I was just a little boy. Truly.
I was forced to hide a part of myself. I buried it deep in the dark. I spent countless moments terrified that my secret would be discovered. “What would happen if they all knew? My parents would disown me. The bullies would torture me. I would have no friends. No one would love me. My God would condemn and reject me. I could always kill myself.” Morbid scenarios poured through my mind, soaking me in fear and motivating me to stay hidden no matter the cost. Every day, hour, sometimes minute, became another lie, a mask, or some new tool of survival. “Don’t move your hands so much when you talk. Deepen your voice. Keep away from that guy. And for God’s sake don’t act too excited. You sound like a little girl.”
All of those compromises were betrayals of my true self. With each choice made to conceal my secret another piece of me was forced into hiding. I avoided try-outs and auditions opting to blend with the crowd. I pointed out others who struggled to fit the mold and teased them to avoid the same fate. My laugh became faint if I even laughed at all. I could not sleep. I kept shoving parts of me into that dark place until my entire self was hidden. In order to stay safe, the world could never see the authentic me. Except that I grew tired and numb. Call it what you will: keeping up a façade, wearing heavy armor, or simply not letting my light shine. Eventually that hiding place deepened to the kind of darkness that leads to insanity.
The deep down darkness was empty. Even when I came out of hiding, the emptiness surfaced with me. And, I filled it any way I could. I am not talking about a stuffing made of morals, values and faith. Those were solutions for people far more holy than I. They reminded me of that on a regular basis. They denied me access. I made due with scraps: alcohol, sex, drugs and self-loathing. My empty soul filled and swelled. The swollen cavity hollowed. Each time the pain was unbearable. I was left more vacant than ever and praying for death to a God I was sure would be happy to grant the request. Only, He never did. I fought my way through the rubble of my life in the darkness. Then my cries were answered in an unexpected way.
Cocaine was a terrible blessing. It brought me to my knees without killing me. After years of hating the thing I was taught to hate, I was truly broken and no longer had the strength to despise myself. That brokenness let a light in. I remember it like it was yesterday. The miracle came when I laid my head on a pillow. The room I was in was blank and cold. My nostrils nearly burned with the scent of industrial strength cleaning solution. My roommate was a total stranger to me. He trembled, sweated and moaned. The pillow was made of plastic. At first I didn’t know why. I couldn’t imagine what error in logic led to such a poor choice in material. Then it hit me: “This is a detox unit. The plastic is in case I puke…”
That moment was truly humbling. What had I done to myself? I had taken their word for it all. I did not question their insults and sneers. I simply assumed I deserved the punishment for my perversion. They judged me and called it love. They stole my truth and said it was for my own good. Or, had I just handed it to them. I was only a boy, after all. I trusted them. And, I believed them when they said I would burn in hell. But, this plastic pillow was bullshit. I wasn’t the “me” I was always intended to be – lying there frightened, lost, and emaciated. My life was some sort of casualty in a war against men loving men. I refused to fight any longer. It was not a war I could win.
I surrendered. From that point on, I tried to accept that mercy and grace were mine to receive. I stopped trying to meet expectations, opting instead for a God whose love I dared to believe was unconditional. I traded self-loathing and the shame of the darkness for a shred of hope that I was “good enough” merely for being me. I began to unpack the parts of me that were still there hiding in the dark. I found my hope and compassion. I rediscovered my laugh. I nurtured my mind and my body. And, I slept when I lay down at night.
I traded hiding for purpose – to suit up and show up a servant. I am a listener. I am a healer. I have two arms to carry you through whatever you’re fighting. Together we can navigate the darkness. We can talk about joy and fulfillment, grace and forgiveness, and hope where you used to feel emptiness. Today, there are times I am so full of awe I am speechless and drenched in tears. That is the gift of spiritual reconciliation. It is yours if you want it. I want so much to share it with you.
They call it “The Closet”, like it’s a fun house of cute boots and hats, sweaters and polka dot bowties. But you and I know what goes on there. We were trapped in that godless-fear-soaked-soul-crushing-hate-yourself-beg-for-death darkness. Enough. Let the light in! Don’t let your image of God stay forever this hateful and judging old white guy who made you defective and dirty and less than the others who look down their noses at you. Join me, now. Crawl out of the darkness. Insist on His mercy. Forgive them. And, unhide your beauty.