Redeeming the Last Post

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Whenever one posts something, be it blog, twitter, facebook, whatever, if mixed feelings come before the click, it’s probably best to sleep on it.

The other day my feelings were mixed, but I shot it out anyway.

Two things happened since then.

1) I emailed a buddy across the blogosphere (Julie of Incite Faith) and asked if she thought I came on too abrasively. Her response was a great wake up call.

““But the line must be drawn between good and poisoned fruit.”

The line is love.

Love is what bridges the gap.”

2) The post was also reprinted on another site. A commenter said he felt compelled to give a response of truth because Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”

Ouch.

I wrote about the bad fruits emerging from the ex gay industry and I meant it. The loud chorus of survivors coming out of reparative therapy doesn’t suggest a ministry of redemption. My own flirtation with it gives me insight into how the fruit tastes. I have seen too much and heard too much. I cannot cast this therapy aside as an “option” or “alternative”, because lives are literally at stake here.

And yes, I have some serious concerns about the fact that this is a business more than a ministry.

Having said that, I made the awful mistake of blurring therapy with therapists. Throwing babies out with the bathwater you could say. Maybe that’s why I had mixed feelings. And maybe I felt that the “poison apple” parallel packed a bigger punch, but in the process, I allowed a personal vendetta against Ms. Hamilton to reach a new low. And when you’re throwing low blows, you’re failing the Father.

There is something that I innately implied into yesterday’s post that is a gross mischaracterization: when I said “ex gay” I was referring to the therapy, not the clients or the therapists. It was a lazy mistake. But a big one.

I know people that have gone through the reparative process, and while they spoke of it’s damage, they never considered counselors to be cruel. Some even have fond memories of them. And we… I, need to entertain the idea that this may be true.

The words of Ms. Julie Hamilton had devastating consequences on my family, but that does not mean her intent was devastation. I don’t know her. And to be perfectly honest, she’s likely a wonderful person.

Ex gay counselors across the board may care more about gay folks than most people. It takes a special someone to trot into the trenches with strangers struggling with their sexual identity. And if that someone sincerely believes that reparative therapy is what’s best for their patient, then their reasons are rooted in love. More love than the words I wrote yesterday.

Justin Lee, author of the book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs Christian Debate, writes in his book… well, what I should have written in my post:

“Christians really are a compassionate bunch, even though the cultural reputation we have right now doesn’t reflect that. Because so many Christians- especially evangelical Christians like me- believed that gay relationships were sinful, they also wanted to believe that there was some way that gay people could become straight so that they could legitimately enjoy all the benefits of romance and marriage. The ex-gays wanted to believe this and to provide hope to others. Unfortunately, sometimes that desire for hope got in the way of being completely honest.”

If I start caricaturing even those with whom I most passionately disagree with, this blog is a fraud.

I missed the mark in my message. And I am sorry.

Burning bridges is always abrasive. It is always unhelpful. It is always hurtful. And it is always unchristian.

Cause bridges have no pre-reqs.

Disciples don’t divide. They put humility before vindictiveness and God before themselves.

Mother Teresa once said:

“if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

I traded a bridge for a partition in the last post, and its because I forgot their spot at the feast.

I forgot that no one is beyond redemption.

Not even me.

It’s a new day and God’s grace is fresh.

And I’ll try to be better tomorrow.

Blessings,

RR

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Biting Bad Apples

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“But what is a bias towards fairness?” Maggie looked on beleaguered.

“Bias toward fairness means that if the entire Congressional Republican Caucus were to walk into the House and propose a resolution stating that the Earth was flat, the Times would lead with, ‘Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.'”

This is the message of HBO’s Newsroom created by Aaron Sorkin. Mackenzie and Will explained that there are not always two sides to every story, sometimes there are five sides or five hundred sides, and to position a one-two argument sometimes leaves the Crazy with way too much legitimacy.

Oh how art imitates reality.

The other day I heard about Dr. Oz’s now infamous episode in which he gave the ex gay cohort the best Christmas present ever: A platform.

Dr. Oz argued that although people may be upset about his show presenting this conversation, it is one that has to be had in light of California’s ban on minors entering into such therapy.

Reality is not so sweet.

