Saturday, June 19, 2010

Telling our stories: Jonathan, by Lisa

It is not just for myself that I write this blog. Sometimes it seems too hard, not just emotionally, but because of the time involved and the effort it takes to type out and compose what I want to say, to keep it up. Then, I get an e-mail like this one from Lisa. She shared about her friend, Jonathan, a young gay man. Through knowing him, she learned to accept him for himself, and it changed her life.

Like Lisa and how she was changed, when I needed to gather information, I was touched by stories that others put on blogs and websites and by personal sharing. I found out, to my shock, that there were gay Christians, and that there was no such thing as only one "gay lifestyle."

Now I believe in blogging, and in sharing our stories in person as well. It starts with telling the truth, despite what others may think or say. Lisa has granted me permission to share the way she knew and loved Jonathan, and I offer it to you here.

When I met Jonathan, we were instant friends. We connected on so many levels and our friendship lasted for many year. After I had known him about a year, he confided in me that he was gay. He was only 16 years old at the time. I was in my 20's. I was a little shocked at first, but I already loved and cared about him, and his revelation was not going to change that. It was something that I watched him struggle with for years. He was afraid his parents would find out and shun him. He played piano for several local churches and worried that he was going to be punished by God for playing for a church and being gay.
He went to college on a scholarship because he didn't want to take his parents money, for fear of their reaction if they ever found out. He ended up working 3 jobs while in college, to cover what the scholarship didn't. He was leading a double life, being himself at school and and being the dutiful son when he came home. It was tearing him apart. Finally in his senior year of college, he closed his bank accounts, maxed out all his credit cards and came home with a gun, planning to kill himself. But for some reason, at the last minute, he reached out to his mom for help. He finally told her everything that he had been hiding.
His mother loved him. I don't doubt that. But she couldn't accept that he was gay and she got him into cousleing with someone who kept telling him it was just a phase, and that he could change. That was 5 years ago, and she never stopped trying to change him. He dropped out of college and moved back home. He was just going through the motions really. Two years ago, a job came open in South Carolina, within the company he worked at, so he moved. I thought things were better, since he could be himself there. Of course he still had to pretend when he came home.
We used to joke around and say we should get married, just as a cover. He was so tired of pretending to be someone he was not. But he knew his parents would never ever accept him for who really was. And he was so worried about what God and other Christians thought. I guess I thought he was doing better, but I missed something along the way. He killed himself on May 10, 2010. He just couldn't take the pressures of life anymore.
I am feeling so guilty because I missed the signs. I am so anger that this world makes it so hard for gay people. I really just want to shout at people when they say such hurtful things, like gay people choose their lifestyles. If it were just a choice, Jonathan would not have killed himself. He would have chosen the easier path. I have to say that Jonathan is the reason that my heart was changed. He made me a better person. And now he is gone. I feel so alone, so hurt, so many emotions. I am flooded with memories and regrets.
Reading your blog has been good for me. I just needed to write to you and tell you what Ray's coming out meant to Jonathan. I think it gave him a brief bit of hope. I think the pain he was in was just too much. I read a quote on a suicide survivors forum that I joined. It said " the time came when the pain it took to stay was greater than the pain it took to go"
Please tell Ray thank you and I thank you for sharing your story and for letting me share Jonathan's. The more I can write this down and get it out of my head the better. Please keep me and his family in your prayers and I will keep you in mine.

 Jonathan's story is important, and Lisa has offered to share it with us.  ALL of our stories matter, and I hope I can honor others' stories as well.


hillsideslide said...


Lisa, my deepest condolences for the loss of such a friend.

You've given Jonathan a beautiful tribute. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of him, and what he's meant to you.

Shel said...

My heart just breaks when I read stories like this. My soon to be ex lives in fear his family will find out because they've already shunned a gay nephew. And these people profess to be such great Christians. Hmpf!

I dream of a world where it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight because either way, that's how God made you.

Lisa, I'm so sorry for your loss. Jonathan was so lucky to have a friend like you.

Tim Morris said...

This is another important story, Sad as it is it needs to be shared.

Birdie said...

Carol, this is why you and I must never stop. I fear that it is too late for many our age, for they have turned their backs on God due to the hatefulness of many who call themselves Christians. But there are children growing up gay who must learn that their sexuality is a gift from God that they can use to His glory.

As a survivor of my father's suicide, I know the impact of Jonathan's choice. Thank you for telling this tragic story.

Rainbow Nazarene said...

Lisa, thank you for sharing Jonathan's story, as well as your grief.

My best friend and soul mate ended her life 18 yrs ago after struggling a long time with her sexuality. At her funeral, there was no mention of her suicide nor of her orientation. When will Christian families learn to embrace their lesbian/gay loved ones?

Doorman-Priest said...

Never stop. This is a ministry.

Lisa Hartzell said...

Thank you everyone for your thoughts. Please keep me in your prayers. Tomorrow, July 8, would have been Jonathan's 28th birthday.I don't think I have ever faced anything so hard. I am heartbroken and I still have alot of anger inside too, because it didn't have to be this way.

Lloyd Peacock said...

Dear Carol:

Thank you for posting Lisa's story on your blog. My name is Lloyd Peacock, and today is my 42nd anniversary. My spouse Bob and I were one of the same-sex couples in Canada who began the fight for the right to marry in 2001. We won that right in 2004 and were legally married. I'm both happy and sad today. You see, my beautiful 19 year old granddaughter took her own life on Tuesday, July 6th. It had nothing to do with me being gay, but the pressures of life were just too much for her to handle. There are far too many stories of the Jonathan's in our community that can't find the support to stop them from wasting their valuable lives. I want to share some of Bob and my stories with your readers if you will allow me, but I'll do so in future posts. We are both Christians and have dealt with all of the attacks, however both our faith and minds are strong. And we love our Lord Jesus. Please remember Lisa, (My Daughters Name): It is always darkest before the dawn, "But Joy Comes in the Morning."

Steve F. said...

This is always heartbreaking to hear.

It's particularly touching to me, because my first love and best friend committed suicide rather than face his sexuality and his addiction. He shot himself on Palm Sunday, 1990. Like so many others, I missed the signs, and was too buried in my own alcoholism at the time to see what was happening with him.

People who will cut someone off - as my partner's family did for 6 months after he moved north to live with me - will do so, regardless how much we try to "make things right." I keep saying to those who struggle: What others think of you is simply none of your damn business. But somehow, people are much more prone to believe God rejects them than accept the possibility of being loved, accepted, and welcomed.

The good news is, my partner's parents finally realized that it was their actions and silence that closed the door between them and their younger son. My partner's older brother has always accepted him, and has welcomed me into their house. The fundie younger sister remains distant; only time and love will fix that. But the restoration of the parental relationship has been amazing to watch, even if it HAS taken 3 years.

For those who still have that thought that "things will never get better," I quote my friends in recovery: Don't quit until the miracle happens.