Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires I’ve often sat and wondered what I would say to some of you now that my life has taken a markedly different direction. I know some of you probably wondered what happened to the guy you used to go out and party with. All of a sudden, I went from clubbing, dating, and drinking, to none of that. Even more than that, I gave up everything I knew, left town, and started studying the Bible. Pretty dramatic I suppose. I know it probably didn’t make sense looking at it on the outside. I know some of you had thought that I had caved to the pressure of straight society, that I would be back, and eventually just accept the fact that I was gay. And that was understandable to many of you. I was 19 after all and there probably isn’t a gay person alive who hasn’t had to deeply wrestle with the reality of their sexuality, their identity, and how they will live in light of it – something they didn’t choose but feel they must choose to accept.
So I wanted to explain what happened. Some of you were intensely hurt by my decision; others were mad and a few easily rolled their eyes and brushed me off. I likely would have had the same reaction had our roles been reversed. I remember speaking with one of you in particular. - “So, what are you? - Straight I suppose?”
- “No. I’m not sure what I am honestly. But I want to follow Jesus”.
I had become pretty disillusioned with gay culture. I had also become pretty disillusioned with me.
It wasn’t because I was gay. Admitting I was gay was actually pretty freeing. No more double life. No more trying to please people. It was actually the man I was becoming that didn’t seem to fit anymore. I didn’t like that a casual night out often turned into heavy drinking and hooking up. And at first I thought it was just me. But many of you were doing the same thing. And even more concerning, those that were 10, 20, and even 30 years older than us, were doing the same thing as well. And I don’t know how you felt, but I felt dirty. Used. It was devaluing of myself and other people. And I felt trapped. Trapped in a cycle of doing the very thing I kept vowing to never do again.
And so I prayed to God in desperation. Not to be straight, but to be free. I wanted to be free of the enslaving cycle that I saw so many of us in. And God answered that very prayer by giving me peace that reached to the depths of my soul.
My heart found rest in one Lover, rather than chasing after many others.
Even more, He didn’t condemn or criticize me. I felt valued, not used and clean rather than dirty. And I knew in that moment that God was much different than we had believed Him to be. He was completely different than the pride parade protesters that shouted in condemnation and the Christians that some of us had the “pleasure” of meeting. This God was real and His love was intense.
So it’s been 10 years. An entire decade has gone by and I’m still following this Jesus. You’re probably surprised. Well me even more so! But when I think about why I follow him, there are so many reasons. And not one has to do with being straight. As you and I both predicted, God did not wave His hand and erase my sexuality, or my past, or my hurt. But He did engage all of those on different levels – and still does.
So why do I continue to follow him?...
I like being His.
He gave me a new identity and one that had nothing to do with my sexuality. He called me son. There’s still something strong that happens in my heart when I sense Him speak that to me.
“You’re mine. You’re home. You belong with me and to me.”
I don’t think I’ll ever get over it or get tired of hearing it. I belong with Him. I was made for Him. And I’m continually uncovering more of what that means each day.
I like being authentic
And I don’t mean to imply that you are not. What I do mean is that living as His son has opened up the door for me to experience and live as He created me to without the smothering dictates of rigid gender roles in Midwestern America or the inflexible, dogmatic stereotype of the gay man. God never invited me to be more “butch”; rather he invited me to experience Him and consequently a more authentic version of myself, which required me asking Him who He actually created me to be. We often told people we were more than a sexuality or sexual orientation, and we were right. But I saw very few gay people actually live like that and I was certainly no exception. Most everything I did revolved around this part of my sexuality; it was the filter I saw most of life through. And God helped me to throw off what everyone was saying I should be and get in touch with who I really am.
I like being loved
His love is altogether different. It’s unconditional and perfect, holy and unending. It’s something my lovers, partners, friends, parents, and even my wife couldn’t and can’t give. The best part is that I can’t be separated from it; it’s unmerited, unearned. I can’t stop it because I didn’t make it happen. And it’s easy to rest in that type of love. I’m not the center of the universe, but sometimes I feel that His eyes are directly on me. He doesn’t show favoritism, but I often feel like his favorite. And it’s not because He gives me what I want or does things my way and in my time. But He has a way of touching the core of who I am, in a place of my soul I didn’t previously know existed. And now I’m ruined of settling for only human love.
I like being known
It’s the cry of my heart and the cry of yours. He knows what makes me come alive. He knows what has broken me in the past and he knows how to mend it. I’m not a mystery to Him in any way. When I become acutely aware of the dark parts of my soul, I can rest knowing that He knew this long ago and it doesn’t jeopardize our relationship even a little. There’s not a human being on the planet that can promise that.
I like having peace
His peace is different. It’s not dependent on people and circumstances. In a raping, warring, molesting world that is often the opposite of peaceful, I am promised peace at the soul level. John 14:27 "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.”
I like loving people
And I don’t mean feeling strong feelings for people. That’s easy. I mean actually loving people – even my enemies. I realized that much of my life had been spent either using people, or at best conditionally loving them. That’s what happens when people are in need of love – as we all are apart from Christ. Out of their poverty of love, people are forced to use others. You can’t give away what you don’t have. My partners were amazing men but I tried to make them my source. That was wrong, and selfish, and I used them. Sure I felt strong feelings for them and at the time I would have declared, “I love you!” But there was no hint of sacrifice or selflessness – 2 bedrocks of truly loving someone else. I was an empty well going to other empty wells for water. And then I met THE Well. And I haven’t thirsted since.
I like worshipping
But not just by raising my hands or singing a song. I love the thought of my life not being lived for me; living beyond myself for a higher purpose that even I don’t fully understand yet or grasp the fullness of. It’s deeply compelling and you and I were made for it. I used to think God must be some egotistical being that creates people and then forces them to worship Him. And then I realized how incredibly freeing it is to worship Him alone and that by worshipping Him, the other things my heart was enslaved to lost their grip.
So I wanted to tell you what I found and about Who found me. Because as much as I know this stirs people up and angers some, I feel selfish keeping it to myself.
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
I didn’t find a dogmatic belief system to be adhered to, but rather a person to follow that led (and is leading) me into greater joy.
I’m asking that you would consider what I’m saying and stop letting your negative experiences with Christians in the past keep you from the very thing you were created for. Sure I’ve met numerous Christians who are hypocritical, or don’t get it, or don’t care to get it. But I’ve met MANY who were real, authentic, imperfect, and loving.
Consider His invitation. Answer His call.
Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires