To be Needy in the Church

I regularly face the need to curb my expectations of what it means to be the church. In my own neediness, I desire so much more from the body of Christ and yet I constantly feel others implying that I am the problem, not the church. As a result, the last few years have been a journey of trying to lower my neediness and change my attitude. I haven’t let others in and I have kept my neediness as much as possible to myself or the few friends who have committed to walking along side me. Deep down though, despite all efforts to convince myself that I am the one needing to change, I cannot help but feel the conviction that the body of Christ is failing.

The implications of this can’t only hit someone like me dealing with SSA but it must also hit so many other individuals who are in difficult, lonely or isolated circumstances. I recently finished the book “Is God Anti-Gay” by Sam Allberry and though I wasn’t too impressed with the majority of the book (it was pretty basic), his commentary on the church had a few good points. Allberry writes regarding the church,

Key to our witness and credibility… is the quality of life together, and the clarity of our message… With that gospel clarity needs to come relational credibility. The New Testament often connects the effectiveness of our witness with the genuineness of our love for one another.

Allberry also writes specifically about the church’s response to those who come out as being gay stating,

We need to love them more than their gay friends do, and we need to love them more than they love their homosexuality. Only then can we begin to point to the greater love that God has for them.

I walk in and out of church not truly feeling actively loved by anyone. I think about how week to week I can go without a single person telling me “I love you” let alone putting that into actions. While I know that many individuals “love” me, without a tangible reminder and experience, my self image, self esteem and self worth are never reinforced.

I’m afraid to show how needy I really am. I am scared to let others know that deep down I just wish someone would sit next to me, be present, put their arm around me and let me know that they are there… that I am not fighting alone. I hate that I desperately desire physical contact since I can go weeks without even a simple hug. I need reminders that people actually care and love me. Even greater, I need people to bring me back to the truth that God loves me. I know myself, my short comings, my continual failures and I cannot help but feel unloveable. Sometimes I need the church to be the hands and feet of God, to pull me back in when I want to walk away and to walk alongside me on this journey that will most likely be a life long struggle.

In Between But Not Yet

I read Wesley Hill’s post today and truly resonated with his comments on Holy Saturday. I can only imagine how heavy of a day it was for the disciples as they encountered one of the most excruciating days on Good Friday and to be sitting and waiting. The doubts going through their head must have been overwhelming. I’m sure they questioned whether they had spent the last three years following a man who was a complete charlatan.

Holy Saturday is a day where I recognize and resonate with my current state. The sacrifice has been made for me, but I am still waiting for the true fulfillment of God’s salvation. My time here on earth is the period in between where I am patiently waiting my full acceptance into the kingdom. It weighs so heavy at times that it is hard to realize the hope and glory that will be brought about in the end. Trying to hold onto that hope… trying to know that promises have been made… trying to believe that there is something greater than my current circumstance. All of this is reflected in Holy Saturday. I simply cannot wait till the glorious completion that will be brought in the morning. However for now, I simply remain in the in between, but not yet.

 

Living a Life Divided

It has been so long since I have posted a blog. This blog hasn’t been the only thing I feel has been neglected; I haven’t really journaled, I haven’t sat still, and I really haven’t dealt with much of myself in a long time. Out of the fear of being alone and facing my temptations, I have crammed my life full of work, church and activities. While in some ways I keep myself out of trouble, in other ways I am not in a healthy place at all.

This past week I was suppose to take a trip to the Midwest for a wedding. Due to several circumstances, the trip was canceled and I didn’t end up going. However, before canceling the trip, I had reached out to an old high school friend, since he lived in the same state, to see if I might be able to crash at his place. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in close to a decade but he was more than willing to let me stay a night.

The thing about this guy is that in high school we fooled around a bit. It wasn’t as though we did anything that crazy and I don’t even think he is gay. Still, the thought of seeing him again and the remotest possibility that perhaps things could turn physical clouded my mind for days. Realistically, nothing probably would have happened.

Deep down however, I really wanted something to happen. While I feel as though I try hard to deny myself and to pursue God, if a moment where I could engage in a physical relationship occurred, I honestly do not believe I would extract myself and say no. I don’t know what to do with these feelings.