The media slapped this story to the front page, and Dr. Oz got the ratings spike he sought. And as a consequence, ex gay looked legitimate.

Shortly after tuning into the program, I felt the strike of a nerve and a tide of terrible feelings washing over me.

There she was.

Julie Hamilton is an endearing lady. She speaks with the softness of that favorite grandma that lives over the river and through the woods. There is a warmth to her that sets the frame for whatever comes out of her lovely face. Her charming voice is disarming. Her tone is not without sympathy. And the angry voices of GLAAD and GLSEN, the Harvard psychologist and the audience, made you want to rescue her. She looked like a mouse cornered by a cat.

When I wrote my post Forgive them, Father, the video that tormented my dad was the creation of none other than Ms. Hamilton. Her deficient father talk that bears no resemblance of my own life, or the children of single parents, or ones of actual bad dads, one that has been routinely refuted by leading psychologists, is still a sufficient explanation in her mind. And even though the consequences of such a theory leads to torturous tales of blame and shame, her conscience still insists that she’s right.

She has to be. What else would ex gay groups do?

Bringing me to my point.

Ex gay is not a ministry.

It’s an industry.

People are throwing thousands of dollars away towards years of therapy that proves to be about as successful as your local palm reader.

Okay, fine. That was unfair… To the occult.

See, séances with dead spouses and love potion recipes don’t typically lead to addiction, depression and suicide. Yet, that is exactly what the fruit of the ex gay industry has been. High rates of addiction, depression and suicide.

The leading psychologist from Harvard put it as “so simplistic, and operating under an agenda” I’d put it as an agenda operating under the guise of empathy. It’s exploitation of the emotionally broken’s desire for acceptance in a culture that calls them abnormal.

For sexual minorities within the conservative Christian community, this therapy is charming and convenient. It is seductive. It is colored with compassion. It says it will strip the societal target off their back. Enticing words are used like “freedom” “truth” and “healing”. The ultimate escape from the threat of hell.

Courageously, the CEO of the leading Ex Gay organization, Alan Chambers of Exodus, recently said in an interview that “99.9%” of people that walk through their doors don’t leave changed.

“But we have thousands of success stories!” Hamilton exclaimed.

It seems someone forgot to tell Chambers.

And then, when confronted with the heartbreaking stories of near suicide from those surviving exgay, Hamilton seemed sincerely sympathetic… for a moment:

“Well, I am very sorry to hear that… But ya know, sadly there is a high rate of suicide within the homosexual community.”

Because homosexuality is innately depressing, completely unrelated to society’s shaming attitude.

And even though the medical community has uniformly rejected reparative therapy as unethical and harmful, some Christians still argue that medicine is no substitute for faith. The Bible speaks in only negative tones about gay behavior, so it makes sense to switch out the gay with the straight. As Dr. Hamilton says:

“You can’t change the thousand year old texts”

True.

In a famous exhortation, Jesus warns his followers against false prophets. He explains explicitly how to discern who is of God and who is not.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”(Matthew 7:15-20, NIV)

The Message has an interesting translation of this passage:

15-20 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.”(Matthew 7:15-20, MSG, emphasis mine).

“A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook.”

This is a bad apple. It is a predatory practice. It is emotional exploitation and it is spiritual abuse.

And it is so antithetical to the gospel message that I start to wonder how inept our leaders of the Church truly are when it comes to faith and sexuality.

I mean, seriously, Are we still HERE?

The legitimate and valuable conversation to be had within the Christian community is what life means for LGBT Christians. That is the one that has the potential for real freedom, truth and healing.

There are good and Godly people who see things differently. Not all saints share the same side of the table. A position against same sex relationships does NOT make someone a bigot. A position in the affirmative does NOT make someone a secularist.

But the line must be drawn between good and poisoned fruit.

And like lobotomies, leeches and cocaine medicine,

Ex gay’s shelf life has expired.

RR

Runaway George

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Among many things that have captivated my attention in this book is it’s handling of Christian theology in relation to slavery.

Here we find George, a runaway slave. In this scene, his former employer, Mr. Wilson, recognized George inside a hotel lobby and promptly approached him, asking if he would accompany him to his room to have a little chat. Mr. Wilson is a good man, but he fears that George is going against God and country, and thus requires his guidance.

