If you drive down Heathrow Drive in Florence, Alabama, you’ll eventually arrive at Shoals Christian School, my high school alma mater. Out front there’s a flagpole encircled by twenty-six stone pavers that are the color of sand. Each one is engraved with the name of a student from the school’s first graduating class, the class of 2000. One of those names is “Brett Trapp.” That used to be me.
Half my life ago, I was a senior there. It was a smallish private school, and its mission was: “Training Christian leaders of tomorrow from Christian homes of today.” My dad, the pastor of the second largest church in town, also helped start the school back in the late 90s.
Back then, I was tall, broad-shouldered, lean. I played basketball and football, and I was the student body president. I think some of the moms wanted their daughters to date me, but I couldn’t know for sure. I didn’t have time for that back then, as I’d just discovered a faith of my own. “I date Jesus,” I would joke.
I was also the one leading the annual “See You at the Pole” prayer rally. I know this because I still have a newspaper clipping of the affair, and it includes a black and white photo of a skinnier me standing in a wide circle of more than 100 students, all holding hands and bowed in prayer. In the photo, my face is stern, pleading, and pointed heavenward.
That was a normal day in Florence in the late 90s. The values of the school were a little more strict than the values of the community. But only a little. We all agreed that booze was bad, premarital sex was sin, and non-Christian music was a no-no. You might call all that overly pious. We called it holy.
It’s 2018, and I’ve got another eighteen years of life under my belt as I stand in a wedding venue in the heart of Atlanta, 262 miles from Florence, Alabama. But this isn’t just any wedding day. This is my wedding day.
And this day marks the end of an unspeakably long journey. For nearly twenty years, I wandered the wilds of lovelessness. It was a desert of fear, shame, self-loathing, anxiety, and aching loneliness. I’d done everything I could to rid myself of the desire for love, for this—I thought—would please God.
But on this day, there is no desert. That desert has been flooded by love, and that love has scattered seeds of life. Today we are surrounded by life, in the form of 150 misty-eyed friends who all know what this day means. I never thought I’d be married, but that thought is like a long-forgotten family member today. Today is my day, and I’m standing next to my love. Like me, he’s a him. And his name is Brett too. It’s all quite perfect.
Today, there’s a piece of wedding cake in our freezer. The honeymoon pictures have been printed and framed. Brett and I are making a life for ourselves in the heart of Atlanta. At night, we make quesadillas on the stovetop and watch movies. On Sundays we go to church. Most days we feel exactly like any other newlywed couple. Our lives are beautifully mundane, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
But sometimes I think of that sandy paver back in my hometown—the one etched with the name Brett Trapp and buried in north Alabama soil. It stands as a memorial to a man I once knew—a former rendering of me. And I wonder if I still belong there in that city I call home. I wonder if I am allowed to change so much. I wonder if they will give me the grace to be B.T. Harman, husband to Brett.
I hope so.
For he is the same man he was,
and he has become exactly who he was meant to be.