I am sure most people would simply tell me that it is an easy solution, that I need to get my life together and have more self-control. I am not trying to deny the fact that I will always have a choice. I just don’t think that most people recognize how difficult it is to make the right choice when I have gone years with practically no physical interaction, affirmation or affection. I am really not even referring to anything sexual, simply that there is zero physical touch that occurs.

Having my trip get screwed up maybe was the best circumstance for me. I didn’t have to go through that trial and see how I would have done. Deep down though, I know that my person and character has not been proven to be honorable to God. It is as if there is a separate part of me that remains dormant. I seek and pursue God daily. I do what I can to live a life holy and pleasing to him. It is extremely frightening to know there is another side of me that can rear up at any moment if the opportunity arose. Am I simply trying to keep the sinful beast chained up and quiet inside of me or am I actively facing my demon and regardless of how painful it may be, working to overcome a side of me that more often than not, seems to be my natural self?

Caught in the Middle

My favorite online comment this week has been the observation that everyone’s news feed looks like a Skittles factory went to war with the Confederates. As the decision was made by the Supreme Court, all of a sudden the issue of same sex marriage has erupted all over the place and as a “side B” Christian, I feel caught in the cross fire.

Deep down it is painful to see how many individual’s comments are not simply regarding the ruling on same sex marriage, however they are yet again strong opinions directed towards anyone in the LGBTQ community. Sometimes I see glimpses of grace shown, but more often there seems to be a mentality that all hell has broken loose in this country and the gays are to blame.

As much as it is painful to see many hurtful comments from Christians, I have also been thrown off a bit by many Christians who were eager to throw on the rainbow filter on their profile and express their support for the “side A” view. I think it saddens me because as I view each of those individuals, I realize that I wouldn’t have their support in the decision I have made to live my life celibate. In their eyes it is foolish to make God a priority over my own feelings or attractions. They are quick to elevate the individual and express their viewpoint in how conservative Christians are hypocritical, contradictory and archaic in their view of scripture. I realize that I could never expect any of them to walk alongside me, supportive and understanding of the choice I have made. All of this leaves me further isolated.

There is a bit of anxiety building up in me as I see the polarization of the issue expanding into the church. I feel as though many of us who are actually struggling to live a pure and holy life with same sex attractions are going to be completely overlooked. We are becoming the unicorns of society, as it becomes harder and harder to maintain the “side B” view and lifestyle. It worries me that the church is going to get lost in the cultural battle and never recognize the true ministry that needs to exist in its own body. Christopher Yuan recently stated that the issue of homosexuality cannot even begin to be discussed in the church until the church recognizes a true biblical view of singleness. One of the major arguments for the Supreme Court decision rested in how a gay individual’s “hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.” I know that more and more, the life of a single individual is only identified as one of isolation and loneliness because the church has strayed so far from the original intent of the body of Christ. The church has yet to offer a satisfactory solution and until they do, it only makes sense that an individual in the LGBTQ community would want marriage as an equal right.

When We Notice the Dirt

“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.” -C.S. Lewis

Our pastor used this quote at church this morning and coming from experiences I had the previous night, I felt as though I was covered from head to toe in shit. I feel as though I have never had an issue of seeing the sin in my life. It has always been there. If the pursuit of my same sex desires is sin, then on a daily basis I fall. Maybe God is present more than I realize, but lately I just feel dirty.

I was up till 2 in the morning trying to fill the void in my life through video chatting with other guys. It is disgusting how low I stoop and the psychology behind how all the men interact is deplorable. Yet, time after time I come back because it is the only interaction I have where I am desired by someone. I go from one guy to the next, both parties hoping to score someone who is out of our league and stooping to whatever pathetic behavior is required to keep them on before they ditch me in their search for their ideal person. Occasionally I get a guy who I am not that attracted to but he knows I’m better looking so her tries really hard and will do whatever I tell him. The person I become at that point is so far from who I really am…

The isolation has reached the point where I hit a weekend and I honestly have no one to call or hang out with… week after week go by where I am living my own life and no one is there checking to see how I am or to share my life in some form or another. I am still serving at my church but the power of the gospel is so far from reality in my life that I feel like a hypocrite trying to share about Christ when the power of the Holy Spirit, the community of the church body and the redemption from sin seem non-existent for me. There is no way in hell I would want to invite anyone to church because I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to deal with the miserable experiences I have had trying to get connected. Unless they were a married couple… then come to church, you will fit in great and I am sure you will be invited over to dinner immediately.

