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Jesus Cares for Lonely Bears

by Eugene Jensen * 

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If a person is blind, deaf, retarded or crippled, it is fairly easy to relate to the fact that s/he has a real problem and very few people expect them to snap out of it.  If s/he has epilepsy or schizophrenia, most people realize that they have a condition that needs to be properly managed, and they don't think they can just get over it. But, in all these cases, it is recognized that the condition is real, the sufferer did not choose the problem, and there is usually no blame attached. But, what about when boys are attracted to other boys and not to girls?  Or when girls prefer other girls instead of boys? 

Although there are heterosexuals who have deliberately chosen to have gay sex for the sake of adventure or whatever, and although there are homosexuals who did not have a Christian background, I invite you to look beyond these for a few minutes to consider those who grew up in Christian homes, but discovered that they weren't like other people. To tell such people as this that they chose to have these feelings is quite unnecessary and unkind. I want to tell you the story of one man who has never had sex with another man and doesn't intend to, who has never had sex with a woman and doesn't hope to, but has still had emotional struggles. 

I was Dad and Mom's sixth child, and the pregnancy was complicated by an Rh blood incompatibility. When I was born, a war began in my blood, and I was taken to another hospital for a blood transfusions to save me from death. But I was still a sick baby and stayed in the hospital for a few weeks. Reading of recent studies showing the benefits of touching infants in ICU has made me wonder if a lack of touching and cuddling contributed to my later difficulties in relationships. 

I am told that I was sick a lot as a young child, although I don't remember much about it. I do remember thinking as early as about five that I would never get married and have children like other boys would. And I decided that, unless others made it too difficult for me, I was going to have a beard when I grew up. I think I wanted a beard like Santa Claus. I also remember "whisker rubs" from my dad on days, such as Sundays, when he wouldn't shave right away. I liked the feel of his bristly face. 

It seems evident to me that God intended for a man to grow a beard, or He wouldn't have provided it. I don't disapprove of men who choose to shave, but growing a beard seems to me to be a good option. (I have my beard shorter than I prefer and shave my neck to please my boss and others at my job.) I rather suppose that God created Adam with a full beard. I wish more artists pictured Adam like this. 

My love for music reaches back before my own memory.  I am told that before I could get around very well I would sit in the rocking chair and rock it back and forth until I moved it close enough to the piano that I could play. It seems like I have always liked to sing. I have joked that it started when the doctor spanked me after I was born. As I recall, when I was about seven, my brother David told me he was tired of my singing and told me he would punish me if I sang anywhere on the property. So, I took a hymnal and went across the street, sat under the mail box and started singing again. Even sometimes when I haven't felt close to God and wasn't doing everything I should, hymns playing in the back of my mind have comforted me. 

Mom told me about the "birds and the bees" when I was about seven. I somewhat recall a conversation (probably about that time) about what homosexuality was. I asked her how homosexuals had sex. She said enough to let me know what anal sex was. I was disgusted with the concept at the time and still am. And oral sex - NO WAY!! 

I felt that my dad was too severe in his discipline, and Mom also felt he didn't treat her right. I used to try to sit out of his arm's reach at the table. Commonly the little mistakes I would make were not serious enough so that it was worth his trouble to get up and punish me, but it seemed to me that if I was close enough, I would get hit. She and we kids used to gripe about him behind his back. He divorced my mother when I was 14. I was shaken by the experience, but also somewhat relieved. When he divorced Mother, he wanted her to stay nearby, but she had no such intention. We (Mom and her three youngest) moved from Minnesota to Berrien Springs, Michigan, near one of my grown brothers. 

There are others in my family who seem to be more attracted to the same gender than the opposite gender.   I have a cousin (son of the man who abused my mother) who married a woman with a child, then left her after having a child with her. He ended up living with a series of male partners and died of AIDS. His niece (my second cousin) has declared herself a lesbian and has a female partner. 

I had developed a bad taste in my mouth for church school, and after one semester in the ninth grade of one of our larger academies, I had had enough of the unfriendly way I felt the other kids treated me. Dad had fallen behind on the bill, and the school threatened that I couldn't come back for the second semester if my bill wasn't paid. Although Dad offered to catch up on the bill, I let him know that I wanted to leave. I didn't find the kids at the public high school very friendly either, and one of the boys would threaten to beat me up, but it never happened. 

By the beginning of my tenth grade, Dad had remarried, and Mom had a man friend. I found Mr. Martin hard to get along with, and I wanted to live with my older brother, David. But Mom said my only other option was to live with Dad, and He sent me to a boarding academy for the rest of my sophomore year. 

At the academy, there was some talk about boys who engaged in fondling, sex or whatever. I didn't know what to think of such talk and did not investigate for myself. The conversation among the boys involved a lot of vulgarity, and masturbation was referred to a lot, mostly jokingly and, as I recall, with the implication that everybody did it. Although I've occasionally tried masturbating myself, it hasn't been as big an issue with me as with some people. 

