Excerpt from Ch 2
In the middle of all this school/teenage thing, when I was 15, I realised life just didn’t make sense. I guess there was all the normal angst of being a teenager, the intensity of hormones and the confusion about my sexual orientation, and I was a fairly deep thinker for my age. But one night God (I assumed it was God) “zapped” me (for want of a better word). I’d experienced a little “religion” from the local Anglican church because I played the organ for the services there – just enough to make me question it and not enough for me to have a clue what it was really about. But late one night, when I was sick of life and myself, it was as if God got me! Just Him and me. I was overwhelmed with love and God’s “presence” for want of a better word, and all I wanted was to live in that place of love and acceptance. But it wasn’t a revelation of Jesus or my sinfulness, or any other preconception I might have had about God and religion. In fact it was incredibly un-religious in terms of church stuff. I couldn’t really describe what happened in any empirical sense and yet it was far more real than anything I have ever experienced before or since.
Well you couldn’t shut me up, God was so real and intense it was amazing. I had no way of processing this experience though, apart from the Anglican Church, which was my only “valid” spiritual reference point in any sense. Even though I was interested in spooky spiritual things my upbringing had taught me that the church was the only way to go, so I grabbed a bible and read it. I couldn’t get enough, just devoured it, even on the school bus!! I never found out if they thought I was crazy; nobody said anything! Fortunately, many of my friends went to the church youth group, so I thought they were all just as “Christian” as I was – I mean, we all called ourselves Christians. But later I discovered that their experience of spiritual things was nothing like mine.
I guess the depth of my experience was what really saved me from total despair and pointed me in the direction of hope and life, it didn’t really change much of my behaviour or make me a nicer person. I was still just as horrible to my parents. BUT, I had a sense of God’s “presence” that I thought would never leave me, no matter what. I knew He would never let me go and that somehow we were intrinsically linked.
I still, however, had a thirst for broader, deeper spirituality, and loved anything supernatural and mystical. I was into aliens, eastern religions, occult stuff and anything interesting as well as the bible and church teachings! It was all one huge basket of goodies I could play with.
And that was the start of my spiritual journey.
Excerpt from Ch 3
It’s difficult to describe to people what it feels like to be suicidal. I think it’s something you have to experience to really get it. The sense of futility, frustration and despair gets too much to handle. An absolutely unbearable weight descends on you, almost physical, and hurting through every fibre of your being. You genuinely believe you’re a waste of space and the world really would be better off without you, especially those closest to you. Genuine suicidality isn’t wanting attention (although I’m sure genuine love and acceptance from someone would help) or some thoughtless easy way out. It’s the end result of unbearable mental pain and torment, self-loathing and worthlessness. In my case, it was also the complete inability to reconcile my desire for love and intimacy from the same sex with cultural and religious norms, combined with a frustration for creative expression, yet wanting to just have a normal life with a wife and kids.
I’d have grandiose ideas about God and life and then the next minute be crippled with shame. This poem was from around that time and expresses something of the emotions I was experiencing.
Beware! Lest I should rise
Like some false prophet from the swamp of my own backyard
Driven by inane apocalyptic visions
Drawn from some dark recess in my ego
A craving to be right
beats my war drums
And they echo –
Down through dreams and fantasies
Luring and betraying
Lonely and longing for blood.
Beware! Lest I should fall
Like some rampant fool
Stumbling off my self-erected stage
Lost in senseless ravings
Drawn from some dark recess in my ego
Excerpt from Ch 5
Min and I had some pretty rough times. Terrible arguments and fights, and our friends were worried of course. I would go for walks at night along the highway contemplating how much it would hurt if I jumped in front of the next logging truck as it hurtled past. In many ways she was amazing, and never gave up on me, and I would bounce back for another go at being normal and trying my hardest to love and support, be the man, be romantic, make the decisions, be the “head”, racked with guilt and shame yet again, not only for myself but for the emotional torture I was obviously putting Min through. But I could never just admit to myself, let alone Min or anyone else, that the whole problem was simply “I’m gay”. And this led to a very dark side of it all that I’ll talk about later – emotional psychological and spiritual abuse, and the true nature of our relationship!
