Valentines Week, 1984. When roses were being handed out, I was calling it quits with a gay partner.
The 1970 Continental Mark III was a personal luxury car produced by Lincoln and sold in North America in the 1969 through 1971 model years.
This car came into my life through a new man that I met at the “Stage Door Lounge”, a local gay bar. Jim, one of my partners, bought this car because he had always wanted one and he found a perfect model at a reasonable price. It was beautiful, luxurious, and he was so excited to find it. I have to say, I loved it too. When I rode in it I felt rich, sassy, and first class.
The Cars Keep Coming
As I write all of these stories about cars that remind me of my life, this car symbolizes for me the confusion, immorality, and brokenness I experienced. I was trying to find a gay partner that wouldn’t cheat on me and leave me. But was blind as to how I was the one who cheated, lied, and left people hurting in the dust.
After such devastation of Steve leaving me and becoming involved with my friend, Don, I was determined I would find someone who would love me. I went to the local gay bars and discos on the weekends hoping that one of those nights I would find the right person.
Saturday nights were obviously the main gathering time but since I was desperate, I started my weekend going out sometimes as early as Thursday nights. There were many ways a guy could manage the bar depending on his circumstances. If I didn’t want the pressure of approaching men, I would sit with friends on the side and make it clear I was with a group. If, on the other hand, I was looking for someone then I would stand alone and show that I was open to someone approaching me.
On one night in particular I remember driving to the bar. It was about 10:30 at night and I saw a handsome young man walking down the street. I stopped to ask him if he need a ride. As we talked I found out that he was gay and I asked him if he knew about the local gay bars. He said no and I asked if he’d like me to take him there. So, he agreed and I escorted this young man to the gay bars for the very first time. I always felt guilty that I introduced him to the gay bars but that was the only way I knew of to connect to the gay community. When I took him home, as was often the case, we had a one night stand. I saw him many other times at the bar. Many times I wondered what it would have been like for me if I had found a place to connect that wasn’t through the bar scene.
Maybe This Will Work Out Better
One night I saw a guy standing alone. He had jeans, a plaid shirt, and suspenders on with boots. He looked quite alluring. I walked up to him and he seemed aloof to talk with but he also seemed kind. He wasn’t drinking much so that was a good sign. I didn’t like to be around people that were drunk.
We introduced ourselves and he said his name was Jim. Jim and I really hit it off and at the end of the evening he asked me to follow him home to his apartment. I was more than eager to spend more time with him. I thought maybe this would be the man I was looking for.
We went to his place and it was in a classic, really cool, old building. In his apartment I found his things to be organized like an antique store display window. It was done with great attention to detail. He had a lot of things and talked about how he really didn’t care much about them but valued relationships more.
Jim and I talked into the middle of the night. Well, I am not so sure Jim talked that much because he seemed to be more of a listener. I was very open about what had just happened in my life and Jim seemed to be a comforter for my wounds.
So, Jim and I began to hang out a lot and he always wanted to see me more. One Sunday Jim said he wanted to go with me to get my kids and hang out with us. This was very new! Jim really liked my kids and they liked him. He was funny and enjoyed teasing them a lot. By this time, they were three and four years old so they were easily entertained.
We exchanged staying at each others houses and it seemed we were moving into a deeper relationship. However , Jim made it clear that he wasn’t eager to share a home. There seemed to be a resistance to giving up his apartment and his personal way of living. I couldn’t say I was very interested in giving up my place either. I had a great apartment and my home life had calmed down since Steve moved out and my personal time at home became very important to me.
Jim had a large, boisterous Italian family. He talked a lot about his mom and dad, who had passed away. His aunt “Babe” was now like a mom to him. He loved her so much and talked of how he loved to go hang out at her house. She was very dramatic and he loved that about her. We used to laugh a lot about how Aunt Babe responded to life. She reminded me of an old screen actress who always had some drama going on.
His Sister is a Jesus Freak!
Jim also had two sisters and two brothers that he loved dearly. He was particularly close to one sister. Her name was Jen. Jim wanted me to go with him to meet Jen and her family. Before we went, he wanted to brief me on some things. He said that Jen and her husband were Jesus Freaks. He said they talked about Jesus all of the time and he wanted to warn me before we got there.
Jen was delightful! She clearly loved her brother, Jim. She talked of his homosexuality in kind of a distracted way. She treated Jim’s friends with respect but called them Jim’s “funny friends.” We all laughed about the way she put things and it was clear she had loved the other men Jim had introduced her to as much as she showed me she loved me. As a matter of fact, Jen and I are still connected today.
My relationship with Jim became kind of complicated. Jim would at times say he didn’t want to hang out on a particular weekend and said he was tired. He and I worked out a special telephone signal that would tell each other we were going to bed rather than to talk. So Jim would ring the phone at 11:00 PM and I would know he was going to sleep. I felt close to him with our special code system.