I was also in the choir at the academy and, even when I wasn't behaving as I should, I often sang portions of the choir music on my way from place to place outside. I was also a Sabbath School song leader, which I enjoyed. I didn't wave my arms about like a director, but I chose the songs and led out in the singing. 

I loved science fiction, even though I had been brought up to believe it was wrong. One of my friends at the academy has pointed out to me that I was the one who introduced him to science fiction. One of the things I really liked in science fiction was robots who looked and acted like people. One story about a male robot who had sex with a woman really fascinated me. 

By the end of my year at the academy, Mr. Martin seemed to be less of a problem, and I went back to live with Mom and attended the local high school. One day as I was sitting in English class, I noticed that one of the girls had a tract and I took a look at it. Its message was of two soldiers who died, one going straight to heaven and the other one to hell. Although I had not been living as a strict Adventist, I abhorred the heresy of eternally burning hell. I blurted out that I hoped no one believed it, but then realized how rude that was and apologized. She took advantage of the situation and invited me to the Thursday night Methodist youth meetings. 

I went to that first fellowship meeting and it was wonderful. We talked things over. We had conversational prayer. We hugged. We prayed for one another. I felt loved by these Methodist young people, and it gave me a context and a reason to be a Christian. However, there were times when I realized that I needed to be careful about showing brotherly affection, lest I be misunderstood. One of the other students had a sign that said, "Jesus loves you and I love you too" on the inside of his locker. I saw it and commented that I liked it. I believe I said that Jesus loved him and I did too. Oops!  He didn't get upset, but, I didn't say it again. However, I didn't think of myself as gay at the time. Some time during this period, my habit of profanity dropped away, not because I had to struggle with it so much as that it was overpowered and crowded out by the love of God. 

Some time during my high school years, I found an article in Modern Maturity in the library that spoke of how mannequins were being outfitted with mustaches and beards, and it showed a picture of a mannequin with a mustache. I went and made myself a copy and carried it around so I could admire it. Later I found that I had left it in my pants and it was thrown away when clothes were washed. I wondered what ideas some might get from finding the pictures in my pockets. 

Near the end of my high school years, I lived with Mom. As I would go to sleep at night, I would fantasize about an imaginary male friend. I don't recall it being sexually arousing, but, it somehow felt nice to "have him there."  Mr. Martin was still difficult to be around, and he came to our house more often than I liked. When I was finishing high school, I told Mom I would stay and help her if she assured me that Mr. Martin would stay away. She wouldn't promise; so, between high school and college, I lived with my dad, his second wife and her three children. It felt kind of lonely, but as I was trying to go to sleep I dreamed about writing symphonies. Before many months, I wrote a simple little gospel song. At some point, I gave up the idea of writing symphonies, and I now write hymns. 

Just before going to live at Dad's house, one night I stayed overnight with a Mexican man who had attended the Adventist church. In the morning, he began to fondle me. If he had restricted himself to stroking my upper body, I don't know how things would have gone. But, his hands went quickly to my genitals. I turned him down flat and found the experience quite unpleasant. 

I attended an Adventist college and I got along well. And, for the most part, I was a happy Christian with quite a few good friends. By this time, I was old enough to grow a beard and I did so. I also admired beards on other men, but was never sexually involved with anyone, male or female. I did do some dating and I hoped I would fall in love and get married, but that never happened. Before I finished college, I had some struggles with depression and with being able to sleep in my own room with no roommate. 

I graduated with a major in Spanish and a minor in French, but with no teacher's certificate because I didn't feel I could afford the conditions that were stipulated for me to do student teaching. Thus I was probably less employable than if I had never gone to college.  After I finished school and went to live with Dad, but not sure how long I was welcome to stay there, he gave me a talk where he enumerated what my probable expenses and probable income would be. The expenses were greater than the income, and he didn't give any solution. 

I didn't know where to go or what to do, and I joined the Army, which is not a good place for a conservative, sensitive Seventh-day Adventist, same gender-attracted or not. I remember a sergeant outlining the nuisance factors that Adventists brought into the Army -- our Sabbath, our attitude towards weapons, our diet. He pronounced that the Army could get its job done without Seventh-day Adventists. However, my own sergeant wanted to hold on to me. I managed to get out after about three months. 

For the next several years, I worked mostly at independent Adventist boarding high schools, mainly as a teacher of English, math and history, but also as an assistant bookkeeper for a while. At one of them, I was given a little house to live in, but I had difficulty going to sleep there. I would try to think positively, to pray and to recite Scripture. Nevertheless, I would not sleep well and would be frightened and depressed. One of the boys who lived in the dorm invited me to sleep in his room. I accepted and, oh what a change! Even though he was not a devout young man, I found more peace from sleeping in the same room with him than I had from staying home and praying, etc. He asked me to give him a back rub. This aroused me a little sexually, but not enough so that I felt I had to quit. He also rubbed my back. (This became a regular thing with us.) One of the other faculty members had a big full beard. With his permission, I combed it a few times. This felt so right and yet so wrong. 

