Seeing God in his face

Today is Monday, September 18, 2017.

Nicholas and I met during my freshman year at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio. We were in the same Intro to Theater class and were playing an icebreaker game for the first session. There was a blue ball that was passed around, and whoever had it introduced themselves and then passed it on to another person in the circle. It was Nick’s turn with the ball. He said his name, as was required, and then immediately locked eyes with me. Soon the ball was in my hands.

We started dating on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.

One of the first things we had in common was music. I thought I was the only person in the universe who knew an Imogen Heap song besides “Hide and Seek,” but was (happily) proven wrong. Marina and the Diamonds was another shared love, as was No Doubt. I remember sitting in my dorm room and swapping artists we liked, only to discover the other person loved them too. It was a simple thing, but it got the butterflies going.

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The two of us getting ready for one of our best friend’s wedding.

We spent a lot of time alone, “studying.” Nick and I both enjoyed our solitude, and we could be quite reserved socially. I know I’ve said before that I was a precocious child, but I mellowed out once I got to college. I tended to spend time with people individually, as opposed to groups. Since Nick was similar, it only made it easier for us to be together. I remember our early days being filled with talking and more talking–about everything.

Nick likes to talk. A lot.

Don’t get me wrong, I talk, too–but Nick talks. Sometimes, when he’s on a roll, I’ll just slowly tiptoe out of the room and hope he doesn’t notice (he’s going to roll his eyes when he reads that).

Because of all the talking (wink), I quickly noticed we had some differences in how we spoke. While I was raised in Northeast Ohio, Nick grew up around Dayton–basically two separate worlds. The Northeast, home to Akron and Cleveland, is more hilly terrain and was once known as having “no accent” or a “General American” accent. Southern Ohio, however, veers more towards farmland, and definitely has aspects of Southern or Hoosier accent. I was raised with this “generalized” accent, and so was Nick–mostly. There are key words that he would pronounce different than me, and I always went out of my way to smugly point them out (since, you know, my accent is correct).

For example, “cement.” I put the emphasis on the second syllable, i.e. ce-ment, and pronounce the initial “e” like the “i” sound in “it.” This is the only pronunciation I’ve ever heard, but Nicholas pronounces it “see“-ment, and puts the emphasis on the first syllable. He didn’t even notice the difference until I said something!

However, that pales in comparison to the chasm that exists between us on the word “ornery.” I (again, the obvious correct one) pronounce it “or-nuh-ree” with a long “o” sound, which is how Merriam-Webster pronounces it. Nick, on the other hand, pronounces it “ahn-ree” with a long “a” sound as in “ah.” It’s weird, and does not make any sense. Ah!

That’s when I felt this nudge–an unexplainable small feeling. It told me, in whatever strange cosmic gut-way, that this is right.

I apologize, I digress.

All that being said, we have more in common than we are different.

In particular, we share a similar background of a family focused on faith, who attend church, and who identify themselves as Christians. Nick, who had barely even come out as gay when we first met, adamantly believed that his sexuality doesn’t interfere with his faith–that he could be both gay and Christian. What a concept to me at the time! The strength of his conviction struck me.

That’s when I felt this nudge–an unexplainable small feeling. It told me, in whatever strange cosmic gut-way, that this is right on multiple levels: 1) that Nick is somebody I didn’t want to lose, 2) that God was there, with me, in that moment, and 3) that God was not judging me, but nudging me this way, to this man in particular.

We’ve been long-distance on and off since that first September Tuesday–I studied abroad for a semester, he moved to New York a year before me–and we’ve remained strong. Sure, we have had our ups and downs. But each time a barrier seemed to get in the way, and we thought about calling it quits, the fear that we were leaving something worth more than petty disagreements persisted. We couldn’t escape that we were in something that was meaningful and true.

Living together in New York has been an adventure all of its own. Nick and I have been faced with the arduous task of finding space for all of our stuff in one less-than-ideally-sized bedroom (under-the-bed storage saves lives). And we’ve also quickly learned that patience is key to dealing with each other’s needs and quirks (Him: leaving his underwear on the floor, Me: being anally-retentive about closet space). But I wouldn’t change it for the world. We’ve claimed a little nook of the city and named it as our own.

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Credit: Grace McC Photography

I continually feel that we’re being nudged closer and closer together each day. Maybe this can work? Maybe this is what God wants for me? What does it all mean?

Well, I’m still figuring that out.

But for now, I sense that it means that I have spent the last five years of my life in a relationship with a wonderful human, and that I have many more to look forward to.

