Wade and I put the final touches in our one-bedroom basement apartment. Wade’s twin size bed sat snug in an empty enclave near the living room. A chest of drawers became a small separation between his makeshift room and the rest of the apartment. Because I was older I took the sole bedroom. We did not own much with one couch facing a small television and random posters on the wall. But the space worked well.
Wade had a powerful conversion story of his own and started following Jesus the summer before. Due to the change in his life and a harassing roommate, Wade needed another place to live. And I hated the basement space I occupied in Wilmore, so I agreed to break my lease to find a place with him in downtown Lexington. Wade already knew about my sexual orientation due to another person telling him, which made it easier when I attempted to share with him.
The day the Relevant Magazine article was published was the day we moved in together and the day the spiritual warfare came back. I did not expect the amount of feedback I would get about my article. Within hours, I received both damning and encouraging comments. Some said I did not understand Scripture verses about homosexuality, others shared verses encouraging me with the freedom to be me. Persons I had not spoken to in years emailed me expressing their concern that I was leading people astray from the true Gospel. Despite their thoughts, I was not against orthodox Christianity. I simply wanted a minority voice to be heard. I wanted people to know about the difficulties of fighting for a place at the table. I honestly did not present a particular position on any Scripture. I could not hide. Everything happens for a reason.
Without warning, the spiritual war began.
The following afternoon, I stood in the kitchen washing dishes. Soap bubbles washed over my hands from the cascading water. I hummed to myself in hopes of distracting my mind from wandering to darker spaces. But it didn’t work. In my mind’s eye, I could see smoke filling the basement hall outside of our locked apartment door. Grunts and huffs matched the loud movements. The smoke dissipated as a dragon's eyes glared at me piercing fear into my spirit. His eyes held orange flames ready to make war. I clanged the dishes against one another hoping the noise would scare him away. The dragon’s chest widened until his nostrils spun spirals of smoke into the open air. With a roar, fire blew from his mouth letting me know who would be in charge.
Without warning, the spiritual war began.
With sudsy hands, I grabbed the apartment doorknob and confirmed it was indeed closed and intact. I dried my hands with my shirt and sat on the couch wondering how this could be happening again. The dragon kept hissing in the background as I concluded that the coincidence of the article’s release, graduate work and perhaps even a new roommate could have caused this. Whatever brought the dragon here, I wish he would leave. The honeymoon phase of living with Wade disappeared as the demonic games of my past resurfaced within a week of living together.
The longer days signified summer had finally arrived. The battle became more than just an angel and demon fighting beside my bed at night. Growls came from outside my bedroom windows. Claws scratched against the window pane making piercing sounds more painful than nails on a chalkboard. I struggled to stay awake during the day yet could not sleep at night. Wolves and beasts hurled their bodies against the window trying to get in. Their orange eyes longed for blood. And their teeth dripped with saliva. Headphones streamed worship songs with little relief. With medication, I slept twelve hours or more. And now without it, I struggled to get four or five.
It seemed like every component of my well being started to ache. Sexual urges spiked with desperation to find companionship or to hook up. Daily jogs on the university's campus fueled a lustful watch for shirtless male runners. I returned to the apartment to shower and hoped the sexualized images of those men would filter away. In defeat, I plopped on the couch unable to stop the sexual thoughts and wondered if I would get any sleep that evening.
One afternoon, Wade stood in the kitchen making his typical lunch to take to work: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit snacks and more often than not, candy - any type of candy. Wade and I talked about the upcoming Christian festival he planned to attend. I wouldn’t go because I went to enough Christian culture activities in my youth, but I joked with him about all the ladies he would meet.
“Wade, in the Christian world, holding hands with a woman is the equivalent of making out,” I sarcastically stated.
Without missing a beat, Wade responded, “I get to make out all day then!”
“Ugh, that’s disgusting!” I exclaimed with an air of sassiness. Laughter filled the air with Wade grabbing his work hat and skateboard to head to work.
