One particular topic that I seem to keep thinking about is bitterness. I've fought for a long time to not let it take root within me. Apparently, I've not been completely successful. This has taken awhile to realize, and it's not easy to admit. Bitterness is something I see in my mother, and as I've said before, the last person I want to be like is her... at least not what I consider to be her bad attributes. I remember one conversation with a prominent female member of my former home church. She was a staunch believer that homosexual tendencies both could be and should be reversed, or at the very least, repressed as deep as one possibly could. She told me stories of how being infected with HIV was inevitable for anyone who decided to be gay. Even scarier, she promised me that, if I chose "that lifestyle," God would harden my heart beyond repair and wash his hands of me, turning his back on me, leaving me to a life of unforgivable sin and irreparable heartache. This didn't have the effect she thought it would. This didn't push me further into repression. This didn't make me more passionate about reparative therapy. Instead, this only worsened my already strong belief that I was truly worthless. That there was no way God could ever love me. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to leave the church.
Six years later, I found myself back in a church community. I sang the songs. I took communion. I became a member. I made friends, sang with the choir, and cooked for potlucks. What I still couldn't accept was that God loved me, accepted me, made me. I was stuck in this limbo between having my faith, my love for God, rekindled and continuing to feel the immense brokenness of my past. This limbo started making me cynical, jaded. About God. About the church. About humanity. I felt the seeds of bitterness, of unforgiveness taking root, wrenching my heart, compressing it. I could not let this happen.
Here I am today. Another Monday. Another therapy session with Blake. Another realization...
I am loved.
I... am... loved...
Three simple words, starting to take root within me, choking out those seeds of bitterness. The awareness of a love the exists for me, for all of us, started to envelop me. I have a storehouse of love surrounding me. My partner. My friends. My church family. My aunt and several cousins. My professors and mentors. These people who know me, my faults, my flaws. These people who share my laughter and my tears. These people who ask challenging questions and make me grow, make me strong. Their love shapes me. Most amazing though is how this love seeps into my pores, into every cell of my body and soul, reviving me, chipping away at the bitterness and cynicism within me. It touches those places within me that are broken, cauterizing the wounds with affection and acceptance. This love from my God and my neighbor makes me whole, piece by piece, bit by bit.
Another realization coincides with this one: there are also people in my life whose love for me, while it exists, comes with conditions, expectations that will never be met. This kind of love often does more harm than good, and as someone who is trying to better himself, becoming the man he truly was created to be, I cannot continue to let this version of love be a perpetual part of my life. I'm not sure what to do, but I know that I'm changing. I'm finally beginning to love myself. I'm beginning to heal, finally, after all these years of waiting for healing to begin. I can feel the bitterness, the pain within me dissipating slowly, being replaced by the irrefutable truth of how much and how deeply I am loved.
For queer persons raised in families and faith communities like mine, the journey to self-love is long and arduous, often riddled with destructive behavior and self-sabotage. It often takes therapy, and significant trial and error when it comes to developing and building one's created family or family of choice. This is the danger and struggle of being human, but in the end, we are stronger for it. We don't have to be bitter, cynical, or jaded. We don't have to look, find, and settle for cheap imitations of love. Real love is always there, being offered with the promise of more abundant, more fulfilling life. Its only condition is that, in receiving it, one is called to dole it out to others in need of it. It comes from the most unexpected places, sometimes in the weirdest forms, and can often be overlooked because of its simplicity. Let it fill you up, wrap its arms around you, and heal those wounds that only you know about. The pain takes time to go away, but when it does, the life you're left with is beyond description.
You are loved.