For the past year and a half I've been praying for inspiration as to whether or not I should share my story through the "Voices of Hope" project.
Many a time I have found myself in the celestial room pondering the ramifications of such a publication. I've agonized over the potential loss of friendships or the awkward conversations I'd have to have over and over.
I wrote up my story, which was scary in and of itself, and submitted it. It's been sent between me and a few editors at least a dozen times. Most of these revisions addressed sentence fluency or idea development, as well as aspects of my journey that I had forgotten or overlooked.
It's surprisingly difficult to articulate the immense complexities of your strongest emotions. At least, that's been my experience with this project.
But I digress.
After a very long process of self-reflection and late-night writing, my story was published. The reality of the situation continues to dawn on me.
I have not allowed myself to be tagged in posts sharing the link of my story, mainly because I'm not quite ready for everyone to know yet (hence the alias). But the word is getting out. As the news spreads, I can only hope that I'm not the subject of juicy gossip.
However, several people have reached out to me to express their gratitude for the fact that I would be so vulnerable as to share my deeply personal story. Their pledges of support and encouragement has helped me incredibly with the prospect of being "open."
However, I've continued to be anxious since my story was published. I guess my biggest fear is that my friends and family's view of me will change. I don't want to be seen as the "gay friend" or "the kid who was sexually abused."
So today I was in the woods, clearing underbrush. My anxiety climaxed and my panic drove away my ability to concentrate on anything else.
Terror that what I've done is somehow against God's will surged into me, and I dropped to my knees. I softly begged Heavenly Father to communicate His will to me, or simply an idea that He wanted me to knowingly receive from Him.
I waited, feeling the tender touch of the breeze as it whistled through the pine needles and hearing the call of woodpeckers. I tried to clear my mind, providing God as blank of a canvas as I could muster for Him to paint on.
I didn't hear anything, and I worried that this was going to be another prayer without an obvious yes or no answer. I considered standing back up and getting back to work.
But then I realized that something had changed. My heart had stopped racing, and a state of clarity had settled over my mind. It was like the fear had been let out of me like the exhailation of a long-held breath.
Then, the tide rolled in.
"I have overcome the world. Fear not"
I was walking up a hill crested by an olive tree. Christ walked beside me with His arm around my shoulder. I heard my prayer as if it echoed from a few minutes before.
I saw Lehi standing beside the Tree of Life overlooking a vast space of darkness as numberless concourses of people felt their way. So many were wandering away from the Iron Rod toward a massive golden building. Lehi and I cried out to them. Some turned to us again.
"Through your trials, I have blessed your voice with power."
"Thine affliction will be but for a small moment. And if thou wilt endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high."
I'm a flash I saw all of the people who know about my ssa, particularly those who had reached out to me in response to my essay.
"I came unto mine own, and they received me not. Thy friends do stand by thee, and do pray for thee."
The "Voices of Hope" project came to my mind and I continued to ponder as to whether it was of God.
"All things that inviteth and enticeth to do good is of me"
My mind's eye flashed back to Lehi calling after the confused wanderers. Then I saw others struggling with their hidden attractions, their hearts breaking.
"Do you think that by sharing so deeply intimate your testimony of the atonement will drive more of my children away from me than will come at thy word?"
I assuredly felt that of course my story would strengthen the faith of far more than it would discourage.
"And if people turn away from me at thy word, is it really your fault?"
No. We all have our agency. My words cannot take that away.
Other words were spoken, the Spirit is constraining me to end here.
I opened my eyes, partially in shock. I had received a response from God, a confirmation that I'm on the right track, and a reaffirmation of His love for me.
As I stood on wobbly legs, I felt so strong. So sure.
As I proceed on my journey, I hope that I can do the will of my Father in heaven.
Your prayers are greatly appreciated and do not go unfelt.