Making out with a female made me want to vomit. I had zero sexual attraction to any female. I couldn't understand why any male would want to sleep with a woman. With Wade gone at work and getting minimal sleep at night, I stayed on the couch to take an afternoon nap.
Dream 1; Part 1.
The precious pearls graced the beautiful necklace. I pressed the necklace gently into the palm of my hand not wanting to let go of the pearls’ beauty. An empty wooden cross stood in front of me as I sat on my knees more amazed by the pearls than what had occurred in this place. I leaned in to smell the pearls. My lips kissed the pearls. This object gave me a strange amount of comfort.
I placed the pearls in the dirt, only to quickly pick them up again. I placed the pearls to my chest breathing in as if I found the fountain of youth. I did not want to leave the precious pearls behind. Kiss and hold. Kiss and hold. I would never let go. I heard my name called in the far distance, so I looked around to see who it was. The God-man stood next to an empty tomb with his hands and feet scarred over from overcoming death.
In gentleness, Jesus stated, “Nate, let go of the pearls and come to me.”
As though I was a doubting Thomas, Jesus came to let me know the resurrection stood true. In gentleness, Jesus stated, “Nate, let go of the pearls and come to me.”
Victory could be felt. His meek voice shook the atmosphere. I knew what the God-man accomplished. I stared at Him, then at the pearls and back at Him again. I confidently shook my head no and returned to kissing my precious pearls. I had my earthly treasure.
Startled, I woke up to an empty apartment suite. Sweat poured off of my forehead. In desperation, I grabbed a Bible and rummaged through the Scriptures seeking what the dream alluded to. Would I completely reject Jesus? What did the pearls represent? Why couldn’t I let go? I knew this was a warning.
The beasts kept gnashing their teeth and clawing at the basement window each night. The red dragon continued to blow fire in an attempt to enter through the apartment door. I stared at the ceiling with continuous sweat pouring from my pores with a hyper-awareness of the spiritual intensity pushing me closer to a psychotic break. In fear, I placed a pillow underneath my arm and dragged a blanket behind me mimicking Linus from the Peanuts comic strip.
I entered Wade’s makeshift bedroom and gently placed my hand on Wade’s bare shoulder to wake him up at two in the morning.
“Wade, I can't sleep. I just... I just don’t want to be alone right now…. Can I sleep next to your bed?”
“Uh, sure. That’s fine.” As soon as those words left Wade’s mouth he fell back asleep. The blanket became a mattress on the concrete floor. I laid on my back scrolling through a Bible app on my phone hoping to find a comforting verse or two. In sorrow, I realized I had become a child trying to escape the boogie man hiding in their closet. The sound of another human breathing eased my soul. It helped to ground my sanity.
A Night Vision.
My parents and I said our goodbyes as I waited on a platform to an unknown destination. I never surrendered the chance to take a free trip. I somehow received one from an unknown person. The only catch was that I did not know the destination. Steam filled the air. We exchanged final hugs as I, the lone tourist, hopped onto the train with a suitcase.
The railroad tracks wove me in and around the mountainous terrain and through man made tunnels. The train sped past the pine trees topped with a fresh winter’s snow. The adventure felt so peaceful. It felt odd that my parents allowed me to go to an unknown final destination. I wondered if they knew where I headed, so in curiosity, I questioned the mysterious car attendant about our final stop.
The slender man stood over me and with a straight face noted, “We are heading to a remote resort sheltered from the rest of the world.”
I slouched in my chair as his large nose came closer to my face. I nodded my head several times as he slowly moved his face away. With his arms held behind his back, he continued to walk down the hall through the doors and into the next passenger car. My stomach churned as I waited for my final destination.
Brakes screeched against the metal waking me from my slumber. The man’s voice announced that we had arrived. I grabbed my single suitcase and exited onto a platform. A group of peculiar men in blue medical scrubs stood outside a log mansion situated in the mountain side. One grabbed my luggage. Another welcomed me, and the rest stood behind me as we walked towards the mansion. The medical staff led me to a room immediately to my left upon entering the building. The space felt odd as the foyer wasn’t as grand as I expected. In fact, it felt quite dull and empty inside.
