Suffering or Tempering?

Everyone in my family has their own story of personal suffering. How they may have been beat out of a good job by someone less skilled, or wronged by that snip of a policeman who ticketed them for speeding. When I was a child, I listened to more than a few adults recant countless tales of pain and suffering due to the war effort, poverty, or perhaps the lack of a parent. Some of these stories made me think how lucky I was to be living at that time. After all, I knew grown-ups who had to walk 5 miles uphill in the snow to get to school each day!

As I matured and experienced an expected amount of sibling rivalry, I found my brothers and me trading stories of suffering and wrong doings at the hands of others. Of course the goal was to out-do each other with the purported solution to these grave situations. The focus became how great the infraction was, and what drastic and clever measures were taken to vindicate oneself of the embarrassing event. Over time I noticed elements of this dangerous mindset weaving it’s way into every conversation with friends, family, co-workers and sometimes, complete strangers. The major component to every story was that at any given time some nameless, faceless person somewhere in the world had a personal grudge against me and was determined to settle the score by doing something to make me suffer. In essence, I perceived myself a victim.

In my late teens things began to further warp and distort in my thinking patterns. I began to see others as adversaries, foes, and enemies. Even my friends were held at arm’s length, and were viewed as fierce competitors in a game of ‘he who has the most wins’. Into my 20s when a person I was familiar with got a wonderful new job, pay raise, new home, new car, anything that I did not have, I resented it deeply. I usually made light of their good fortune by explaining their gain as a fluke of luck. Perhaps they had done something immoral and demeaning to get such a fine reward. Maybe someone in their family died and left them the money to spend frivolously. Whatever the case, such a person (by my account) had certainly not worked for their gain. It had come by outside means, and not of their own merit.

I was becoming bitter and hardened because I could not seem to get a break. Never mind that I was doing absolutely nothing to improve my own situation in life. I had major entitlement issues. I felt as though I should receive (without right or purpose) the same things as others, sans the effort it took to get them. Some people might recognize this and recall being scolded by a parent who asked; “Do you think the world owes you a living”? I did indeed think the world owed me something for just being here. I thought that the suffering inflicted upon me by others should be payable in full by some mysterious ‘Fairness’ lottery. I should be wealthy!! I should have nice things and I shouldn’t have to work like a dog to get them!! I felt justified in my hatred of my own condition, of man and life itself.

The whole ugly cycle perpetuated itself for years. My crummy behaviors, the resentment that I could not move forward (without major effort on my part), which produced the despair and resentment I felt towards others, which inevitably produced the inability to prosper . I never stopped to realize that it was me! My suffering was due solely to me accepting those things that the enemy loved to whisper in my ear. “You’re no good”, “You’ll never be anything”, “You’re a common bum”, “You’re sick and perverted. You like to dress as a woman and you’ll never be fit for society”. At this point I didn’t understand what God offered, or required of me. I also didn’t understand the concept of free will in God’s plan for us. Consequently I never asked him for anything. To me, God was either the stern and punishing parent, or the random granter of wishes, not unlike a Genie. I was sure that He was up in heaven gleefully pulling strings and orchestrating my sad little life here on earth. Punishing me at every turn for being the whack-o that I was. I felt my life as such, was what it was, and I could do nothing to change it. I was predestined to be sad, lonely and bitter. I continued on my path of self medication and self destruction.

I have no recollection of when I began listening to God… when I had a revelation. It could be that God’s plan for me was so subtle and long term that I didn’t notice it. Something in my life changed when I met my now ex-wife. For the first time (and probably all the wrong reasons) I wanted a long-term relationship with a woman. This forced me to face several issues. I needed steady work to support the both of us. I needed to have a modicum of respectability and success to hold her interest. And her love, no matter how conditional, required that I stop destroying myself with drugs, tobacco and alcohol. It was the most difficult thing I ever had to do in my life, but over a few years time… I actually was able to slow down and finally halt my addictive behavior with the substances I was abusing.