On one Friday night I decided to go out to the bar and arrived around 9:30 PM. Jim had said he was tired and was staying home so I took advantage of the free evening to be with other friends. I walked in to the bar and Jim was standing in the “looking” pose? I felt betrayed and distrustful for obvious reasons. This began a series of ups and downs for Jim and me. I loved Jim a lot and overlooked the open, unspoken agreement. Actually, I took advantage of the opportunities to be with other men. We hung out often and spent time with family and of course, Jim loved my kids so we did fun things with them too.
There was a guy named Jerry that kept calling me to get together. One day he came to my house and it was clear that he wanted to have sex. I didn’t see him in that way and really didn’t want to do anything sexual with him. But he kept trying and eventually I gave into his advances. It was at this time that I realized I was compromising. I felt disrespected, used, and certainly unfulfilled. There were sexual opportunities with men that at the time I wished would have moved into more of a relationship, then there were those I wanted to forget completely. My friend, Don, always told me that it wasn’t a good idea to have sex with your “friends” because it would ruin the relationship. That happened to me too.
A Revival Service? What’s That?
Jim’s sister, Jen, called me to invite me to one of their church services. She described it as a “revival” service which sounded quite interesting to me. I hadn’t been to a church other than a wedding or funeral since I was married to Kristy. So, on a Wednesday night, I met Jen and her husband at a small church in Council Bluffs Iowa, without Jim. He wasn’t interested in going.
I don’t remember much about the speaker, or the event but something happened to me that evening that was quite amazing. I heard this voice, not out loud, but it was clear. “John, you don’t have to live this way any longer.” I clearly understood what that meant. I had gone through such turmoil and disappointment that it seemed that God Himself was telling me that I could make a dramatic change in my life that would free me from all of the unhealthy relationships and sexual promiscuity that I had been involved in.
I had not been sexually faithful to any of the men I had been with. I had many one night stands along the way. Steve’s rejection wounded me greatly, Jim having other relationships was hurtful. My own promiscuity was messing with my mind as well. This message from God changed something deep in my heart. It seemed He had heard my cries for help and acknowledged my inner pain.
After those words, came an instruction. “Call Laurie, and ask her out to dinner.” Laurie was a girl that I knew from the community theater that I was involved with. She was delightful, fun, and spending time with her was something I knew I would enjoy.
So, I went home from the “revival service” and called Laurie. Her response was energetically “yes.” So We went to dinner at a little place in mid town Omaha. As we talked I mentioned to her that God had spoken to me and that I was seriously interested in finding out more about this Jesus that so many had talked about in the recent months. I also was also honest with her about my divorce and being gay.
Laurie’s response was surprising. She said she was a Christian and that she had been divorced too. She went on to tell me that her first husband was gay and that his homosexuality was the reason for their divorce. She still loved him but their marriage didn’t survive and ended amicably.
Oh, my gosh. This is the first time I had put all of my lives together in one discussion. Laurie told me she knew I was friends with several of the gay guys at the theater and that she accepted us the way we were and didn’t reject us for being gay.
I didn’t spend much more individual time with Laurie but our time together made a huge difference in my view of Jesus and other barriers between me and religion were knocked down. I became even more vocal about what I was discovering about Jesus. Jim and I would argue about this often because he was Catholic and held to different views than I was discovering from people that I was talking with.
Another Jesus Freak on the Scene
I worked with a girl that was a very energetic “Jesus Freak.” Her name was Pat and she had a bible on her desk, Jesus stickers all over and she frequently talked about her faith with all of us at work. She began to open up the Bible with me and talk about things it said. One day she walked in with a paperback Bible that she gave to me as a gift. She told me to read it starting with the book of John.
Pat also invited me to go to church with her but I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. So, I began to read the book of John and found I actually understood it for the first time in my life! I started to understand what the “gospel” meant and Pat and I talked about what that would mean for me if I would accept Jesus’ offer of eternal life through His sacrifice. Yes! I get it!
Oh, now I am a Christian and Jim and I battled even more. He thought I had become like his sister Jen and our relationship became even more rocky. But I still loved him and it seemed he still loved me. After a season of challenging circumstances Jim and I separated. Now what? Well, now I’m a Christian and I am thinking differently about many things.
Have Sex and Tell Him About Jesus!
While walking in a city park I met an attractive young man. After we talked we arranged to meet again. Of course, we did and it ended up in a sexual evening together. But this time was different. He was hurting about something that was going on in his life and I spent a lot of time talking to him about Jesus, the gospel, and how God would help him through the challenge he was facing.
With Jim out of the picture I figured maybe it would work better if I met a guy that was already a Christian and would support my new understanding of Jesus. “Yes, that’s it! A Christian partner.”