One of the men closed the door behind him and began to question my mental health status regarding visions and hallucinations. It felt too familiar like the Costa Rican hospital from years before. As he kept asking questions, I closed my eyes realizing I had been sent to be medicated and admitted to a psychiatric facility far, far away. I stated the storyline. He took notes and left to get another staff member.
Wade and several others barged in through another door.
“I'm not schizophrenic. I’m not crazy.”
“We need to go now!” commanded Wade. In desperation, we ran out of the wooden mansion, jumped over the property walls and ran into the woods as sirens went off and an announcer proclaimed a fugitive had escaped. We hopped onto the back of a departing train making its way down the mountainside. We were now on the run.
“I'm not schizophrenic. I’m not crazy.” I kept repeating over and over.
Wade pulled me close to him and reassured me that he knew.
The vision stopped. I grabbed my cell phone to Skype a friend on the other side of the world. Steve studied in Israel for his masters program, so I knew he would be awake since it was four in the morning in Kentucky. In college, Steve and I hung out occasionally. He called me from Africa while I was in Costa Rica and visa versa. We were complete opposites. He, a six-foot-something redhead, athletic, intellectual and cunning. I, certainly not as tall, skinny, awkward and kinda lazy. Steve graciously listened through the vision and all of the prior dreams and visions I had that week. He grinned, nodded his head and slid in a pun every fifteen minutes or so as I manically spoke for an hour. Steve chuckled and pointed out that I used to not disclose large portions of my life and now I would not shut up. I laughed, too, noting how true this was.
Dream 1; Part 2.
The pearls stayed in my hands with their beauty sparkling in the sunlight. The pearls reflected the sunlight bringing warmth to my face. With bent knees, I kissed the pearls again and again unable to let go.
I ran to the anonymous man, jumped into his arms and our lips met for our first kiss.
I looked behind to see Jesus still standing there. Why did he wait for me? He knew I wanted something else. He looked at the pearls and then at me as if asking me to put the precious pearls down. Footsteps interrupted our wordless conversation. A male wearing a baseball hat walked in front of the tomb and past Jesus. Who was this beautiful stranger? Was it the one I will love? Maybe he would save me from the loneliness in my heart.
I ran to the anonymous man, jumped into his arms and our lips met for our first kiss. Our hands clasped and we walked away. Jesus stood there as we left. He did not look disappointed, it was as if he knew one of us would return.
Sexuality became a curse not a blessing. In the realm of Christianity, the saints push the sexually deviant into forced celibacy. I still waited to find peace with my sexuality or even within myself. Numerous friends started and stopped different relationships and eventually married. It felt like I had a lifetime supply of box seat tickets to their romances. I screamed from the balcony in hopes I would be the one on stage meeting my forever love. I wanted to know what physical touch felt like. I longed for that first kiss. I wanted to know the chase. I wanted to find mutual emotional comfort. My fists banged against my wooden chair. No one could hear me. My frustrations simmered as another romantic act closed, two others were called onto stage and the next romantic chase began. I slouched and tucked my face into my knees to silently cry. How long? How long must I wait to share life with someone? Jesus was supposed to fulfill our heart’s desires. Yet, here I waited and waited for nothing in return.
The following day, I had a date with a lesbian couple at a local coffee shop. In a twenty-first century detective fashion, they found me through the Relevant article and reached out to spend time together. I looked over their social media photos noting hair color and facial features before leaving the apartment. I easily spotted them. One woman with short black hair wearing a wolf t-shirt and the other with long dirty blond hair wearing a summer dress. In silent shame, I rejected my thoughts on how stereotypical we looked. A gay guy with two lesbians.
