(The following is not meant to absolve folks like the recently fallen Alan Downing, but to just show what it’s like. Because the religious right would have everyone believe that it’s all so simple: just pray, believe, and it will all go away. What follows is the first 17 years of my life. Possibly triggering for some.)
The nightmare begins in the morning, awakening to Your Same Old Reality™ again, afraid, ashamed, torn. Today will bring another fall, you fear, yet you steel yourself against it, determined to resist all temptation. Don’t doubt, or it will make you fail. You say a prayer… you begin by begging forgiveness, by confessing the ongoing falls from grace, the failures, acknowledging the worthlessness of being one of the many who “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” You know you cannot fight this temptation on your own, and you pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver from it. But you remember that temptation will come — it always does — and you pray that you’ll have the strength to cast it out. You remember that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” and you despair that it only takes a moment to fall.
(more after the fold)
You have breakfast. Someone says something that you don’t really hear because your consciousness stream is on and on beating you up for being so filthy and weak and prone to failure and telling yourself that today has to be the day you turn it all around. The news is on, but you don’t really hear it, because you’re plotting out your day, trying to pinpoint those moments where you will have to be most on guard. You feel lonely, but you try really hard not to articulate in your head what you would like to wish for. You pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver from it.
And now, you’re on the bus. This is one of those moments your anxiety level spikes. So many things could go wrong. You’re so scared that you’re breathing heavy, and the fear that someone will notice makes you all that much more afraid. You have to hold your breath for moments, to try to disrupt the impulse to hyperventilate. Your sweat is deathly cold. You pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver you from it.
And then there he is. He’s gorgeous (no, you didn’t just think that, you filth). You look away. There’s so many things wrong with that thought. He’s a boy. You’re a boy. Or that’s how you’re supposed to think of yourself, anyway. Sometimes you think otherwise, but that’s wrong too. Okay, it’s all getting muddled, and that consciousness stream is ribbonning everywhere and tripping over itself and you’re hyperventilating. You’ve induced an anxiety attack. You pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver you from it.
You get off the bus a stop early, and have to walk the rest of the way to school. That was close. It’s never been completely clear where something stops being temptation and becomes sinning in your heart, but you know it must be around the moment you choose not to look away, so that was really close. You thank God for delivering you from it.
You fall in behind someone you’ve seen around the hallways at school. She’s really cute. You’re jealous (no, you didn’t just think that, you filth). You look away. You’re attracted to her, which is good, you suppose, but again, you don’t really know when it becomes something sinful, so you try to control that thought. The consciousness stream is flipping around, but you’re able to calm it down by looking at the pigeons. You pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver you from it.
You’re in class. The teacher is conducting a lesson on calculus, but you don’t really hear him. The kid in front of you was out playing football during his spare, and you can smell the fresh scent of musk on him. It’s playing in your head. You’re busy thinking about trying not to think about it. But he’d have strong arms. They’d probably make you feel really small, wrapped in them…
Damndamndamndamndamn. You excuse yourself to go to the washroom. Damndamndamndamndamn. It’s a good thing you’ll have homework this evening to try to get this Calculus stuff, because you totally can’t think right now. In the washroom stall, you’re beating yourself on the head with your fists. Damndamndamndamndamn. “I’m the worst in the world. I’m the worst in the world.” It’s not some tongue-in-cheek Keith Olbermann schtick, it’s the mantra of an eleven-year-old boy. Or girl. Damndamndamndamndamn. You’ve never figured that part out, so you assume that what everyone tells you must be correct. All your instincts are wrong. It’s a character flaw. You’re wicked. You pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver you from it.
Later, you’ll have supper and listen to your mom. She’ll be down on herself about smoking and cursing and all the things she finds it difficult to excise from herself in order to live a pure life. She’ll be praying to God and hoping that this time she can get it right. All these flaws… need to keep on praying, keep on giving to the church, keep on reading the Bible, keep on receiving instruction, keep on seeking help. She prays that God will deliver her from it. No, she begs God to deliver her from it.
After that, you’ll be at Bible study. They’re going to be talking about homosexuality, about the dangers of falling, about fallen wicked people like Alan Downing, George Rekers, Ted Haggard, John Paulk, and about people fighting the good fight like Peter LaBarbera, about how you can always pray the gay away, and that Jesus will deliver you from it. You’ll be shouting with the rest of them. You’ll be angry like the rest of them. You’ll hate it with a most perfect hate, because it’s the part of yourself that still defies you. You’ll vent with abject venom about that sin, and you’ll be fine about doing it, because it’s the one time you can actually feel like you’re doing something proactive and fighting it in some way. It’s the only time you feel like you’re somehow winning. And you never tell anybody, and you pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver you from it.
And then the night comes. Like a vengeance, the night comes.
It’s always worse when you’re left to your thoughts. That’s when you get lonely. That’s when you need it so badly, a pair of arms around you, someone to desire you, someone to feel desire for, someone to touch. That’s when you fantasize, and you try to channel it so it’s who you’re supposed to dream about, and so you’re who you’re supposed to dream you are, and then you forget and you stop yourself and damndamndamndamndamn. And she’s so pretty and now you’re a lesbian? and you stop yourself and damndamndamndamndamn. And you pray that God will deliver you from it. No, you beg God to deliver you from it. But you feel so lonely and all your instincts are firing and you can’t direct it anymore and damndamndamndamndamn.
And then you’ll be weeping, begging forgiveness, for sinning in your heart, maybe more, and vowing tomorrow will be different, and hating yourself for being so weak. “I’m the worst in the world. I’m the worst in the world.” All of a sudden, nothing can break that consciousness stream. And you cry until your head hurts and the snot covers your pillow and you pray to be delivered, and Jesus never does. You must not be praying enough. You must not be believing enough. Or maybe Jesus just can’t love someone like you. You keep waiting, but he’s stood you up. It goes on and on until you’re so exhausted that sleep finally accepts you.
It’s better when it’s someone else. It’s better when you witness to the gay kid at school. You tell him that if he prays, God will deliver him from all of the confusion. And you remind yourself of the same. When you’ve prayed enough. When you’ve done enough to fight homosexuality in the world. When you’ve cried enough. When you’ve believed enough and stopped having those seconds of doubt. When you’ve hated yourself enough. When enough years have gone by of enduring the suffocating 24/7 perpetual emotion machine.
The nightmare begins in the morning, awakening to Your Same Old Reality™ again, afraid, ashamed, torn. Today will bring another fall, you fear, yet you steel yourself against it, determined to resist all temptation. You say a prayer…
(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)