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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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.

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.

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.

I am the honorable filler in your life

I am feeling very insecure right now. While today was an excellent day all around, the smallest little thing knocked me off the edge and put me into a downward spiral. The bottom line of it all is that I will always come second to a persons marriage and somehow I have to come to a place where I am ok with that.  The thing is that I don’t know if I can…

There has been some tremendous growth in my friendships over the past few months. While I am normally able to focus on the positive, the doubts begin to creep in and I really start questioning if it is worth fighting for community and relationships. In almost every friendship that I have, I come second to a significant other and as a result I always feel as though I am simply a filler in my friend’s lives. The sad fact is that my honorable status of being a filler is even contingent upon the fact that their spouse or significant other is working, busy, or not around.  I know that the honest truth is that I am important to them and that they do value our friendship, but most days its hard to feel or see that truth.  Maybe it is due to my selfish tendencies, but I can’t help but desire to be preferred by my friends. I want them to desire to hang out with me, rather than finding time they can spare to fit me into their lives.

I don’t think they ever think about how the words they use affect me.  How would anyone feel valued if the most common line given in reference to their desire to spend time with me is “Let me see if I can find some time” or “I will see if (wife’s name) is gone and I am not doing anything”?  I recognize that their marriage is the most important relationship in their life and I want to support them in making that their utmost priority.  However, I cannot keep fighting for these friendships if I am the only one that puts value on them.

I want to hold onto the hope that it is possible to maintain friendships with individuals who are married.  I want to believe that marriage is not an exclusive stage of life but people can develop relationships and community in all walks, single or married.  More likely than not, due to my same sex attraction, I will never get married in life.  To come to grips with that reality has been difficult enough, but to have to recognize that all friendships are forfeit because I will never experience marriage is almost unbearable.

Appearances, Assumptions, and Judgements

As I drove towards my small group tonight, I was curious how things would turn out after telling them my story last week.  I didn’t know if it would end up being a major topic of conversation or if it would just sort of slide on by.  For the most part, it never came up… except on one major issue.

We have been going through 1 Corinthians together and this week we were reading chapter 8 together.  The overarching theme of the chapter is on the freedom we have in Christ but how we need to be willing to relinquish that freedom if we may cause another brother or sister in the church to stumble.  We had a good conversation about what this means today and how our behavior is seen is not only important for those in the church, but those out of the church as well.

Ever since I returned from working overseas, I have been staying with a female friend of mine who happened to have an open room in her apartment.  My conscience and intentions with her have been completely clear since I moved in as being that I struggle with homosexuality, there is no temptation whatsoever in living with a girl.  However, when one of the leaders at my church heard about my living situation, he voiced a little bit of concern.  Had he tried to get to know me a bit more and perhaps dig a little deeper, I would have been more than willing to share my story with him.  I found out later that he had brought up my living situation with Luke (who knows of my struggle) and had voiced more concern there.

Anyways, tonight at small group, the guys confronted me on this and mentioned the fact that in view of the scripture we read, perhaps I should consider moving out.  I really struggled to know how to respond to them.  I recognize where they are coming from and how my living situation may appear to individuals in the church.  At the same time, they know that the truth of the situation is that there is no temptation or issue for me.  I also mentioned to them that if I ended up moving in with a group of guys, I would then have the church questioning if it is smart for an individual dealing with same sex attraction to be living with guys who could be a temptation.  I am screwed either way.

I am a bit lost right now, not knowing what I should do.  I feel as though I can’t control all the different perceptions that people may have of me.  I can’t control their judgements and assumptions.  At the same time, I want to be obedient to God and if this is truly an issue, then I want to do the right thing.  More than anything, I am scared that if I move out, I will end up more isolated and alone than I am now.  I feel helpless.  My prayer is that God will give me discernment regarding the situation and if I should move out, He would provide a healthy place for me to live.

Invitation to a Journey

I use to think that when I opened up to someone regarding my issue with homosexuality, it was a desperate cry for help.  I came to the point where I recognized that I was incapable of dealing with my struggle alone and I needed people to come support me.  I always feared their response because I was only concerned about how it would affect me.  I was afraid to lose their friendship.