First he tries logic.

Then he tries scripture.

“But you know how the angel commanded Hagar to return to her mistress, and submit herself under her hand; and the apostle sent back Onesimus to his master.”

“Don’t quote Bible at me that way Mr. Wilson,” said George, with a flashing eye, “don’t! for my wife is A Christian and I mean to be, if ever I get to where I can; but to quote Bible to a fellow in my circumstances, is enough to make him give it up altogether. I appeal to God Almighty- I’m willing to go with the case to Him, and ask Him if I do wrong to seek my freedom.”

“These feelings are quite natural George,” said the good-natured man, blowing his nose. “Yes, they’re natural, but it is my duty not to encourage ‘em in you. Yes, my boy, I’m sorry for you, now; it’s a bad case-very bad; but the apostle says, ‘Let every one abide in the condition in which he is called.’ We must all submit to the indications of Providence, George,- don’t you see?”

 

George stood with his head drawn back, his arms folded tightly over his broad breast, and a bitter smile curling his lips.

 

“I wonder, Mr. Wilson, if the Indians should come and take you a prisoner away from your wife and children, and want to keep you all your life hoeing corn for, if you’d think it your duty to abide in the condition in which you were called. I rather think that you’d think the first stray horse you could find an indication of Providence- shouldn’t you?”

 

I resonate with George’s story.

That’s not to say that I think slavery and homosexuality are parallel tales of misunderstood scripture.

But I’ve got my fair share of Bible burns.

They tell me, “but both the New Testament and the Old Testament speak against homosexuality”

I say, “I understand, but there are others who view-“

“1st Corinthians 6:9-10, 1st Timothy 1:9-10, have you not read this?”

I’ve been reading and rereading these since I was in the sixth grade.

“It sucks, but you know what? It’s God’s word, and Christ calls us all to sacrifice in one form another.”

Usually my thoughts echo George’s response to Mr. Wilson.

The detachment from empathy is so palpable in today’s Christian culture when it comes to homosexuality.

In these rock and hard place moments, I just want to pull out every Bible verse that should convict them of the same charge.

Perhaps what Jesus said about the wealthy, or the proud or the judgmental.

But by now, I’m burnt out.

So I bite my tongue.

Beyond George, there are countless runaways out there, carrying the card of some form of Christian contradiction. Divorce is one. Just the other day, I heard one coworker open up about his sisters painful divorce. The listening, coworker, my sister in Christ, said something akin to, “A vow is a vow. It seems they didn’t try hard enough.” Unwed mothers are another. I’ve heard people say about a friend of mine, “I wonder how many baby daddy’s she has? So sad.” Or the poor, “Why should my dollars go to their drug habits?”

Our Christian culture has become a bag of wonder bread, and if you’re made of a different morsel, you’ve been misplaced. I know better than to generalize about a whole group of people, and I fully believe that there are those quietly keeping their cupboards locked tight.

But the trouble with tribes like ours is that we thwart any attempt at transparency. Tears belong behind closed doors. Support calls for a certified shrink. The Bible is a bludgeon, not a buoy. Dialogue destroys doctrine, leading us down that oh so slippery slope towards hell. Raise your hands high and give us that sweet smile.

A couple months ago I had the opportunity to attend one of the Marin Foundation’s “Living in the Tension” gatherings. There I was, surrounded by fellow travelers on a similar journey of my own. All of us came for the same thing, reconciliation between the scriptures and our sexuality. All of us, looking around, greeted each other’s eyes with an “I get it.” When the meeting came to a close, I was embraced, told I was loved and encouraged to keep searching and questioning. It was a transformative night for all of us. My mom, who went with me, said later on, “that’s what the Kingdom looks like.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Runaway George had a similar experience. Having reached refuge outside the grasp of slave catchers, and finding his son and wife there as well, he reclaimed his faith in the father. Looking around the dinner table at the Christians that saved his life, he reflected:

“This, indeed, was a home,-home, –a word that George had never yet known a meaning for; and a belief in God, and trust in his providence, began to encircle his heart, as, with a golden cloud of protection and confidence, dark, misanthropic, pining, atheistic doubts, and fierce despair, melted away before the living Gospel, breathed in living faces, preached by a thousand unconscious acts of love and good will, which, like the cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, shall never lose their reward.”

