How Well Do You Know Yourself?
I used to think that all gay people were going to go to hell and stay there for eternity.
The guy who wrote: “Your Gay Friend’s Guide.”
I stood on the street in New York City at age 24 and proselytized about going to hell if you didn’t accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, handing out tracts. My church (I was a pastor at age 26) and I prayed over porn shops in NYC and asked God to close them. Now we would also go and feed the poor, but I say all this because when I was that person, if you were to ask me, if I was to become the man I am today, I would have said, “You are a liar from Satan!”
If you know me personally now, you’d know that I’m a far cry from judging anybody. I just want to love people back to their best and to God’s loving arms. If I catch myself being hateful and judging, I go back to the times when I was doing things people were judging harshly and wonder how I survived. They say, go back and look and see what the golden message was and perhaps you can make peace with your past. I know exactly why the fence around me was so high.
I was gay in a time when no one knew they were getting HIV (1980s). I had about 200 of my dearest friends die during the time of my denial of sexual preference and turn toward the exact opposite. If I hadn’t been so damn convinced I was going to burn in hell then, I would probably have died from AIDS. I actually know that for sure. I know who and when it would have happened with. And may my dear sweet friends rest in peace who wanted to love me back then.
Life is an amalgam of strength, tenacity, buoyancy, and the ability to remake yourself almost every decade. If you look back, not too many jobs, ways of life, or technologies lasted. If you aren’t a mover and a shaker, you simply don’t last these days. You have to move with the now, stay present, feel present and stop acting like you’re over the hill and too old to learn something new. When you start acting like that, you might as well be dead, because life is going to go right on without you.
I don’t like rap music or much like hip hop and still listen to the oldies, but I don’t try to stop people from expressing themselves the way their young souls feels. I think this might be the key to existing in the world without really having to change. My family thinks I shouldn’t wear torn jeans. “You’re 51 years old!” I hear. Well, I like torn jeans. And I like looking a bit younger and feeling a bit younger. What the heck is wrong with that? But I get it. I’ve been to South Beach and watched 60-year-old dudes with pot bellies wearing g-strings. Time and place. Right?
Can I look back on my life and say that who I was then was not me, and I don’t want to have any part in the person who was me? I don’t think so. That person made me who I am now. If I don’t have the proselytizing pastor to look back on, I don’t have compassion. If I don’t have the man who got robbed with a machete at his throat, I don’t have compassion. If I don’t remember completely how it felt to duck behind a garbage can in Soho to hide in the middle of a gun fight, I don’t know me—period.
I still remember lying in bed trying to get the last few minutes of rest before I had to work night shift while living in NYC. I heard something shake at the window. A prying sound. Finally, I was wide awake and sat up in bed when my front window opened. I turned on the light and yelled, “I’m calling the police now. I’m home. Get out NOW! I have a gun!” I would have said anything to get the intruder to leave my home. I heard a rushing sound, someone jumping to the ground, then it was over. But my heart raced for the next 48 hours. You don’t forget life. You shape your character from your past. And this same character will build a fortress to help people you may never expect in the coming years.
So, when you’re hurting or are afraid, if you can just jump up to that little spiritual perch I always talk about, right above you. Look back and say to yourself. I’m going to get through this and be a better and stronger person. There is a silver lining. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’m willing to bet it’s a big one. Because the harder the lesson, the bigger the lining. Life has been that way for me, and I bet it is that way for you if you let it. All things are working for the Good in your life. You got to believe me. You are on the way to miracles. I’m believing that for you today.
- It Came to Pass, Not to Stay