Tag Archives: LGBT living

The ‘E’ Word

I grew up reading The Good News.

Literally.

The first Bible I remember picking up was The Good News Bible around the second or third grade.

Church was very new to me when I was 8 and 9 years old having not grown up in a religious family.  When I picked up that first Bible I asked what the name of this particular Bible meant and, of course, was taught in Sunday School about Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer and – of course – The Good News.

It was a few years later that I first learned the word evangelical.  I learned quickly that evangelical could refer to both a person as well as a form of expression.

Evangelicals, I was led to believe, belonged to the more ‘radical’ churches….  Evangelicals in my mind were probably the Pentecostals or what I thought of as vibrant Christians (you know those Christians who made the news for sharing their faith and over-dramatized what they said or how they said it rather than focusing on what they did).

It was this second component, being evangelical, that rounded out my early definition.

Evangelicals proselytized.
Evangelicals spoke in tongues.
Evangelicals handed out tracks.
Evangelicals spoke their minds but more always spoke the truth of the Bible.

Or worse I learned to think evangelicals were synonymous with televangelists and street preachers.

These were the radical evangelicals in my mind.

I grew into the evangelical world when I was in college and I found myself surrounded by college youth group peers who were ‘normal evangelicals’.  We had huge pizza parties like the young evangelicals did back home but if they spoke in tongues it wasn’t in your face.  They were serious about spreading the word of God but they wanted to spread the love of God as well.  It was during this time that I found comfort in the evangelical world because my friends taught me that being an evangelical meant that we were to spread The Good News.

The same Good News I knew from those first Sunday School classes.

THIS was the love of God I was told and believed.

I did it all – the tracks, the retreats and conferences, the Bible studies, the fasting… College was a time where I didn’t demur and openly admitted that I was ‘high on God’.

My very first presidential vote was spiritually motivated because I believed that I needed to vote for the best Christian.

I voted other people into office because my friends told me that they represented ‘our values’; they were pro-life, anti-gay, honorable to God…  These were the same values I strived for.  There wasn’t an election back then that I didn’t use my vote as an outward expression of evangelical dislike, fear or repudiation of gays, Muslims, and people not like me and my friends.

And then something crazy happened: God moved in my young evangelical heart and told me to move to New York City so I could save these people.

Or so I thought.

Little did I know that these people would save me.

Meeting people different from myself didn’t hasten my resolve to ‘change the world’ but it broke it.  The world, I realized, couldn’t be changed by me alone because God was much bigger and was weaving something bigger than I could see.

The people different from me became my neighbors, my bosses, my mentors, my friends.

New York changed me quickly and quietly moved me to shed my evangelical coat though I kept it in my closet so I could pull it out if my old friends ever came by.

Though my status changed from Christian to Christ Follower in search of The Good News it was still very easy to flip between the two if needed.

On one hand I was hip and on the other I was a fading evangelical holding onto an antiquated but still semi-relevant belief system.

This worked until I realized that I, myself, belonged in that same paradigm of seclusion.

You see, it’s easy to be evangelical and outwardly love people who are different (if that’s the depth at which you stay without looking at the inside).  It’s damn near impossible, though, to be evangelical in the sense that I was and be one of those people who were different.

I realized, after long struggle, that my attraction to men was not a spiritual distraction.

Not only did I get to the point that I could openly admit to myself that I was attracted to men but I was OK with who I was and I desperately wanted to continue to belong to the church.

Because I knew I needed that simple Good News from the second grade.

The same good news that was mixed with the evangelical roots of my high school days and the foundation of my college days.

I wanted God to love me because at this point I was convinced that he didn’t or couldn’t.

I gave up my evangelical thirst for Good News long before I came out partly because the writing was on the wall.

I was different.
I was one of them.
I didn’t fully belong in the fold of God.

I had hurt people with my words in the past only to find out that those words applied to me too.

I was hurting people like me by choosing to belong.

I didn’t realize it then but being an evangelical can be a good thing and it’s only now that I learned to be one.  The hunt for The Good News and the declaration of it in our lives IS A GOOD THING.

The Good News is most alive in our relationships.

Being a Christian is not about who we vote for or what we we hand out or what and how we do things in a precise way just to create feelings.

It’s not what we say that matters, it’s what we don’t say.

Christ’s verbal communication is dwarfed in the scriptures by his nonverbal communication.  Christ lived through his actions and that’s what The Good News is about.

I’m coming around to considering myself an evangelical again.  It’s so different this time though.

I’m not conservative anymore but let’s be honest and say that doesn’t matter to God.

I’m not going to necessarily declare anything from the street corner because I’ve seen more lives changed over a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer.

And I’m definitely not going to tell you that you’re wrong because I’ve done the wrong things before in my life thinking they were right.  It’s more important to love and celebrate people, helping them overcome life’s trials.

I am going to share what I do know or admit to you that I don’t know something – and embody both.

I’m going to learn from my past and the present and I’m going lean into it – because this ‘new’ evangelicalism isn’t really new but rather a simplification closer to what Jesus talked about.

This idea of being a new type of evangelical might actually be as simple as it gets since it’s about sharing what  the Good News is, however radical and ‘crazy’ some may think it is.

I Don’t Know

If they weren’t ringing in my ears and always at the front of my mind these words would seem simple but yet there they are – three penetrating syllables that occupy a new and strange home in my heart.

“I don’t know.”

I’m sitting across from one of my best friends on a late Friday night in the City and these words roll off my tongue in an unnatural but yet easy fashion.

Just a few moments ago I had taken a large sip of beer, kicked my ego out the door and I told him that I was gay.

