Finding My Life Again

•July 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Matthew 16:25, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

I want what I want.  I want it now.  I’m one of those guys who thinks that instant gratification takes too long.

The struggle that I find myself wrestling with comes right down to this whole issue of saving my life and any chance of an intimate, deep, meaningful relationship…or making the sacrifice of that relationship for Jesus’s sake, trusting Him to make good on that promise of life.  Can a relationship with Jesus in this life be so meaningful and rich as to crowd out this desire?  It’s been a good relationship so far, full of rocky roads and pitfalls, but it’s gotten stronger as the years speed by.  But can it overcome that desire, that NEED to be held and to hold?

It’s times like this where I want to find some lone evangelical know-nothing who still spouts the whole “choice” in orientation nonsense and just pummel him into a soft, pulpy mass.

I’m comfortable, for now, in searching the scriptures for myself, thinking for myself, and asking my soul what it truly believes, free from the prejudices and muzzy thinking of the people who have come before me.  Ultimately, it is my decision about this life and this heart, and it is ultimately me who will stand before God’s throne, stammering like an idiot, trying to defend my choices.

How We Got Here From There

•July 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It started with my trainer, Chris.

We’d been working out three times a week for a few months with no sign of breaking a plateau.  “You ever thought about getting checked out?” he asks, a little embarrassed.  I thought back to the time I was in the nursing home, attempting to recover some use of my lower body after the surgery had gone wrong, and the doctor had detected that my testosterone levels were kinda low at the time.  In more recent years, there had been some problems down there recently that required some surgery, localized infections, etc., so I decided that getting it checked out made sense.

The results of the tests changed my life.

The testosterone levels, total and free, were so low that if you tripled them, then added a few points, you would get the lowest number on the scale.  My estrogen levels were seriously high, enough to not only diminish the effects of the testosterone, but cause future medical problems.

When the doctor outlined the procedures for testosterone replacement therapy, I knew it would lead to a seriously increased libido.  It was strong when I was in my 20’s, but petered out shortly into my 30’s.  I knew it would cause temptations, but the sad fact is that compared to dealing with temptations, I was more interested in feeling alive again.  The tiredness, the brain fog, the creeping depression, the lack of motivation — even weighing the possibility of dealing with testicular cancer possibilities, it came down to living the next twenty years tired, exhausted and accomplishing nothing versus maybe another fifteen feeling alive and engaged.

The brain fog vanished in weeks, my limbs got noticably stronger, and I started losing serious body fat and gaining muscle.

I also gained a strong awareness of my situation:  overweight, disabled, a life that is horrifying local, and in deep poverty.  I also gained a stronger confidence in God’s caring and provision:  working out with a personal trainer three times a week cost a considerable amount of money, yet God raised two friends with the fundage who split the trainer fees.  That’s $3,000 a year they split!  All around me, God showed up on His white horse, bounding over the hill just at the height of the Third Act crisis, ready to save His child.

But I also began to notice that with all the heavy burdens, I was spending more and more time alone.  Sure, friends would show up once or twice a month to help, have a meal, be a friend.  Then those visits became less and the fact that I was more alone than ever did not escape notice.  It soon worked out as resentment — God, You handle all these things and you take so much of the burden.  But life is still so hard and so heavy — must I do it alone, must I do it with no one close, no one special?

When I am the most left to my devices I will, every single time, get into trouble.  It’s built into my spiritual DNA.

The lonelyache grew, as did the resentment, and with indications around me as far as I could see, I began to resent God for leaving my heart alone and unloved.  Yes, God, I know You are there.  You provision has been lavish and generous beyond reason.  Yet Father, how do You make me a man, a creation You described as Very Good, yet to serve and love you fully, I must be forever alone, which is Not Good?  I burn, hotter yet, and there is no relief in sight.

(And by alone, I don’t mean without friends…I mean without someone special to share a deeper, intimate bond.  Yes, you knew that, and sorry for re-stating the obvious, but I get emails…)

With all that as explanation, we now bring you to the present.  An awakening and a physical redemption that’s come at a spiritual cost.

Not all is sorrow.  Lately, there are encouraging signs.  Yes, there is brokenness and there are many cracks, but to paraphrase Anne Lamott, “the cracks let the light get in.”  Stephen’s been sharing some healing stuff at http://www.sacredtension.com.  I’ve come to hold again, as I pretty much always have, that as Merton says, “Doubt is not the end of faith, but the beginning.”

