It was a dark and stormy night. Seriously. A thunderstorm was raging that fateful evening in mid-June 1998. I’d just gotten off the telephone with my best friend, and my eyes were drenching my pillow almost as aggressively as the storm was splattering on my bedroom window. My best friend had just finished telling me how he thought we needed some time apart. I was a wreck. Heartbroken. Untethered. Listless. Aimless. Friendless.
In June 1996, I moved to southern Minnesota with my mom and stepdad. I did my senior year of high school at a pilot charter school. Coming from South Dakota, I had very few friends. The charter school was a very different environment for me where I met lots of interesting teens. I got to start over socially. (And the prospect of starting over was the possibility that intrigued me to move to another state against my usual desire to play things safe in life and not really live all that much.) I made several new friends. Over the course of that school year, Frostbite Timberwolf was by far the closest one. He meant the world to me. (He liked wolves and the cold. So that’s my pseudonym for him.)
Late 1996 through early 1998 was a confusing time for me, sorting through matters of my Christian faith and grappling with my sexuality. And all of this in the context of candid conversations with other people. In my life prior to this, it was all bottled up inside and left unexamined. It was messy and awkward for a lot of people. Several new friends from that senior year of high school distanced themselves from me. Frostbite Timberwolf was the last one. Then, I was alone.
As I was crying on my bed at home that June night, the torrent outside overwhelmed my hearing. And then the sound just faded away. The thunderstorm was on mute. The room was quiet, and the air began to get ‘weighty’ to my senses—pressure was a sound, and the gaze of an intent stare in the darkness radiated a dry warmth over me. I knew Something was there. Someone was there. Unexpected and uninvited. Massive and overpowering.
There were heavy yet softly gentle thoughts in my head that weren’t my own:
Aaron, you’ve known for a very long time that I’m here. And yet you’ve tried so hard to cling to other people—to devote yourself to them and to obsess over them. But they will always fail you at some point. They will always let you down. And they can’t always be there for you. If you’re going to obsess over someone, then you have to obsess over me.
And then I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning and didn’t immediately recall what had happened. I stood up from my bed, and I sensed something different about me. I couldn’t name it at first. Then, I knew. The 200-pound boulder of shame in my chest was gone, and I wasn’t in despair anymore.
That weighty, soft, gentle Someone never said who he was, what he planned to do, or what ‘benefits’ he provided, but I knew. My renewed heart knew the object of its affection. The Triune God had sought me out in my anguish and called me to something more. My first instinct was to get a Bible and start reading it the rest of that summer.
Christ is the only one who can keep up with that so demanding neediness coming from a heart like mine. He’s the only man to whom I can safely tether my hopes and dreams and affections for undying companionship. That’s been the bedrock principle of my personal faith, and it’s the lesson I will always be called to remember during my life in this present world, awaiting the blessed world to come at the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, my holy Lord and perfect Friend.