A Strange Letter

I hope everyone’s had a wonderful Christmas.  I’ve been a bit absent from my blog, but something curious took place yesterday that seems worth mentioning here.

As I went through my mail, I came across a letter postmarked from California. There was no return address, and the address was printed on a mailing label, rather than printed by hand. I figured it was either some sort of marketing campaign from a small Catholic outfit that had found my name on a mailing list somewhere and was engaging in a last minute appeal for year-end giving, or that it was perhaps a Christmas letter from an old friend whose letter might reveal why he or she had recently moved to California.

Instead, it was sent by someone I don’t know. Enclosed was a printout from a webpage at a website called “Freedom To Marry.” No letter was attached or enclosed with a word of explanation.

The printout featured the rather sentimental story of a fellow who orchestrated a YouTube worthy proposal to the man he wanted to share his life with, complete with choreography and friends and family tuning in via Facetime on iPads and iPhones, all leading to the final moment when the proposer raises a sign to the proposed-to-fellow: “If I’ll be good to you, will you be good to me?” They’re in a Home Depot (one of the first places they met apparently), and the proposed-to-fellow is on one of those big ladders that I’ve always wanted to climb (just because it’s there). As he walks down the ladder towards the proposer, he hears the words, “I love you more than anything in this entire world, and I would be honored if you will be by my side for the rest of my life.” He gets down on one knee and says, “Will you marry of me?” I’m assuming the YouTube video ends in cheers and hugs and glad tidings of great joy amongst all of the witnesses of the auspicious moment, both real and virtual. (I haven’t watched it).

There was a second printout along with the first: Apparently this YouTube video was shown to some children, and they were asked what their thoughts were, sort of a “from the mouths of babes” sort of thing. It looks like the video went viral with over 9 million views. It shows screen captures of four children watching the proposal. One kiddo says, “you should always let your real self shine through.”

It’s a strange thing to receive an anonymous letter* at your home from the other side of the country. I’m certain the letter was sent to me from a place of charity and from a person desirous of me “letting my real self shine through,” and to perhaps inspire me to consider living out my own made-for-YouTube story, but that’s a path that holds no interest for me.

I don’t doubt the two in the video are living a happy life. I’m not sure why, however, someone might think that this particular story would influence me in anyway, or be “liberating” for me. I appreciate their concern,and perhaps it was motivated by reading one of my posts where I was feeling lonely and in a bit of a funk. But of course life is filled with ups and downs, and just because you send out postcards while you’re in the valley, it doesn’t mean you live there.

I  think about the happiness of same sex couples like the Home Depot guys in light of the stories I hear from my friends who have chosen to live lives of chastity, as well as in light of my life as well. One of my good friends is a man who was living the fast life in New York City–plenty of lovers in between committed partners, amazing experiences, a great job, a sports car, material wealth and success. He was happy, and would have thought it absurd for anyone to have questioned his choice of life.

Now, however, he looks back on that life and says, “Indeed, I was happy…but only as happy as I knew how to be.”

The happiness of these fellows living out their romance spawned at the Home Depot reminds me of that great line from C. S. Lewis, which has proved a bulwark for me time and time again:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Same-sex couples who are married I’m sure are happy–but only as happy as they know how to be. I’m not lured into the promises of the Hallmark Movie of “we’re so happy when we remodel our house together” as the story in the printout tells. Sure there are occasional times when the idea to find a guy is tempting, but then I think of my past, and the stories of all of the good and wise men and women who I’ve met through Courage who’ve lived that life. All of them, and I, say in unison, “Sure, I was happy, but only as happy as I knew how to be.”

At this point in my life, a relationship with a man sounds like a cop-out. I wouldn’t truly be living–it would be settling for mud pies. Sure, I’d have someone to share my life with, but I have chosen to share my life with many people: with my family, and with lots of friends. I would have someone to have sex with too, when we both wanted, but how long would using the machinery of sexuality for mutual pleasure, without honoring the design of sexuality, please us? It never works out the way anyone thinks it will when we use sex in opposition to its design. In the case of two men together, Dan Savage and his notion of non-monogamous monogamy seems to usually become the default in long term relationships, and I don’t find the idea of a “monogamish” relationship all that compelling, as exemplified in this video from Dan Savage:

I had a recent online conversation with someone who engaged in some armchair psychoanalysis of me, and wrote to me “that it’s obvious” that I want to be in a relationship. I wonder if the person who sent me this anonymous letter was operating out of a similar belief, perhaps because in some of my most recent posts I wrote honestly from moments of loneliness and longing. I wonder if because of those posts a reader or two has construed that I live my life perpetually in that place, and that my life is drudgery. But of course, an online blog like this can only ever be an incomplete picture of a man, since it merely gives a glimpse into moments in time. I do indeed sometimes long for a relationship (even occasionally with a woman!), but most of my life is spent enjoying my single life and the benefits that come from living alone. (There are plenty!) But even in moments of longing for companionship, I’m guided by the knowledge that I am merely a man, and God is God, not I. I have come to know that what St. Clement of Alexandria said long ago: the commandments of God lead to the Blessed Life.

