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.

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.

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.

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.

My brother loves Lady Gaga and is not gay.

Now that I have started this blog, I often think of different topics during that day that I consider writing down to eventually turn into a post later on.  I find it hard to know whether I should  just push on writing about things that happen in my every day life or take some time to tell a bit about my past and my story.  I also wonder about the level of maturity I should show on this blog.  Yesterday, while visiting my grandparents in their retirement home, I had this evil thought about how “I hope that the next door neighbors haven’t died so that their unlocked Wi-Fi is still available.”  I actually started writing a blog about that, but then stopped myself thinking how immature and wrong that is to mention that out loud.  However, I decided tonight that I might as well write whatever the heck I want instead of always trying to be serious or having fully thought through what I am going to post.  I guess if people get bored reading this, then they get bored. I think I will get more of a kick out of sharing the stupid things that go on in my day then aways trying to spit out semi-intelligent content (as I wrote that, my spell check told me that I misspelled intelligent… I guess I am not fooling anyone).

I find that there is so much in life that we restrict or filter due to social norms or practices.  For instance, I find it incredibly amusing whenever people fulfill a social stereotype.  It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, latino, skinny, fat, or Korean, there are just certain things that characterize that stereotype so much that people have got to be aware of what they are doing.  People may call it racist to point it out, but the reality is that stereotypes exist because they are mostly true.  Someday I would like to write a book about “You might be a stereotype if…” and go through the obvious stereotypes that all of us are aware of, but no one is willing to comment on out loud.  I guess this all started because tonight at dinner, my blonde cousin started talking about her chihuahua named “Cali” (after California) and then went on to describe the 30 or more outfits that she enjoys dressing her dog in.

Even for myself, there are certain stereotypes that I really do not like being associated with, particularly the gay stereotype.  Honestly, if I hadn’t opened up to some of my friends, there would be no way at all that they would have known about my struggle with homosexuality.  I guess in some ways the fact that I have never had a girlfriend might be a questioning factor, but other than that, I am a pretty normal guy.  I love to play sports, the outdoors, and I dress rather plainly.  It is frustrating that most straight guys picture men struggling with homosexuality to be completely effeminate and uncoordinated, talking with a lisp and having zero control over their wrists flopping all over the place.  While there are definitely men like this, and I believe straight guys still need to learn to love them regardless, do gay guys have to try so hard to show that they are gay?

Even for myself, it is hard how when I open up to people about my struggle, they try to start putting me into that box of the gay stereotype.  There are several things in my life that when viewed through the filter of my being gay, seem to make more sense.  For instance, I love art and design, I enjoy watching Project Runway and critiquing the outfits, I like all types of music including Broadway musicals, and I do have a much more sensitive soul to emotions and feelings then most guys do.  I don’t think any of these things are wrong or prove that I am gay deep down and just need to let it all out.  In fact, my brother is strangely obsessed with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and yet people just laugh about it rather than questioning his sexuality (he is definitely straight, married with two kids).  However, if it were me, it would simply be attributed to my homosexuality.

As I am trying to open and more and more with the people around me, I sometimes wonder if I need to remove these “stereotypically gay” things just to prove that I am not pursuing that lifestyle.  There really shouldn’t be a need for me to do so, but due to most straight guy’s insecurities regarding gay men, I feel as though I need to try to make it as easy as possible for the friends that know about my struggle.  I never know what they think about me and so I wrestle with my own insecurities as a result.  It is unfortunate that the guys who hold the key to a lot of my healing and growth are the very people I am trying to protect and not scare off.  I am still praying for the day when the men of the church actually man up and start leading by example, rather then creating an environment where people who struggle with SSA feel completely unwelcome or unsafe.

Joe Schmo – Let me introduce myself.

My name is Joe.

After being out of the country for roughly a year and a half, I am back in L.A. and once again unemployed.  In view of my previous periods of unemployment and the struggles I had, I want to make an attempt at being productive by starting a blog.  As much as there are plenty of subjects I would love to write about, I decided to blog about my life as I struggle with homosexuality.  While I don’t think I will be limited to only that subject, I think that it is the main area that I will focus on.  Perhaps it is to indulge my narcissistic tendencies or maybe I simply desire an arena to be heard, but my ultimate desire is to create a place of dialogue as well as hopefully through sharing my experiences, allow others to see that they are not alone.

In my previous blogs I always found a need to refine each post, make sure there were no grammatical errors, and that I communicated as efficiently as possible.  As a result, I found that it was difficult to post regularly.  My hope is that I can set aside my perfectionistic tendencies and just write.  I would rather this be a brutally honest blog that is a true reflection of my experience, even though there may be errors, then it to be a well written post that has been thought through far too much.  I guess I will have to see how this goes.

All the names in the blog, including my own, are switched in order to protect the privacy of others.  Joe is actually my middle name and I rarely go by it… usually only at Starbucks when it is easier than trying to get them to spell my real name.  Also, there are still many people in my life that do not know about my struggle and as much as I recognize that my story is not my own, but God’s, I do believe there needs to be discernment when and where to share that story with others.  As of now, I don’t even know if I am going to let my friends know about this blog yet, simply because I don’t know how much I will need to filter as a result.  Deep down, I desire transparency both in my life as well as online, but that is going to take time.  So please bear with me.

As for a little bit about me…  I am in my mid 20’s and have grown up as a Christian.  I started struggling with homosexuality around the age of 13 and have had many highs and lows in that journey.  I studied art and Bible in college, however I have continued to have a mixture of jobs ever since graduating.  More than anything, I really want to live my life for something greater than myself and so I am trying to figure out what that may look like.  For the past year and a half I have been doing ministry and relief work all around the world.  It was an incredibly impactful time in my life, but also one of the most difficult years I have ever faced.  Currently I am back in Southern California searching for work and trying to focus on developing community.  As much as traveling around the world was an awesome experience, I have found that without community I am bound to fail and fall into temptations.  I am guessing I will be sharing a lot about my struggle with finding community… while it is essential for my growth and healing, it is simultaneously the one thing that I can’t seem to obtain, no matter how hard I try.  Anyways, that is a brief glimpse of where I am at in life.  As I continue to blog, I am sure there will be many more opportunities to find out more about me, my life, and my journey.