I’ve come to see that there are reasons for my further coming out, but now is not that time.  If I think things are rough now, hoo, baby, we’re talking a world of crap waiting to come down on my head.  But when I am stronger, when my re-invention is further along at this time in my life and I can hold the light again, the need for that light to be shared is stronger than ever.  In the next post, I’ll share a recent exchange I had that highlighted this need to stand and deliver.

But that is then.  For now, it is time to engage in some radical self-care, to take things slowly but firmly, and to not be afraid of the questions.

 

Sacred Tension

•July 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I want to draw your full attention to a new blog, one that has been a voice of reason in this otherwise unreasonable time. Www.sacredtension.com. I’ll be adding it to the blog roll when I’m back at my computer and not posting from bed.

This caught my eye tonight and for the first time in months, I feel hopeful:

When you do experience that panic, trust that God is big enough. Trust that the fruits of the spirit are the better, higher road. Trust that questions are not evil, but are instead an act of worship: to ask is to express humility, that you are not God. There is nothing wrong, evil, or blasphemous about that.

Here is the great mystery: it takes faith to enter doubt. It takes great strength to enter the unknown. And that faith is ultimately healthy and good: it forces us to live with greater fearlessness in Jesus.

This struggle as worship? the mind bends at the concept.

Go visit Stephen’s blog now. You’ll enjoy.

God Drops a Heavy

•July 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes God sends you the most interesting notes about what you hold to be true, challenging you to…well…believe better. Such as:

“Silence”

•July 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

“Silence”
Jars of Clay

Take
Take till there’s nothing
Nothing to turn to
Nothing when you get through
Won’t you break
Scattered pieces of all I’ve been
Bowing to all I’ve been
Running to
Where are you?
Where are you?

Did you leave me unbreakable?
You leave me frozen?
I’ve never felt so cold
I thought you were silent
And I thought you left me
For the wreckage and the waste
On an empty beach of faith
Was it true?

I…I got a question
I got a question
Where are you?

Scream
Deeper I wanna scream
I want you to hear me
I want you to find me
Cuz I…I want to believe
But all I pray is wrong
And all I claim is gone

And yet, in the middle of this prayer, in the middle of all the wondering, I hear Him. I only hear two things, but of this I’m certain:

Not only is this questioning, this struggle, this pain a good thing, but it is necessary.

And…

A peace in knowing that it will all be okay and I will come out the other side better.

I hope so. The stress of all this is killing me.

I don’t dare tell friends of the loneliness; the response of just the few I’ve told has been insult. *I’m* here, they say. They don’t understand the kind of loneliness I’m talking about.

I debated for weeks whether or not to…well, let’s be honest…to post my spiritual breakdown publically. But for the struggle, the questions and the pain that I have, there have to be others going through this as well, right? And if that’s the case, watching someone else’s breadcrumbs out of the darkness has got to be of some value.

I am so tired.

Re-Invention

•July 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So much has happened, is happening.  I re-read the two previous posts and shook my head.  Badly written, confused, scattered.  I was going to re-write them both, then thought better.  There’s something to be said for recording one’s state of mind in the lines and between them.

One of the biggest changes in my post-Mars Hill, post-SSA phase (wait, what did he say??  POST??  Does that mean…?  No, but that’s another post…) is that through the questioning, the rage, the fear, the tears, and the soul-rending loneliness, I’ve come to the conclusion that so much of what I was exposed to at Mars Hill was a theology that questioned love, that treated love like some soft, squishy, sin-approving emotion.  What really needs to happen, I’d hear, is to bring sinners to Christ through some theology that challenges your pride, your relationship with God, and bangs home that you are so far short of the mark that your relationship with God is the only thing that will save you and you best not question, waiver, falter, or otherwise grieve Him or you are going to find yourself in Hell, up to your chin in monkey vomit with imps riding speedboats around you.  As predestination is left unconsidered by so many non-reformed, grace was never explained in much detail at Mars Hill.  Even Pastor Mark preached a sermon on grace and how he had trouble with it.

No, that’s not all reformed theology in general.  Good grief, no.  Put away the urge to hit the comment button.  Many of the most loving, supportive friends I have hold to reformed theology.  Some of them have saved and nurtured my faith during the highest and lowest of points.  It was, frankly, Mars Hill damage.