.In that light, the path of gay marriage for me would be settling for mud pies. No thanks.

*It’s a bit creepy to know that because of Google, it’s easy to figure out where someone lives. It wouldn’t take too much snooping to dig up my address based on the information about me easily available online. I’m not the paranoid type, and it’s clear this person sent me this letter as a way to probably help me see “what could be.” But still…a bit creepy and somewhat disconcerting.

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15 thoughts on “A Strange Letter

  1. Rock on, brother. My favorite part: “just because you send out postcards while you’re in the valley, it doesn’t mean you live there.” You always seem to hit me with words particularly relevant to my moment in time. Hope you’re doing well, Jeron

    >________________________________ >From: Letters to Christopher >To: jeron.smith8@yahoo.com >Sent: Sunday, December 29, 2013 6:59 PM >Subject: [New post] A Strange Letter > > > >D. C. Mattson posted: “I hope everyone’s had a wonderful Christmas. I’ve been a bit absent from my blog, but something curious took place yesterday that seems worth mentioning here. As I went through my mail, I came across a letter postmarked from California. There was no ret” >

  2. Hello Dan! I heard your interview with Al Kresta as I was driving in my car yesterday, and had to check out your blog. My brother struggles with same sex attraction. He lived a promiscuous life trying to find fulfillment. He spent two months in an addiction treatment facility and is now a recovering alcoholic. I am so proud of him for this huge accomplishment that he struggles with daily. He is about to turn 50 and is very lonely and depressed that at this stage in his life he has no one to share his life with.

    He is a baptized Catholic but not in practice. AA taught him the need to rely on a higher power, but he has issues with the Catholic Church. I am passionately Catholic. I lived the life of a prodigal, but Jesus pulled me out of the muck and gave me the opportunity for a fresh start–a new life with him.

    I wish there was some way to help my brother know the love of God, that he is precious in God’s eyes. And I want to be able to love and support those with same sex attraction without being condemning or judgmental. Your decision to live in accordance with Church teaching is inspiring and your story helps me understand the the Church’s position in a new light. Your cross is a heavy one to bear. I will pray for you that you may feel the love of God during your times of struggle and that you may allow Him to help carry your cross.

    Please pray for my brother. I love him so much but he feels I judge him because I am a practicing Catholic. I do not judge or condemn him, I only wish to love and support him, but he has put up a wall between us and it breaks my heart.

    Thank you for sharing your story. God bless you.

    Your sister in Christ

    • Thanks for the comments and kind words, and thanks for sharing a bit about your brother. I will pray for him.

      I’d also recommend to you that you find others who can walk this journey with you. The Courage Apostolate’s division for family and loved ones of those with SSA can be a real help to you, both online and in person. I encourage you to check it out here: http://couragerc.net/EnCourage.html

      They have some local chapters across the country, but too few at this point, unfortunately. There is an online aspect though as well.

      God bless you and your brother! May he discover his belovedness! I think you could give him The Return of the Prodigal Son as a gift perhaps? It’s all about reclaiming one’s belovedness in the arms of the Father. It’d be good for a recovering alcoholic, and it could lead down the road towards him seeing the truth of homosexuality too.

  3. It would be terribly disconcerting to receive an anonymous, and unwanted, letter. Unfortunately, the good people who dedicate themselves to truth through public evangelism can be easily found. If I were you, I would keep a paper shredder near the front door and anything not recognized or anticipated….

    First off, all videotaped “surprise” proposals and wedding dances make me hurl. I think they should be banned. We call ourselves rational, but we only act and react out of emotion.

    It appears as if the greatest collective fear in the world is loneliness. And if a homosexual relationship relieves that fear, then it’s all good. Anything goes but loneliness. And unattached people are highly suspect, homosexual or not. In many people’s worldview, that simply cannot be tolerated.

    Personally, while I have a scorching case of SSA, I have never had any desire for a same sex relationship. Same sex sex, oh my yes, but never a relationship. I strongly desire and dream of a long-term, intimate relationship with a woman. But that’s highly unlikely. I always thought that it was a virtue to recognize and learn to live within our limitations. “When I am weak, then I am powerful.”

    You are fighting the good fight, my man, and that will not be tolerated in some circles. This is why I pray for you and why I am thankful for your witness.

    May God bless you this New Year with health and happiness – and no more anonymous help!

    • Thanks for the comments about the anonymous letter. Sorta creepy, for sure, but I do think it came from a well-intentioned place. Though of course, not so well intentioned things could come too, but that’s in God’s hands.