When we roll up our sleeves and trade tales of our bruises, we deny the lie that we’re alone.

May our community become that “golden cloud of protection”.

RR

Six Reasons Rick Warren is NOT the Boogeyman

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Recently I shot out a tweet to Rick Warren that I… half regret. I say half regret because the second half, in which I said, “who have you become?”, was unfair. The first half, asking him why he still hasn’t responded to the Human Rights Campaign’s call to again condemn and reach out to those in Uganda in an effort to stop the Kill-the-Gays bill from passing, is still very concerning to me. But there are many things I do not know. For instance, he may be doing it covertly and sees a public condemnation as the worst path to reconciliation. You attract bees with honey not vinegar.

 

But after thinking about that tweet and who Rick Warren is, I came to the conclusion that I had written him off as a Boogeyman. My timing is also in sync with many other organizations and blogs have come after him. His perceived silence and stupid comments regarding the LGBT community (Piers Morgan the other night when he compared homosexuality to arsenic).

But many of these writers don’t know how the inner rings of conservative Christianity work, and many do not see how, in the grand scheme of things, Rick is further along than his peers.

 1. He Regrets 2009- Publicly

When Proposition 8 was up for a vote, Rick Warren released a video expressing his support for the measure. What many of us didn’t know was that it was a video only for his church. He wasn’t working in conjunction with the National Organization for Marriage or the GOP.

 

Recently he said that if he could do it over again, he wouldn’t have made the video. A humble admission.

 2. He battles ignorance

Boogeymen love ignorance. It’s what feeds their followers and creates a reality separate from those pesky facts and reasonable people. 

 

Earlier this year, Christian radio host Bryan Fischer, called HIV “harmless” and not the cause of AIDS. And then he basically went back to the AIDS-to-gays is as God-to-judgment analogy, a grotesque theological belief. Even more, he didn’t think AIDS victims were the type of people Christians should care about.  Warren’s wife was first to condemn Fisher, calling his remarks, “indefensible”.

 

Later on they released a joint statement saying:

 

“People living with the virus are people that Jesus created, loves, and died for. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan teaches us that when you find someone bleeding on the side of the road, you don’t say ‘Was it your fault?’ You just help them in love! Let’s be very careful about what reality we deny; lives are at stake.”

 3. P.E.A.C.E.

Rick and his Church launched the PEACE Plan as a way to use their treasure and influences to change the world for the better. The acronym goes: Promote Reconciliation, Equip Servant Leaders, Assist the Poor, Care for the Sick, Educate the next generation. So far this program has been wildly successful and has brought many folks around the world to Christ.

 4. Kay

When an individual is married to someone as wonderful as Kay Warren, they are probably not a boogeyman. Kay Warren is a champion for finding the cure to HIV/AIDS. She has been a relentless advocate on issues within Africa and around the world. Kay is not simply the woman behind the man, but a force to be reckoned with in the dumpster of poverty and disease. The world is better because of her.

 

 5. He doesn’t use the pulpit to belittle others

Pastor Warren only discusses his views on homosexuality when he is asked, which happens to be a lot since it is the most divisive issue in the church today. He doesn’t hit the gay community from the pulpit and the only time his platform was used as a way to push back gay rights, was in 2009 which he has regretted doing.

 6. He is a Bridge Builder

Pay attention- this one is important.

 

I watched an episode of HuffPost Live this morning, where the interviewer asked about the controversy (in culture) about his views on homosexuality. Warren rightly pointed out that if he disagrees with some on this issue he gets called a hater or a homophobe. Which makes no sense to him because he doesn’t hate anyone nor is he “afraid” of gay people.

 

The pivotal point came when he said that he bases his views on Bible, while others base it on other things like the world and culture. At this moment, the interviewer interrupted him and said, “other people base their beliefs on the Bible too, but have a different interpretation.” Instead of doing what I thought he was going to do, roll his eyes or skip on to something else, he said this:

 

“that is very true. What we need are the kind of conversations you and I are having right now. Non inflammatory, non flaming throwing, not saying ‘you must be a bad person because you disagree with me’ in fact, you can’t convince me to agree with you if you’re saying I’m a bad person… we’re losing our civility in civilization.”