Iced drinks brought relief from the summer sun while we discussed the issues of “Side A” and “Side B” gay Christians -- gay nuances I had never heard before. Side A referred to Christian gays in loving, committed, gay relationships and Side B were those who chose to stay celibate. How did sexuality get so complicated with different sides needing to be chosen? Without mentioning the precious pearls dream, I discussed why I would remain celibate. The black-haired woman noted my loneliness and presented the thought of how Side B encompassed a broader spectrum. A person could live with another Side B gay Christian and even have dates together, hold hands, sleep in the same bed all without the actual sexual action.
The explanation seemed genuine and possibly out of care. The idea of sleeping next to another man seemed comical because there was no possible way it would not turn into a sexual relationship. Cuddling would easily arouse one of us resulting in a misrepresentation of the “side” we took.
Society hates flamboyant men because they needed every man to man up.
I appreciated their next comments. It’s harder to be a gay man than a lesbian. Lesbianism had a “hotness” to it, which heterosexual men, for some reason, loved. Society hates flamboyant men because they needed every man to man up. This couple affirmed, not only societal thoughts on sexuality, but maybe even the self-homophobia I had felt for a long time.
I walked back to the apartment and watched a shirtless male jogger run past me. Sweat ran off his chest and I stared at his short shorts. My sexual pendulum swung from pure lust to absolute self-hatred because of him. If only I could stare at the female jogger next to him long enough, maybe the hidden heterosexual side of me would blossom.
The makeshift bed next to Wade continued to be a safe haven. I touched his forearm and said, “Wade, I’m going to sleep on the floor next to you.” He would grunt, roll over and continue to sleep.
Most nights I stayed awake texting college friends living on the other side of the globe to avoid the monsters I saw. I waited until the sun rose to sneak outside to speak with Steve for two hours at a time about the week's visions and dreams. For some reason, he did not grow tired of my long discourses. I viewed it as payment for the time I spent listening to him in college.
This evening, I stared at the ceiling from the concrete floor listening to Wade's deep breaths. I read about Daniel, an Old Testament prophet who had dreams and visions. Maybe… just maybe…. I could make it through life like Daniel did. I could be victorious like him. I kept the Scriptures in mind as I rolled to my side to be brought into a vision.
The pedestrian bridge hovered over a downtown road. Its glass walls allowed passive spectators to watch the holocaust.The sun that radiated on the free ones in the Bluegrass State also shone on the confined ones in wheelchairs. The sedated patients lined up along the glass wall with intravenous injections connected to them. The masked hospital workers did not need a degree to be a part of the elimination. White uniforms hid their true identities from those walking by on the street below. The clock struck the hour. In unison, the masked workers each held an arm up with a needle in hand. A wave of medical injection began. A fluorescent blue liquid mixed with the IV fluids, which supposedly sustained life. As one injection finished, the next medical worker moved forward injecting his victim. The crew worked in a timely, methodical manner. Moments later, I watched as the first victim’s head dropped into a lifeless position. One by one, the victims’ heads begun to drop, ending their lives. It became an acceptable public mass murder.
A large black and yellow snake slithered its way in and out of the wheelchairs. Our eyes met until it turned around making its way towards the dark end of the hall. I became mesmerized by the way it moved. My feet shuffled by the dying patients as I began to follow him. Did the snake know something I did not?
I walked by dead patients to the section of victims still waiting for their new medication. They shifted their bodies trying to get out of the restraints. They screamed in agony trying to let the world know they were not crazy, but their voices seemed muted as I neared the darkness into which the snake had slithered.
He let out another powerful roar shattering the hallway’s glass walls.
Immediately, a righteous growl preceded a lion jumping out of the darkness with the python in his mouth. The lion spat out the snake and pushed its head against my waist to fling me onto its back. The strength of his stride embodied power and stability. I grasped its mane as we glided through the air. He let out another powerful roar shattering the hallway’s glass walls. White-masked medical staff began to scatter as the lion’s attack ensued. Smaller cubs came from behind, breaking the IV ties from the sedated, captured patients. The cubs grasped the patients by their hospital gowns and threw them on their backs. The dead ones opened their eyes to rejoice that life had come back.
