THE TONY CROSS COLUMN
Article No. 10
Finding Mr Right
Loneliness can be a terrible thing. It can eat into your very reality and destroy your peace. It can creep up on you until you become aware of it all the time, like a kind of nagging toothache. Sometimes loneliness seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy – it seems to seal you into a container of loneliness, which defies your every attempt to break out.
Loneliness can drive one to extreme lengths. When you are truly alone, one yearns for someone to talk to, for normal inconsequential chatter, for laughter together about silly things. Time seems to stretch out, yet seems to bring you back, eventually, to the point where you are intensely aware that you are on your own.
Yet there is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. You can be alone at times and perfectly content to be alone. Loneliness has about it that element of deprivation. It breeds a kind of frustration and even, sometimes, a kind of destructive self-accusation. You know the sort of thing I mean! You say to yourself: ‘Why can’t I ever find the person I am looking for? What’s wrong with me? I don’t think I am ever going to find someone’. And one can so easily spiral down into a wretched state of maudlin self-pity.
One tried and trusted way out is activity. ‘Get busy’ , we tell ourselves. Work is an anodyne – while we are hard at work – any kind of work – our mind is occupied and we have less time to dwell on our own lacks and seeming inability to find the right person – the one we really want to spend time with. But unfortunately work is only a temporary relief.
One danger with loneliness is that we lower our standards.
We really wanted someone who would share our enjoyment of --- (fill in the blank appropriately), but we can’t find that person. Then someone appears but they have no interest in our interests – but we are desperate for company so we overlook the deficiency. The fact that they are mad about, say, scuba diving leaves us totally cold – but we are blind to such differences – here at last is someone with whom we seem to be getting closer – so we make common talk and look for some common interest, in the hope of a developing relationship. And sometimes it works! But more often it doesn’t!
There are not only our intellectual needs – there are also our intimacy needs and our sexual needs. Everyone needs someone we say to ourselves, and try to explore to see whether we can find the magic of a developing relationship.
For the gay man there is often a constant search for Mr Right. We sometimes – often? - settle for a level of intimacy that falls short of what we hoped for, but which seems to answer our urgent need. So we explore a one-night-stand type relationship. We find attraction pulls us to a particular man and we hope it will turn into friendship and, who knows, maybe even to love.
All of us have these feelings of loneliness – and recognizing that we are not peculiar in this is part of the process of our growing up and of our maturing. To be self-sufficient to the extent that we can withstand loneliness is part of the evidence of our having reached a certain level of assurance and self esteem. When we feel insecure is when we most want someone to confirm to us that we really do exist, and are deep down, acceptable – even desirable, perhaps.
So where does the gay Christian stand in these matters? To be a Christian, by my definition, is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But you can be a follower of Jesus Christ and yet still not have ‘realized’ his presence in your life. You may still not have met him in your own experience. You can read the gospels, try to follow the teaching, go to church and call yourself a Christian and yet never have actually found that inner experience sometimes referred to as ‘meeting Christ’.
That experience does exist – and can be a reality for anyone in the whole wide world, if they so desire. The experience has been attested to by countless millions of people down the ages. The saints of old have written about it. From the early disciples, through the men and women who, in the early centuries, went to live in the desert to be nearer to God, through countless Christians down the centuries, through the Reformation Martyrs, right down to today – all have spoken of the experience of moving from knowing about Christ to actually knowing him in their own experience.
Some have used extravagant language, some have lapsed into poetry. Some have moved into the mystical, others have been supremely practical. But all have witnessed to the fact that at the heart of Christianity is an experience that anyone – everyone – can have if they will fulfil the condition. What condition?
There is only one condition. It is, quite simply, that you must want him sufficiently. You can come burdened with a deep sense of sinfulness or you can come in the morning of life, treading on sunbeams. You may be desperate for reality. You may come crippled with sickness. But however you come, and whatever your condition, if you really want to meet Christ the person, you can and you will.
But there is one interesting truth here: you are never the person in charge of that experience. By this I mean that the most you can do is open yourself and invite Christ into your life. You are not in charge.
In daily life you can decide to meet someone. Telephone them, arrange a meeting place and agree a time. And you can go there and meet them. Not so with Christ. With him it is a matter of preparing yourself, of asking him to come to you as your Lord and Saviour. And he will – only you may not feel him come to you immediately. He may not come in quite the way you expect either. But come he certainly will.
And once that encounter has happened – once you have really met the Risen Christ in your own experience, and know it to be so, everything is changed. He becomes everything to you – a friend, a counsellor, a brother, a King, a companion, a strong deliverer, a new source of inspiration. And he goes on revealing himself to you and leading you all your life.
Once you have met Christ like this you are never alone again. Never? Never alone, for he is always with you. You may still feel lonely from time to time, but that is a different thing, more to do with sharing and intimacy on a human level. Deep down, Christ does meet our deepest needs – which are more important even than feelings of loneliness.
That meeting with Christ is always the pivotal point of someone’s life. As the years go by one looks back and recognizes that from that seminal point all your life changed. No matter what the route since – it may include detours, cul-de-sacs, dead-ends, pits of darkness – but always by God’s grace you keep travelling. Have you found Mr Right? Make sure above all else that you meet with Christ. He is the really important one.