 

THIS IS WHAT MY BLOG IS ABOUT! I love that he said this, because it is so reflective of a heart pursuing reconciliation. That we should never forget the difference between righteousness and rudeness. It is one of the best statements, I believe, he has made on this issue.

 

And some may argue that what he said doesn’t take much to say, but when you think about the other power players in the conservative Christian community who are so rigid in their loyalty to doctrine, this could potentially become a chink in his armor. That is, if they choose to attack him on it.

 

 

Pastor Warren is not perfect, neither am I and neither are you. He has said stupid things about sexual orientation, made ridiculous equivalents to homosexuality, and he will probably continue to do so. But he is not the Boogeyman. He is a faithful pastor who actually has a desire to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the most controversial issue facing the Church today. And he’s learning quickly how to do so in a manner that makes grace and love a top priority.

 

As I said in my post about Mark Driscoll, just because I think Pastor Warren has said destructive things, doesn’t mean his intent is destruction. And even further, he’s a huge net positive for the world. He chooses to take action instead of cheap shots.

 

No Boogeyman here!

 

RR

Our Cookie Cutter Culture

There is a pattern of reaction I have picked up on when friends and family find out that I am gay.

My sister once confessed, “I always thought it would be fun to have a gay brother… but you’re not that gay…”

“You don’t sound much like a gay guy!” My brother has teased.

“You are the first gay guy I have met that I didn’t know was gay.” Gasped a gay friend.

One laughed, “it just never crossed my mind!

Some have smirked, “ahhhh… I don’t think you are…”

As funny as these conversations are, they expose an underlying problem.

The way I have always carried myself has been an honest reflection of who I am. Never have I been attempting to cover up an inner feminine soul nor have I tried to project a Herculean image. I am just… me. I can’t explain it any more than you can about why you are the way you are.

But sometimes, it seems like the world has more expectations for me once they find out I am gay, than they do for me just as a man. Like the script gets switched and suddenly I’m supposed to care about interior decoration and hair product.

But then again, what can you really expect in a society that specializes in one-size fits all clichés?

The media tells us that every gay man is flamboyant and fabulous. He is equipped with an eye for fashion, making him a trusted advisor from everything to shoes, hairdos, and picking out the perfect dress for that thing on Friday. In the kitchen he can whip up a decadent Creme Brulee that will leave you begging for copies of his cookbook. And each and every Friday you can find him at the Salon with his BFF Susie getting dolled up for a night of sipping champagne and dancing like a fool.

My apologies to every Susie out there, but I may not be the buddy you’re looking for.

Because I don’t shop until I drop. No girl should ever trust me with dating advice. I prefer Labs to Yorkies, and under no condition would I shame one by putting it in a purse. When I talk, I don’t use extravagant hand gestures or cute catch phrases. When my hair gets too long, I let my brother buzz it. Night Clubs of all sorts weird me out, and don’t define “a good time” for me. I fancy a Coors over a Cosmos and the Economist over Vogue.

But can I still be your friend… even if I’m not your idea of a gay one?

I know it sounds like I am tooting my own masculine horn, but don’t be mistaken. Like I said, I am no Joe Six Pack. Just ask me to throw around a baseball and you’ll see that.

Also, please don’t read this the wrong way, none of those stereotypes are necessarily bad things.

They just aren’t me.

Yet every time I see Cam and Mitch on Modern Family, or an episode of Glee, this is what I see. Gay men are fully feminine.

Every time the news plays tape of a Pride Parade, I cringe at the Go-Go dancers showcasing the most depraved elements of the LGBT community. All it tells me is that all gay men are promiscuous.

And all this does is reinforce a belief that I still don’t belong. It once again leaves me feeling like a man without a country.

Then I tap the brakes and think.

How true is this pigeonhole persona of the gay community?

My story suggests its not. Same with the stories of my other gay friends. So do the ones of my straight-male-effeminate friends. As do those of “tomboys” and boys who cry.