As I have slowly reached out to people and continued to develop relationships, I have come to realize that sharing my story isn’t just a cry for help.  As I open up to somebody, it is an invitation for them to join my on this journey, to walk with me, and grow together through the experience.  I am learning that it is isn’t just me that benefits from them, but it is mutually beneficial.

The reality is that as they walk with me through my struggle, they will grow.  There is an entirely new paradigm that they will be able to look at life through.  They will be exposed to new ways of how they view people, how they view love, and how they view the church.  It is a side of the human struggle that they have never comprehended or experienced.  For me to be vulnerable to people and open up, it is more than me just screaming out in desperation.  I am learning that I am creating community by opening up.  For most Christians, unless they know someone who is gay, befriend them and hear their story, most people stay compeletely oblivious.  They remain stuck on the stigmas that they have and judge others off of stereotypes.  No wonder the church is viewed as full of hypocritical and hateful bigots.  If I am doing what I am suppose to be doing by pursuing Christ whole heartedly and continuing to mature in my relationship with Him, when someone joins me, they are exposed to a whole new side of life that they have never gotten to see.  It is a journey.

With my friend Will it has taken over four years.  It definitely has been hard for me at times.  Initially, I desperately needed him and I struggled to communicate with him what needs I had and how he could meet them.  I have always felt insecure about the fact that I needed him to help me in my struggle.  However, just tonight I finally recognized that he has grown a ton through this relationship. It hasn’t been just one way.  Will is seeing the church in a new way, he is seeing brotherly love in a new way, and he is seeing what it means to be Christ to someone else in a new way.

We are both realizing that it is not about what it is to be a gay Christian or what it means to be a friend to a gay Christian.  It is far bigger than that.  The bottom line is… what does it mean to love like Christ would?  Normally in our comfortable and safe environment in the church, we are never forced to do that.  However, through our friendship and this journey, we have been given an avenue to learn this together.

And by the way, tonight when he hugged me good bye, it was the longest hug yet.  It felt good.  He still does that “bro hug” where he pats me on the back, but we will work on it.

Dumb things Christians say…

I have told my story to only a handfull of  people.  Every time I tell my story, there is always the fear of the individuals reactions.  While I haven’t had any major blow ups, complete condemnations, or long term ostracizing, I have still heard plenty of dumb responses from many Christians.  So here is a short list of MY experiences of people’s response or just comments on homosexuality in general.

1.  Maybe God gave you the gift of celibacy?

2.  Can I pray for you? (… and proceed to try to cast a demon out of me.)

3.  You know, you don’t really need to be attracted to girls… just find one girl you are attracted to.

4.  Are you attracted to girls at all? (a.k.a. is there any hope that you aren’t gay?)

5.  Well, your attraction is still there so clearly you must not be doing the right thing.

6.  I heard that God has healed others, maybe you just need to pray more.

7.  All gay people choose to be attracted to and act out with the same sex; they can all burn in hell for all I care.

Don’t Be So Sensitive

My friend Luke got a text from another friend of ours, who after hearing about his plans to get engaged mentioned how happy he was that he could truly confirm that Luke was not gay.  The comment was made in jest and as my friend read the text aloud, he realized later on how such a comment could be hurtful to me.  He apologized to me saying how he should have been more sensitive and not have read such a text.  I tried to explain to him that I could care less about him reading the text out loud.  For me, I don’t want people to be walking around on egg shells, trying to be sensitive regarding the issue.  I don’t want them to candy coat the world for me and keep me from hearing that comments that are made.  The bottom line is that my struggle with homosexuality is not my identity or who I am.

When friends who know of my struggle ask me if I get offended by gay jokes, I tell them that I honestly don’t.  I know for others who struggle with SSA it may be a different case, but for me I don’t take those jokes personally.  It does not speak anything of who I am, but rather a reflection of that individual’s character.  I have told my friends that when I hear such comments made, I am more saddened by the fact that it is an indication of the difficulty I will have in being open or vulnerable with such a person.  Even more so, it is often a reflection of their own insecurity and inability to be confidant in their masculinity.  In the case with Luke, we haven’t really had time to go into depth on what this struggle looks like in my life.  We haven’t really had the time and such conversations don’t occur between us naturally.  As always, I can only hope that with time I can let him know what this struggle looks like in my life and we both can grow in new ways in the future.