We had plenty of prayer and counselling. Perhaps the most outrageous was VMTC (Victorious Ministries Through Christ). We all really wanted to be holy, pure, anointed and passionate for God, no matter what it took. So we got on board with this process that required us to fill out a form first, listing all our sins and potential areas of demonic oppression. Then we would go to a very long, closed door session with an experienced “prayer counsellor” and an “intercessor” who would sit there and quietly pray (mostly in tongues) for the whole session. I had to list every sinful activity, name every guy I had ever had (or even thought about) sexual contact with, as well as renouncing a huge list of books I’d read and films I’d seen, Masonic influences etc, and then we even looked at hereditary lines of oppression! By the time I was finished, I realised this was the biggest load of bullshit ever created. It achieved absolutely nothing in anyone we knew who did it. It was traumatic, invasive, impersonal, belittling, shaming and guilt inducing. I would go so far as to say it was “evil”, in that it produced the opposite of all I understood the love of God to represent.
Anyway, things started to get difficult in the church after a while as the intensity of seeking and craving more anointing, spiritual power and miracles, began to turn to performance driven legalism. By that I mean we began to judge ourselves and others by that intensity and determination. We made it the standard by which all Christians were to be judged. Some of us started to see the levels of control that had crept in, the pressure to conform and perform. We would “encourage” everyone to spend at least an hour a day speaking in tongues, locking ourselves in our “prayer closet” (a quiet place somewhere) to intercede and sweat it out with God….
…We really thought we were the ones chosen to bring revival to the world, starting in New Zealand – the land that was first to see the sunrise of every new day! We had people bringing prophesies, we had miracles, and we had passion. But we forgot we were just people, the same as everyone else. We forgot that God has no favourites or specially “anointed” ministries. We forgot the simplicity of who we are and God’s love and grace.
We had people in the church start to tell us whether we were allowed to “minister” outside of the church, to respect the “covering” of the elders. I kept hanging in there, trying to see God’s heart in everyone and wanting to believe the best. But the crunch came when they decided we couldn’t go with this visiting preacher around New Zealand’s north island doing the worship because our relationship wasn’t good enough. I told them very clearly what I thought of that idea, but, of course we relented to their assumed authority.
People began to leave – burnt out, manipulated, abused, angry, disappointed, hurt. It all slowly crumbled. We saw the end of our dream as we moved to Auckland. The house was rented out for a while, but I couldn’t get enough work to top up the mortgage and we had to sell. The final cruel blow came from old Murphy and his laws the day after we sold the house – a letter from the bank saying they would refinance. Murphy has a lot to answer for!
Excerpt from Ch 7
There were aspects of Living Waters [reparative therapy organisation – “pray away the gay”] that did work for some people. Where there had clearly been unhealthy and abusive childhoods, and other factors that produce serious relationship problems, along with perversion, addiction etc, the process of finding God as a loving father and allowing him to heal and reshape our thoughts, made significant changes and brought a degree of freedom to some. Although I would never recommend this as an effective way to process that sort of stuff.
But assuming this process had anything to do with the complexities of gender and sexual orientation is completely misguided.
However, I persevered undeterred, simply because it was all I could do. There was no other option. The duality inevitably got worse, the frustration deeper, and the outbursts of anger from that frustration really hurt my little family – which of course, made me feel even worse!
Another issue that really compounded my mental instability was Min’s impatience with me. Although it was completely justified, I felt trapped. I could see that the only way to grow and change at all was to accept God’s love, patience and grace moment by moment, not allowing any of my failings (ADHD symptoms, lack of intimacy and romance etc) to overwhelm me, and simply move on, knowing I was loved.
But the constant strain I put on Min affected her to the point where she couldn’t give me the same amount of grace that God does (strangely enough). I’d stuff up with something, go through the mental gymnastics of sorting it out with God, find some space in my head to move on, but then be confronted with how it had affected Min, often with outbursts of frustration and anger from her, which formed into cycles of abuse quite early in the piece. This not only effectively nullified what I thought God was doing but ended up sending me spiralling into suicidal depression again.