And let’s not stop here, because honestly, we do this all the time.

We know that…

Not every little girl plays princess and not every little boy plays baseball.

 

Not all moms choose to be full-time homemakers, nor all dads dive into the corporate world.

 

Most Muslims are not extremists and most Mormons are not polygamists.

 

Not every Asian you meet is a Rhodes Scholar and not every African American can dunk a basketball.

 

Some Californians are conservative and some Texans are liberal.

No one is a caricature.

 

These superficial stereotypes based on gender, race and creed are just as detrimental as those dictated to gays and lesbians based upon their sexual identity.

We are a mosaic of tales that cannot be type-casted for the sake of conformity.

Diversity matters more.

RR

A Year Ago Today

So a year ago today, at 10 PM, in my parents’ bed, I came out of the closet.

It’s funny how fast time has flown since then.

On this day, I can’t help but think about my life before. Today makes me remember all of the miserable mornings that paralyzed me beneath the sheets. It brings me back to a time when the only prayer I could muster up was for strength to walk out under the sun. I am pulled back to the world of my thoughts where I played both patient and therapist.

that cold and cruel closet…

Up and down the walls were scrawled the maddening lies that kept me.

“You are disgusting” one said.

“No one has to know” said another.

In big bold letters, “take it to the grave”

“If you love them, you’ll save them from this” printed on the doormat.

And above the door hung the words “Emergency Exit”, glowing in red.

For sake of space, I won’t delve into all of the details of my departure, I’ve written about that in previous posts. But I will say, that night was one of the most loving experiences I have ever had.

After I made the “great leap” to my folks, I was met with shock, tears and then the gift of unconditional love. The single most important development after I came out was the fact that my folks still loved me. Just me. The same way they always had.

Looking back now it all seems so ridiculous to think that they wouldn’t, but when you’re in the dark, you can’t see truth. The only thing I could see was that they loved the boy they raised. The little boy they watched grow up.

But what was unseen was unlovable,
whispered the writing on the wall.

Their declaration by way of words and kisses and hugs, made love truly real for me. For the FIRST TIME, I believed that maybe God extended his unconditional love to me too.

I have spent the last twelve months sharing the secret I had buried for the last decade. There have been days when the weight of it all has left me undone. But those days, echoes of my time in the closet, have become few and far between. The intellectual and spiritual tug-of-war still rages on inside my mind. But the war is now more or less food for thought as I am able to focus on other areas of my life. Feeling the exposure of my shame still stings a bit, but it isn’t deadly like it was a year and a day ago.

Today is my anniversary. It is the day I celebrate my own emancipation proclamation. It is marked in my memory as the day I finally found freedom.

And I’m letting freedom ring..

I have been on the receiving end of so much blessing this past year. Christ once said, if someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two. Those in my corner have bent over backwards to try to better understand, stood by my side through all of my breakdowns and refused to ever let me give up. Christ said two miles, they’ve gone two thousand.

I don’t stand in the shadow of this past year, this past year is my own shadow. And it makes me look so tall, and to be honest, I feel really tall today. I cannot stop smiling! Everything good that has happened has taken me by complete surprise. I never thought I would be here. Never thought this life was really possible.

But the reality of all of it is that I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for Christ’s furious pursuit of my soul. He has taken me through fire and he didn’t let me get burned. It is his light that shines ahead and casts the shadow of my testimony behind me.

I stand on the cusp of another year with more excitement than I expected to have. Over and over I have fretted about the future and how it would look for me. Checking the calendar today, I can see how wrong I was. I’m still here, I’m still standing and I’m still wrestling with my savior. I look forward to so many things in these next twelve months, but honestly, the answers to my questions about my sexuality are not one of them. What I look forward to is more questions and more throw downs with God. No more do I worry about my life in five or ten or thirty years because the reality is, I don’t know if I’ll have tomorrow, or even the next ten minutes. In year two, I plan to accept every sunrise I am given.
And at this moment- here are some memories I am holding on to.