The lion stopped in front of an older man’s body. I did not know how I knew this man’s history. It was as if the lion passed the knowledge into my mind. The older man was the first to pass away and the only one not to wake up again. Now, a known martyr--a man who sacrificed hours in prayer knowing when his time would end as the first one to go in this holocaust. He would never be forgotten. The lion’s cry marked a sad mourning. The lion roared as we escaped the holocaust hall searching for others to save.
Travis and I moved wooden park benches to face one another on the university's green lawn. Large oak trees provided shade from the July afternoon sun. Without need for small talk, I dove into recounting the numerous dreams and visions I had been having. The pearls. The mountain hospitalization. The holocaust attempt. Travis nodded with encouragement to keep talking.
“One day they will use medication to try and stop those who follow the Lord. They will attempt to make us into zombies,” stated Travis.
I inadvertently released a small chuckle and told him my high school friends used to refer to me as that. Yes, a zombie. I was a zombie who visited and sat on a couch with glossed over eyes. A zombie with a shortened, slow rhetoric and almost unresponsive to any enthusiasm a nearby person had.
“The medicine already exists, Travis. I was on it. It is the medication I got off this past November.”
Travis and I continued to talk about the current spiritual climate until finally stumbling upon the issue of homosexuality.
“Do you think you will ever get married?” Travis asked. This particular question always gave me mixed emotions. For some reason, it was the one question believers loved to ask. I knew this man asked in curiosity and without judgment or agenda.
“Travis, I have never been attracted to women nor will I ever be.”
The words came out firm and unwilling to change. Travis offered encouragement to keep working through confusion. Sexuality was complicated. I wished I knew I could love a woman like everyone believed that I could. At twenty-six years old, I recalled the friendship I ruined with Caroline. I did not deserve a second chance. Despite Travis’ question, I deeply respected the wisdom he instilled, and I was even more grateful for the nonjudgmental guidance, especially about sexuality.
Dream 1; Part 3
I did not want to let the precious pearls go. Kiss and hold. I heard my name being called as in the prior two dreams. I turned around and saw the empty tomb. Jesus stood there, alive and waiting for my response. I glared at Jesus’ pierced hands and feet. Jesus gently stated, “Nate, let go of the pearls and come over here.” Like doubting Thomas, I saw what He had accomplished. He conquered death, yet still I shook my head in disagreement returning to the kissing of the pearls.
“Nate,” Jesus’ gentle voice entered my ears again as I looked behind to see Him still standing there. Jesus never dragged me to Himself. He simply stated my name. But why did Jesus wait? Footsteps grew louder as I watched the beautiful male stranger walk by Jesus. I remembered him from before. I waited to see if he would call my name. He walked by without looking in my direction. He never cared for me nor waited to see if I would come. The pearls slowly moved from my palms to my fingertips and onto the dirt. I took slow, deep, anxious breaths as I stared at the beautiful stranger’s backside waiting for him to turn around. He never did and eventually disappeared in the distance.
From a short distance, we stared at each other as he waited for my response.
Jesus stood there with his gentle smile. He still waited and didn’t walk away. I pressed my hands against the ground to get up. From a short distance, we stared at each other as he waited for my response. I walked towards Jesus until we stood face to face. He pulled me in to embrace me. He put his hand around my shoulder as we began to walk down a dimly lit trail by the tomb. A stronger light came a few feet ahead as we made our way through the valley--a different adventure than what I expected.
I woke up unsure if I gained victory or lost a piece of myself. Maybe it was a bit of both. I reminded myself of the celibacy I had sustained for my twenty-six years. With this in mind, I allowed this to be my continued narrative. I could not lie to myself. I hated watching younger twenty somethings chase after romance, but I was not them and couldn’t love like they did. I laid down the pearls of lustful love, which would never be. I started to trek a dusty trail abandoned by many and steadily walked by few.
