Lean In

In the world of television- NBC’s Parenthood is perhaps the most underappreciated work of art out there. The reason I love this show so so so much is that it ditches the dramatic gimmicks utilized by so many other programs and takes the viewers down into a reality-based dumpster. Whereas on other shows, the problems the plague the normal are written off as BORRIINGG, Parenthood paints them in a way that resonates strongly with its viewers. It’s just so relatable. Which makes it so good.

Kristina has just found out she has cancer. As her and her husband Adam are thrust into this dark and challenging road before them, they find themselves almost always in a place of uncertainty. Uncertainty in their choice of doctor. Uncertainty in their choice of treatment. Uncertainty in who they tell. Uncertainty of when they tell their kids. Uncertainty in how they talk to one another and uncertainty in how they should feel.

Lying in bed Kristina takes a deep breath and refocuses on the now. And in the now, she stops trying to feel the way she “should” and instead embraces honesty.

The two of them had been getting ahead of themselves lately. They were furious and desperate to attack the tumor that was on the verge of ending her life. Adam, worrying that if his wife felt worried it would harm her chances of survival (kind of a mind over matter thing), refused to allow her to show any signs of surrender. He watched her carefully as she surfed the web, fearing she would find the survival rates. Every time he saw tears, he would reassure her that it was “normal” to feel scared, but to remember to stay strong.

As many of my brothers and sisters in the crosshairs of faith and sexuality will tell you, the aftermath of exiting the closet can be exhausting. My parents deferred the decision to me, asking me if I wanted to be gay. Quite honestly, I said no. More than anything I wanted to be free from my status as a freak. They never pressured me towards reparative therapy or required me to resist my feelings. They simply asked me what I wanted, and I told them.

Except I didn’t tell them I was scared. Each time I looked up ex gay stories I felt unnerved and unacceptable. I read up on suicide rates of those in therapy and the loneliness of those in celibacy. I needn’t look too far to find out what happened to men who tried to be straight- enough prominent pastors had shown how that went down.

At a crossroads I stood, and I hated every path. I hated the idea that I needed to fall into a category and move forward with a game plan. I hated that I hated these options. I wished things to be clearer.

During this period I started seeing an incredible therapist who listened through my tears as I talked about my options. There were pros here, cons there, and I wanted to hear what his opinion was. Mid-monologue he raised his hand and said, “stop.”

“Stop- please. Stop trying to paint a pretty picture when that isn’t what you feel. Stop with the talk of reparative therapy. Stop thinking you will be alone your whole life. Stop and accept the reality that this is very hard. Accept your fear; allow yourself more time to grieve. Your whole life you have had to watch straight siblings who are going to live a life free from judgment and condemnation and you can’t. You need to accept the gravity of this. Stop thinking you can move forward without embracing where you are now.”

That was a turning point for me. I stopped engaging in reparative therapy sessions. I stopped making five-year plans. I stopped thinking about getting a dog to fill my void of loneliness. I stopped the mental gymnastics. I stopped it all.

Instead I let myself mourn, kick and scream, and check out for a while.
I let myself lean in.

When I explained the session to my folks, they understood my feelings better. And in turn, I understood them more. I understood that their need to continue to affirm me and lift me up stemmed from their fear of my suicide. That when they told me “everything will be alright” they weren’t referencing my sexuality but my emotional stability.

Strange as it sounds, I could not regain perspective with positive reinforcement, or by sinking my nails into the slope I was slipping down. I couldn’t through self help books or praise and worship songs. I certainly couldn’t in reparative therapy.

No, I had to raise my hands up. Scream in terror at the drop. Feel the adrenaline filling my veins. Accept the uncertainty. Wait for the bottom hit.

Instead of running around like the little Dutch boy plugging holes in the dam, I had to relax and know the thing was gonna blow anyway.

I had to accept that my life prior to coming out was no more, and instead of trying to preserve any semblance of that charade, I had to build a new one from the core pieces of who I am. Until my feelings could be validated, I couldn’t move forward. By leaning in I let the whole thing collapse so I could rebuild my respect and find rationality in the chaos.

Leaning in was the best choice I could make. It threw me in the arms of my family, friends, and my savior. Only then did I understand who was in my corner. It made me recognize how little control I have over my future, and despite how scary that is, it doesn’t have to be.

It helped me realize that I couldn’t reach relief from the outside in. That’s backwards.

I had to let it burn and build again.

RR

Context is not a Paper Trail

 Image

The work day begins and I’m already exhausted. A good night’s sleep just doesn’t cut it anymore. They file in, take their seats, trade complaints over the homework they never did, and I just sit and stare in amazement. Maybe it has something to do with being removed from the identity of a student or perhaps this is a view of life post-coming of age. But from my vantage point, it is hard to watch young men and women throw their lives away on a daily basis.

With one hand I cup my mug of coffee, with the other I squeeze the stress ball.

Most mornings, these two are all that keep me going.

I work with teenagers cut from the coarsest cloth. They are stubborn, hard-hearted and all around pain in the ass two-year olds. Everyday, it seems, I watch them approach the schoolhouse door, laughing in their little cohorts, innocently roughhousing, only to transform into something sinister as they part from the outside world.

But what they lack in manners they make up for in shields. Through their eyes- teachers are out to get their students and their friends have their best interests at heart. There is more than a poverty of income in today’s low-income kids. There is a poverty of trust.

The other day one of our worst was well, at his worst. He was pulling kids out of class, shouting slurs into his cell phone, and came close to damaging school property. After each incident I would ask him what made him tick, or more specifically, what the hell did the world owe him? He would respond, every time, with a smirk and an, “everyone here knows I’m a pain in the ass, get used it.”

Sip the coffee.

Squeeze the ball.

Try again.

I pursued him, peppering him with questions, but trying not to be interrogatory. That didn’t work so I presented the problem to members of the staff. I wanted to know why he wasn’t in some form of therapy to harness in his bad behavior and why the teachers were letting him act like an animal rather than demand a little discipline. What they went on to tell me made my jaw drop.

A few weeks ago, this kid had gotten arrested, not sure what for exactly, but something happened in the trailer park where he lives to land him in jail for the night. The community expressed their concern in one of the cruelest ways possible. They told his family that they had to choose whether to pick up and leave together or kick their son to the curb. And what should have been an easy answer ended up being the cause of this kid’s spiral into desperation. His own folks threw him out.

It wasn’t easy to digest this. I guess it never should be. But suddenly, this kid was not a pain in the ass, the world was.

The following morning I returned with a resolve to pay more attention to his needs and to what he wasn’t saying. Standing in the hallway, sipping on my coffee, squeezing my stress ball, I waited for the teens to come piling through the door in no more than 5 minutes. These five minutes were mine to muster up motivation. Mine to remember why I was doing what I was doing.

Hearing the handle turn, I looked up, and instead of a storm of students, I saw a little woman shuffling towards me . She was carrying a large number of envelopes.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“I’m ______’s mom, here’s his mail. Um, I was also wondering how he’s doing. Do you know?”

I cringed as I told her how he had been acting up and seemed distracted from his studies. She then asked where he was living. I told her that as far as I knew he was staying in his car. She left. I cried.

What I really wanted to ask her was- how dare you? Who the hell told you that you would be a good parent? By my definition you are negligent and an abuser of one of the finest privileges mankind has- tell me, how do you sleep at night?

This mother intentionally drove to her son’s school to arrive early enough where she wouldn’t have to see him to drop off his mail and make a brief inquiry into what his homeless life looked like. I don’t know if she was more ashamed of herself or her son.

What I have been trying to do on this page is elevate the importance of stories. Of people’s histories. Of life behind the facebook feed, drug habits and criminal records. The experiences of  roofless nights and ruthless days, of heartbreaking betrayals and brutal beat downs. What I call the complex context. The parts that aren’t put down in paper. Those throbbing places in between the lines that we never see until we ask.