~a few of the best moments of the past twelve months~

It was only a few weeks after I came out to my parents that I told my best friend. Her immediate reaction was a gasp, but, without missing a beat, she leaned in and said, “nothing’s changed. I can’t explain it but you look no different to me than you did a minute ago.” She is one of the most life-giving people I have ever known. It’s pure providence that this friend entered into my story. Perhaps she was called for “such a time as this”. In any case, she has carried me. She doesn’t know how to judge or reject. She doesn’t know how to not care. She can’t leave a conversation with me without pulling me close and whispering in my ear, “I am so proud of you.” She has, more often than not, been the answer to my prayers.

Months later my brother spoke to me about a book he had picked up, one that stepped directly into the conversation regarding reconciling homosexuality and faith. The book, Love is an Orientation, made more of an impact on me than most things in my journey. It offered me the grace and peace I needed. It assured me that there were others out there, other gay Christians, trying to figure out how to approach this area of their lives in light of the Good News. It told me it was okay to be unsure.

My mom and I took a trip to Chicago to visit the Marin Foundation in search of the one thing we both desperately needed: Empathy. There is no greater feeling than empathy. And as we sat around the tables with others, it was intoxicating. Being able to stare down the lie of being alone with the faces of fellow travelers provided an inexpressible peace that I couldn’t possibly explain in 10,000 posts. Taking the time to sit with my peers, my fellow runaways, old, young, men, women, gay and straight, seemed to rip open my heart in the best possible way. I asked them questions, they responded with their testimonies. I asked, “how do I know who to tell?” they shared stories, some of rejection but most with good surprises. They told me to look for people of character and trustworthiness. One said that I had to consider the responsibility I had to tell my story, for the sake of my LGBT brothers and sisters. All of them encouraged me to pray my heart out to Christ.

Perhaps what struck me most that night was how proud I was of my mom. As people emptied out their baggage, she moved into the mess. With pen and pad in hand, she jotted down notes and questions. Immediately following a story of a woman afraid to tell her family, she choked up, looked her in the eye, and said, “I just want you to know that they’re going to love you. Just knowing you now, I know they will.” There was another mom there too. She saw the grace and perspective that my mom was raining on the room and turned to her to ask questions that only a mom would ask. It was weird, and she’ll think its weird that I write this, but she seemed more comfortable in this crowd than any I had seen her in before. But that really shouldn’t surprise me, because that’s her heart. And I’m not just talking about the heart of a mother, but an indelible mark of her maker. Her conversations with the others in that room reflected Christ’s compassion in it’s truest form. The grace that spilled out in her words and tears flowed down to the deepest parts of their lives. I love this woman!

A month or so ago I began writing this blog. It has been a way for me to share my stories and engage with fellow travelers in the blogging community without having to make the “great leap.” I’m not sure if remaining here, out to some and closeted to others, is the healthiest way to go, but I still don’t feel ready. I’ve been affirmed by many of you that it’s okay to not be.

For those that remain in the dark, I want this space, this blog, to be an open place for you to feel freedom. For you to hear my stories, and those of others, and gain courage to keep moving forward. You don’t have to be out to ask advice from me, or from others on the many other blogs out there. I realize that for many of you, coming out is actually a dangerous thing depending upon your circumstances, I hope that you will reach out to the many resources being offered out there. For those that are sitting in the Christian circle afraid to speak up, realize that the armageddon that you’re anticipating is nothing more than a funhouse mirror reflecting your worst fears. More than anything, dark forces at work want you to remain silent, for this to eat away at you, and for you to be convinced that your life will be over once you’re out. Don’t buy it. Be brave and strong, and understand that despite the fact that this will probably be the hardest thing you ever do, it will also be one of the best things.

It really does get better my friends.

To those that are in my inner circle, that know who I am and have walked with me through all of this, you have truly been Christ to me. In one way or another, each one of you have saved my life.

To all those that have written to me (I’m thinking of you Julie! Kate! Survivor Girl! Mike! Jordan! Aiden!) I have been moved more than you could possibly know. I hope to keep these friendships alive and thriving!

All of you- I love you.

RR

Lean In

In the world of television- NBC’s Parenthood is perhaps the most underappreciated work of art out there. The reason I love this show so so so much is that it ditches the dramatic gimmicks utilized by so many other programs and takes the viewers down into a reality-based dumpster. Whereas on other shows, the problems the plague the normal are written off as BORRIINGG, Parenthood paints them in a way that resonates strongly with its viewers. It’s just so relatable. Which makes it so good.

