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Spiritual 9/11




For many years after getting off of marijuana and coming back to the Church, I stood tall. I could say proudly. Like the former World Trade Center, I stood in the middle of a city, not NYC, but Washington DC, filled with vice. Depravity and pleasure-seeking were the norm, but not for me. I tried to live a life contrary to what surrounded me as an example of what it meant to be a devout orthodox Catholic. At least in my mind, that's what I was doing. 


I rose each morning at 530 to have a quick bite to eat and pray before morning Mass at 7. After Mass I’d pray morning prayer with the Friars at Sacred Heart. I’d often go to Adoration at the National Shrine as well. Afterwards I’d return home for more prayer before heading to work. At work I’d read in between clients and pray Intermittently throughout the day. With clients, all I could talk about was my relationship with Jesus and His Church. I stopped listening to secular music, I stopped playing video games, and I stopped watching movies. I listened to some Christian music along with the Chant from the Church while driving. I exercised each day while watching videos about my faith. I was disciplined with what I ate, rarely allowing myself anything junky. I only spent money on books about the faith.


I felt called to the priesthood or some sort of religious life, so when I was told to wear all black at work, I embraced it, removing any other color from my wardrobe. I saw it as preparation for when I would become a priest and also as a way to stand out in a way that drew attention to my faith and not to me. The more I studied and prayed, the closer I drew to Jesus. Mass and Adoration were times to be with Him. Just Jesus and me. Together, we stood tall and strong. With Him, I thought I could withstand any storm or attack. And for many years, this was true. 


Even during these times, unchastity was one plane that kept flying into me over and over again. I dismissed it as a sinful habit that I could live with until Jesus chose to heal me of it. There were also smaller planes of temptation that assaulted me, like jealousy, anger, and selfishness, but they slowly seemed to be impacting me less and less. And even when they did impact me, I felt I was a tower of Christ with a strong foundation, so...nothing to fear! This is how I viewed the attacks, confident in my God-given ability, or so I thought, to resist. All was well until about two years ago. 


I was attending a Courage meeting, the Apostolate for people experiencing same-sex attraction in the Catholic Church, and a new member joined us. He was a nice guy but no different than any of the other guys I’d met through the Courage meetings in this area, or at least that’s what I thought until he started sharing about his pursuit of the priesthood. He was the first person in the apostolate that I’d met who felt a call similar to mine, so we became friends through this commonality. 


I was also drawn to how kind he was, and he was drawn to my discipline. We each saw something in the other that we wanted for ourselves—something that our towers lacked in their foundation. After the 2019 Courage conference, I recognized my desire to grow as a man and start living in a community, so Brian and I agreed to move in together. I looked forward to this move, not recognizing it for being the fully-fueled Boeing 747 it was. 


Before moving in, my foundation was already becoming unstable. The small planes of temptation that had been flying into me had started having more of an impact. Getting up each morning for Mass became more of a burden, as did many of the other spiritual practices I’d lived with ease for so long. My appetites started to rule me. My resistance was fading. My mental state was also faltering. Depressed, anxious, and obsessive thoughts became more common. I started to look for ways to distract myself. Ways outside of my faith. My relationship with Jesus suffered as Brian and I moved in together. 


Days after the move, the impact of the Boeing that living with Brian would be on my life became more apparent as I visited my parents for Christmas. One night, I started having suicidal thoughts, which were new to me. These thoughts were the beginning of a slow crumbling of my outer structure and of my foundation. 


Living with a man who I was to be a brother to, not just a roommate, was a huge blow to me. The impact blew away the facade of the isolated practice of my faith Jesus had lovingly allowed for many years, and once that crumbled, the distorted inner workings and foundations of my tower were exposed and vulnerable to attacks, and the attacks became much more intense and frequent. 


I had lived alone for 21 years and kept myself fairly isolated. This helped me maintain my feeling of safety and control. Living with Brian pushed me in ways that made me so uncomfortable I started to seek out ways to numb this pain through pleasure. It started with drinking, which I hadn’t done regularly for years. Then I started eating junk food again. Porn and all that goes along with that became more of a habit. Then, exercise stopped. Getting up for Mass every day slipped away. Prayer became a grind rather than a joy. Secular music and entertainment started to fill my free time instead of spiritual reading and prayer. My tower was crumbling, and I knew it but didn’t know what to do to stop it. 


Over the last month or so I feel that I have collapsed. I only attend Mass on Sunday. The reading I used to love to do I now only do to keep commitments, not out of any interest. I frequently tell the same God I used to love talking to and spending time with to leave me alone. I am pushing my friends away. Skipping work. Gaining weight. Piles of material possessions surround me. A weird mix of anxiety and indifference became common, and I started to feel hopeless until I remembered a story about Jesus and remodeling. 


We humans are a house or a tower in my sometimes arrogant view of myself. Jesus desires to live in my tower and I allowed Him in. He allowed my tower to exist as it was for many years, as the WTC did.  Though He lived in me as is, He had major plans for me, and these plans could not be accomplished with my tower in its present state. So He lovingly allowed the Boeing of Brian to crash into me knowing that he would inadvertently bring with him a change that I would have never have agreed to if I’d have understood the extent of the change. Not a redecorate or remodel or even a rehab but a complete tear down and rebuild. 


My foundation was built on fear of loss and self-reliance. My early relationships with men brought this about. Jesus could work through this for a limited time and the end of that time had come. 


From my limited perspective, the collapse of self-reliant Garrett is nearly complete. The rubble of my former tower is still strewn about, but the foundation is exposed, and Jesus is ready to start the rebuild. He has to have complete creative control over it, or it will just turn into another faulty tower. I begrudgingly give Him this control, though right now, the contract we have is one that I have to agree to moment by moment, day by day. The collapse was and is still raw and painful.  


I think of the image in the paper a day or two after 9/11 of a section of crossbeam that was exposed and created by the collapse that was shaped like a cross. The cross was revealed by the collapse. 


I told a client yesterday that I have no idea how to get back to where I was, and she asked, “What is fundamentally most important “ to this rebuild? What does the new Garrett need most in his foundation? I responded, “daily Mass.” She nodded her head, and so this is where the rebuild starts. God help me. 


Written 2/13/21

Human-written, AI spell-checked

Image from patheos.com

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