Saturday, July 26, 2014

Act Two, Scene Two - "Baptism"

This post is part of my on-going story that I have been telling through this blog.  If you are just coming here for the first time or if you need to catch up, you can catch the earlier parts of the story in Setting the Stage or Act One.  See the navigation panel to the right labeled My Story.  I hope that my sharing of my story is helpful, encouraging, informative, or at least entertaining for you.  Please feel free to comment or contact me at the e-mail address below.  Thanks!

Late that same summer, they announced at church that they would be doing a baptism.  I had never been baptized, but I had, of course, read the stories of Jesus Baptism.  The church didn’t teach that baptism was essential for salvation, but they did teach that it was an important outward expression and sign of the change that had already happened inwardly.  The church didn’t have a baptismal in it.  Their baptism were held at the pastor’s house.  They baptized by full immersion using the pastor’s above-ground pool in the backyard.  I loved the symbolism of dying, being fully submerged representing the death of the “old” me and the resurrection, reemergence from the water as the “new” me.  

It felt very freeing.  I was glad to finally be able to cast off the old me, the me that I was embarrassed about, ashamed of.  The old me, the me that was attracted to guys was still in there though.  I can remember bouts of self-condemnation for days because I allowed myself to have a lustful thought about one of my new guy friends while we were swimming or while I was watching them play basketball. I occasionally sought out gratification in other ways as well.  

It was shortly after my baptism that I sought out pornography as a means of satisfying those inner needs.  In those days, the internet was still a young and curious phenomenon.  There was porn out there, but it wasn’t good.  I was aware of a news store downtown that sold magazines.  I had been in there many times because I was an avid comic book reader growing up.  I was well aware of the mysterious set of shelves hidden behind the others.  I had seen others back there before while I was looking for the latest Superman, Batman, or G.I. Joe comic.  It was comforting for me to have seen that though.  I knew that, even though I was aware someone was back there, I hadn’t been able to see their faces.  I would think about going there.  Then, I would feel guilty, and beat  myself up for days.  

When I finally did work up the courage to go, it felt like some kind of spy operation.  My mother worked downtown as did, obviously, a number of her co-workers who knew me by sight.  There were also all of these new church people that I had just met.  What if one of them saw me?  I was terrified.  I parked on the street near the courthouse.  The news shop was just across the street and around the corner.  When I first went in, I went to the comic books like I always did.  There were a few other people in there.  Thankfully, no one that I knew.  Small towns are very difficult to be invisible in.  When the other patrons left the store, I took the few comic books that I had selected and went behind the wall to the hidden shelves.  

I didn’t know much about porn.  I was also terrified to buy actual gay porn.  I selected Penthouse and a Playboy.  I has seen a few straight porn mags growing up and they had sometimes had men in them.  I just had to hope for the best. I took my purchases to the counter with the comics on top.  The clerk asked to see my ID.  Questions of “What if she knows my parents?” and “What if she memorizes my name?” flashed through my head as if she cared that much about what I was buying.  Ironically, one thing that gave me comfort was that, having worked at the gas station for as long as I had, I had sold more than a few condoms.  I always smiled at how awkward people were when they brought them to the counter.  I knew it wasn’t a big thing to me to sell condoms.  I kind of hoped this clerk felt the same way, but, of course, there was also that side of me that saw the fury of God’s own judgement in her eyes.

Walking out of the store, I rushed to the car.  I was fearful that someone would see me and just innocently say, “Hi, Josh.  Gee.  What did you buy?”  That was one of the reasons for the comic books.  I needed something to pull out of the brown paper bag that was less incriminating.  I made it safely to the car and drove home.  

As I drove, the guilt began to creep in.  I pushed it aside, but it came back when I got home and began to look through the magazines.   I felt as though the new me who had risen from the water in the pastor’s backyard was tarnished.  I felt ashamed.  I felt like God hated me.  I grabbed the magazines and some matches.  I ran out into a field behind my parents’ house and burned them.  I couldn’t believe that I could take this new life and throw it away.  I felt as though my salvation hung in the balance every time I acted for or against what I perceived to be God’s will.  It was a very difficult and challenging time for me.  It was a continuous cycle, a washing of forgiveness followed by a washing of sin.


© Joshua Culbertson 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment