Drew Payne’s Website
Keeping the Faith (Part 2)
Michael sat at his untidy table reading his bible, as he did this every evening at this time. Twenty minutes to read his bible, then the study notes for that passage and another twenty minutes to pray. The problem was he always ended up praying the same prayer, begging God to change him. He had followed this ritual for tens years now, ever since he had become a Christian at thirteen. Things had changed when he left home and moved to Birmingham, but only slightly. When he got back home each evening, before he had dinner, he would sit at his table, take out his bible and read the passage for the day.
He was glad he lived alone, although his flat was no more then a large and badly lit room. He could only live with others if they were other Christians. Janet, at work, had offered him a room in the houseshare were she lived. But Janet had laughed at the idea of going to church. She said she'd had a belly full of that as a child. Politely he had turned her down; he couldn’t live with unbelievers.
Sometimes Michael wished being a Christian was easier, not such a permanent up hill struggle, especially when his mind was full of thoughts about Colin - Colin from church. He tried to keep his friendship at arm's length but that was difficult. Colin was one of those men that physical affection came easily to. He would spring a bear hug on Michael without warning; drape his arm across Michael's shoulders. Half of Michael loved it from a man as handsome as Colin; the other half hated himself for enjoying it.
Michael looked up from his bible and stared at the wall in front of him. He had pinned postcards of famous paintings there. He let his attention wonder over them.
Was he in love with Colin? He hoped not but he probably was.
Michael had been asking himself this question a lot and coming up with the same answer. He found Colin attractive. He could bring to mind a picture of Colin, at will. Colin's straight black hair with a slight wave to it. Colin's bright green eyes, which always seemed to sparkle. Colin's narrow nose, which drew the eye down to his wide smile. Colin's solid, square body. At church, Michael would always seek out Colin's company. He always tried to seek physical affection from Colin (Afterwards he'd feel guilty about this, but it didn't stop him doing it the next time).
He knew it was wrong but he couldn't stop himself. He was so attracted to Colin but felt so trapped.
Michael looked down at his bible but the interest in it had gone. This was happening more often now, leaving him feeling guilty. He couldn't even concentrate on reading his bible; he was even a failure at that.
He had known he was homosexual for as long as he could remember. It had always been men who had fuelled his fantasies. For as long he had kept his sexuality a secret. As a nervous teenager he had been physically afraid of it. He had always known his sexuality was a sin. It was all around him at church and home that homosexuality was a sin, and the teenage Michael had breathed it right into his soul. He had longed for a miracle to turn him heterosexual. The problem was no miracle arrived.
Five years ago Michael had read an interview in a Christian magazine with a man, Graham, who had turned his back on the homosexual lifestyle when he became a Christian. Through the magazine, Michael wrote to Graham and received a reply. Although Graham lived in Bristol, they wrote to each other for over a year, before Graham's letters suddenly stopped. Graham told Michael what he believed about homosexuality and Michael drank it in. Graham said it wasn't a sin to be homosexual, just unfortunate, but it was a sin to express your homosexuality, especially sexually. Graham said that God had called him to celibacy, but if he were blessed God would heal him so he could enjoy a heterosexual marriage. Michael had clutched at everything Graham had said with a sense of relief. He wasn't alone; there were other Christians who were facing the same problems with homosexuality as him and he could escape hell.
Graham also talked about The Release Trust, how they helped him leave homosexuality behind. Graham put Michael in contact with them. At first, Michael only wrote to them. To his relief, The Release Trust's beliefs were the same as Graham's. Michael only went to see someone from The Release Trust after he'd moved to Birmingham. He'd met a counsellor called Tony Carter, whom he saw on and off in the following years. Michael was disappointed that Birmingham didn't have a Release Group, the support group Graham talked so much about. But Michael was glad to have Tony Carter. For every problem he had, Tony Carter always have an answer. The Release Trust didn't make things any easier, but they did keep him going and away from temptation.
Michael now realised that celibacy had a high price. He realised it did not only mean no sex, it meant no intimate contact with anyone. He kept everyone at arm's length to reduce the chance of temptation. Michael accepted it but it didn’t make it any easier. Inside he longed for someone special in his life, someone he could love. Inside he also knew that this was wrong. Quietly he accepted it, but it did not take away the need to be loved that haunted him. He was pulled in two ways, and he hated it. It was worse around Colin, tearing at his mind and strength.
Michael crossed to his kitchen. A drink of tea would help his concentration. He filled the kettle, plugged it in, and waited. He stared out of the kitchen’s window, at his small view of the Common.
He couldn’t stop thinking about James, what he had said, although it was three months ago now. It had been such a shock; even now he could still feel it. Part of him wished that James had never told him, part of him was so confused, and part of him wanting to know more about James’ life.
Michael had been so hurt the way James had rejected his beliefs, at the time (he hadn’t the courage to tell James he knew what he was going through too), but now he saw it all in a different light. James wasn’t lost, just mis-guided. He had been lead astray by false teachings. James could be redeemed, Michael didn’t know how but he was sure he could be. So he carried on praying for James.
Michael was only able to tell Tony Carter about James two weeks ago. Tony Carter had reassured him that James’ views weren’t true, he said people choose them because they were easy. “Easy is the road of destruction,” Tony Carter had said. He also told Michael it wasn’t his fault that James turned his back on him, although sharing his beliefs had been the right thing to do. Tony Carter’s advice gave him some comfort but he still felt alienated from James, although they never were close.
Although he knew James’ lifestyle was wrong, he couldn’t stop thinking about James. He found he got a thrill just from the idea of James’ lifestyle, though he couldn’t admit it to anyone, not even Tony Carter.
The kettle switched itself off, stream filling the kitchen. Quickly Michael filled his mug with boiling water.
He had never met Rick and he couldn’t let himself do so. Part of him wanted to meet Rick; the man James said made him so happy. Another part of him knew it would be wrong to encourage James and Rick. He also feared the influence they could have over him. He envied James his happiness. He wanted it too but was afraid of the cost. He would have to turn his back on all his beliefs, on God himself, turn his back on all the security he’d found in his Christianity. He would risk damnation and hell. He couldn’t do that just for happiness and sex, but sometimes it seemed so tempting.
Michael picked up his drink and returned to the table. But even after drinking some of the hot tea, he still didn’t want to go back to reading his bible.
He’d never had a relationship with anyone, man or woman. He’d never had any kind of sex. He felt embarrassed to be called a virgin at his age. It wasn’t true, what they said, you never miss what you’ve never had because he secretly longed for a lover, but he couldn’t compromise it with his beliefs, he couldn’t.
Michael closed his bible and gave up on it for tonight, his heart wasn’t in it. At church they promised him he’d be living an “abundant life” as a Christian, but this didn’t feel like it.