Our records, failures, and achievements reflect a fun house image of our real lives. She may have been a mother on paper, but she was no mother. He may have been a criminal and rebel-rouser, but that didn’t mean he lacked a conscience. His story, her story, are both ones of free will, but also cause and effect. I once mistook him for a troll, but now knowing his complex context- I can’t see anything but a kid who got a dealt a shitty hand of cards.

I wonder what I would see if I saw her hand?

More than anything what the past several days have shown me is my continual need for perspective. The outlook of others makes me remember my blessings, and also the tendency of my fists to close at begging hands. Catching a glimpse of life through another’s eyes reminds me of the importance of storytelling. Why we all need it. Why we need the mess and complexity to understand empathy. Why empathy is Kingdom Come. Why when I cried for the kid I felt more human than I have in a long time. Those tears were a way to worship. But after worship comes the word, and after the word comes the work. And the work may be the trickiest task of all.

Here’s to seeing.

Here’s to hearing.

Here’s to trying.

RR

Photo Credit

The Responses

So I’ve been recharging. The portions on my plate have been growing bigger by the day and I haven’t had time to return to my beloved keyboard! I hope to reflect on this notion of what it means (at least for me) to recharge, in a post for tomorrow. But right now I want to share some of the feedback I received on Rachel Held Evans blog.

Seriously- these words have washed me away in tears.

It seems crazy now, but I once actually believed I was all by myself.

Here’s some evidence to the contrary:

This one made me feel so loved and respected,

from Cara:

Thank you for the courage to stand up for your father, for yourself, for our world who needs more voices of Truth when many of those who know the Truth-Giver are yet swindled by lies formed from fear.

After sharing my story with friends, she came back to post another comment:

I feel the need to come back and revisit this space, since the last 48 hours or so since I shared a link to this post on my Facebook wall have been rather faith-shattering for me personally. I’m afraid I’ve experienced the ugly side of fear and hate disguised as “sharing the truth in love” by people I actually respected and admired. Several Christian friends and family members felt it their place to let me know how wrong I was for sharing this post in a public forum (and later writing a blog post in response to the responses I got). Someone I have known closely for years said she would pray for my salvation, since I obviously didn’t know the truth, and to be careful since I was going to get cut by the double-edged sword of Scripture, while she compared gays to murderers and liars and passed it off as Christian truth. 

What my gay friends saw, on a public forum, were Christians who felt that acknowledging a gay person’s story and speaking out against harmful theories like conversion therapy was sinful and wrong. They saw the greatest lovers in the world, who don’t know a thing about them personally, speak terrible things about them. The whole thing gave me quite a bit of disillusionment about the church at large, if anyone wants to know the truth. All I keep hearing in my heart is a deep desire to shout to the world, “I’m so, so, so sorry about the Christians. I’m so, so sorry for all the ways the Church hasn’t heard you, and still doesn’t.” It’s not how Jesus would have done it. Honestly, it’s people like Rachel and so many other people walking around with Jesus hearts, opening up the dialogue and addressing injustice and letting us all hear each other for a change, that are keeping me from walking away from the church entirely, in the interest of “being the change I wish to see.” I’m having a hard time finding Jesus in the Christian culture at all and it breaks my heart. If you’re reading this and you’re prone to stay quiet while our brothers and sisters are marginalized and silenced, please don’t. We cannot allow a type of hatred that is sadly acceptable in some circles to overshadow the love of Christ in our world. “They will know us by our love.”  

And I really am. I’m so, so, so sorry about the Christians. That we haven’t loved like Him, listened like Him, or acted like Him, or at least that so many of us haven’t been and aren’t even willing to hear each other. I’m sorry to all the people who have been failed by a false religious rendering of Christianity. God help us.