Our pastor spoke this morning on how we need to engage the gospel not by focusing always on what we need to do but continually focus on what Christ as done. I’m not throwing in the towel yet. While I have pretty much given up on the church body, I am still praying that Christ my Savior will be enough for me right now. My eyes continue to turn to the shit that is all over my body and trying to figure out how to clean my self up. I’m going to have to come before Christ and pray that he can still embrace me, as filthy and disgusting as I am.

The Self-Defeating Sexualization of Gay and Same-Sex Attracted Christians

Check out the full blog.

This sexualization harms us (and our churches) in a lot of ways.

It makes gay or same-sex attracted people afraid of intimacy, because every close relationship with someone of the same sex could be a temptation to sexual sin. It leads us to doubt God’s love for us, because we’re set apart from other Christians, treated as eternal outsiders no matter how much we strive to prove ourselves. (It can make our relationship with God and with the church become all about proving ourselves, or proving our chastity, rather than helping us trust that God and church are there for us when we fail.) It can lead us to ignore other sins and temptations we experience, such as temptations to despair or to self-righteousness.

It reduces us to our sexuality, which is dehumanizing.

via The Self-Defeating Sexualization of Gay and Same-Sex Attracted Christians.

Old and Alone

I went again to the support group this past weekend and myself and one other gentleman seemed to have been the first to arrive.  The priest mentioned that we weren’t the first but another individual had accidentally come an hour early because he had mistaken the time due to daylight saving time.

Daylight saving was a week ago.

This individual who is probably in his eighties, had gone an entire week living life an hour off because he was so isolate and unaware of the time change.  His interactions with others were so limited that there never was a need to recognize that he was off until a week had passed.  Later on during our time of sharing, the same individual mentioned how “sometimes when you get old, you wonder if anyone loves you anymore”.  These two incidences were absolutely crushing.

I joined this group in hopes of hearing older individuals who had learned how to live life well.  Sadly I am seeing and hearing stories about how this is not the case.  For many of the men, the only community they have is with other men dealing with SSA.  While it is good that they find some form of community amongst each other, seeing their lives, it makes me see such a huge void that the church needs to see.

What Hope?

I have had to do a lot of listening lately.  With my community of close friends all moving away, I no longer have the avenues where I am able to be fully authentic.  In many ways it can be rather stifling to constantly filter my thoughts and actions from those around me.  At the men’s bible study I attend every week, the issue of how to deal with gay Christians has come up fairly frequently.  While I try to challenge everyone’s thoughts, since they do not know about my SSA, I pretty much sit and have to hear their opinions.  It can be pretty painful and discouraging.

It is easier for these men to speak about adult Christians who are now choosing to live our their gay identity, because in their minds they capable human beings and as adults, are not viewed as having relational needs that need to be met.  Most married individuals don’t grasp the life of a single person and the loneliness that results.  Without seeing these basic needs, they only assume that living a celibate life is the obvious answer and it is a simple choice of obedience.

I am still waiting to hear a church that provides hope for the gay Christian or Christian with SSA (whichever wording you need to hear to feel comfortable).  I try to consider what I would tell to my 13 year old self, around the time where I was just realizing that I could possibly be gay.  While it feels justifiable to many to judge an adult and their actions, a 13 year old, who without choosing realizes that he is attracted to men is in a different place.  What message can the church give them in terms of the timeline for their life?

If I had to speak to myself at that age, all I can say is that it is only going to get harder.  You will only get more isolated, you will live without being known and all you can do is hope to hold on to your faith even though the temptation to experience relationship constantly feels overwhelming.  I am only 30 and I never thought life would be this difficult this early.

Typical kids are told somewhat of a timeline for their life with the stages that they should eventually experience.  You graduate from high school, then college, you date, you get married, you establish yourself in a career, you have kids, you live a life as a parent for a while, you become grandparents, you retire so to enjoy your family and all you worked for, then you die.  For a person with SSA, with all stages of life related to family being removed, outside of career there isn’t much to expect.

