It was in 7th grade that I learned to be a Pharisee. The 8th grade boys began to question my relationship with a particular girl. They wondered if I ever did inappropriate things with her. The thought had never even crossed my mind. Thinking on my feet, I proclaimed that it was wrong to do such things and that I respected woman and would save that 2nd base stuff for marriage. I learned that I could use religion and the Bible to pile on guilt to get them off my back. I could also gain the respect of all the girls and youth leaders in the telling of this story. I was such a good Christian young man. An example and leader.
I was different from the other boys growing up. I knew it and hated it! I wanted so badly to fit in with the guys. I know now that what I was seeking was a connection. Then I just saw it as a need to have a best friend. I wanted a buddy. Someone whom everyone knew was my best friend.
Brene Brown defines connection this way :
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
I was on the hunt for this. I wanted this kind of connection, with another guy. As much as I wanted it I never felt truly accepted or able to find my in. I saw them relating with one another and I could never figure out what made their connection so tight. Was there something wrong with me? I’m too needy? Sensitive? I wanted to be invited and included. I’m sure at times I was, but I never felt as though it was enough.
Early on I found myself in a quandary. If I hung out with the girls too much I would be called a faggot . I didn’t want to be rejected by they guys and seen as something that definitely felt derogatory. (even though I didn’t know what that was). I would try to join the team and would always get picked last and teased for my lack of athleticism. I became a constant observer of how other people perceived me. I had to keep my secret. I had to be someone I wasn’t to fit in.
There were certain urges and desires I noticed that other guys had towards girls. Their attraction to them seemed to be innate and at times out of control. I would say all the same things they would but not feel the same way. I learned to lie and fake it. My arousal would not be in thinking about girls but about guys. Was there something wrong with me? Was I was broken? Am I a monster?
It was very easy to decide who I would be. I didn’t drink, smoke and was committed to no sex before marriage. I didn’t swear and listened only to Christian music. I went on mission trips, got involved in my youth group, played guitar and eventually led worship for my high school chapel. My identity revolved around doing the right thing according to the Bible. The alternative would be to expose the monster I believed myself to be. No one can know about the real me.
I felt myself unworthy and broken. It seemed to me that when my friends started dating that a significant portion of their seeking a connection with a girl was based on their level of innate attraction to them. I saw the guys around me do ridiculous things for girls and assumed that much of that was fueled by this built in natural sense of wonder and amazement they had about a beautiful girl they were chasing. I wished I felt that way about girls. No amount of trying or praying for my attractions to change made any difference. I had to learn how to live with my secret. I didn’t want to be gay. So I faked being straight.
As I recount my years growing up in church, christian schools and my 18 years of ministry as a Pastor I have a lot of questions. Sometimes I wonder if everything was a lie. Was it all just a cover up? Did I cling to religion to avoid being a monster? What was my true motivation? Was it to honor God or to not let anyone know the truth about me? Am I that diabolical? Did I really love Jesus or just hide behind him? If this is true I really am a monster.
Over the years the Pharisee in me has lost a lot of his influence. I learned and observed along the way that kindness and compassion were necessary for people to feel accepted and that they belong. This is what I longed to feel and if I couldn’t feel it I would help others feel that. Nevertheless, all the good things I had stored up and people I have helped seemed pale in comparison to the confusion and hurt I have caused.
Here are some of the things I heard others say.
“How can you call yourself a Christian and be gay?”
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“The Bible says”
“We’re praying for your salvation and deliverance”
“God has hardened your heart and turned you over to your sin”
“you are going to be held accountable for your actions”
I have to preach a sermon to myself these days. The message of Jesus is clear that I am loved and accepted unconditionally. EPHESIANS 2:8-9 “For it is by grace (undeserved kindness) that you have been saved (the wrong in my life does not have the power to condemn me) ,through faith (I do believe that the cross demonstrates God’s offering of forgiveness) and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works (what? all the good I have done doesn’t make me better?), so that no one can boast (Pharisee!)”.
ROMANS 8:1 “There is no condemnation (no more shame) for those who are in Christ Jesus”
Who is the Pharisee?
What is the Monster?