Important notice from assemblyHUB: This article covers the subject matters of abuse and same-sex attraction, which may be very difficult or inappropriate for some readers.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My philandering businessman father used a piece of light horse harness to keep his six children in line. Everyone clustered at the “fear” end of the emotional continuum.
Largely ignored by my father and neglected by my over-worked mother, I found little comfort with my siblings. During childhood, my sisters formed a united front against their little brother. My much older brother, Ken, had escaped the pressure of family life by joining the Canadian army. My somewhat older brother, Ronnie, was intellectually challenged.
Though my father showed no interest in spiritual things, my mother insisted that we children accompany her to a little Baptist church near our home. There she played the piano and we children got our introduction to the gospel and Christian living. As a little boy of about 7, I “accepted Jesus into my heart,” as we used to say, and I began a serious commitment to attending Sunday School, the gospel meetings, and even prayer meetings.
Scarcity of money for the family forced me to work early on, first delivering papers and, later, at the grocery store down the street. Between work and school, I managed to have a relatively carefree childhood, playing with the other boys in the neighbourhood, getting into trouble, and enjoying some high-risk, but highly entertaining activities. These included playing “Cops and Robbers” with BB guns (no shooting above the waist), and hopping freight trains for a ride across a high trestle as they chugged to the nearby creosote factory.
Shortly after my twelfth birthday, Roger, a friend of my older siblings, got caught in a severe thunderstorm. As often happened in such circumstances, I would wake up to find Roger sleeping beside me. As the youngest child, I was expected to extend hospitality to the family’s friends. On this particular occasion, Roger molested me. Afterward I lay awake trying to make sense of what had just happened.
Perhaps, I thought, this was what boys did with each other. Having begun to attend young people’s meetings, I’d already been taught that touching a girl like Roger had touched me was wrong. A sin! But the pastor never said anything about boys doing this. I was confused.
In the morning, Roger and I acted as if nothing had happened but something had awakened in me that was not about to sleep again. A couple of weeks later, I went to Roger’s house, looking for some kind of clarification. In response, Roger suggested we go “play” in the garage and we excused ourselves. Things would never be the same for me again.
After a few months of interactions with Roger, I found myself rebuffed. I wasn’t sure why. We hadn’t developed any emotional attachment, but I really enjoyed our times together. Over the next year, I tried to initiate things with other boys, but after these attempts, my friends firmly indicated that they didn’t want anything to do with my interests. This lack of opportunity, along with opposite-sex friendships, increasing responsibility in my job at the grocery store, and growing involvement in the church closed the door on my adolescent homosexual phase.
In my late teens, I got involved in a home Bible Study which eventually led to a connection with the local Gospel Hall. It also led to a connection with a girl named Audrey. She was wholesomely attractive, not like my other girlfriends who seemed intent on displaying their budding sexuality as a point of pride. Audrey was different. She was studious, committed, and serious about her relationship with God and his Word. I liked all of this.
Because of my insecurity about sex with a girl, I didn’t press this aspect of our relationship. She seemed to appreciate this about me and we developed a deep and warm friendship. I spent a lot of time with her and her family and as Audrey neared her graduation from nursing school talk about marriage began to float in the air. It seemed like the right thing to do, and I liked the thought of always being close to my best friend.
So the great day came and went and Audrey and I entered into married life together. As far as I was concerned, sex was part of our relationship, but not the driving force. At first, Audrey didn’t seem to understand my apparent disinterest, but eventually we settled into something that was, at least not frustrating, if not entirely satisfying.
Life moved along and before too long, Audrey became pregnant. This made us, as the only young couple, the centre of attention in our church circle and an older couple liked to invite us over. They had a son who was a couple of years younger than me and on one occasion, this young man began teasing me about being “old.” This was more than I could take sitting down, so I challenged him to a wrestling match.
In short order we were rolling around on the recreation room floor. As we did so, I suddenly realized that I was enjoying the encounter more than I had expected. I quickly pinned my lighter opponent down, then released him with the admonition to “let this teach you to respect your elders.” No one but me was aware of anything remotely sexual in the encounter, but I was unsettled.