Part of my re-invention, healing, recovery, what have you, is this:  I have come to hold to the fact that we are God’s walking billboards.  That Jesus lived a life of love and grace and mercy so vast and deep and all-encompassing the best theologians among us can only grasp but a fraction.  It is one thing to have a ready scripture for any situation; another thing entirely to BE that scripture, living and alive, in a relationship with another human being.

I watch the gay/Evangelical mess get worse, pride overwhelming both sides, and the struggle is one I find myself wanting to quit.  In the battle, I am a conscientious objector.  The Jesus I have come to re-acquaint myself with was called a drunkard and a glutton.  He hung with all the socially incorrect people and infuriated the Pharisees in doing so.  He loved people so well that people ripped roofs off houses to get to Him.  He was unbelievably funny, gracious, generous, and even in his rage, he would protect the most innocent.  Stripped of all that, He is the most important.  In the middle of this gay/straight tension, this is how I wish to be known:  as someone who does his best to show all the great qualities of Jesus.

Linda’s Finally Blogging…100 Percent!

•July 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Francis writes me:

As a gay man I wonder if you have read Linda’s, “Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son”? If so, what are your thoughts on the article?

My first reaction was “Will you adopt me?”  I think, if memory serves, I’m a year or two older than Rob.  Doesn’t matter.

My second reaction:  gotta hand it to Alan Chambers…if you’re going to reform as a ministry aimed at helping churches deal with homosexual issues,  these are the people you want to have brainstorming with you.  Jesus did not hammer sinners.  (He went full beast on some Pharisees and money changers, but every encounter with other sinners is remarkably loving.)  This was a radical, revolutionary being.  People tore roofs off houses to get to Him.

There is such a need on the part of the evangelical cognoscenti to make sure that each and every homosexual knows that they are sinners.  (And, often unsaid but definitely written between the lines is Sinner with a capital S.)  Mars Hill did this when I was there: they would send mixed signals about inclusion, how homosexuality was not the worst sin in the Bible, yet the pastor would let loose a continual barrage of quien es mas macho comments about how Christianity is not for “sweater-wearing cat owners” but for real men who could show that machismo by courting a woman and raising a proper Christian family.  Any man who did not meet this standard?  The punchline was often a joke about being “gay.”

Nothing like marketing towards your base.

I do not believe that we must compromise the truth or the Gospel to reach out to homosexual men and women in love.  L0ve.  Remember that?  It’s the thing that people felt so passionately when they ripped off the roof to get to Jesus.  It’s the thing that gathered five thousand to hear Him speak.

In the beginning, when Mars Hill was only a few years old, people RAN to services there.  There was something about that place that was strong, that compelled you attend services like nothing else you’d ever experienced.  They couldn’t afford to turn the lights on, so services were by candlelight.  During the summer they kept the doors wide open and it was still a sweatbox.  The music was nothing short of awful, over one rickety speaker, but you never missed the worship.  The sermons were alarmingly professorial.  I remember one that lasted an hour and forty five minutes.  It was not uncommon to have him preach for 45 minutes and then declare, “Okay, that’s the introduction.”  Yet people of every kind and every stripe came running.  Chains…tattoos…goth…punk…everyone felt at home, felt accepted and met right where they were at.  They felt love and acceptance on the most basic and immediate level.

Where has this love gone?  Not just MH…everywhere.  We’ve corrupted faith with politics (instead of influencing politics with faith) and it is not uncommon to hear elected officials disparage gays, and to do it in the name of Jesus using whichever scripture they can to reinforce their bigotry.  Worse, the same language is heard from pulpits and on television programs that never fail to book a religious pundit to denounce gays in the strongest possible language.  Some actually have the presumptuous leathery crust to complain that they are being discriminated against by people who call them on the fact that their need to be right that has triumphed over their obligation to love.

In this context, Rob and Linda are a breath of fresh air.  They are sadly considered radical and get a busload of crap from people who think they’re “letting down the faith” by “embracing homosexuals.”  I think it’s about time somebody embraced us in the name of Jesus and I am so grateful it’s Rob and Linda.   I think God has transformed their grief and sorrow over losing Ryan into a ministry that has already touched thousands and has proclaimed the love of Christ in a radical, inclusive tsunami.  I’m in the audience with a bucket of popcorn…cheering loudly.

 

EDIT:  You can read Linda’s first post on the Huffington Post here.