(Continued from here)

I was late to church, again. I hurried to the bus stop focusing on the excuse I would give. The bible study was to begin at 8 o’clock and I was already one hour late. It was a Sunday morning once more and I had to hurry through the day and hope it would end as uneventfully as all the others. I just wanted to get it over with.

I got to church in fifteen minutes. I walked through the gates and greeted the guard. His name was Martin. I met the senior pastor on the way to the Bible study hall. He greeted me and began some small talk on my family. My father was an usher in the church and my mother was the head of the missions department. We had been to this church since it inception ten years ago. I was still in primary school then, but I could still remember the founding members. A lot had changed since then. I rushed over to the bible study room and walked in with profuse apologies. I had asked my assistant in the ministry to help me begin the class. I walked in and noticed a few extra people, which was normal. I took my seat next to the assistant and she welcomed me with a smile. I looked into my pouch bag and took out my bible and the study guide. We were at the book of Leviticus, chapter 18. I swallowed hard. The book was on the ordinances of God as relating to priestly sacrifices and holiness when approaching him. I personally perceived it as a set of difficult rules the Israelites in the desert had to follow. That was not the reason why I swallowed though. I knew this chapter well. It had been read profusely and vehemently in various forums. It spoke of unlawful sexual practices. Verse 22 was one of specific interest. It read like a death sentence to me, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” We were soon to approach this verse, and as we moved along I began to ponder many things. I loved God, I truly did. I loved church too, it was exciting and eventful. A place where I could grow in a supportive environment. Then I loved men. Not in the same way as I did God obviously but still, I loved them. I wanted to live my life, and love who I wanted, but clearly that was detestable. I also wanted to have God on my side, which was difficult in the supervening circumstances. I had a double life; I was one person on one side and a completely different one on the other. Was I to obey the bible and live in torture for the rest of my life or be free and risk hell, fire brimstone and condemnation? And yet they all felt so good when I was doing them.

I was drawn from the deep well of thought by a question that had been directed at me. I was startled into reality. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on me. I didn’t know what was going on. It was one of the new people. He had asked a question on that poison verse. He asked me my opinion on the church and homosexuality. My eyes watered immediately and I swallowed hard. I looked at him straight in the face and blurted out some words. I fixed my eyes on his hair, neatly cut and well shaped. I was fidgeting a little as I explained to him the principle the church held on gays and Christianity. It was not possible for one to be both, and as I said this I moved my gaze to his face and gaze to his face. It was James! Three months later, it was he again. I don’t understand how he found me but here he was, in plain sight. We had not spoken for three months after Dar. He had simply stopped communicating. I wrote him messages. I tried to call. I did everything possible to reach him and not once had he gotten back to me. Now here he was, in my safe place. The place I went when I wanted to run from the rest of the gay world. I had been invaded, and my territory soiled. A knot immediately tied in my throat. My hands shook a little but I couldn’t let anyone notice. I hurriedly completed my answer and stood up. The Bible study was not over but I just had to get out of there. I left my things on the chair. I walked out hurriedly. I was going toward the washroom when someone called out to me. I pretended as if I had not heard. I increased my pace. I just wanted to get as far away from the rest of the world as I could. I tried. Despite my efforts he caught up with me and held me by the shoulders. In the middle of the church compound he held my shoulders. I reacted quickly and irrationally. I pushed him away violently in the hope that nobody had seen that. I had a reputation to maintain. I had a picture I wanted to keep drawn in the minds of the people in church. One of the women’s leaders in the church was passing by. She looked over at me and smiled uneasily. “Praise the Lord,” she said, “AMEN!” I shouted back, in the hope that my effort would cement my allegiance to Jesus, at least in her mind.

I turned to face James, anger written all over my face. “What are you doing here?” I whispered. I was getting frustrated. This was going to be a bad day. He simply looked at me and smiled. That smile reminded me of a lot. It reminded me of that afternoon. That sunny afternoon in Dar. And it angered me. I was bitter, I was hurt. I had been forced to go back to church with my tail between my legs because this man had refused to talk to me after I broke my faith and disobeyed my Lord. Now here he was trying to behave like we were friends. I felt like I had been left at the altar, and my partner had run off with the maid and not the maiden. William Congreve did well in saying’ “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  I sure as hell wasn’t a woman, but I was scorned. I wanted him to pay, pay for everything, but there he stood, smiling. “I came to visit,” he answered, “to see how you were doing.” The stupid bastard was checking up on me after three months? I had had enough. I looked at him and asked him to leave. I asked him to go and never come back. I pushed him while I was at it and began to shout. The minute I pushed him a small crowd had started to gather and by the time I was shouting I had an audience. People were interested to see why the little pastor without a theology degree was acting so rashly. A group of youth came over to hold me back and the members of the bible study ministry walked out of the hall. They were just in time to see me in full action. People were staring in amusement now. My clean robes were now soiled.

James was looking at me with a sorry face. He looked like he wanted to hug and hold me. I looked at him and wanted to vomit. I decided that I would not waste my time with him. I simply composed myself and walked away. I wanted to be alone for a while so I took a walk towards the forest nearby. He followed me there. He did not seem sorry that I had been forced to embarrass myself in the church. He did not want to hold me as I had thought but to shake me into reality. He stopped me again and told me the most piercing words I had ever heard, “Choose one, just choose one. Is it me or the church? That’s why I didn’t answer your calls, or messages. I knew that you had something to hold on to. What do I have? I would have to sacrifice everything to be with you and you would still be holding on to both sides. How does a farmer sell half of his produce to get the full price? I need you to let go so that you can get me. Are you ready to do that? Are you ready like Jesus to lay down your life to get me? Choose one.” With that Parthian shaft he started to walk away. I couldn’t get to wrap my mind around his words. They tore right through me and forced reality to my face.

. Before I could begin to ponder deeply on what he had said, he turned again and said,” I wonder what Jesus would say about you, going by what you said in that room and what the Bible says!” That was the shocker! I walked out of the forest with a new perspective I thought James had hurt me, but he hurt me to protect himself. I am not sure I would give up everything to be with him, at least not in this lifetime. So what did I want? What did I need? James had given me the harshest reality check so far. Then again, I indeed was a huge hypocrite.

I still need a man, someone to hold on to, and someone to satisfy me. Maybe just not James. I need someone to make me feel alive, like am not a conformist. Like am not a sheep led to the slaughter without a choice as to how I am to live my life. Yet through all this I have the Bible to obey. I have the word of the Lord to follow and live by and the whole world is watching to see if I fail. Indeed I have failed and I have fallen, but how many people know that? I am out to keep up the impression, to save face.

I have had time to think through everything. I have thought through James words. I would love to see James again. Maybe his beautiful face would help me sort out some of these things. I know few things about myself; I am on the path to self discovery. One thing that I know though, is that I want to be free. I want to get rid of the bonding boundaries. I need to be free. Free to live, free to love free to be me.

Lovingly penned down,

Phillip.

So someone help me  understand this, I just don’t get what is going on here. Yes, I am Phillip, but I never wrote this letter, at least not yet anyway.  I am not ready yet. Africa is not ready yet.

© Samson De Lui