Attending the Affirmation Conference will probably always be one of the top ten greatest experiences of my life. It has taken me three weeks to fully assess how much that experience is affecting me. I arrived there bitter, filled with doubt, and lacking an sense of hope. I left feeling loved, appreciate, uplifted, and hopeful. I wish I could say that the conference was the reason but I think it was merely the venue I needed to be in so that I would be ready to recognize things in my past that had prepared me for where I am at in life currently.
Don't get me wrong I learned a great deal through all of the workshops and speakers, but my personal inspirations were much more important for my personal journey.
There was one particular lesson that hit me so strongly on Sunday afternoon after all of the events were over. I had gone up to a lake with my best friend and his wife (two wonderful people who are extremely supportive and understanding). I had already talked with them about my mission and how my relationship with my mission president had caused major doubts about the church and lead me to feel that I should never go to church again when I got home from my mission. This is a long story but the short version goes as follows:
I felt inspired to do one thing my mission president another. I thought I was wrong and did as he asked because he was my leader, later I found out he had been told he was wrong by his leaders and still did it his way. He released me as a zone leader banished me to the outer realms of our mission and bad mouthed me to my new zone leader at the time (who happened to be a close friend and told me everything). I doubted my ability to receive revelation from that time on and stopped trying. I found out shortly after this that my dad had lost his job while I was on my mission about 6 months after I left. I was devastated and no longer wanted anything to do with the church. I quelched those thoughts and stayed active, got married, and never really prayed after my mission in order to avoid being wrong again. (This is extremely watered down but the main point is I began to doubt my ability to receive personal revelation).
This experience combined with my obedient personality growing up lead me to ignore the promptings I received about being gay. I couldn't accept myself because everyone kept telling me it was wrong even though I kept feeling that maybe I was meant to be gay but I would never ask God because I had been so horribly wrong on my mission.
One night after I came out to my wife I finally asked God for his input on who I am. The overwhelming response was that I was fine as I was. I was not an accident or a mistake, I was made this was for a reason.
Fast forward 10 years and here I am walking by a lake talking with my friends about all of this and it hit me like a lightning bolt. My mission was meant to help prepare me to accept what the Lord would tell me about who I am. I nearly began to weep. I have always felt like a failure because of what happened between me and my mission president but in that moment I saw clearly. I had to learn that I could ask and receive and have it not be what others might be telling me. I finally felt at peace about my mission and thanked God that I finally understood why I had to go through what I did.
Everything I had experienced up to that day was to prepare me to be willing to stand tall and declare what I knew to be true for me. I am Drew and I am GAY!!! And God says its Okay!!
As I was sitting on the couch thinking about how I would distill my thoughts for this blog post I realized that I need to be looking at each day from this exact angle. What am I meant to learn? I do not consider myself to be a TBM (True Blue Mormon) but I do consider myself to be in tune with God. I want others to know my experience in the hope it can help them stand up and ask the difficult questions for themselves and the pose them to others. I have decided that the next time someone attempts to belittle or marginalize the "gays" I am going to ask them if they have asked God if the gays are wrong? I am going to ask them if they have tried to understand what it is to be gay and what they are meant to learn from the "gays"? The cornerstone of knowledge is seeking...meaning if you are looking for an answer you can't get one. Hopefully this will open their eyes. I know mine have been opened and I know I will no longer just suffer through life I will try to understand what I am meant to learn from my experiences and from those around me.