SHIPWRECKED AND SALVAGED
By Joe Burnham:
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were women with beautiful voices that would lure sailors from the open seas to their rocky coastline, eventually causing them to shipwreck. I too have fallen victim to the Sirens, although they dwell within my head rather than on some craggy shore.
Their birth began some three decades ago during my elementary school years.
My first crush was in first grade, but she was unaware of my existence. My second crush was in the third grade, and revealing my affection ended in humiliation. Sixth and seventh grade brought more humiliation. By the time high school was done, the sirens had convinced me that I was little more than a eunuch – a “safe guy” to have around, but nothing more.
I withdrew from most relationships, and sabotaged the ones I started, and the Sirens sung the whole time. They sung that I wasn’t desirable or attractive. They sung that I wasn’t useful as a man. There were other whispers that I was something more, but the Sirens overpowered them.
I eventually married, but it didn’t quiet their voices; I began a desperate quest to seek out affirmation -- any voice that would, at least for a moment, drown out their song.
That was the beginning of my shipwreck.
My first unhealthy moves towards the rocks seemed minor and fanciful: too-close friendships, intimate stories, chat room conversations, and private one-on-one discussions. But it was never enough, and as the craving to feel a more tangible affirmation became overwhelming, I steered my rudder straight into the rocks.
In an instant, it was over. I responded to an ad for an escort, and was arrested in the process. My life was shipwrecked, and I was left floating among the debris.
My second chance began with the people who found me floating. A friend contacted me, listened to my story, and pointed me to a community that seeks to define and foster a healthy Biblical understanding of gender and sexuality. An old college friend helped me confront my insecurities and counter the still-singing Sirens’ lies. Other friends came beside me and became people I could calls on those days I hear the Sirens – people who speak truth into my life about my identity.
With each new voice, the Sirens are a little softer. The new voices speak words that match the affirmations of Christ, and I’m coming to know more and more truth about myself. I’m not afraid of my past, or my Sirens, and I believe the best of my life is ahead of me.
I’ve begun to believe I’m the man Christ made me to be. I've begun to rebuild my ship, and set sail again.
Photo credit: Teo Romera