God Made Me This Way (by Grant Bentley)

God Made Me This Way

By Grant Bentley

This story is written from a Christian perspective. If your beliefs or non-beliefs would make this offensive to you then you might not want to read it.

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing or sport seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

It’s Sunday morning and once again I’m being dragged off to church. I hate going to church. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate God. I just hate going to church–or, at least, Pastor John’s church. Pastor John has been our pastor for about four months now. He’s nothing like our old pastor, Pastor Robert, who is one of the kindest, gentlest, most caring men I know. Pastor John, on the other hand, is the coldest, meanest, most hateful man I know. According to Pastor John, everything I am, and almost everything I do, God hates.

I know that this morning I’m going to hear again why God hates me and why I’m going to Hell. Every Sunday it’s the same. His sermons never praise God; they only condemn people. I often wonder why we still go there. My mother certainly isn’t like that. Maybe it’s just because it’s close by, or because we have gone there for so many years, it’s like a habit. Maybe, like me, she’s hoping his head will explode one Sunday and we’ll get someone like Pastor Robert again. Whatever the reason, we go there and every week I have to listen to his hate-filled crap for an hour or more.

I’m not sure which Bible Pastor John is reading, but I’m pretty certain it isn’t the same one I’m reading. The Bible I’m reading tells me God IS love…love, not hate. However, it seems the Bible he has only talks about hate and seldom, if ever, mentions love. No matter how many times I read my Bible, I can’t find the verses that tell me God hates me. How can it say God created me in His image, if He hates me? How can it say God is love, if He hates me? How can it command me to love my neighbour as myself, if He hates me? Very confusing.

It doesn’t really matter where it’s written, though. Pastor John leaves little doubt: God hates me. Not me specifically–well yeah, me specifically and ‘my kind’. You know the kind, boys who love boys. And boys who covet their neighbour’s ass–well not my neighbour’s ass, but his son’s ass. I can probably list a hundred more reasons, but apparently either of these is enough to send me to Hell, so why bother?

Anyway, I’m fumbling around in my room getting ready and trying to predict which reason he will pick this week when I’m broken away from my thoughts by the sound of my mother’s voice.

“Hurry up, Zack, or we’re going to be late,” my mom yells up the stairs.

“Be right there,” I yell back.

I grab my jacket and run down the stairs, getting the death glare from her.

“Sorry,” I say.

“You’d better be,” she responds. “One of these days you’re going to miss a step, fall and break your neck. Then we’d have to rush you to the hospital and miss church.”

“Really? Just a minute, let me try that again,” I say as I turn to start back up the stairs.

“Get back here,” she orders, laughing, “or it won’t be a fall down the stairs that breaks your neck.”

I spin around and give her a kiss on the cheek and say, “You love me too much to do that.”

“Most of the time,” she replies. “Now let’s go or we’ll be late.”

It’s a short walk and we arrive at the church about five minutes later. Pastor John greets my mom as if she’s some long lost relative or something. I, on the other hand, get an icy glare. ‘How can his eyes be blue when he’s so full of it?’ I wonder. After our heart-warming welcome–well, Mom’s heart-warming welcome–we enter the church and make small talk with some of the people who are mulling about near the door. Actually, my mom makes small talk. I stand next to her, smiling as if I’m happy to be there. I’m such a good son it’s almost embarrassing.

Suddenly the organist starts pounding out the intro to the first hymn and everyone hurries to get seated, grab their hymnals and start singing. Pastor John’s voice comes shrieking out over the speakers. It makes me think of a cat with its tail caught in the door…a big, angry cat. I really wonder if he can hear himself.

As soon as the first hymn is over, he moves straight to the pulpit and gets ready to start his sermon. I figure we’re really in for it this time. There are no announcements, no introductions, no welcome to visitors, nothing; just straight into his sermon. As I sit there watching him, I can almost see the fire in his eyes. He slowly raises his Bible up in his right hand and stares at the ceiling. Oh yeah, there’s no doubt: this is going to be a good one. Everyone is deathly silent…it’s like waiting for a guillotine to fall.

Suddenly he slams his left hand down on the pulpit and shouts, “Damnation!” Everyone jumps a foot in the air. I think one or two of them are going to have to change their underwear when they get home. He slowly looks down and lets his beady little eyes scan the congregation. Everyone looks scared half to death…I wonder what they’ve been up to this week.

Then his eyes focus on me. I just stare right back at him. I think he’s counting on intimidating me, but his ability to do that has long since passed.

His voice becomes very quiet as he says, “I witnessed something this week.”

Since all his attention is focused on me, I wonder, ‘What the hell did I do now?’

Still looking right at me, his voice rising with each word, he says, “I witnessed something this week that will bring the WRATH of God down upon us.” He puts extra emphasis on the word wrath and he slams his hand down on the pulpit again. This time, only half the congregation jumps.

“We have a sodomite among us,” he yells as he points at me.