I recently started going to a Catholic support group in my area (not because I am Catholic, but it is one of the only areas of support close by).  Part of my desire was to hear from older men dealing with SSA and how they are getting to experience life with hope.  Sadly, most of them are still struggling even at their old age.  They don’t speak a life of hope, excitement, fulfillment or expectancy.  Rather the only thing they can hope is to hold on to Christ and remain obedient despite the daily temptations and the feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Until the church can speak of a hope and a life that isn’t merely survival, I feel as though the options for a gay Christian is either change your theology by convincing yourself that the side A is actually a Biblical option or prepare for a long life alone.  I cannot allow my theology to be changed by my experience, but the option I am living now is so difficult.

I have hope for eternity but I don’t have hope for tomorrow.  I dread the coming years and how the life of obedience will only get more difficult.  I am tired, weary and the burden is extremely heavy.  The promise of Jesus in Matthew 11:30 seems far and distant.

CAN I BE DONE AT 30?

I woke up this morning and after a string of days of falling to temptations, I simply wanted to be done.  I don’t mean this in a suicidal sort of way, but more in the way of I am over this life.  I am tired, so tired.  I don’t feel as though I have been refreshed in a long time.  I try to grab hold of any little bit of hope and joy I encounter, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.  I just wouldn’t mind being done with life… God can’t you show me mercy and take me now?

I laugh at myself knowing how pathetic I sound.  In my low moments, it allows me realign my thoughts and be thankful that God is still using me to impact others.  The fact that I can have any positive impact at all really only is because of God.  I know myself.  I don’t like myself and the things I do.

This morning I decided to spend an extended amount of time in the Word.  I know that being still and quiet is important for me.  Thankfully it was a really good time with God.  Most of the time was spent meditating on Psalms 107.  The line that stuck with me the most was “He satisfies the longing soul”.  I think the one thing any of us who struggle with SSA could agree with is that there seems to be a perpetual longing of the soul.  On a good day, that longing is directed towards God, while on my not-so-good days that longing leads me to try to find fulfillment in relationship.  I am a needy person and that can be a curse and a blessing.  I am fulling away of the void in my life.  I can’t remain still and not try to fulfill it.  It is so difficult though to stay on track and look to God day in and day out.  He is suppose to satisfy my longing soul and somehow I don’t feel satisfied.  What am I missing?  I know God is providing and yet I am off track unable to experience His provision fully.

Confessions

I just came back to this blog and saw the last time I posted.  A lot has gone on since then.  A lot that I am ashamed of…

I am not well these days.  I am not handling life in a way that I am proud of and at the core of it all, I don’t see the hope that I need to have in order to continue to push for the changes that need to be made.  With every year, I am shocked at how intense my situation becomes and never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be dealing with the situation I am in at the age of 29.  I never thought I would be completely alone.  I never thought that it would be nearly impossible to find a roommate.  I never thought that church would seem so isolating.  I never thought I would sit on a Friday night with no one nearby to call to hang out… or to have to face Saturday with nothing on my schedule.

The weekends are seriously the worst for me.  If I am lucky, I get through Friday night without doing anything stupid.  At best, I binge watch several hours of Netflix and somehow stay away from drinking at all.  However, by the time I face Saturday and I pretty much have exhausted my self-control, usually with a couple beers in, my walls fall and I am completely vulnerable.  More often then not, I make stupid choices online or even just letting my mind wander back to a previous relationship that I want to be involved in so desperately.  I simply don’t want to be alone.

What sucks is that after every Saturday comes Sunday.  I still go to church.  I feel dirty and ashamed because I failed yet again.  I hate the fact that I face the weekend alone and somehow God doesn’t seem to be enough.  The way the church, books, and people seem to put it is that I should be able to sit alone at my apartment and be completely fulfilled in who Christ is and not fall apart.  I wish that were true…

My work seems to be my only savior.  It keeps me from having to face the reality of my situation.  Yet, somehow God has forced me to step back from my work and it is killing me.  Back in August, due to my injury, I was forced to sit out for several weeks.  Now, it seems as though I am going to be dealing with jury duty for the next 3 weeks unless by some miracle I get released from the case on Monday.

So yeah, I’m hurting.  It’s Friday night and thankfully I haven’t messed up yet.  I pray tomorrow I experience God’s mercy in a huge and overwhelming way.  I need it, I can’t do this alone. I can’t fix this. I can’t fix me.