Pray­ing for a teenage boyfriend

GA Voice - - Faith & Religion -

Not sur­pris­ingly, my first religious awak­en­ing was trig­gered by a boy. My fam­ily prac­ticed a generic Chris­tian­ity where we prayed be­fore out-of-town car trips and when we wanted some­thing. We bought sharp out­fits for our once-a-year wor­ship ser­vice on Easter, thanked Je­sus when­ever some­thing good hap­pened, and knew sin was bad and that we didn’t want to burn in Hell for­ever.

I wasn’t cer­tain whether we were Catholic or Chris­tian (or both) but I re­mem­ber stew­ing in ado­les­cent envy be­cause my older sis­ter had been bap­tized and I had not. Bap­tism had some­thing to do with get­ting into heaven, my sis­ter taught me, and I was al­ready para­noid about my prospec­tive af­ter­life.

As lit­tle as I knew about God, I was of course aware he didn’t ap­prove of some of the things I did with other lit­tle boys. How odd— or clever—for God to later use my sodomitic lust to bring me fur­ther into his king­dom.

The thor­ough­fares in my child­hood neigh­bor­hood had at least two churches per block, al­though it wasn’t un­til I was 16 that I met some­one from our neigh­bor­hood who at­tended one of them. Pa­trick moved to En­gle­wood that spring, pre­sent­ing him­self as a dope-sling­ing, bas­ket­ball-play­ing, pretty-boy thug.

Pa­trick and I were in­ex­pli­ca­bly an­tag­o­nis­tic to­ward each other dur­ing his first few weeks in the neigh­bor­hood, but by sum­mer we were even more in­ex­pli­ca­bly best friends, which I hope­fully fil­tered through a ro­man­tic out­look. Con­trary to his ‘hood per­sona, Pa­trick had been the vale­dic­to­rian of his eighth­grade grad­u­a­tion, at­tended a pri­vate, all-male Catholic high school and served on the usher board at Se­cond Birth Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church—Ma­jor E. Robin­son, pre­sid­ing.

I thought Pa­trick’s church­go­ing was sexy, and cher­ished learn­ing about his true self ver­sus what he pro­jected to most peo­ple. I feared the end of sum­mer would squelch our friend­ship/fling, and, des­per­ate to ex­tend the in­ti­macy that was de­vel­op­ing be­tween us, I shared with Pa­trick how I wanted to strengthen my re­la­tion­ship with Christ; but, with so many churches to choose from, it was hard to sift the ones that were spir­i­tu­ally le­git from those that op­er­ated as pas­tor-en­rich­ment cen­ters.

So Pa­trick be­gan pick­ing me up on Sun­day morn­ings, or some­times I would spend the night on Satur­days since we would have to be at church early the next day—Pa­trick for Sun­day school, and me for new mem­bers’ class. I went on a born-again bo­nanza: I got bap­tized (fi­nally!), joined the choir and, rep­re­sent­ing the “new gen­er­a­tion” of Se­cond Birth, de­liv­ered a rous­ing speech dur­ing the church’s an­niver­sary.

I wanted to be the type of Chris­tian who could pep­per his con­ver­sa­tions and ob­ser­va­tions with Scrip­ture, wish­ing for a cor­re­la­tion be­tween my de­vout­ness and the strength of the bond be­tween me and my best friend/boo. I hadn’t re­ceived of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion that God hated ho­mo­sex­u­als, as Pas­tor Robin­son thank­fully avoided the topic in ser­mons, and I was far too clos­eted to walk into the new mem­bers’ class and say, “So tell me about the gay stuff.”

Pa­trick and I did not grow into lovers, but rather drifted apart in a few years with an, ap­pro­pri­ately, in­ex­pli­ca­ble bit­ter­ness, and a tan­gi­ble, mu­tual re­gret. He is now a mil­len­nial ghost, a re­union I yearn for with some­one who has seem­ingly left no dig­i­tal trail.

I am equally dis­tanced from Christ, or any god, al­though that is not a re­la­tion­ship I miss. Still, I am grate­ful for pre­cious mem­o­ries of those Sun­day morn­ings when, “My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Arise, my dar­ling, my beau­ti­ful one, come with me.’” (Song of Solomon 2:10, NIV)

Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.