There is an audible gasp throughout the congregation as everyone looks at me. Intimidating or not, if there was ever going to be a time when I wished I could sink through the floor, this is it. But I’m not going to show fear, and I continue to stare right back at him. I might very well come unglued and fall apart later, but I sure as hell won’t give him that satisfaction now.

He must have seen Billy and me holding hands in the park, and now he’s going to out me to everyone here, including my mother. I feel devastated.

Then I feel my mother’s hand grip mine and give it a squeeze. She stands up and pulls me up with her. She looks Pastor John in the eye, then turns and, still pulling me along, walks down the aisle and out of the church. He’s yelling something at us, but neither one of us is listening.

We walk home hand in hand in silence, but as soon as we’re safely in the house, I fall apart, burst into tears and begin sobbing. I’m in my mother’s arms in an instant.

She holds me and comforts me with gentle whispers of, “It’s okay. Let it all out. I love you,” as she holds me tight and rubs my back.

Once I settle down, she leads me into the living room, sits with me on the sofa and pulls me into a hug. I wrap my arms around her and we just sit like that for several minutes.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” I finally say.

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” she responds.

“Yeah…I do,” I tell her. “Mom, I’m gay.”

“I know,” she says quietly.

I pull back and look at her. “You know?” I ask, totally astonished.

“I’ve known for a while now,” she replies, smiling. “I was just waiting for you to tell me.”

“How?” I ask.

“I’m your mother,” she says…riiiight, like that explains everything.

“But how?” I ask again.

“I’ve watched you grow up. Over the last few years you have never had a girlfriend. You never talk about girls. You’ve never been on a date,” she replies. “As time went on, I began to wonder, so I started to watch you more carefully. You stopped bringing friends home as often. Then last month, you brought Billy home with you. It was the first time you brought a friend home in about three months. I watched the two of you interact and I saw how you looked at each other. Every time you looked at him, your eyes would light up. They lit up when you looked at him the way your father’s eyes used to light up when he looked at me. That’s when I really knew. I knew you were in love with another boy; and it didn’t matter. You’re my son and I love you. If you’re in love with another boy instead of a girl, it doesn’t change who you are. I love you and I want you to be happy. I want you to feel as proud of who you are as I am. And who you fall in love with has little to do with who you are.”

I burst into tears again as I pull her back into a hug. I’m speechless. My mother has just told me she has known I’m gay for while now. She knows I’m in love with another boy and she still loves me.

After a few minutes, Mom pulls back, looks at me, pulls my head down and gives me a light kiss on the forehead. “I don’t know about you,” she says, smiling, “but I’m starving. Let’s make some lunch.”

We get up and go into the kitchen. Mom digs around in the fridge and finds some leftovers. She hands me a bunch of vegetables and asks me to make a salad while she warms up the meatloaf and whatever else she’s found. For the next fifteen minutes we busy ourselves getting lunch ready. Every so often, we look at each other and smile. Once everything is ready, we sit down at the table to eat.

I can’t stop smiling. I can still hardly believe it. I’m gay, Mom knows, and everything’s cool. She’s even cool with the fact that I have a boyfriend.

As we’re eating, Mom looks at me with a sorrowful look on her face. “I’m so sorry, Zack,” she says. “I never should have made you go to that church with me. As soon as I realized what a bigoted man Pastor John was, I should have taken you somewhere else.”

“That’s okay Mom,” I say. “I never believed anything he said anyway. Nothing he said came from God. It was all based on his own personal beliefs. It had nothing to do with anything I’ve read in the Bible.”

“Just the same,” she says, “I should have known better than to make you listen to his bitter rhetoric.”

“One good thing came of it,” I say with a smile. “Thanks to him, I’m out now and all my concerns about telling you were unfounded. That’s good, don’t you think?”

“Yes, that’s good,” she replies, smiling, “but I still feel guilty. No child should have to go through what you must have gone through, listening to his bigotry week after week. I don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, I knew, or I had a good idea, you were gay. Why did I keep taking you there?”

“Mom, don’t start blaming yourself for something that wasn’t really an issue for me till today,” I say reassuringly. “I’ve actually thought about that and I think it was like a habit. You know; you get used to doing something over and over for a long time and you just keep doing it. I mean, Pastor Robert was great. It’s only been since Pastor John came, and I didn’t believe anything he said anyway.”

“I know dear,” Mom responds, “but the point is, I took you to a church where everything you knew you were was being condemned. What if you had believed him? My God, I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Okay, before you go punishing yourself any more,” I say sternly, “first, you and I have always been close enough that you know I would have come to you if I had really felt threatened by what he said. Right?”

“I always thought so,” she replies.

“Second, you’ve seen me every day since he got here. Have I ever seemed depressed or worried? Have I been anything other than my usual bright, cheerful, delightful, totally wonderful self?” I ask.

“No, I guess not,” she replies with a chuckle.

“Good. Now that’s settled, you can stop the guilt trip,” I say, then laughing, I add, “But I think we’re going to have to find a new church.”

“You mean you still want to go to church after all that?” she asks.