Brian, beautifully vulnerable. This meant a lot to me:

I have a confession to make. Until this year, I was the person who would have distributed the video. I would have looked for the person to blame – and it usually would fall on the father. I have changed. What has changed me? I have had meaningful conversations and developed friendships with people who are gay and I finally see there is no room for blame where there is no fault. Thank you for writing this.

This post provided some perspective for me, from Laura:

I had a neighbor once whose son was born deaf. She had a really hard time dealing with his diagnosis. The specialist said it looked like a sex-linked genetic disorder. She told me that she couldn’t help feeling guilty, and trying to think what she might have done to cause his deafness, and she knew that was stupid, but …

What I told her was that it wasn’t stupid for her to feel guilty. Parents are supposed to do only good things for their kids, for one thing. And if she had caused it, that’s pretty bad. But what’s worse is the alternative: nothing she had done caused it, and nothing she could have done would have prevented it, and that’s worse because it means that things can happen to our children that we can’t control. We know that intellectually, but to really face it is scary as hell. Maybe feeling guilty about possibly causing his deafness was easier for her to handle than the possibility that sometimes sh-t happens and that’s all you can say? He’s a great kid, I told her, and he’s got a great family, and he’ll be fine. I know you can’t really talk people out of their irrational feelings, but it was all I knew to do.

I think registered runaway’s dad is going to have to come to terms with this in his own way. Hopefully soon he’ll be able to lay aside his guilty feelings. I’ll bet seeing rr being happy and having a good life will be the best therapy.

This one broke my heart to pieces.

Please, please, take the time to read through it.

From Aidan:

This post had me weeping. For I understand where this person comes from, because part of my own story deals with this.

I’ve told myself over and over throughout the years that God Is Love, but it is so hard to truly believe that sometimes. There’s been so many times in my life – too numerous to count – where people who profess to be Christians would condemn me the moment they ‘discovered’ I was gay. People who claim to “love” me but then turn around and tell me I am going to hell because of who I am. Because I am gay. Because I do not conform to their idea of who I should be. People who have called me a thing, an it, and then in the next sentence talked about how awesome God is. People who will say to me: “Love the person and hate the sin,” but then they will tell me how horrible I am, how debased I am, how I just need to be cured and date a man and I would be whole again.

 

People who will compare my sexuality to rapists, never realizing that I am a survivor of rape, and that my sexuality is not comparable to an evil act. And it angers me to tears that anyone would ever make such a comparison when the Bible verse they take it from doesn’t even speak of my sexuality at all. My sexuality has nothing to do with an evil act, for my sexuality is an unchangeable part of who I am.

There has been times when I debated whether my own life was worth anything. My darkest moments came from the hands of Christians – people I once called brothers and sisters – all because I tried to come out and be truthful about who I was. Because I didn’t want to live in fear anymore, trying to change myself when it just didn’t work.

I know not all Christians are like those that were so hurtful and filled with hate, but that’s what I keep seeing. I see it in the news every day. I see it plastered on billboards. I see it in signs people hold in protests. I hear it from people passing in the street, and often when I enter a church. All these hurtful, hateful comments add up into a giant burden that just threatens to crush me at times.

I read posts like this and cry because to read someone’s story, helps me feel that connection with them, and to know that I’m not alone. That God Is Love, and that even though some people who profess to be Christian act in hateful ways, not all do.

Coming to this blog is one of my lifelines, for it’s a reminder that not all Christians are hateful. That wonderfully loving Christians that truly do emulate Christ do indeed exist. The light of Christ shines so incredibly bright on this blog. Posts like this, and so many of your other posts, remind me that maybe…. just maybe I can have a home in the church. That maybe there is a place for me in the Kingdom of God. That maybe, just maybe, God really Is Love.

Thank you for that hope.

What your words have shown me is the strength of our stories. They have also exposed the choice before each one of us.

We can let our stories strangle us in secret or liberate us in the light of day. We can lift each others burdens by telling the other that we’ve walked their path before or we can just hope for the best. We can build bridges of empathy or stick to our own islands. The choice really is ours.

