Monday, May 21, 2007

Satan's Plan B

... and it's not emergency contraception.

Right now as I type in this post, I should have a man in my apartment, in my bed. Not in the first, moral sense of "should," of course -- in the second, predictive sense. The time and place were set, for right now tonight, and general preferences on the details were agreed on. But I backed out a bit beforehand. Not for any specially heroic reason. I met a Catholic cyberfriend for the first time that afternoon during his Washington visit, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company to the point that I couldn't have faced him the next day as planned if I had gone ahead with my other plans in the interim. But beyond that, backing out was simply the latest manifestation of something very obvious about me -- that I have never been (and probably never will be) able to engage in gay sex with a good conscience; I have backed out of more set-up liaisons than I've gone through with. Both my confessor and stranger-priests in confession have said "thanks be to God" for my chronic cold feet, and I obviously don't disagree.

Why am I saying this? Because I'm determined to make myself write about this and what I need to do (I have no idea where this post will end as I write it), and to do so without getting down about it. Here's the deal as I put it in a message to my confessor a little bit ago:
Satan had the upper hand for a while ... not long enuf to make good on his promises before I let God right things just now. I'm trying not to fall now, not in re self-abuse but the morbid guilt that has been Satan's very successful Plan B (with me) in the past.
Last year, on the Monday after Palm Sunday at Adoration, I came across for the first time St. Josemaria's "Christ Is Passing By" and I read his Palm Sunday sermon (oh wow ... Steeleye Span's recording of "Gaudete" just came up on my basically-all-pop iTunes; I'll put it on "repeat" until I finish), and it was one of the most uplifting things I've ever read. I frantically wrote down whole chunks of it on the back of bank receipts and other scraps of paper I had in my wallet. I bought a copy of the book later. The Palm Sunday sermon was about interior struggle, and the ways we can fall into sin, including one most relevant here -- pride. St. Josemaria says this:
However, a powerful enemy is lying in wait for us, an enemy which counters our desire to incarnate Christ's doctrine in our lives. This enemy is pride, which grows if we do not reach out for the helping and merciful hand of God after each failure and defeat. In that case the soul remains in the shadows, in an unhappy darkness, and thinks it is lost. Its imagination creates all sorts of obstacles which have no basis in fact, which would disappear if it just looked at them with a little humility. Prompted by pride and a wild imagination, the soul sometimes creates painful calvaries for itself. But Christ is not on these calvaries, for joy and peace always accompany our Lord even when the soul is nervous and surrounded by darkness.
When we stumble, as we will, pride produces morbid guilt, what St. Josemaria calls "the painful calvaries." Or at least it does in me. I do not easily want to "reach out for the helping and merciful hand of God," because dammitall, I'm not a wimp. And I never want to be treated as one (for an example of the same character trait in a different context, I once left Adoration in tears, and a man followed me outside and asked if anything was wrong, and I told him "no" and walked away). Getting depressed over every wank is my perverse mental proof of how good I am and how seriously I take things. This is what I mean by referring to my pride as "Satan's Plan B." The physical act of gay sex may be Plan A, but I'm OK at resisting that. Eventually. What I'm not so good at, and thus is the Evil One's fallback, is keeping this stumble in perspective and not succumbing to despair. I've contemplated and acted toward both physical suicide and spiritual suicide (i.e., leaving the Church) at the apparent hopelessness of living a chaste life. And each bout of depression becomes the justification for the next stumble, as needed medication ... which quickly sinks my soul deeper. But St. Josemaria says otherwise:
In this adventure of love we should not be depressed by our falls, not even by serious falls, if we go to God in the sacrament of penance contrite and resolved to improve. A Christian is not a neurotic collector of good behaviour reports. Jesus Christ our Lord was moved as much by Peter's repentance after his fall as by John's innocence and faithfulness. ... Jesus Christ is always waiting for us to return to him; he knows our weakness.
I have no weaknesses as only wimps have weaknesses. What it is, I realize, is that I want to be God, at least the god of myself, since that would make me perfect, omniscient, omnipotent and all the rest. And I have no interest whatever, given my Cartmanesque detestation of hippies, in the all-affirming, all-luvving New Age god. If I'm gonna be god of myself, it'll be a Jonathan Edwards god.

But this time, it will be different. I'm not gonna cry over this one. I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I committed a solicitation. End of story. God doesn't tut-tut at me and rubs his hands at how many more years in purgatory he can impose on me, etc. But He still wants me back (the Steeleye Span song I mentioned above does not have the title "Tristis"). God cares more that I let Him, through my conscience and the providence of my friend's visit, back in time to prevent further and greater wrong. St. Josemaria says this :
I know that the moment we talk about fighting we recall our weakness and we foresee falls and mistakes. God takes this into account. As we walk along it is inevitable that we will raise dust; we are creatures and full of defects. I would almost say that we will always need defects. They are the shadow which shows up the light of God's grace and our resolve to respond to God's kindness. And this chiaroscuro will make us human, humble, understanding and generous.
Let's not deceive ourselves: in our life we will find vigour and victory and depression and defeat. This has always been true of the earthly pilgrimage of Christians, even of those we venerate on the altars. Don't you remember Peter, Augustine, Francis? I have never liked biographies of saints which naively — but also with a lack of sound doctrine — present their deeds as if they had been confirmed in grace from birth. No. The true life stories of christian heroes resemble our own experience: they fought and won; they fought and lost. And then, repentant, they returned to the fray.
We should not be surprised to find ourselves defeated relatively often, usually or even always in things of little importance which we tend to take seriously. If we love God and are humble, if we persevere relentlessly in our struggle, the defeats will never be very important. There will also be abundant victories which bring joy to God's eyes. There is no such thing as failure if you act with a right intention, wanting to fulfill God's will and counting always on his grace and your own nothingness.
My confessor once said to me "we conservatives sometimes mock and roll our eyes at Scripture's mentions of unconditional love and boundless forgiveness. But we need it as much as anyone else." And he has said it comes exactly from what St. Josemaria talks about -- recognizing the greatness of God's grace compared to our nothingness.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I can relate to your struggles. I am married, kids, and SSA. I have never, ever acted out on these attractions, but I think about it often. Other than online activity, I have never met someone for a hook-up or whatever it is called these days. I vacillate between enjoying these little cyber-dalliances and hating myself for them.

I think I need to re-read your post.