As a child, he prayed the way he breathed, and for the same reason. His Sunday-school attendance record was unblemished, from toddlerhood to the time he left for college. One Sunday morning, he woke feeling that his insides were being dry-baked. "Nothing's wrong," he told his mother when she saw the color of his face. "Let's go to church!" So off they went, where he passed his measles on to every student in his Sunday-school class. Weighed against the prospect of not getting his Sunday fill of Jesus, the reprobation that came from being a Patient Zero was a small price to pay.
The Love of God! If you paid the right kind of attention—and there wasn't anyone around him during his childhood who didn't—you could see it everywhere you looked, in every person, in every little thing. The women who cooed over him the first time he was brought to church as a newborn—there it was!The distinct reddish inking, a grain of beauty, on his infant nape, marking him as Christ's own forever, even before he'd been baptized—there!The tender and ravishing attention—the way, a generation later, on the day that boy brought his own progeny to that church, those women were able to recall that birthmark to his children. There!
Actually, at the very beginning, the boy hadn't been so much marked as maimed. After Imogene and Charles Victor Robinson were told their newborn, mangled by forceps during delivery, was partially paralyzed, probably brain damaged, and likely to die, they were asked to put a name on the birth certificate. What did a name matter now? the Robinsons asked themselves, providing one that combined her first and his middle names.
Vicky Gene Robinson spent his childhood wondering what his parents were thinking when they saddled him with a name like Vicky. Only in high school, after a case of strep brought him face-to-face with one of the doctors who'd treated him as a newborn, did he get an explanation. Odd, how the explanation for his unmanly name came just as a larger question about his manhood, thick with terror, was rising within him. Truth was, in the years Vicky Gene Robinson had been on the earth, the Love of God had not been the only certainty of his life. There was another. Fear. As with the Love, he had been marked with it from the beginning. But…how? How could the fear dwell in him along with the Love of God, which banishes all fear? This was the conundrum of Gene Robinson's youth. He's 61 years old now, and there hasn't been a day in his life as a considering person that Gene Robinson hasn't thought about fear, what it creates and what it takes away, how it feeds on itself while devouring everything it touches. As he sees it, God is love, and the only thing that can displace that love is not doubt, or faithlessness, or even evil, but fear. And the thing that occurs when God is absent? Call it the Devil if you must. But if you want to call it by its name—and as far as Gene Robinson is concerned, you should, because limited as human language is, words are powerful, words are actions—you must call it fear.
During his childhood, there was another word for it, thanks to an uncle. The uncle, he was a smirker. He knew. At get-togethers, he would sidle up to the nephew named Vicky—always clean, nicely dressed, getting straight A's; always good—and wait for his moment. Then the words would ooze out.
Not much of a boy, are you?
Vicky Gene would sit ramrod straight with his hands in his lap, eyes forward, listening to the questions and waiting for the word they always worked their way to.
But what did that mean? Gene didn't know. He knew only that when he was 12 and a buddy produced a Playboy, the half-dozen boys who gathered to gaze were awakened, electrified, and he wasn't, and that it could be dangerous, perhaps physically, to point out this contrast. ThePlayboy brought a half clarity: He realized he was afraid, and that—even if he couldn't name the thing he feared—he had always been afraid.
So he stayed quiet, compartmentalized the love and the fear. Until he couldn't. Until, when he was 16, the matter and antimatter of his love of God and his fear were forcibly merged under the ice-cold shower water of a high school locker room. For whatever reason, God had seen fit to place Vicky Gene Robinson, the neat little boy who would become not only his class's valedictorian but also the top graduate of all high schools in larger Lexington, Kentucky, and whose birdlike frame contained not a single athletic bone, in phys ed with the juvenile-offender brigade. The thugs were so hopeless with the academic Health Class that went with PE, though, that V. Gene Robinson was assigned to tutor them, and the word went out: Gene's gonna keep us out of summer school, so anyone who messes with Gene answers to us.
Source: gq.com by ANDREW CORSELLO