People touch our lives in different ways, some directly and some aren’t even aware of the tremendous impact they’ve had or the door that they’ve helped to open for you. Five years ago, I found myself in the midst of spiritual and emotional upheaval. My efforts to take steps towards creating an ex-gay ministry in my hometown had put me in a place that I had to confront my own reality as someone who is both a believer and as a gay man.

I didn’t know how to accept those two parts of me. I didn’t even know if I could.

I began reading everything that I could get my hands on that argued both sides of the issue. It became clear to me very quickly that, regardless of the path that I chose, many people had walked this path before me and had laid out clear intellectual and theological arguments to support both positions.

Frustrated and discouraged, I found myself in the local library one day picking up a few books that I’d had put on reserve. In that stack of books that day was a book very different than the other books I had consulted looking for answers up until that point. I looked through the books more closely when I had reached the safety of my car. Stuck in the middle of books claiming to theologically or scientifically prove or discredit the validity of homosexuality was a book called The God Box. I stared at the cover, which showed a picture of two guys holding hands.

I couldn’t be seen reading this.

I’d be painting an even bigger target on myself than the one I was already wearing. I almost got out of my car right then and walked over to drop it into the book return. My answers couldn’t possibly be found in the pages of a young adult novel anyway. I was in crisis. I needed a real workable solution, not some story riddled with teen angst and drama. For whatever reason though, I decided to hold on to the book.

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When I got home, I began looking through the other books. I quickly realized that they were just filled with duplicates and re-interpretations of the same arguments that I had read over and over again. Reluctantly, I picked up the copy of The God Box. I decided that I could at least read the first chapter. I wasn’t finding answers anywhere else. At least this would be a distraction.

I was immediately drawn into the story of Paul, a young man who is forced to confront his own faith and feelings of homosexuality when a new kid named Manuel shows up at his high school and openly and unashamedly identifies himself as both gay and a Christian. As I connected more and more with Paul’s story and the questions that he was wrestling with, I began to open myself up to the possibility that maybe there was a way for me to live my life honoring both my sexuality and my spirituality.

As I got close to finishing the book, I decided that I should take note of the author, Alex Sanchez, and see if he’d written anything else. I discovered that he’d written some other young adult novels, and my library actually had a few of them. I placed them on reserve and quickly read through them. One of the things that I really appreciate about Alex’s work is that he writes about real issues that impact real LGBTQ youth, or gay men in their mid-30’s who are accepting that part of themselves for the first time.

Within the next couple of years, I would come into contact with many people who would help me in walking through the door of self-acceptance, but Alex Sanchez deserves a great deal of the credit for helping me to open the door in the first place.

Read more about Alex Sanchez at http://www.alexsanchez.com/

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