“Why not?” I ask. “Just because a few preachers, like Pastor John, try to twist the Bible around to fit their own view of life doesn’t mean we should lose faith and stop going to church. If anything, he made my faith stronger. He forced me to read and study my Bible and search for the truth myself.”

“You know, you never cease to amaze me,” Mom says, smiling.

“I know,” I respond, grinning. “What can I say?”

Mom just laughs and sticks her tongue out at me.

“Next Sunday let’s go to Billy’s church,” I say. “His pastor isn’t anything like Pastor John. He believes God is a God of love and that sexual orientation has nothing to do with being a Christian. You want to do that? Then if you like it, we can start going there regularly.”

“I like that idea,” Mom says. “Next Sunday, let’s go there.”

Just then the doorbell rings. Mom jumps up to answer it.

“Oh, hi Billy,” I hear her say. “Zack’s in the kitchen. Go on in.”

Billy appears in the doorway with my Mom right behind him. I look at her and smile.

“Hey babe,” I say to him as I give him a quick kiss on the lips.

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him blush and he turns absolutely crimson. He looks at my mom, then back to me. “Hi,” he kind of squeaks.

“It’s been an interesting morning,” I tell him as I take his hand and lead him to my room.

“It must have been,” he responds. “That greeting was definitely interesting.”

“Oh yeah, it’s been quite the morning. I’ll tell you all about it, but there’s something I have to get out of the way first,” I say as I take him in my arms and give him a long passionate kiss.

“Whoa,” he responds after we break the kiss. “I hope you have more mornings like this.”

I then tell Billy about everything that’s gone on this morning; from the icy look I got from Pastor John, to him outing me to the whole church, to Mom being okay with me being gay, to her accepting the fact that he’s my boyfriend and we’re in love; everything. Billy just sits there with his mouth open through the whole thing.

“Oh my God!” he exclaims when I finish. “You really have had an interesting morning.”

“Not only that, but Mom and I are going to be coming to your church next Sunday,” I tell him, just before I give him another long kiss.

As we break the kiss, it occurs to me how cool it is to know that we don’t need to hide any more…or be scared that Mom might catch us in a compromising position. I wonder why I didn’t tell her ages ago. I think of the years I lived with the fear that she would find out and be disappointed in me. As close as my Mom and I have been, I still feared her finding out. How could I have doubted her love?

But then I think…we live in a society in which we are conditioned to live in fear of losing family and friends simply because we’re gay. We’re led to believe that their love is, in fact, conditional. And, far too often, it is. Conditional on our being ‘normal’. It’s sad when you think about it.

Anyway, Billy and I spend the afternoon just hanging out. We play few video games, watch the movie Shelter, and manage to find the time for some cuddling and kissing. After a couple of hours, we get bored with just sitting around in my room, grab my basketball and head out to the driveway to play a little one-on-one. Of course I lose every game. But, hey, you can’t have it all. Brains, brawn, and beauty: two out of three’s not bad.

At about five thirty, Mom calls us to come to dinner. Billy phones his folks to let them know and to see when he needs to be home. School tomorrow, you know.

Next Sunday, Mom and I drive over to Billy’s church. We find a place to park and as we approach the front doors, Billy and his parents are waiting for us. Billy greets me with a quick kiss and then introduces his parents to my Mom. They seem to hit it off right away and start chatting. Billy then turns and introduces me to Pastor Greg, who has been standing there the whole time.

What a contrast to last Sunday. If two guys had kissed on the front steps of our old church, Pastor John would have had a fit and that big vein on his forehead would have probably exploded.

Instead, Pastor Greg smiles and shakes my hand. “Welcome to our humble little corner of God’s universe,” he says. Then, with a big grin, he glances at Billy and says, “I wondered who put the permanent smile on Billy’s face.”

Of course, all I can do is grin and blush.

“I hope you enjoy your time with us this morning and we get to see you every Sunday,” he adds.

“Thanks, I already like it here, so I’m pretty sure you will,” I reply.

“Excellent,” he says.

Just then, the organist begins to quietly play and everyone begins to slowly move into the church. Billy takes my hand and we follow his parents and my Mom until we get to his family’s usual spot near the front. Billy and I sit between my Mom and his parents. As soon as we sit down, he looks at me, smiles and gives my hand a squeeze. I look at him and smile back.

It’s then I think to myself: I’m in church, I’m holding hands with my boyfriend, and God still loves me. I can feel it. I can’t help but break into a grin as a feeling of exhilaration flushes through my body.

I glance around and I see an elderly lady glance at our interlocked fingers, look up and give me a smile. She sees my grin and her smile quickly turns into a grin as well. She gives me a wink before she turns towards the front of the church as Pastor Greg steps up to the pulpit.

The church service is totally different. There are hymns of course, but there’s no shouting, no pounding on the pulpit. No one in the congregation keeps jumping up screaming “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!” and scaring the crap out of everyone around them. It’s actually quiet, peaceful, and relaxing.

When the sermon starts, Pastor Greg looks at Billy and me and smiles. The first words of his sermon are, “God made me this way.”