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big deal continued 1

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Dear Grandad,
Thank you for the letter. Thank you also for putting me in touch with your friends the Smiths. I very much enjoyed getting to meet them as well. They seem like good people. I'm also very happy that I will get to see you and Grandma and my Mom in person next week. I hope that you and Grandma had an awesome trip to Israel. I very much look forward to hearing your stories and seeing pictures of what you saw and experienced. I am learning a great deal about plants and their interaction with the environment, which is truly fascinating.

I owe you an apology for the long delay in replying to your letter. The questions you brought up are big and important ones. I am glad to have a Grandfather who wants to discuss such matters. Many people do not. I have thought about how I should reply every day since receiving the letter. I am running out of time before we will meet in person, and I feel like I should give some response before then. For years there has been a lot of stuff going on in my head, that I wish I had had the courage to discuss openly at an earlier age. I am now at a point that I am willing to be more open about my thoughts and feelings. I am sorry that I was not more trusting of anyone when I was younger. I fear that I now have to make up for lost time.

I am going to go ahead and share some things in the rest of this letter. I guess they are pretty big things. I would prefer to share them in person, but I feel that going ahead and sharing them through this letter will allow more time for productive conversation during the time that we have together. If you would like hear these things from me in person, rather than by letter, then please close the window and read no further... I will just as happily discuss everything that follows, face to face.

Through my late childhood, and all of my adolescence, I would say that I believed, and sought for Christianity, scriptures and prayer to be the biggest influence on my world view and the decisions I made. Based on conversations we had in the past, I don't think you will be surprised to know that I always had a lot of questions and doubts regarding religion. Of course I think that is normal and does not necessarily preclude someone from having a strong faith.

There was also something else happening in the background, which started around the time I hit puberty. This was the fact that I never found any kind of physical attraction to girls. I found this somewhat concerning. I just assumed that I would become attracted to girls later in life. Secretly I did find myself attracted to boys. I always pushed these thoughts away as soon as they surfaced. Deep down I was terrified that I would discover I was gay. I considered that to not be an option in any way. I was deeply determined that I would never allow that to happen. I was much too prideful and afraid, and I never breathed a word of any of these thoughts to anyone for many years.

All through high school and my start of college in Colorado, my Christian faith continued to grow in depth, complexity and importance to me. At the same time, I continued to struggle with finding attraction to boys rather than to girls. It was something that I prayed about constantly, asking that I could change. I read the scriptures where Paul speaks of the thorn in his side, that he pleads with God to take away from him. I found it strange that he would never explain what the "thorn" was. I realize that the scripture gives no specific indication, but I imagine that maybe Paul was not happy with his sexual attractions. At the time, I still hoped that I would be changed, but I had resigned myself to the prospect of a life of celibacy.

I didn't hate myself entirely as a person, but I held a deep hatred for this aspect of myself. I wanted desperately to change. I dealt with these thoughts primarily by riding my bike enough that I could forget about my worries. That is something I have done with a lot of problems. It's a coping mechanism that I am working to change. These weren't the only reasons I failed out of school, but they certainly didn't make things any easier. I was in a pretty dark place emotionally for quite a while. I was still too prideful and afraid to speak to anyone about my feelings.

After I left Colorado, and went to Texas, I initially had a lot of time alone with my thoughts. I continued riding my bike a lot, reading scripture and praying, and focusing on getting by day to day.I moved in May of 2011. I visited a couple of churches, but I didn't feel a connection anywhere. By November that year, I visited a church that I found very different. It was in a poor part of town, had a younger pastor, a very mixed congregation, a heavy focus on serving the community and very strong emphasis on studying scripture in detail. I quickly built friendships there, I attended intense weekly Bible study and prayer groups. I read my Bible and prayed more than ever. Over the next several months, I found that the more I studied scripture, the more questions and doubts I had. I brought these up with my weekly study group, and we had lots of good discussion. One of my biggest struggles was with believing in Hell. I felt like my heart was ripped out to imagine that so many people I knew and cared about, who were not Christians, would go to Hell for eternity.

I think it was around February 2012, that I felt convicted to confess to one of my church friends that I was struggling with my sexuality. At the time, I still wanted nothing more than to change. He seemed pretty uncomfortable. I felt like throwing up. We prayed together, he agreed that he would help keep me accountable. My thoughts didn't really change at all. I continued ignoring my feelings. In the next week, I confessed to a few other guys in the group. After that, they periodically asked how, I was doing, I always told them I was fine.

I continued with my scripture reading and prayer. The terrible feelings I had regarding eternal damnation, continued pushing me to ask questions. I came to a point, that I had to seriously question why I believed in the Christian interpretation of God. If you want, we can discuss it in further detail, next week; but I eventually came to a point, that I realized I could not believe in Christianity any more. This was probably in May of 2012. I certainly did not then and do not now, claim to have the answers. I am always open to new information. But I have resigned myself to not knowing. I consider life and creation to be a big and beautiful mystery. I don't believe that there is an after life...

I am deeply sorry that I have not discussed this with you before now. I hope that you can eventually forgive me, and that we can have plenty of good debate and discussion in the years to come.

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