I remember what it was like, being terrifyingly, nightmarishly depressed. I remember one morning in college in particular. I was 19, and had just fallen for someone, call him M., harder than I’ve ever fallen for anyone before or since. I remember waking up, and feeling the freedom of that split second before you remember everything, before the heaviness settles down. I remember thinking: This can’t go on. And then feeling it go on.

It sounds melodramatic now. Certainly, it was. A little unrequited love, and here I’m walking around like the firing squad is arriving at dawn. A well-meaning friend, playing the comforter, told me I needed to just “get over this pseudo-obsession with M.” and move on.1

Score 10 for common sense and 0 for compassion. I couldn’t get over it. I knew M. didn’t have SSA, and I knew he would never be my boyfriend. But we could be friends! Not just any friends: epic friends, Biblical friends, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, David and Jonathan. You who’ve been there, you know what I mean. It was the dream of the Best Friend, my soul’s twin, who would understand everything, fill every hole in my heart.

It’s not that he wasn’t interested in me; it’s that he wasn’t obsessed with me. There was no reason we should have been friends, we were nothing alike, but I was ready to remake my whole personality, like what he liked and laugh at what he laughed at. Seeing him talking and laughing with other guys hurt me almost physically. Not knowing where he was for a night put me in a panic, because he might be secretly be becoming Best Friends with somebody else.

That was hell. Melodramatic or not, it’s the truth. I’ve never hurt worse, or for longer.

I wish I could tell you exactly how I got out. Every time I pray Psalm 86 in Compline, I think of that time:

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart
and glorify your name for ever;
for your love to me has been great:
you have saved me from the depths of the grave.

At the time it felt like I was carrying the heaviest of it. I was the one who had to decide to let go of my David-and-Jonathan ideal, to acknowledge that no man (or woman!) could ever fit that God-shaped hole.2 I was the one who had to decide not to see him every chance I got; not to avoid him, but not to seek him out either. I had to let the friendship die. It never was one anyway.

But there was Father T alongside me, on the phone or in person, helping me not to give up, and there was Jesus in the chapel, with words of healing if I could stop my clamoring long enough to hear them.

So the hurt died down, day by day, until it was gone, and peace came. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come quick, but it came. The year after that I met Sal. The only reason I knew how to be friends with him, without trying to make him my everything, without destroying myself, was what I had learned from M.

Will you believe me if I say I’m grateful for every second of it? The Lord heals, and sometimes only fire will do the trick.

1 Holy crap, folks, if that was pseudo-obsession I hope I never meet the real thing.
2 q.v. “Mofo“, from when U2 still made music that anybody cared about. Still a freaking great song, even if (Thank God) it isn’t me anymore.

14 thoughts on “Out of Egypt

  1. albert

    Thank you steve,I have a similar story,I had to be indofferent to him before we became platonic friends.for many years I called him my best friend without understanding why.

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    I completely understand what you mean about being grateful. My heart was absolutely ripped to shreds when the man I loved (and who, incidentally, loved me) joined the seminary. It hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt before, but it made me who I am now, and let me learn how to love with caution and not rely too heavily on another person. For that, and for many more things I learned from that experience, I’m grateful.

    Reply
  3. SD

    I’m not sure if I know what you mean. I was like that for a while with the person who is now my best friend. I would freak out when I found out he was somewhere without me, be jealous, all that stuff. But we’re best friends now… and I never think I actually was in love with him, or even attracted to him sexually… I don’t know. I’m not sure if I’ve ever really fallen for a guy, or just been sexually attracted to them?

    Reply
  4. Dante

    SO been there and oh SO done that…it is hell to go through and the deseration so deep that one even “reinvents” himself to please another who, perhaps and most often, couldn’t even care less. Its like that OTHER is a god and we remake oursleves into the image and likeness of that god.

    But I think that this phenomenon, which is quite common among us, is typical of the early stages of dsicovering who and what we are. We mature, move on and become more used to being the men we are.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      @Dante — I agree. And, as I think you’re implying, I don’t think it’s something confined to people with SSA.

      @SD — I didn’t really mean anything by “falling for him” besides what I described — the infatuation, the jealousy, etc.

      Reply
  5. Jerome

    Man! I totally know how you feel. I think if anything it teaches resiliency. Learning to be resilient and strong. It’s hard to have relationships and not want something more. But thats love for you! Uncontainable. I’ll be praying for you, brother. We all need to stick together. I’ve been so inspired by your blog that I started my own own. Wishing you well Steve. My heart and prayers are with you.

    Reply
  6. Justin

    Yeah this happened to me with my homophobic housemate. Talk about awkward. I called it infatuation, although I wasn’t sure it wasn’t “falling in love”. But it couldn’t happen with a better person — one of the holiest people I’ve ever met. I feel really bad what I put him through but it wasn’t like I was malicious. I’ve concluded that while it worked in college, living with a man just isn’t a risk I want to take anymore. (I started to fall for another housemate but he moved out for other reasons before it could really gel. I even started to fall for a close friend after only spending frequent time with him for a period.) So I know how you feel, brother. You are not alone.

    Reply
  7. Pamela

    It’s always amazing to me how God brings good out of evil if we let Him! My only real relationship with a guy ended in raging flames of disaster after three years and the next closest thing came to a screeching halt when he found out he had cancer. Relationships and me just don’t seem to get along! But its stories like yours that remind me all over again that God allows us to go through some awful stuff to make us more ready for the things to come so I’m just gonna be patient and wait for the good stuff!

    I just wanted to add how inspiring you are! You may not know it, but the Holy Spirit is working in you and through you in powerful ways, and its a great blessing to all of us that you are sharing your journey with us!

    Reply
  8. Mary

    I agree with Aggie…you are very brave. I was a ridiculous idiot at 19, and never could have processed something so well.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for writing this. Even though my situation is not the same as yours, I have learned so much from reading your posts. I’m currently in a similar situation right now as you were with M., but I’m slowly getting better. It’s still extremely hard sometimes. This post made a lot of sense to me and I thank you sincerely for writing it.

    Reply
  10. la la la

    “The year after that I met Sal. The only reason I knew how to be friends with him, without trying to make him my everything, without destroying myself, was what I had learned from M.

    Will you believe me if I say I’m grateful for every second of it? The Lord heals, and sometimes only fire will do the trick.”

    Exactly. God is our Teacher; the Potter, the shaper of our souls. He uses real life experience, for He is incarnational, to do this for us. I thank God for similar times, and for crucibles and crucifixions, because only those things can really teach us and change us.

    Hmmmm – I want to be taught and molded so much more.

    Reply

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