A Work In Progress

by | January 10, 2014

My journey is a story of self-discovery. I’m a work in progress, and I’m still trying to figure out who I am. Fortunately for me, being the young age of 22, I’ve still got a lot of time ahead of me…

baptism_baby_0I am a cradle Catholic: born and raised Catholic, went to Mass every Sunday, prayed before meals, and went to a Catholic grade school. Throughout my childhood, I always trusted what my teachers and parents taught me about the faith. It never really entered my mind that they might be wrong. It wasn’t until high school that I really started to grapple with my faith. Even then, my faith remained steadfast and sturdy. Even now as a philosophy major in college, after having encountered countless arguments against God and religion, my faith is still as strong as ever. Sure, I’ve had my share of doubts and questions, but nothing substantial enough to truly shake my faith.

While my faith life remained strong, my personal and human development remained atrophied at best. In grade school, I was the epitome of “that nerdy antisocial kid.” I did really well in my academics, and I always followed what the teacher said. I usually ate lunch alone, not because no one wanted to eat with me (in fact, people often offered to have lunch with me), but because that’s how I liked it. I enjoyed being by myself. It gave me more time to think and analyze things. And instead of wasting my time talking with others, I could get a head start on my homework. In my eyes, acting this way (being antisocial) was much more practical, and I very much enjoyed being practical. I vividly remember in 8th grade thinking: “Why would I want to hang out with other people? I’d rather do my homework; it’s more fun.”

While from the outside this seems pretty sad, in reality I was very happy and content with this lifestyle. I loved all the praise and attention I received for my good work. I was different than all the other kids: I never had any problems with my schoolwork. This difference made me feel special, almost unique, and I loved that feeling.

Then high school hit me, and everything changed. Marching band, band, and choir forced me to socially interact with people more than I’d ever done before. Needless to say, all this socializing made me feel very awkward and uncomfortable. At the same time, however, I found all this interaction to be exhilarating. I found that if I was nice and friendly to people, then they would be nice and friendly in return. My practical mind realized this and ran with it. I began treating friendships like math problems: I needed to figure them out so I could end up with the proper outcome. Soon enough, I became obsessive with the friendships I had obtained. I over analyzed every minute action and word to figure out what I was doing wrong and what I could do better. I desperately craved their love and affection, but I didn’t fully realize that until much later.

To make matters worse, on top of all of this, I was dealing with the fact that I was sexually attracted to men. As a devout Catholic, I knew and firmly believed that it was wrong to engage in such behavior, but my practical mind didn’t care. For it, being gay made perfect practical sense. I could receive plenty of love, pleasure, and attention from men since I knew much better how to interact with them than with women. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about getting anyone pregnant. Seemed like a win-win situation in my book.

KeyboardThese thoughts and feelings came to the foreground around 5th grade. Still being very socially awkward and shy, I turned to pornography as my release. As I continued to socially develop through high school, so did my taste in pornography. I started to view increasingly more adventurous and intense things. In college, my sexual adventures started to manifest themselves in the real world, not just the cyber world. My freshman year, I cuddled with one of my openly gay friends on a few occasions. My junior year is when the hook-ups began. I found men online and met up with them for anonymous sexual encounters. The beginning of my senior year included me visiting a gay bar and gay club a couple of times. I was sinking deeper and deeper into the gay lifestyle, and sinking fast.

To complicate matters even further, I felt, and still feel, a call to the priesthood. With all the abuse scandals that have plagued the Church, this calling seems almost out of the question. This is why I have approached this area with extreme caution. However, through diligent prayer and reflection, God has time and time again directed me back to the vocation of the priesthood.

All of this has had a tremendous toll on my spiritual life. Again, I confidently believed that what I was doing was wrong, but my mind didn’t care. I felt like a complete hypocrite, believing one thing, but secretly practicing something totally different. My heart ached tremendously (knowing that what I was doing was wrong), but my mind kept making up excuses for my behavior, trying to mask it as “not so bad.” There was a noticeable disconnect between my heart and my head, and I didn’t know how to mend it. I’m still trying to figure out how…

BreviarySo, here I am today. My spiritual life is still going strong (prayers when I wake up, examen prayer before I go to bed, grace before eating anything, daily Mass, daily Adoration, daily rosary, and a bunch of other assorted prayers). But the temptations are still there and strong as ever. People may wonder why I continue to torture myself, why I haven’t just thrown in the towel, taken up the gay lifestyle, and abandoned the Catholic Church all together. Believe me, I’ve tried to, but I’m not nearly as happy as I thought I would be. Sure, it’s really comforting to be with a man, both physically and emotionally, but that pleasure is nothing in comparison to the joy and assurance that Christ offers. Christ’s joy is eternal and everlasting; the joys of the gay lifestyle are quick and fleeting. I can say with confidence that it is the hope and joy found in Christ that has sustained me until this point and will continue to sustain me through the rest of my life.

With this hope, I continue to move forward. I don’t know exactly where the Lord will lead me, but I trust that He’ll get me there safely. I’m a work in progress, and through the grace and strength of God I will one day, God-willing, reach sanctity. Until then, I just have to take life one day at a time.

keep-calm-work-in-progress

 

4 Responses to A Work In Progress

  1. Helen says:

    Wow! I too grew up with the nerds, and Lutheran, and actually didn’t discover my same-sex attraction until much later than 5th grade….but I can trace it: it was just so darn subtle not even I noticed. I never even fantasized, and all was contained, until the wrong (?) woman entered my life; the body never lies. And that initial panic ushered in a completely new frontier. My struggle isn’t as pervasive for me, but rest assured I still have feelings of idolatry/vulnerability.

    As to the “mending heart and head” – I think where the head goes, the heart will follow….meditating on the Lord’s mercy and compassion is a great help. I think it’s often a side of God that people who deal with this miss out on in their backgrounds. The God my family portrayed was powerful, distant at best, and did not feel my pain; an overlord who could do as He wished with a pawn like me. I have since learned of this new side of God, and can’t get enough of His mercies. With an “all-Law” God in childhood, I’ve discovered the Gospel through SSA – and wish to share Him with others! A fellow “work in progress”, much love,

    “Helen”

    • Nathan says:

      Thanks for reading, and for sharing a bit of your story as well. Nerds like us gotta stick together. 🙂
      Thanks also for the advice. I’ll try meditating on God’s mercy and compassion and see how that goes. My problem is that I often get too caught up on both the extremes and neglect the middle ground. I focus too much on the mind and the heart and enough on how the two should relate/interact.

  2. Anthony says:

    Nathan, I felt like I was reading about me. I want to be loved so bad. I had two relationships.. One for 10yrs one for 3 years. I still act out and don’t like it at all. I love the Church and Our Lord so much. I went to adoration yesterday and it was so peaceful and calming for me. I want to stop acting out but it gets harder everyday because of the thrill and excitement. But its only fleeting. Then after my self esteem is really bad. I am seeing a therapist and he is helping me. Please pray for me and I will pray for you…..Hope you do become a Priest….

    • Nathan says:

      I totally understand. That thrill is so tempting, but like you said, it is only fleeting. I’m still trying to figure out myself how to resist it.
      I will certainly pray for you. God bless!

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