It is not a classic literary achievement and isn't meant to be. Instead, it is a great little tome that caused my spirit to call out, "Yes!" It was spot-on in recording the feelings and struggles experienced by Paul, a Christian teen living in a small Texas town. (I could relate, having grown up in an evangelistic, conservative Baptist church in the heartland of America)
Everything's perfect. He has the Christian girlfriend and group of friends. He has the vibrant mega-church with the perfect pastor and he even has the perfect salvation story. But all of that matters little when Manuel moves to town. He's also a Christian. But he has none of the "perfect" trappings of Paul's life; rather, he is confident, gay, loving and filled with God's Spirit.
Paul is drawn to and at the same time driven away by Manuel. There is this need to understand how Manuel can be so centered and sure when Paul's own spirit is so mixed up and fearful.
There were times when reading it that I laughed out loud. There were others that I cried. Like this excerpt when Paul comes out to his beloved grandmother.
"Um there's something I want to tell you." She cocked her head and peered at me. "I'm in love...with Manuel."This book can teach us all something...gay, straight and Christian. The greatest thing that I will take away from this sweet little story is that I can be fuller me. I can express my position as a child of God and as the person He created me to be--without guilt and without reservation or fear. And perhaps in doing so, I will inspire others to step beyond their fears and the stereotypes they harbor and drive them into the arms of Jesus.
She reached out with her frail arms and hugged me. "Mi amor, I'm so happy for you." Then with her finger she gently poked at my heart. "Now let yourself be happy too."
She kissed my cheek. And as she waddled away, I had this odd thought, about how Manuel sometimes called God "she."
Maybe he was right.(Previously, Manuel had challenging Paul's views of God identified with only male pronouns.)
Like so many of us, Paul begs God for answers. Why? Why did you make me this way? And all the time he finds that he's been asking the wrong questions. God is sweetly and lovingly drawing him to the truth.
My mind struggled to absorb (it). Had I actually been resisting God's love all these years by not accepting who I was? Could I also be content to accept that the Lord might not want to change me, or he would have done so by now? Could I admit that it might possibly be the Lord's will for me to love and accept myself as...gay? Or would I spend the rest of my life fighting who I was, feeling sorry for myself, and being angry at God about it?