A girl at this school had a liking for me, and I encouraged it a little. I felt, however, that she needed to finish high school and not leave school early like Mom had. About a year after she finished, we got married. A few nights before the wedding, I was scared. I didn't really want to go through with it. I even warned her that I felt I was homosexually oriented and that I might have a problem having sex. We decided that at that late date, we would go ahead with the wedding and hope for the best. The night of the wedding I had the handy excuse that I had forgotten to get any condoms, and I wasn't ready for children. 

When we arrived in our little house at the academy where we would be working, I had condoms, but when I was in bed with her, I told her I just couldn't do it. She offered to help me out, but I told her I would feel violated. I couldn't go to sleep with her arm stretched over me, and she wouldn't or couldn't keep it off me throughout the night. So, in order to get some sleep, I put a little mattress on the floor and slept there. My psyche recoiled from the situation, and I slept on my side, with my back to her. We went to a psychologist for counseling, the result of which was to deepen my belief that if I stopped repressing my sexuality, it would be directed towards other men. 

After a little while, she began to spend a lot of her time with another married man at the academy. I didn't think she was doing anything wrong, and I understood her needing to reach out to someone in the confusing situation. But, the authorities didn't like the looks of it and said if it didn't quit, the two of them would have to leave. I felt that the other couple had a marriage to save, and we didn't. I called up my father-in-law, and he came and picked her up and brought her back to his house. She did a little bit of talking about me, apparently changing what I had told her about having had homosexual thoughts so as to make it sound like I had engaged in intimate behavior. 

Back at the school where I was working, we were paid a very meager stipend and were welcome to eat in the cafeteria. However, my stomach was sensitive to the high-fiber foods, dark greens, etc., and my stomach trouble got worse and worse. When it became apparent that I wasn't going to get better soon, I agreed with them that I should leave. 

I stayed with one relative after another and received disability checks for my chronic pain. During this period, I had to confront the insomnia that I had when I was not in a situation where my psyche felt comfortable -- such as when someone else was sleeping in the same room and someone was in charge in the house, like a father. When I could not be in such a situation, I obtained a prescription of Ellavil to help me sleep at night. I still take 25 mg. nightly. 

I recuperated enough to go back to college and Vocational Rehab paid the bill for a two-year degree. This time I got a computer science degree. Since then, my jobs have mostly included computer programming. 

Since I graduated with my A.S., I have spend much of the time living with relatives, but I have sometimes lived alone. Although there are aspects of living alone that I don't like -- e.g. it can get lonely and it's not pleasant to live alone when you have a medical problem -- some times of living alone have been quite productive for writing hymns and poetry and also for in-depth Bible study. At times I have been overcome with awe at insights God has given me. 

However, I have had a regular struggle of what to do when I see a man with a fine beard, long hair, handsome face, hairy, muscular body, or other attractive feature. I seem irresistibly attracted to them and I'm not entirely comfortable with that. Sometimes I have had to tell myself to stop staring. I have been glad when I have seen bearded men who are husbands and fathers. I have thought that, even though I would never be a bearded man who had a wife and children, that it was good that some men were as I wished I could be. 

I have long been fascinated by male mannequins and dolls with combable hair. Sometimes it has felt very good just to touch the hair on such a mannequin, hoping that no one noticed what I was doing. In 1997, when I was staying at Mom's house, I noticed a doll on her dresser. I asked her about it and she told me where it came from, referring to it as "she." I said, "HIM, Mama, HIM." It was an Indian chief, with long, flowing, lustrous hair. She offered to let me have it and I took it to my room. I got aroused and felt guilty as I combed his hair. I took him back to Mom and told her I liked him too much. She ended up putting him in her drawer out of sight for a while and then giving him away for my sake. But while he was still in the house, I would sometimes go look at him or get him out when she was gone. At one point it seemed like my pent-up emotions from decades of repression were directed toward that doll. I hugged him, I kissed him, I held him close, sort of experimenting with what it would be like to sleep with him at night -- sort of like a teddy bear. But again came the sexual arousal and the guilty feeling. I tried just setting him on a dresser or on a shelf and going about my business. But, I couldn't take my eyes off of him until I put him back in the drawer. 