The first few years of marriage were tough ones and during that time I admitted to my wife that I was a cross dresser, or so I thought. Her reaction was not what I expected, at the time she must’ve loved me, or felt connected enough to not let that issue destroy our marriage. Life went on. Addictive behaviors are like a half-filled balloon however, you squeeze one end and all the air rushes to the other end. So when I quit substance abuse, the behaviors eventually manifested in other areas. My wife and I had our own separate issues that were damaging our relationship. However, for a time I was able to make it through several menial jobs to forge ahead ever so slightly. At some point my brother in law thought I should explore my graphic skills and knowledge by learning how to utilize a computer. I enrolled in a government program for displaced workers after I had injured myself on a construction job. Things began to look up. I was able to take some computer courses and progress came once again.

I secured a good job doing computer graphics for a large aerospace corporation. Things seemed to smooth out for a few years. Then the balloon theory began to take effect. Pressures at work, and pressure in my personal life began to mount. My wife and I had daily disagreements that usually erupted into a full blown screaming matches. Eventually, my whole world exploded when I found my urge to cross dress went deeper than even I had imagined. During that entire time I gave myself credit for pulling myself up by my bootstraps. I now give God all the glory. I realized that I had very little to do with my own recovery.

I knew from the time I was five or six years old, I was not the same as other little boys. I had managed to bury the fact that I always felt uncomfortable in my role as a male. I was extremely successful in hiding it from everyone. The tension continued to mount in my marriage and to avoid my wife using my cross dressing as a weapon against me, I decided to confront the issue and resolve it through the counseling process. I found out what I had suspected all my life… I was gender dysphoric. I was a transsexual! The Lord had dealt me yet another blow, I thought!! About six months into my sessions with a gender specialist, I knew what path I would take. My counselor explained to me the ramifications of transitioning from male to female, yet I accepted my fate as it were. During this time, I was initially feeling as though I had no business calling my self a Christian. My suffering was well deserved, I was a freak… a perverted, twisted joke of a human being.

As time passed, my wife and I called an end to our personal torment by making the decision to separate. I began to seek out the Lord. I didn’t even know why… I just thought there would be an answer for me. I began listening to Christian tapes and to read C. S. Lewis every chance I got. I became hungry for the word. During this time of spiritual renewal, I mounted the task of telling my family about me. Initially they were very accepting, but I think that when the full impact of my situation settled in their minds, they were horrified. I suffered many more personal rejections from that time forward. The difference was that now, as each day passed, I was gaining a fuller and more mature understanding of God’s word and his purpose for my life.

Even the harshest rejections seemed less destructive than in my past when I surely would have crumbled under the pressure, and ran off to appease my misery with drugs and booze. Now, I sought God’s help, I leaned on him… I lay my problems at the foot of the cross, and I continued on. Someone once analogized the troubles and hard times in our lives to tempering steel. With each cycle of intense heat, pounding and forming, and then a sudden plunge into cold water, the steel becomes stronger. Not only does the steel become stronger, it becomes more flexible!! It looses some of its brittleness. What a wonderful process!… as an affect of extreme and intense stress a brittle and weak thing become stronger and more flexible!

That is how I choose to look at my life, as a series of temperings. Each time I was beat up by my circumstances, it wasn’t God doing it to me. He may have ‘allowed’ some of it to happen to get me where he needed me to be. Ultimately, what I have experienced in my life has made me dependent on the Father. I know that without him, I would have never survived. I would never have lived to tell another human being the reason I am not afraid or ashamed of my transsexualism. I would not have lived to ask a young transsexual who was starting to look into Wicca as a form of worship, to look into a new fellowship instead of a new religion. I would have been incapable of telling straight, gay, lesbian, and transgender people alike about my reason for hope in this life.

I didn’t suddenly become happy. Where do some of us get the impression that once we become Christians that life becomes smoother and less troublesome? I don’t recall God telling us, ‘Believe on me and thou shalt have a good time’. He said he would never forsake us. That does not translate as, ‘You shall suffer no harm, nor pain, nor trials and tribulations’. I haven’t a doubt in my mind that some people are the cause of most of their own suffering, I certainly was the cause of mine. Of course there are cases where outside influences that cannot be surmounted can cause trials to come your way, but simply asking God to remove it from your life usually produces little result. The life of paradise and plenty vaporized in the garden. We are not entitled to a life of pleasure, free from all the things that whittle away at our peace. Ultimately that’s what keeps us looking to God, and to remind him of his promise, to receive it. To receive the precious gift he gave us in his son. Yes, in my case much of the suffering I did was by my own hand, but right now, I wouldn’t have any of it taken away or void from my life. God uses it for his purpose I am sure.