to do. I couldn’t sweep it under the carpet enymore. Finaly I’d found something even more frightening than losing the evangelical world I knew and loved – and that was this disease…

Tim be told – Like this

Like This
Some call it blasphemy
To disagree with what they say
Two choices you will find
To fall in line or fall away
God made the world, one boy and girl
They do insist
The bible says a boy can’t love a boy
No, not like this

It’s forbidden, so keep it hidden
To save my soul, I must resist
God has spoken, that way is broken
No, a boy can’t love a boy like this

My mom calls me inside
She says ”It’s time to tell the truth
I think you have a secret
So just speak it
I’m begging you”
My dad is yelling, saying
”Tell me it isn’t so”
And then the room gets quiet
I don’t deny it
And now they know

I’m done with lying, my mom is crying
It’s not a problem Dad can fix
This old religion is still a prison
They say never love a boy like this

I kept myself locked up
’Til he walked up and smiled at me
The heart I had to hide
He broke inside and set it free
And I couldn’t help it when he held me to his chest
A friend was not enough
I fell in love
And made a mess

He had warm eyes, I made up more lies
To pretend that I was his
I let my guard down and poured my heart out
He said ”I love you but just not like this”
He said ”I love you but just not like this”

Time is fading
And I’m still waiting
For some love and happiness
I made a promise but to be honest
I just want someone to love like this
I just want someone to love like this
I just want someone to love like this