The Christmas of '98 a nearby church had a nativity scene that included some male mannequin heads with shoulder-length hair and beards. I found them very attractive and would gaze at them and wonder what people were thinking as they passed by in their cars. I also straightened out their hair and beards, which had been affected by the wind and rain, and I took some pictures that I could look at by myself. My emotional response to the pictures was such that I tore them up. I had scanned some of them in and shared them with others as computer files. If I didn't think it were would be a stumbling block for me, I would likely get one of these mannequin heads for myself. There may be nothing wrong with a mannequin with "biblical-length" hair and beard, but when Jesus spoke metaphorically about chopping off hands or gouging out our eyes, I believe he intended for us to keep away from otherwise innocent things that would have get in the way of our relationship with Him. 

I presently work as a full-time programmer. Thus I have access to the internet at work and at home. I have visited some sites that feature handsome beards -- a lot of them hosted by openly homosexual men. Thus I discovered that hairy and/or bearded men who like other such men are called bears. 

I have also looked up other gay sites. Although I have never experimented sexually, I identify with others who share my same tendencies, even though they have made different choices than I have. I sometimes wrestle with the issue of how much it is appropriate to associate with those who do some things that I very much disapprove of. And when I come across something that turns me on or makes me identify with sexually active gays or think more positively about gay sex -- and especially if I see something sexually explicit -- I feel that maybe I shouldn't have gone surfing there. 

Presently I am involved with an Adventist discussion group on the Internet called AmongFriends

I communicated via the Internet with a bear with a long, red beard -- red being my favorite hair color. He invited me to his church, and so I went there one recent Sunday. He does not go to a "gay" church and he has not come out to his church. He is a fairly big, masculine-appearing man. He took me home and was going to introduce me to his partner, but his partner never showed up. We talked about various things, including the Bible, and I shared some of my hymns with him. 

During the conversation, he let me know that, although he was sexually faithful to his partner, his partner didn't mind if he did a little cuddling. I did not respond to that immediately, but a little later, I told him I would like to cuddle. We hugged and stroked each others' upper body somewhat. Once he had his hand on my leg, but he removed it when I asked him to. Since then, I haven't felt that it was entirely a good thing, especially when we felt under each others' shirts. I did get a little aroused and feel this sort of exploratory activity could lead to greater and more dangerous intimacy. 

I am still struggling with the issue of how much should I let myself think of myself as homosexual. I used to think of myself as nonsexual, with possibilities of becoming homosexual. I also have wondered how much I should let myself associate with sexually active gays. I have considered going to a gay church some time. When I recently met a leader of a support group in a nearby city, I mentioned the idea of going to a gay church, and he said that I should pray about it. I think it is probably better at the present time for me to associate with celibate "ex-gays." I would like to sort out some emotional issues, and I would like some brotherly affection. But, I don't want to sin against my Lord, and I want to have His joy in my life. 

I have read a story a man who had a pet turtle. The turtle seemed quite contented in its existence. The man had a lady friend who also had a turtle and decided that it would be nice if the two turtles became acquainted. So she brought hers over. It turned out that the two turtles were of the opposite sex and decided to breed. This mortified the poor woman and she grabbed her turtle and departed. After this, the man's turtle spent its time going around the apartment, searching and searching for the other turtle. I think the man let his turtle go back to the wild. The story reminds me that I need to be careful in what I expose myself to, lest a longing for forbidden fruit be awakened in me and strengthened by too much involvement. It is true that Christ could rescue me even if I did fall into gross sin. But, it would not be good for me, nor those whom I influence, nor those who love me, for me to go down the wrong road. As the song says, "I would be true, for there are those who trust me. I would be pure, for there are those who care." (Howard Arnold Walter - 1883-1918). 

Throughout my struggles, I have had the feeling that God cares for me. This has been my anchor. I do not believe, as some seem to, that the goal for every same-gender-attracted person should be to find a spouse of the opposite sex. But, even though my present experience has not had as much joy as at some times in the past, He has upheld me. Even though I haven't written much poetry or music during my struggles, He has reminded me of His love through things I have written in the past, as well as songs other people have written. I have felt His love through the Word, through the Holy Spirit and through other people. 

I am getting a little "braver" about this issue. Recently when I noticed that one of our colleges had helped raise a lot of money for AIDS, yet there was no outreach to those who struggled with same-gender-attraction, I emailed them and protested. I also shared with my Sabbath School class that they should have mercy on persons attracted to the same gender. But, I identified myself as someone who had gay relatives and friends, rather than it being my own self. 

Finally, I would like to say that God loves all of us -- those who stay pure before the Lord, those who fall occasionally, those who feel trapped in bad habits and even those who have become comfortable in behavior God has forbidden. Just as Jesus silenced the noisy accusers of the woman taken in adultery and then told her, "Go and sin no more," He can rescue us too. The "homophobia" label does not apply to everything that radical gays think it should, but it is very real. We need friends. Show us how much God cares by letting Him love us through you. May our Lord guide and comfort those who struggle with these issues, our loved ones and those who have chosen to reach out to us. 

*Eugene Jensen is a pseudonym

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Last modified 15 Feb 2010 08:22 PM