I have never been more passionate about this blog- And I hope you’ll stick with me. I hope you will continue to share your stories, if not with me, with someone or perhaps everyone. No matter who you are- gay, straight, white, black, blonde, brunette, caribou, starbucks whatever- you have a responsibility to speak up for the speechless. To pave the way for those with still soft feet. To roll up your sleeves and deny the lie that we’re alone.

Looking forward to more community.

Love,

RR

“I thought I walked”

SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON SEEING THE FILM, LAWLESS, DON’T READ.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Image

“Jack, we’re survivors, we control the fear, without the fear, we are as good as dead.”

Of all the Wild West films I have seen in my life, the latest flick by the Weinstein brothers, Lawless, may have just made it to the top of my list. It follows the real life story of the three Bondurant brothers, famous moonshiners in the period of prohibition. In all of their dangerous exploits with the shadiest of characters, they always survive unscathed. Their hometown held the eldest of the brothers, Forrest, to be someone or something… different. Only in whispers would they confess their belief in his God-like indestructibility. And it’s not surprising! Forrest is played by Tom Hardy (remember Bane), a man built like an ox with fast reflexes and a deep deep voice. Brave men trembled when they crossed his path.

But one day he meets his match, in the slim and decked out, chilling Charley Rakes, special agent from Chicago.

Rakes had heard of the Bondurant brothers’ success and demanded a cut in their earnings. If they didn’t, then they would pay dearly.

Standing outside his bar, Forrest stood inches away from Rakes, stared deep into his beady little eyes, and whispered low,

 “We don’t lay down for nobody.”

And so starts the incredible, and unnecessarily gruesome, war between Rakes and the Bondurants.

In the most dire moment of the movie, I watched, through the slits between my fingers, Forrest stepping out of his bar into the cold dark night. Things had been violent between the two camps lately; Rakes had killed many of the Bondurants allies and the Bondurants still resolved to stand their ground. Walking towards his vehicle, he suddenly stops in his tracks. Out of the hood of his car, he sees a few stray wires hanging out on the side. Naively, he bends down and drums his finger on his chin. At this point I am whisper-screaming “ruunnnn Forrrressst ruuuunnnnn!” Then in a flash, he is jumped by two of Charley’s men. One stands him up, grips his hair to hold back his head, as the other brandishes a knife and begins to saw open a huge gaping holein Forrest’s neck. He falls to ground, hands clenched on the severed skin as blood gushes out (too much? I thought so too.)

As if this scene isn’t enough to turn over your stomach, his girlfriend Maggie, arrives at the bar a bit later looking for him. Not noticing his writhing body beside his car, she enters the dim saloon and calls out his name. She thinks she sees him as a figure emerges from the shadows. She smiles. Until he is actually they and a hand extends out holding bloody knife. As they grab her the scene fades to black, and we are led to believe she is raped. (Thankfully, they do not show this part.)

Well, wouldn’t you know it, Forrest survives. In the following scenes, he lies in a hospital bed with a stitched up neck resembling a choker necklace and we hear the doctor say, “he just walked in!”. The hospital was 20 miles away from the bar. As expected, folks in Franklin no longer whispered about his invincibility, they had their proof.

As the movie comes to a close, we find Forrest in his bedroom, frantically suiting up for one final showdown with Rakes. Maggie rushes into the room, crying, pleading for Forrest to stay with her. She tells him that she cannot watch him die. Not again.

Forrest’s ears prick up.

Not again?

 

Yes, not again. It was Maggie who found him outside, after she was raped by the two men, and it was Maggie who held her hand over his throat while she drove him to the hospital.

Taken aback, Forrest utters:

“I thought I walked.”

What the Bondurant brothers expose in this film is our absurd belief in our independence and invincibility. We have all these titles we take upon ourselves. Surnames like survivor, superman, and success story. But the reality is that behind these names is a community that gave us the boost. The God that gave us the boost.