As my friend starts to ask questions these words find an awkwardly comfortable space that might best be represented by the Sour Patch Kids candy I enjoyed as a kid: first sour, then sweet and finally gone – all the while not quite what you expected.

Answering the questions (and being open to them) may be just as good for me as asking them (and being open to the responses) is sometimes for others.

Yes, some questions are easy to answer but I find that others bring unexpected delays.

Sometimes this is because the answer itself is hard to say and lays somewhere between the black and white of normal human comfort.

My friend has asked the question and the question begs an answer but with that sip of beer wearing off I’m finding it hard to answer because the words and the place I find myself, as I said, are still very foreign.

I push on.

It’s not that there’s difficulty in being open.

In fact, each day brings new ease and comfort in being open about who I am.  It’s both healing and cathartic to speak about who I am; I love sharing the version of me that extends past the character I’ve lived for my first thirty years.

No, for me it’s the limited vocabulary that the new openness has brought.

Gone, or at least waning, are the days of covering up who I am. I’m exhausted with the half-truths and misdirection that I lived and rich/verbose language no longer suffice.

The masks fit the person who I was, not the person I know I am.

“I don’t know.”

There it is again.  Another question asked for which there is no good answer.

The questions people ask that I don’t have good answers for aren’t trivial questions.  In fact, they are the questions I ask of myself.

They’re the questions that have risen from the past that now have the potential to create restless nights or long days.  They are the questions that I ask of myself – the who, what, how and why of what has made me ME over the years.

It wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be like this.

‘I’ll come out and everything will make sense.’

‘I’ll have explanations for the years of misdirection and half-truths I told myself and others.’

‘God will speak into my life in ways I can understand.’

‘I’ll come out and I’ll be able to tell the ones I’ve loved and cared for the most.’

“I don’t know.”

Again and again – the words ring out.  It’s at some point in this conversation or the one after that or the one after that I start to laugh.

It’s not a crazy laugh but a subtle chuckle when I realize that there’s something bigger at play.

I realize that I’m not meant to have the answers that I want.  Sometimes the best answer is not black or white.

It’s gray.  It’s neutral.

My heart speaks and says that time needs its space to do its thing to help me find my way – to the answer, to the conversation, to the part where you and I break bread together.

And there’s beauty in that.

It’s the realized beauty that says that “I don’t know” is a resting place.

This resting place is where I stop trying to understand and I learn to just be.

There is beauty in that unknown.

—-

I live between two worlds now.

Instead of places of ‘being’, these worlds feel more like the stereotypes that we grew up with as kids in grade school.  This is ironic because I’ve always struggled with stereotypes because when we use them they inevitably draw larger borders around our worlds than what’s really needed.

I’m gay. There’s a big one.
I’m Christian.  There’s an equally big one.

I may have a clearer sense of my sexual identity but that pride and confidence wanes when I fall into the trap of rationalizing who I am with who I was, not just with myself but with others.

I may trust God more because of the hellish road he and I have journeyed on but I wake up in the morning sometimes wondering what it really means to be a child of God.

Most days I still struggle with what it means to be me – publicly, privately, spiritually…

I know that there’s nothing that makes me different from the person next to me – I’m the same person I was before but now I see more of who God made me than I did before.  I am closer to who God made me but I also know that the closer we get to anything truly of God the more messy things and maybe confusing things get.  What I forget is that with the messiness comes the inherent (divine) beauty that comes on the other side.

Not every question is meant to be given a crisp, packaged answer.  With thirty years of inadvertent misdirection to unpack I realize that some of that may be meant to stay packed.  Perhaps by being openly gay God is teaching me for the first time the essence of surrender found in three simple but humbling words.

I’m still new in this space but I believe more than I have in the past that these words can lead a person, in any situation, to a place where grace and love slow you down leaving you speechless and on your knees.

“I don’t know.”

I say these words when there’s no easy answer and the question turns into a momentary, paralyzing thought.

These words surface when nothing makes sense.

These words are blunt.  They are scary and cause the heart to beat a little faster.

They are also bold and very beautiful – they are words that provide rest.

For me, these reactions can happen all at once.  The words lead me down a path into new territory – they stretch past the stereotypes, they straddle the gray found between comfort and discomfort, and they safely envelope my past but firmly reach toward my future.

There are times that we runaway from the things that are scary and unknown.

Trust me when I say that this is both a good thing and a bad thing.  Sometimes this is the only response I’ve had to something that I didn’t quite understand or couldn’t easily comprehend.

But what I’ve found is this: Running parallel inside and between the scary and the unknown is beauty and contentment waiting to wrap us up in this crazy force of healing momentum.

It may sound like I’ve found a place where I’m OK with not having the answers.

I have not.

I still want the satisfying answers but I know that the way I’ve previously sought the answers was wrong.  The emphasis of my search was on the past rather than from the point where my story continues today.

I strive to start the answers with who I am today – who God made me – and make my way from there.

“I don’t know” is an OK and safe place to be.  It allows me to prioritize questions with the expected answers.  It replaces the emphasis of speaking with the practice of thinking and being.

There’s power and strength when we look into the eyes of the unknown and say “I’m not comfortable and I’m struggling at times but I know who I am and who I am not. I know that in what I lack, God is there.  And all that wrapped together makes things OK”.

My hope is that this will stick with me as I mature.  My hope is that this practice will strengthen my trust in God.

I hope that these raw and beautiful words can be building blocks for a future where I understand more of others, more of myself, and most importantly more of God.

Then again… I just don’t know.