Kristina has just found out she has cancer. As her and her husband Adam are thrust into this dark and challenging road before them, they find themselves almost always in a place of uncertainty. Uncertainty in their choice of doctor. Uncertainty in their choice of treatment. Uncertainty in who they tell. Uncertainty of when they tell their kids. Uncertainty in how they talk to one another and uncertainty in how they should feel.

Lying in bed Kristina takes a deep breath and refocuses on the now. And in the now, she stops trying to feel the way she “should” and instead embraces honesty.

The two of them had been getting ahead of themselves lately. They were furious and desperate to attack the tumor that was on the verge of ending her life. Adam, worrying that if his wife felt worried it would harm her chances of survival (kind of a mind over matter thing), refused to allow her to show any signs of surrender. He watched her carefully as she surfed the web, fearing she would find the survival rates. Every time he saw tears, he would reassure her that it was “normal” to feel scared, but to remember to stay strong.

As many of my brothers and sisters in the crosshairs of faith and sexuality will tell you, the aftermath of exiting the closet can be exhausting. My parents deferred the decision to me, asking me if I wanted to be gay. Quite honestly, I said no. More than anything I wanted to be free from my status as a freak. They never pressured me towards reparative therapy or required me to resist my feelings. They simply asked me what I wanted, and I told them.

Except I didn’t tell them I was scared. Each time I looked up ex gay stories I felt unnerved and unacceptable. I read up on suicide rates of those in therapy and the loneliness of those in celibacy. I needn’t look too far to find out what happened to men who tried to be straight- enough prominent pastors had shown how that went down.

At a crossroads I stood, and I hated every path. I hated the idea that I needed to fall into a category and move forward with a game plan. I hated that I hated these options. I wished things to be clearer.

During this period I started seeing an incredible therapist who listened through my tears as I talked about my options. There were pros here, cons there, and I wanted to hear what his opinion was. Mid-monologue he raised his hand and said, “stop.”

“Stop- please. Stop trying to paint a pretty picture when that isn’t what you feel. Stop with the talk of reparative therapy. Stop thinking you will be alone your whole life. Stop and accept the reality that this is very hard. Accept your fear; allow yourself more time to grieve. Your whole life you have had to watch straight siblings who are going to live a life free from judgment and condemnation and you can’t. You need to accept the gravity of this. Stop thinking you can move forward without embracing where you are now.”

That was a turning point for me. I stopped engaging in reparative therapy sessions. I stopped making five-year plans. I stopped thinking about getting a dog to fill my void of loneliness. I stopped the mental gymnastics. I stopped it all.

Instead I let myself mourn, kick and scream, and check out for a while.
I let myself lean in.

When I explained the session to my folks, they understood my feelings better. And in turn, I understood them more. I understood that their need to continue to affirm me and lift me up stemmed from their fear of my suicide. That when they told me “everything will be alright” they weren’t referencing my sexuality but my emotional stability.

Strange as it sounds, I could not regain perspective with positive reinforcement, or by sinking my nails into the slope I was slipping down. I couldn’t through self help books or praise and worship songs. I certainly couldn’t in reparative therapy.

No, I had to raise my hands up. Scream in terror at the drop. Feel the adrenaline filling my veins. Accept the uncertainty. Wait for the bottom hit.

Instead of running around like the little Dutch boy plugging holes in the dam, I had to relax and know the thing was gonna blow anyway.

I had to accept that my life prior to coming out was no more, and instead of trying to preserve any semblance of that charade, I had to build a new one from the core pieces of who I am. Until my feelings could be validated, I couldn’t move forward. By leaning in I let the whole thing collapse so I could rebuild my respect and find rationality in the chaos.

Leaning in was the best choice I could make. It threw me in the arms of my family, friends, and my savior. Only then did I understand who was in my corner. It made me recognize how little control I have over my future, and despite how scary that is, it doesn’t have to be.

It helped me realize that I couldn’t reach relief from the outside in. That’s backwards.

I had to let it burn and build again.

RR