Sleepless nights continued as the days stretched on longer. The beasts did not relent in their attack despite my feeling defeated from a lack of sleep. The dragon outside in the hall continued to spew fire through its nostrils. I kept my eyes closed and hummed the lyrics of “Trees and Trust” from Kye Kye in hopes of drowning out the demonic and fall asleep.
Then oh, I stood in the silence, I lay in the night, a voice in the stillness Oh my love, you’re my child, take all these good things, soften your heart.
Lord help me, Help me remember
Flesh is weak, my spirit’s strong,
Dressed the trees you saw their splendor More to you, love I am more.
The next afternoon, I laid on the couch trying to cool off from the summer heat and lack of sleep.
“The dream you had forgotten in college. It’s happening.”
“The dream you had forgotten in college. It’s happening.”
I looked around the apartment trying to figure out where the voice came from. What dream? Why did I need to be reminded of this? All of a sudden I could hear my voice through a loudspeaker. I saw an image of the amphitheater as I shared my testimony followed by an introduction to my wife and children. The blonde beauty with our three boys walked from off stage to stand next to me. Yes, a dream forgotten. A dream suppressed due to earthly wisdom given by a Bible professor.
“Sometimes, we wish so much for something it comes up in our dreams. It is a part of our psyche. It doesn’t mean it should happen.” Mr. Greene's voice echoed and slowly disappeared as I repented of forgetting a dream I needed to keep near me. The dream grew in its prophecy. How could he have been so wrong? How could I have listened to him?
The dream seemed to be coming alive. I could not deny this. I allowed myself to walk into a new identity, but I told no one what started to happen. Murmurs whispered among close friends as others noticed a change since I spiritually let go of the precious pearls became part of the evidence. Color came to my skin. Life came back to me again. In silence, I still questioned if the romantic thoughts, visions and dreams in my mind were just make-believe.
Wade and I embarked on a ten-day road trip stopping in New York City, Rhode Island, Maine, upper state New York and then back to Kentucky. The journey began at four in the morning with Wade in the passenger seat. I sped along the highway with iced chai in hand to keep me awake. Wade knew the look on my face and asked how much I slept. I said not much, but it would be okay. Three hours of sleep probably did not meet safe travel standards, but I refused to postpone our travels even if it was just by a few short hours. I traveled east through the Kentucky mountains watching our guardian angels’ guide the car through the early summer morning’s heat. I softly hummed lyrics to my favorite songs as Wade slept next to me.
Our time in Rhode Island was shortened due to my car breaking down, leaving us stranded in Manhattan for an additional night. So instead, we arrived at Matt's house late in the evening. Wade went straight to bed after his first ocean swim and Matt and I caught up. I explained all of the dreams and visions I’d had. Matt sat lost for words as I described the dragons, beasts, future wife and sexuality. He quietly listened to my unusual storyline.
This is the best I have seen you in a long time.
He broke into the conversation and said, “This is the best I have seen you in a long time,” a phrase I did not expect considering my rambling thoughts. I knew I had changed. Matt noticed it, too. We briefly talked some more and said our goodbyes due to Wade and I leaving early the next morning to spend a night with my family at the biannual family reunion.
Roughly eighty of us gathered at southern Maine’s coastline. This number fluctuated depending upon who would come, new lovers or more offspring added to the group. I always went and usually kept close to my immediate family or first cousins. I realized over the years how lucky I was to have a close-knit crew.
As I stood on the beach looking at the waves, a distant relative walked up to me to ask how I had been.
I avoided the topic unsure of what to discuss, so I began with lighter topics like school and such. It may have been my lack of sleep or newly found self-confidence, but I ended up talking about my return from Costa Rica, the overdose and how I got to graduate school. The short disclosure of an overdose took her by surprise and she turned her face in my direction to state, “I did not know about that.”
