When I heard the words that past April day, I sat very still and processed them, my heart beating faster with the absorption of each syllable . . . my brain freezing time, searching through each cell for a way out of reality . . . I analyzed them. Where was the emphasis in the phrasing? Was it on "exactly?" Was it on "you?" Or was it really on "will?"
Until the moment the undercover police officer opened the passenger side door of my car and spoke those words, looking into my eyes while tilting his head toward the officer on the other side of my car to make it clear where the shot would come from, I thought I might escape. My mind was racing, working up the words to talk myself free, searching for a convincing explanation, a plausible way to defuse the accusations I knew were coming. But as my head turned in his direction and I saw the seriousness with which the officer looked straight into my eyes, his convincing tone struck down all hope. I’d better do exactly what “they” told me to do. I had no doubt in his warning.
My life stopped flashing before my eyes and settled in slow motion to just this one moment.
The office had pulled his car up in front of mine only seconds before, blocking me into my parking space. The man, in the pickup parked beside me, with whom I had been talking, had said to me the words that signaled his partners, apparently listening in, to race in.
Me? Under arrest? What an understatement for someone having taken the earth and shaken it.
In an instant, my efforts to hide who I have been ended. It was just a random right-turn into a near-empty park. But how random really? That question would soon be in the minds of the many who would hear about about my fall. To some, my struggle with same-sex attraction would be a complete surprise; my arrest in a public park known as a cruising place for homosexuals, an “outing.” To those who already knew about and had skeptically observed my struggle against the temptations of same-sex attraction, this fall would reinforce the belief that homosexuality had a permanent grip on my life and that my professed battle against it was a cover-up.
It would become a cause celebre for the "I told you so" crowd.
The choices were narrowing further now. Even the opportunity to die was passing me by as I found myself doing what they said. The tension was relaxing; the guns were kept out of sight.
A married father of five . . . . a Christian . . . I was being accused of coming to the park not to have lunch alone, but in hopes of having sex with the man in the pickup, or someone. I had been in the park just over five minutes. I’d had no intention of engaging in a conversation, much less engaging in lewd conduct.
I had always had good intentions, but it was not what I intended that really mattered; it was what I did. After I had been confronted about my sexual sin, years before this fateful day in the park, I intended to stop giving in to the overpowering temptation. Since it’s never going to happen again, I told myself, why admit it? In that earlier event, faced with the possibility that my life might crumble, my very-strong survival instinct kicked in fast. My career was trending towards success; I was married and had five children to finish raising. Admitting to same-sex attraction . . . admitting to sending e-mails and making phone calls . . . admitting to having actually met and sexually interacted with men, despite the fact I was a married father of five -- seemed like a mountain too high to climb . . . unless I intended to jump off when I reached the top. So, I lied. I believed the lie would buy me time to conquer my problem once-and-for-all, repair all the damage, reconstruct the relationships and carry on with life. I had lied out of fear, but my intentions were good.
Where was my desk? My Blackberry? My piles of files and projects? My calendar? My keys? My life had been reduced to gray walls and trapped men, all proclaiming innocence; all “wronged.”
Had we finally come to the end . . . or had we finally come to the beginning?
(Signs of a Struggle returns next week. In two weeks: Chapter Two of The Weight of Who I Am.)