Jesus was my first love.
It was a relationship like no other, where none of the normal issues, such as poor communication, applied.
Growing up in the church, I was taught that God not only genuinely listened to my every thought but could anticipate it before it even entered my mind.
This meant that unlike a typical lover, he would never ignore my calls or leave me on read.
Perhaps most importantly, there was the guarantee that I would never get ghosted (unless you’re counting the holy ghost), because his love for me was eternal.
Feelings I could never acknowledge
Our love started out as ‘agape’, a term used in the original Greek of the Bible to describe unconditional love.
That is, things were mostly pure and holy, except for a brief period in my early teens where my love for him turned a little ‘eros’ (sensual and intimate).
Around that time, posters of Jesus unearthed certain feelings I tried, but failed, to repress.
Looking back, it was perhaps his long, flowy hair and soft feminine features that drew me to him.
Deep down, they represented my attraction to women – something I felt so strongly but could never openly acknowledge.
For as long as I could remember, the church spouted openly homophobic views, which were misinformed at best and toxic at their worst.
“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” my pastor would warn whenever the topic of LGBT+ rights was raised.
And anyone who deviated from God’s perfect design was, we were told, destined for fire and brimstone.
So, terrified of being destined to that fate, I carefully concealed my sexuality.
It worked, for some time, and at the tender age of 21, I was betrothed to a guy I met at my local church while at university.
Looking back, he could have been anyone.
I simply craved the stability that holy matrimony would offer, and if I’m completely honest, I was impatient after years of saving myself until marriage.
Somebody else’s life
I ignored all the red flags that indicated that he too wasn’t really interested in me as a person – he just wanted the status that came with having a wife.
Fast forward to the day of the wedding; as I walked down the altar, I heard a voice in my mind that said: “I feel nothing.”
It was not a thought I should have had on my wedding day, supposedly the best day of my life, but it was true.
As I walked toward the man I was about to marry, I felt completely disconnected from the event, as though I were watching somebody else’s life play out before my eyes.
The truth was that my heart was with the woman in the congregation who I had been deeply in love with for the previous five years.
At every opportunity, I scanned the crowd to glimpse a peek of her, hoping her eyes would meet mine.
At the wedding reception, I was far more interested in convincing her to dance with me than my new husband – but she declined in her usual coy, modest way.
How I wanted that dance.
The following day, after I woke up after my first night with my husband (which was, quite frankly, the biggest disappointment in my life up until then), the first thing I thought about was her.
Not long after getting married, I had a crisis of faith.
Like any faithful believer, I went away to study Christianity with a view to resolving my doubts.
But the problem was, the more I read about the process by which the Bible was put together, the harder it was to turn back.
When I announced my disbelief to my husband, he became verbally and emotionally abusive, punishing me for my lack of belief.
One day, he announced that if I couldn’t love Jesus, he couldn’t love me.
Soon after that, he asked for a divorce.
Despite the complexities of the marriage, I was heartbroken.
And having suffered a major bereavement just a few weeks before he left me, I was overwhelmed with loss.
The most important lesson
Not knowing where to turn, I decided to take a year out to focus on myself.
I travelled around South America, learning Spanish and teaching English to support myself.
During that year, I began to deconstruct the homophobic beliefs I had been taught growing up and came to accept my sexuality.
The most important lesson I learned was that the best thing I could do was love myself.
Ironically, four years on, I am in a relationship with a man who looks the spitting image of Jesus.
A man who is openly in touch with his feminine side, who looks just like the posters from my youth.
Isn’t it funny how things come full circle?