Happy anniversary, babe.

Flipping the bird to the Big Guy (a downside of being a drama kid)

I’ve always been a bit of a drama queen.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I was quite a precocious child in certain ways. I was loud, obnoxious, and emotional. I was knighted by my second grade teacher as “Sir Talks A Lot,” which I ended up finding annoying, so I threw a fit about it and got my student teacher in trouble.

At one of my friend’s sleepover birthday parties, his father was trying to get us all to quiet down and go to sleep. He warned that the next boy to talk would be forced to wear a sparkly red dress he pulled out of the closet. I, of course, being the snot that I was, screamed. His father handed me the dress, but I defiantly refused. He backed off. Then I rushed forward, grabbed it from his hands, and went to the bathroom to change.

Like I said, dramatic.

When I was a wee tot, I played baby Jesus during a church nativity play. Obviously my path forward would include acting in plays and musicals in school. I was attracted to the limelight, and I had a narcissistic joy when I was the focus of attention. I liked being in charge, and I liked being bold, which led to the crowning role of drama club president my senior year of high school.

This part of me was tempered, to a degree, by my parents’ upbringing: to be kind to others, to take responsibility for my actions, and to love God.

Church was a large part of my life up until high school. I mostly attended because of my parents’ beliefs and their rules, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. We attended a megachurch in Akron, Ohio called “The Chapel” for about the first half of my childhood. From what I remember, The Chapel was a huge building with many, many hallways and rooms that one could get lost in. My mother sang in the choir. My oldest brother and father attended many missions trips, from Greece to Mexico. I attended Camp Carl, a summer Christian camp that the church runs, and I also did vacation bible school.

Because of the longer commute and some organizational changes, my parents eventually decided to switch churches, opting for a sister branch of The Chapel called Riverwood Community Chapel in Kent, Ohio. Riverwood is much smaller than its “sister,” but my parents quickly became involved–my mom in the Sunday school classes and my dad in the youth ministry. I made many friends there, several of whom were also my schoolmates. As I moved up to junior high, I attended youth group and went on two missions trips to Memphis, Tennessee.

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Me, giving testimony at Calvary Rescue Mission in Memphis, TN ca. 2008

On my first trip to Memphis, I had a “born again” experience in Christ. I talked briefly about this in my last post, but it’s hard for me to fully remember and grasp what that experience was. I can analyze it over and over, and come to quick conclusions such as it was just me “fooling myself,” “playing into it,” or “doing what my parents’ would want.” However, those would be shallow interpretations. During that moment, the “born again” moment, I felt something moving in me, and calling me to something “higher.” It was not my usual dramatic flair. It was a grounded feeling, a feeling of understanding, but also–joy.

Coupled with this elation, I was constantly battling my attraction to men. This manifested itself as a deep shame that I kept shoving further and further inside myself. I told one of my youth group counselors that I “felt sad a lot,” and that I was “falling away from Christ.” This led to my spiritual re-commitment on the second Memphis trip one year later. Perhaps I thought I could bury my desire so far down that the Holy Spirit couldn’t sense it?

My sense for grand, bombastic, life-or-death scenarios got the better of me during freshman year of high school. While on the one hand I felt this natural, strong connection to God, on the other, I felt the pulling of my equally-natural and equally-strong desire for men. I tended to see the forces as black-and-white–one was evil, one was good. I felt a decision had to be made between the two. Whether this was imposed on me or self-inflicted, I cannot say for sure (more on that in future posts), but without a doubt my Drama Queen-ness forced me to choose one over the other.

While I would like to avoid too many details, there came a day when my parents discovered a boy I was hanging out with identified as gay, and they confronted me about it. They were wary of his intentions. In the heat of the moment, my emotions got the better of me and I half-coherently blurted out “What if I was gay!?” and stormed off. My parents, stunned, went to the back porch to deliberate, and I slammed my bedroom door, looked up at the ceiling with tears streaming down my face, and said “Fuck you” to the Big Guy in the Sky.

Again: dramatic.

I haven’t attended church regularly since that time. For the past eight years most of my focus has been spent on school, work, and my relationships. While the experience I had in Memphis never left me, I have not felt fully balanced in a long time. I think that is where this desire, this yearning comes from. I am only fully myself when all parts of me are given attention to and fed, and this imposed dichotomy of sexuality-vs-belief that has separated me from my faith has hindered me in innumerable ways. Frankly, I’m quite tired of it.

I think it’s time to make another bold move and tear down the “dichotomy” all together.