You’re a Christian, and You Love Me!
At the theater there was one guy, named Pete, that everyone really liked. He was kind of close to Laurie so that was a good sign. One evening Pete and I were alone in his car talking and something came alive in our time together and we ended up going to his apartment. We started off our closeness with a lot of talking and ended up having sex that night. But this time something was different. Pete was different than all of the others I had known and slept with. He seemed to have spiritual convictions about life, relationships, and was very strong about his faith.
Pete was a school teacher at a local Lutheran grade school where he wasn’t necessarily open about his homosexuality, but was dearly loved by the other teachers and by the kids. His dad was a Lutheran pastor and he had been raised in the church, knowing the Bible, and clearly having a relationship with Jesus. I loved that about him.
We spent every night together after our first date. Mostly at my house, he began to move his things in from his house to mine. After a couple of months, Pete decided to let go of his apartment and totally move in with me.
Pete drove a 1980 Toyota. It was a simple, yet practical car. His car was much better than my ‘75 Dodge colt so he’d almost always drive when we went places. I felt special when he’d often come downtown to pick me up from work. I usually took the bus so this was a real treat.
New Partner, Christmas in Florida! More Christian Growth
Christmas was coming and Pete had planned a trip to his parents home near Orlando Florida. He talked to them about bringing his “roommate” with him this year and they were delighted to have me to come. This was 1980 and Disney World was very new and a brand new park opened up that year called “Epcot Center.” I was more than elated that I was going to go to Florida, to “Epcot”, and to be with Pete and his family. We were ecstatic about our new relationship and the future looked bright for us.
When I arrived at his parents’ home they were more than gracious. His dad and I would discuss the Bible and he answered many questions I had about my new faith. I am sure his parents were encouraged to see this new Christian coming into their home. We slept in the guest room and spoke many times about his parents not knowing anything about our “friendship” that was occurring in their guest room. But we just kept our little secret and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with his family.
When we got home something inside me tripped and I began to feel drawn to talk with Jim again. I missed him. We had been together for a couple of years and I liked the way he made me feel. So, unbeknownst to Pete, I called Jim. We got together and this just stirred things up all over again between me and Jim. I didn’t seem to be able to keep from calling him. This of course created some stress in my relationship with Pete.
Eventually, I thought I wanted to get back together with Jim. So, I told Pete and he moved out and was obviously very hurt. Jim and I started our relationship up all over again and soon the disappointments came back. Jim was unfaithful and lied about some things again. I was so disappointed. I thought it would be different this time.
It had been only a couple of weeks so I called Pete and told him I wanted to meet with him. I told him I was very sorry and that I really loved him. So, Pete moved back with me and life was good between us. I had gotten into such a pattern of lying and deceiving that all over again, I contacted Jim. I was so unstable with all of this. Pete found out that I had deceived him again and after just knowing him for about 8 months, Pete made a healthy decision and broke up with me for the last time. I was now alone and had no one.
By this time I had begun the process of buying a little house. Maybe the third time is a charm. I called Jim once again and he seemed to have made some big changes in his life. He said he was ready to move in together. This had mostly been the breakdown between us so this was quite the step for Jim. I felt he had changed, so I was game to take this step as well. We began talking about the house and what it would mean for us both to settle down and make a life with each other.
Me! At a Pentecostal Church?
By this time, I had agreed to go to church with Pat. I found her church to be alive! It was exciting to go there. One Sunday morning after I had been out with Joe the night before, the Pastor, John Walker, came up to me and said, “That’s a fine yellow sweater you have on there, my friend.” He didn’t know that I bought it special for my date with my gay partner the day before. The yellow sweater became symbolic of my two lives. The life with Jim who didn’t want anything to do with my new religion, and going to church at a Pentecostal church! I felt torn, but I didn’t want to be alone either.
I had now begun to evaluate my life at a deeper level. I had divorced my wife and abandoned my children. I became sexually promiscuous and couldn’t maintain a healthy relationship with any of my partners. I was emotionally dependent and compromising with Jim and it seemed he was all I had. But the conflict grew within me.
I reflected on what God had told me at the revival service and realized He had given me hope that I didn’t have to live in such relational turmoil and insanity. I found out that there was a singles ministry that was pretty active at the church I had attended and that they were hosting a semi-annual singles retreat in February. I wanted to go to that retreat but I knew that Jim wouldn’t like that too much.
Valentine’s Day Week, 1984
Interestingly the day I am writing this is February 14, 2011. Valentines week, 27 years ago, I called Jim up and told him I couldn’t see him anymore. Our relationship had always been rocky, confusing, and hurtful for us both. Jim’s response was, “One day, I’ll pursue my faith like you are but I am not ready yet.”
I hung up the phone and my life was about to dramatically change.
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”
What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD—in your midst, Jerusalem.