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.

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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.

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.

Every Man Has A Woman To Love

I attend a men’s Bible study at my church that focuses on defining a man of God and the necessary elements in his life to make him be complete.  One of those elements is that every man has a woman to love.

Obviously being a single, celibate gay Christian, this statement bothers me.  When I question how this statement applies to a single man (not even a gay man), I am told a woman to love for a single man is the church, as modeled by Jesus.  I am still exploring this thought to see if there is any true biblical basis for such a statement.  Every time I am told this however, I cannot help but become frustrated and bitter towards the church.  Am I truly to consider my bride to be the church?  How can this be when my so-called bride doesn’t even acknowledge my existence?  Can a spouse truly feel apart of a relationship when their significant other does not even acknowledge they are in a relationship?  

As the church makes this statement, I equate it to the level of frustration that exists for women when told wives should be submissive to their husbands.  While I believe this to be biblical, as an isolated statement, it misses out on the entire meaning of the passage and ends up being used in an abusive and controlling manner.  The responsibilities of the husband are just as important and any man who tells his wife she must be submissive is clearly ignoring the sacrifice that he is suppose to make as a loving husband.  A partial biblical truth can be damaging if the full scope of the biblical passage is not given or if only part of a command is utilized.  Is it justifiable for the church to tell a single man that his bride should be the church, despite having never spoken to the church regarding their responsibilities towards singles?  It seems like an easy way out and an incomplete view, ultimately allowing the church to escape responsibility. 

If the bride of a single person is the church, what is the responsibility of said bride?  All pressure cannot be placed on the single person whom is already isolated, without family, and generally viewed as incomplete by the church. 

I would love to hear some thoughts on this topic.  Has anyone else looked into this idea that a single man’s bride is to be the church? How does that sit with your understanding of the scriptures?

Which Command is More Important?

In the New Testament, Jesus gives two commands:

1. “Follow me.”

2. “Go and sin no more.”

While there are other commands that are more important (i.e. love the lord God with all of your heart), and these are not mutually exclusive commands, I feel as though Christians tend to have a leaning towards one or the other in their spiritual walk.  This leads to a heavy influence on relationships and how we tend to encourage one another in our pursuit of God.

I constantly see this as I work with my youth group.  For the most part, my guys are all good kids.  None of them are openly rebellious or kids that are disrespectful.  They are reaching a point however, where they are realizing the logic their parent’s fed them (i.e. a relationship with God is doing what is right) isn’t panning out.  They are doing what is right but deep down don’t feel as though they really know and experience God.

Perhaps it is only me, but I know I experience God the most through my own screw ups, failures, and struggles.  I know I can’t make it through this life on my own and so the deep grace and mercy of God is really the only I have to hold onto.  Somedays I remember that, other days I don’t.

I wish the church might start leaning more towards the importance of following Jesus, rather than doing what is right.  Usually when you begin following Christ, your actions are also transformed.  Attempting to do what is right and not sin usually only leads to a point of disappointment as we repeatedly fail.

Something has got to give

Several weeks back during my small group with the guys, one of them stated that they felt I was living a duplicitous life by not being open about my struggle with homosexuality.  He said in many ways when I finally opened up to him, he felt as though he had been lied to this entire time.  He asked me why I didn’t live my life open about my struggle, especially since it would benefit a lot of people.

I didn’t and still don’t have a complete answer.  Perhaps it is fear.  Maybe pride.  I think that my desire to have control over my life is also a huge element.  The second that I come out of the closet to everyone, I no longer allow people to see me the way I desire them to see me.  I will always be viewed through the “gay” filter.  With that comes a bundle of misconceptions, lies, and ignorance.  I simply don’t know if I am ready for that at this point in my life.  I don’t want to be identified by being gay.  There is so much more to me…

At the same time, I want my life to be used by God and I continue to come into situations where opening up about my struggle would probably be helpful.  I had dinner Friday night with two friends from back in college and somehow one of them mentioned how different people from our school had come out of the closet.  As always, I played the devil’s advocate (or hopefully the stance that Jesus would ACTUALLY take).  Despite my attempts to shake their paradigm a bit, it was impossible for them to see outside of the typical church response.  To them it was simple… living a gay lifestyle is living in sin and so the church’s responsibility is to confront the sin.  As they made judgements about gays, I wanted to open up and let them know that the very person sitting in front of them was gay.  For some reason, I kept my story to my self… yet again.

I have had many similar conversations with many good Christian individuals.  I actually agree with almost everything they say about sin and the church’s response.  I do believe that living out a gay lifestyle is sin and that is why I choose to remain celibate.  However, the church gives no alternative or hope to those they confront and judge.  I am struggling to figure out how to further the conversation.  I have to believe that the church can shift their message to the gay community without straying from the truths of scripture.

My Own Personal Hell

Last night I was hanging out with some guys and we somehow got into a conversation about our own personal kind of hell.  It was a very light hearted conversation as we shared some of the things in life that would make eternity in hell suck even more if it was personalized to our pet peeves.  I think it all started out due to a crying child behind us… thus someone said, that their personal hell would be eternity with crying infants.

After the first example, each person started throwing out their ideas.  Hell would be having to forever iron dress shirts.  Hell would be a continual to do list given to you by your wife, while she goes out with her friends.  Hell would be room temperature coffee being the only beverage.

I told them that hell would be the 5 minutes at church where everyone is suppose to greet the person next to them… except those 5 minutes would last for eternity.  Oddly enough, everyone agreed and related most to my example.  I think it is ironic how every church I know of has the time to meet and greet your neighbor and yet everyone hates it.  It is impossible to actually connect with someone during that time nor does it adequately allow for a new person to feel welcomed.  So why the hell do all churches still create such a hellish moment in their service?

Seeking Solitude

I always thought I was returning to the States because God was calling me to invest in community.  Somehow I felt as though if I opened up to people and truly pursued relationships with people, slowly the community I have been desiring so deeply would materialize.  Despite my efforts, I have found myself to be more isolated than I have ever been in my life and I am realizing I have been missing a crucial step needed before community can develop… solitude.

Being in community is an essential part of my development, growth and healing.  The truth is I will never be satisfied with the community I have if I am looking to them to fulfill the isolation and loneliness I feel.  The church will never be the family I crave.  The curse of a single/homosexual Christian is that life is a long walk alone.  Somehow I have to learn to be fully satisfied in God alone.  While this is such a “churchy” concept and I have heard it so many times, the reality is I don’t know how to be fully satisfied in God.  As I live day after day completely on my own, I can’t help but desire a tangible and physical love.  In seeking out advice from others, all I continue to hear is how I need to keep on “trying” and be even more disciplined and devout in my search for God.  While there will always be areas in my life I need to work on, I always have thought the Bible speaks of a God that pursues us.  I feel as though I am spending ours in silence waiting to hear from God and all I hear is silence.

While I don’t know exactly what God is attempting to reveal in my life at this moment, all I can do is return to solitude.  I am trying to stand firm on the truth of the Bible and ignore how far off my experience seems to be.  God is the consuming fire that refines me.  This process is and will continue to be painful. Perhaps in the end I can pursue community not from a place of selfish neediness, but from a place of truly knowing who I am in Christ.