      I think you make a very good point about those silly video-taped proposals: are they really about love, or are they more about creating an “epic” proposal, in order to have bragging rights? We live in an exhibitionist society, and it seems to me that these scripted proposals ultimately end up being more about the proposer than the proposed-to, which is really what a proposal should be about, right? The beauty of a marriage proposal of a man to a woman should all be about the woman–that’s the glory of good dance too: the man dances in such a way as to cause the woman to shine and to be the focus of attention. This was clearly done with the dual motivation of creating a YouTube video that would hit the soft underbelly of society: sentimentality. If it makes us cry, it must be beautiful, right?

      You’re right about loneliness. That’s the GREAT pariah, the unlivable situation. Nouwen said of loneliness that it has a deep and penetrating beauty that cuts like a knife through the heart like the Grand Canyon does. I do think this is true.

      I like that phrase “a scorching case of SSA.” 🙂 We’re funny creatures, aren’t we? Sometimes I long for a relationship with a woman, or a man, but usually the sexual longing is reserved for men. At this point in my life, the concept of a relationship with a woman is pleasant to think about–until I think about it in actuality, and I realize I don’t really want that. I only occasionally desire a “relationship” with a man, but the strongest desire for that relationship would be sexually, rather than walking the journey of life together. Though that enters into it sometimes too.

      I agree with you: recognize and learn to live within our limitations: and view them as they are, and not shellac them into being the things that “make us what we are,” and operating in a place of false attribution, i.e., all that’s beautiful and good about me stems from homosexuality. Pshaw!

      May God bless you as well in the coming year!

  4. I heard you a few days ago on our local Catholic radio station, St Gabriel, in Columbus, Ohio, and was immediately fascinated with your message. Initially, I felt a common thread, now I want to read, hear, and maybe see more of want you say. Please let me know of all the ways I can hear you, I really am thirsting for your message.

    • Hi Don,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind comments. As to where I can be heard, on the right side of my blog, there is a list linking to all of my radio interviews that I’ve done. They naturally cover much of the same material, but from a slightly different angle each time. There’s also a comprehensive list of my writing and interviews compiled here: http://parishbulletin.com/Organizations/3208/Documents/living_With_SSA.htm

      Please feel free to write me as well at my email address: letterstochristopherblog@gmail.com

      God bless you!

      • That video by Dan Savage is so very, very sad. Dr. J. Bud’s words that you quote in your post on his book apply so very much to what Dan S. says. Honestly, his confusion about and distortion of the nature of the sexual faculty is enough to fill one’s eyes with tears, especially when so many look to Dan S. as a role model and leader of sorts.

        So glad to see that link to the comprehensive list writings, interviews, and talks, here on your blog!

  5. My daughter’s a computer science major, and she says folks can’t trace your address through the computer anymore. Perhaps the video was from someone who knew you.

    God bless you!

    • Finding my address is as easy as going to Whitepages.com. It’s very easy to find someone’s address. All you really need to know is their state and full name. I’ve given enough information about myself for someone to find where I live. What I’ll be working on is how to remove my address from public searches. You could easily find my address by using whitepages.com, if you really wanted. It’s a Brave New World out there!

    • I am curious what would lead your daughter to that conclusion — maybe she was referring to the privacy settings on social media sites? As D.C. mentioned, whitepages.com has any of the information that you old-fashioned phone book would have had: home phone and a street address.

      Even if you’re not on there, your address may be in public records. Own a home? Your name and address are in the county auditor’s database. It requires only some time and basic sleuthery to connect the dots between what you volunteer on a social media profile and public record. Only two people in the US (and probably the world) share my first name-last name combination, and my region has already been outed by some local newspaper interviews as crawled by Google. I basically have to trust the world.

      Like D.C. said: Brave New World. And, I hope as well that the video was sent in an attempt of charity, not malice.

  6. It has been several months since I committed to live a life of chastity… not easy. It is a relief to know that I am not the only one who struggles with the desire of a relationship. Although I am at times confused about my feelings, I know that my past life, as you said, was only the limit of what I knew then (many partners, lots of sex); little by little I have come to realize it. Thanks for sharing this, it is such a great inspiration and support, especially in my down moments.

    • Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to comment. I’ll pray for you on your journey. The path is very hard, moving from unchastity to chastity (Lord knows I’m not where I want to be yet on that road!), but the battle is worth it, and though there will inevitably be ups and downs on the journey, it’s always worth it to keep pushing towards the goal. And to realize we’re not alone! Have you checked out Courage at all? That has been very helpful for me in the journey. You can check it out at Couragerc.net. Also, check out another blog I’m involved with at JoyfulPilgrims.com. God bless you–you’re in my prayers!

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