My mother spent most of her time ironing clothes and cooking, which were activities she could do while watching soap operas. Watching soap operas seemed to me like a good use of a mother’s time. There was one that I liked myself. Every afternoon, I, who could barely tell time, would somehow know that the best way to occupy myself at that moment was to go inside and sit on the floor between the ironing board and the television set to watch The Secret Storm. After several weeks of this, my mother remarked, “I believe you must like Kip.” I agreed that I did. As soon as I’d said it, I felt embarrassed. For some reason I did not want to talk about my interest in the strangely magnetic young man on the television screen. One day when I took my seat in front of the ironing board, I got confused. There was a new character on the show. All the other characters kept calling him Kip, but he was not Kip. I asked my mother what had happened, and she said that a new actor was now playing the role of Kip. This new actor was not strangely magnetic. I returned to The Secret Storm every afternoon for a week before I finally accepted that the old Kip was not coming back. I abandoned the new Kip to the old Kip’s problems and went back outside to play. Doing that gave me a certain sense of relief, as I had begun to sense even then that it was somehow not okay to show too much interest in a handsome soap opera character.
My favorite religious pamphlet was the one that described the Apocalypse—favorite, that is, until I got to the end where Judgment Day was drawn in minute detail. Up to that point, it was just titillating pictures of the Four Horsemen skewering fornicators on the ends of their pikes, and Jesus in glory floating down into the orgy that was still going on among the sinners who hadn’t drowned in the river of blood. In the picture of Judgment Day, a huge crowd was seated in a celestial amphitheater. On the stage surrounded by angels were God, whose features were difficult to make out in the midst of his radiance, the Holy Ghost, who had no features at all, and Jesus, easily recognizable as he smiled and waved to the crowd. Behind them on the stage was a giant movie screen. Playing on the screen was a movie that God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost had spliced together. The movie showed every sin ever committed by every person who had ever lived. There was no popcorn, no getting up to go to the restroom. Instead, the crowd sat in queasy silence, waiting for the moment, eons away on this eternal day, when their own foibles would be projected in galactic scale for all creation to see.
My prayer campaign to Jesus wasn’t going so well. In fact, it wasn’t going anywhere at all. This did not seem fair. After all, it was Jesus himself who said, “Ask, and it shall be given you.” I had fulfilled my side of that bargain but had not received even a moment’s respite from homosexuality. Again, this did not seem fair. Measured against the Great Commission, I had not done too badly. Teaching all nations was a stretch for a kid who did not even have a driver’s license, but I had given my testimony all over middle Tennessee while performing with Just Us. I had led my best friend to Christ. Yet I was still beset with sexual desires that would one day wreck my plans to get married and have quadruplets. All I could think was that I wasn’t trying hard enough. That’s about all any Christian can think when his prayers go unanswered. Since all things are possible with God, any fault for unanswered prayers must lie with us. And according to our preachers, if there is a fault, it is always this: lack of faith. If we only have faith, we are taught, God will work miracles in our lives.