And when we choose to move into our own islands, believing that we built this and that, we neglect Christ’s call to carry one another’s burdens. Our independence is completely antithetical to the gospel story. It actively stunts Kingdom Come. Today, It is so paradoxical, yet so prevalent, for Christians to boast in their own accomplishments as they look back at “how far they’ve come”. When they reread their personal history, they remember the things they learned, but they forget those that taught them. The pain that was felt clouds out the cushion that was provided. In essence, because of our worst days, we feel entitled to a title. We believe that we are the sole survivors.

But the fact remains, your success story, my journey, your climb, might be nothing more than imaginary.

If you really look back, thoroughly, you may be surprised to see the loved ones that prayed for you in secret, cried for you behind closed doors, supported you, loved you, and drove twenty miles with one hand on your artery and the other on the wheel.

When I saw this movie, it became clear that Maggie was the unsung hero of story. The Christ-figure if you will. She set aside her life, her rape, her pain in order to care for her love on life support. Even when Forrest was in the middle of his miraculous recovery, she didn’t say a word about what happened, her focus was Forrest.

Thinking about your own rise out of the rubble, do you often forget those that threw you the rope? The unsung heroes that patiently put off homework, their job, dinner, down time, so they could be a rock you could rely on, a provider of perspective, the holder of the Kleenex, the back rubber?

What I hope to grasp, and I hope all of you will grasp, is that we are here because of those between the lines. Those that placed all their bets on us even after we folded.

We are not the survivors

We are the rescued

The Maggie in my life (not in a romantic sense mind you) is my very best friend.

Every time I hit rock bottom she dried my tears with her encouraging words. Even though she was in the midst of her own dilemmas, she chose to bring all of herself- all of her energy, grace, know how, and love- and pull me out of my spiral. Even though she couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to be gay and Christian, she still showed me how hard she was trying. One time, she even said:

“Every time I leave our conversations, I pray for God to give me your pain. To let me feel what you feel.”

That is the definition of empathy folks. That is carrying one another’s burdens. That is walking two miles when you’re asked to walk one.

This one is for the unsung heroes.

Recognize your rescuers today.

RR

 

*Photo Credit

Killing Time With a Vote

Image

On the morning commute that I travel every day, I pass a sign that reads:

Marriage: One Man + One Woman.

Vote Yes!

I put pressure on the gas.

Then I pass another. And another. And another.

Immediately my mind goes to the water cooler conversations these folks must take part in. I hear “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” and “can you imagine being attracted to guys? How gross!” I see them sitting at home, sending out emails about Sodomy. I see people that really don’t like or love me.

And this may not be the case. There are hateful bigots who say hateful things and do hateful things and love hateful things. But there are also good and Godly people who simply believe in traditional marriage. We should always give those with the yard signs the benefit of the doubt.

Yet it’s still hard. It’s hard because every time I see a sign, read a tweet or watch a commercial in favor of the amendment, I feel like I just got cut from the team. Words, whether written or spoken, can rip at the core of me. When the faith that I so strongly believe in elevates one characteristic about myself as its default punching bag, it makes me feel like damaged goods.

The vote has hurt me more than I expected it to.

Now, before you write me off as just another marriage equality supporter, keep in mind a few things.

1) I am gay.

2) I am a devout Christian.

3) I don’t know if God does or does not bless same-sex relationships.

The journey I am on will likely be a long one. Quite honestly, most of the time it feels like I’m hollering over a crowded room to Jesus, trying to read his lips. Daily, I wrestle with the words of scripture. I read and pray and talk to others and I STILL cannot say definitively that I know where I stand. Or where God does.

So much has been learned and so much let go. And on this road, I was once close to giving up the search.

Thank God I didn’t.

There was a night when the world seemed to be throwing its full weight upon me. I tossed and turned and after several hours, I still couldn’t sleep. Moments before I had hit the pillow, I caught the evening news playing a story about a pastor in North Carolina. He was calling for my imprisonment in a concentration camp. Just a couple days before I watched another pastor say my parents should have beaten me.