I assumed news traveled quickly inside the beach tents hiding the older generations from the sun’s heat. I also assumed parents gossiped as their children made sandcastles and jumped the shallow waves. Apparently, the hardships of life were kept secret out of respect for the hurting, for which I silently thanked my parents. I did not detail everything that occurred and offered a small explanation of what happened after stopping mental health medication. I did not discuss sexuality. It felt like too much for this initial conversation. And I did not know her well enough, but she probably had a hint. I am sure the short running shorts which I tried to pass as legitimate swim trunks aroused enough suspicion about my sexuality and about why Wade came to Maine with me to the family reunion. I heard the murmurs upon our arrival.
I felt my relatives growing uncomfortable as she adjusted her standing position next to me when I commented, “One day, I will be the one to help deliver others from mental health issues.”
“On what authority do you have to do that?”
“On what authority do you have to do that?” With that, the neutral tone within the dialogue quickly changed to a passive-aggressive one.
Without hesitation I stated, “Jesus.”
With my final comment, I turned and made my way back to the tents to talk with the others. I knew what had happened within me, even if others questioned me. Wade and I left the following morning.
The next evening, two dozen twenty somethings and I got gathered at a bar on a lake’s edge in upstate New York. Nate, my twin and close friend would be getting married to his beautiful fiance the following morning. The wedding party and other friends talked amongst themselves as their worlds intermingled. I was so grateful to be a part of his wedding day. With a beer in hand, I talked easily with others in the group about our own backgrounds, where we lived, what we did and how we knew the bride and groom.
I spoke to another groomsman until he went for another beer and Wade ushered me into a conversation he was currently having with a Hispanic-looking woman.
“Nate, tell her everything happening in your life right now,” stated Wade with a strange mixture of over-excitement and authority.
“What?” I laughed to ease the awkwardness as I exchanged glances with the young Latina sitting across from me. We awkwardly introduced ourselves, skipped the small talk and dove into deeper personal issues just as Wade had suggested.
Maria described the transition out of a lesbian relationship with her own mental health story. She detailed Skyping with her home church as they prayed over her while she was in India. She had the ability to articulate a difficult journey with words I often failed to be able to vocalize to others. We exchanged genuine smiles as I listened to her journey. Tears filled our eyes as Wade leaned back to watch the beautiful exchange of finally feeling known. We understood one another’s struggles.
I, too, described my story as I retraced a few years of my life. I echoed the heartache of questioning if homosexuality would end my faith journey and somehow finding new glory. At the conversation’s end, I added her number to my cell phone and messaged her my name.
“I forgot my cell phone. I will add you back when I get back to the motel!” Maria exclaimed. We shed tears and exchanged hugs and we departed for the evening to prepare for tomorrow's nuptials.
Wade and I shared a cozy two-man tent. Wade immediately fell asleep as my excitement from the recent conversation replayed in my head. It could all be real.
The following day, I participated in one of the most beautiful weddings ever. The wedding party got along great. The food and drinks did not stop as we danced the night away. As Wade and I made our way to leave, I could hear Maria yelling my name from the wedding venue. We stopped to see what she wanted.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you all day,” she exclaimed. A smile came across my face as I stated the same. Our excitement from last night’s conversation continued into this moment.
“Listen. Last night, I got back to the motel and I began to scroll through a ton of text messages I missed from the day. All of the messages were sent from people within my home church,” her voice lowered with each passing sentence as if the secret police was trying to listen.
Chills went down my spine as my heart pounded with joy.
“What about?!" Anxiously I waited for her response cluing into the importance of her words.
“They told me I would meet someone that evening who would understand everything in my life-- the dreams, the visions, the sexuality issues!” My eyes widened as she explained the details of the text messages, “And Nate...listen. They all texted at the exact time when we exchanged stories. This is unreal.”
Chills went down my spine as my heart pounded with joy. Surreal, maybe. Our reality, most definitely. Maria and I could not deny it. Something had happened.