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.

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.

Did you love them?

When we die and stand before God, I presume we will be asked what we did with our time spent on earth.  I imagine many Christians proudly explaining to God how they fervently worked to preserved the sanctity of marriage from the perverted corruption of the homosexuals.

Somehow, I feel like God’s simple response will be… “But did you love them?”

Victimization

A little while back I had a really hard conversation with one of my closest friends.  I asked him for his honest thoughts and he gave them to me.  What he said was not what I wanted to hear.  As I left feeling completely frustrated and misunderstood, I tried to comfort myself by telling myself that he had no clue what my life was like and how difficult it really is to be in my shoes…

Like so many other times, it was so much easier for me to play the victim then to stand up and face the hard truth in front of me.  I can point the finger at the church, my family, and my friends for all the areas that I am dissatisfied with life, however even if there are areas of fault in others, victimizing myself is never going to get me very far.  That being the case, why do I view myself as the victim so often?

I see it in society all the time as well.  People try to blame their circumstance on racism, sexism, or bigotry and in the end, I think it is simply a coverup for them to step up and be the better person.  Back when I was teaching in the public schools, “Is it because I am Black, (Mexican, a girl, etc)?” was the constant response from students trying to avoid the consequences of their actions when they got in trouble.  My students were under the age of 13 and somehow had already learned, playing the role of the victim was an easy way out of getting in trouble.

In today’s society, I see the LGBT community speak of all the hatred they experience from the church.  While this may be (is) true, when will the LGBT community choose to take the high road and start living out their own message of love and acceptance by loving the church despite its flaws?  All I see is hatred being combated by equal hatred.

In my own life I am trying to stop playing the victim.  It is incredibly hard.  Yesterday I was reassigned classrooms at work.  It was completely out of the blue and everyone at work (including myself) thought that I had done something to my supervising teacher that ticked her off enough to kick me out of her class.  I spent the whole day in the the new classroom trying to not get frustrated by what I thought was unfair treatment.  At the end of the day, having heard the rumors floating around, my new supervisor approached me.  He told me he had requested me to fit a particular need in his class and it had nothing to do with my previous supervisor.  I felt like a fool for all that I had assumed and how quickly I had placed myself as a victim.  As always, I need to start seeing my circumstances through a positive lens… my life is probably far better than I think.

How do you deal with the circumstances where you are being wronged but want to avoid playing the victim?

 

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.

She’s Interested, I’m Not

I rarely pick up on when a girl likes me.  It has happened previously in the past, but I usually find out from someone else two years later (or even longer).  I went to a Starbucks the other day and had a nice conversation with the barista behind the counter while I ordered my drink.  She commented on the fact that I looked familiar to someone (which I get all the time) and asked if I had ever been told that I look like Jim from The Office.  We chatted for a little and I didn’t think much of it until later on while I was sitting down reading she came up and offered me a free scone.  As I went to leave, I thanked her for the scone and we shared a few words.

I went back to the same Starbucks today.  The same girl was behind the register again and when I walked up, she clearly remembered me.  “You came back!” she said, and quickly shared a look with her co-worker.

I will have to admit, I enjoyed the attention.  Even though I had zero attraction towards her, it felt good to be noticed.  It is unfortunate that I don’t get to experience a normal life and see how things like this play out.  While the likelihood of me ever getting married is slim, I still hope that somehow, someday, I will find a women who I fall in love with and is willing to walk through this life with me.  The fact that I even noticed the girl’s interest is a spark of hope…

Too Few For The Church?

Deep down, I have a desire to see the church step forth into a new light regarding their awareness of issues regarding homosexuality and more specifically celibate Christian men and women within their community who have same sex attractions.  It hurts me to see how a blanket statement is thrown over all Christians as being the main example of hatred and bigotry towards homosexuals.  The church has a long way to go and on more than one occasion I have had people ask if I would ever be willing to lay aside the control I have on who knows my story and be willing to be the face to the issue by address the church.  At this point I don’t believe I am ready.

There may come a day where I could see myself addressing a larger group regarding this issue, however I feel as though I am going to have to learn a lot of humility and reliance on God before that day comes.  Furthermore, I know I owe it to all of my close friends to share with them my story directly before they find out through word of mouth.

As much as I desire to see the church move forward, I have had some doubts about how that should even take place.  While our story or voice is never heard in the church, are we so small of a minority that it isn’t worth addressing our needs with the church as a whole or in a men’s group?  There are so many others, all struggling with their own respective issues that I can’t help but wonder if I am being selfish for wanting the church to grow in awareness of those struggling with S.S.A.

Why Don’t You Understand Why I Run Naked?

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally landed a job.  I am working with students who have special needs and even though I am only three days at my new job, God is truly teaching me a whole new set of lessons on grace, patience, and love.

I think that one of the biggest lessons I have learned already is that we all desire to be understood.  It doesn’t matter if you are an kid with special needs, a typical individual frustrated with his or her marriage, or a Christian guy dealing with same sex attractions, being understood is essential to our satisfaction and happiness in life.  As I work with these kids with special needs, they don’t start acting out simply because they are bad kids.  More often than not, it usually is because I am unable to understand what they are trying to communicate to me.  As a result, the only way they can express their frustrations is by falling to the ground, over turning every table in the room, or stripping naked and running down the hallway screaming.  While my initial response always seems to be “What the heck is wrong with this kid?” I soon realize that my question should be “What am I not understanding that he is so desperately trying to communicate?”

Even though I may not strip naked and run around yelling every time I feel as though I am not understood, I think that I have my own methods of screaming for people to recognize and understand the state I am in.  Whether it be me ranting through a blog post, constantly pointing out the flaws of the church, or guilt tripping my friends for their lack of support, I can exhibit some rather pathetic behavior at times.  This is not to say that there is anything wrong with having the desire to be understood, it is merely a recognition of the grace that I need to learn to extend to others when they are unable to fill the hole that I have in my life.

While I am looking forward to how I can be used to help these kids at my workplace, I have a strong feeling that I may walk away from this experience having learned far more than the kids I am working with every day.

Reject, Receive, or Redeem

This morning I was mediating a bit on the Christian’s response to homosexuality.  The blogs, news, and politics are chalk full of opinions and debate.   Somehow I feel as though, we Christians are missing the point.  We are yelling louder than we are listening. In the past, I have heard the “Reject, Receive, and Redeem” model used before regarding cultural shifts that seem to go against common Biblical understanding.  While this is simplified (I am fully aware of that), here are a few thoughts using that model…

Reject, Receive, or Redeem:

1. Reject: We can state that anything related to homosexuality is a sin.  Any attraction, behavior, or product stemming from homosexuality is inherently wrong.  The church should remain pure and holy by removing itself by completely rejecting all things homosexual.

2. Receive:  We can accept it with open arms.  If someone realizes they are gay, they should take pride in that and accept it as who they are and were created to be.  Our religious views need to continue to be molded as culture changes.

3. Redeem:  We can recognize that all are broken and yet God has a plan of redemption within our brokenness.  As vessels and ambassadors of Chist here on earth, the church can focus their attention more on their role to redeem those who have a same sex attraction with eternity in mind, rather than channeling their efforts to fight a losing, earthly battle against a fallen world/culture.

I find the question that needs to be asked is what does it tangibly look like for the church to make an effort to redeem the issue and the people dealing with homosexuality?