I got up. I walked outside, and I wept.

Hard.

Looking skyward, staring at the stars, I asked, ”How could these men speak for You? Could they possibly be right? Are you even there?”

I buried my face in my palms.

And then, I heard it.

In my heart of hearts, five words consumed my being.

“I am not like them.”

It took a moment for me to grasp what had been spoken. And then it sunk in. Every mold I had made of the distant Christ came crumbling down.

The wind hit my face, and I knew he was there. An owl hooted, and I knew he was singing. A star shot across the sky, and I knew he was dancing.

He was real.

For the first time, he was real for me.

He told me he wasn’t like them, and now I know to never mistake the will of the majority with the will of God.

Even though there is definite daylight between hateful pastors and principled supporters of traditional marriage, between the good and the Godly and the hateful and heartless. Even though I know not to mistake the two, why do the signs and the sermons hurt me all the same?

Why do I feel like those people would be ashamed to call me their son?

The vote itself feels like a punch in the gut. It feels threatening.

It confirms the fears of my folks about the world I am entering.

It makes me think the darkness behind the closet door is still safer than the darkness on the outside.

What Minnesotans should know is that a vote for this amendment doesn’t just hurt same-sex couples. It hurts single gay people. It hurts celibate gay people. I am even willing to bet it hurts “ex-gay” people. It hurts children that are told their family is not a family. It hurts people with LGBT friends. It hurts teachers of LGBT students. It hurts seniors with LGBT caretakers. It hurts bosses of LGBT employees. It hurts straight couples looking for a church home to love. It hurts gay couples looking for a church to love them.

And if the yeas have it, they may stop searching.

Don’t mistake my words as a full-throated endorsement of same-sex marriage. Like I said, I still wrestle with this. But when a group of leaders in my home state decide to hold a public roasting of a particular demographic, I cannot stand idly by. This is not a vote for or against gay marriage. If the nays win out, gay marriage won’t be legal on November 7th.

The only thing that will happen is the defense of dialogue. Christians may have to ask themselves what it means to be a citizen, a Christ-follower, and a loving neighbor. LGBT folks may have to engage with and learn from people that hold a different perspective. Christians may stop calling LGBT people special sinners and gay folks may stop calling Christians Biblical bigots.

A cease-fire is possible here.

But it can only happen if you vote for more time.

If you vote for dialogue.

If you vote for reconciliation.

If you vote to take that morning commute with me.

If you vote no.,

RR

 

*Photo Credit

Authenticity in Anonymity: Why I Choose to be a Ghost

I figured this would be a good time to address the 800-pound gorilla on this page.

My anonymity.

For those that find the ghost blog approach to be a form of cowardice, I kind of agree with you. If I publish a post that the reader in any way finds offensive or misleading, they can throw out a comment, put their point out there, but it’s very hard to have a serious debate with a ghost. There is no response you can write that will result in any public repercussions on my end. It doesn’t seem fair to those that actually take the time to read.

And it’s not as if I didn’t ask for the attention the blog has been getting lately. I started revealing several personal stories within this site that friends and family resonated with and felt needed to be heard by more families of lgbt children. So, I passed along my blog to Rachel Held Evans, who felt that the story about my dad needed to be brought into the light even if I remained in the shadows.

So, the question is: why do I blog in the first place? The answer- I have to.

My walk is much like that of soldier through a minefield. With each step I take, I can never know if the person I confide in will accept and love me, or reject and expose me. Being in the closet beneath the shadow of our faith can bankrupt a person of the ability to trust. To those within my inner circle, I have expressed my desire to finally be free of the shame that shackles me down, to be open and get the gossip over with. The response I have received has been one of full support coupled with a cautionary warning: once those words are said, they cannot be taken back.

I hate to say it, but they’re right.

And it is nothing short of sad. Sad because I am still slim on courage, but also sad, and perhaps worse, that I must have courage at all. While others may be more than happy to probe the issues that I face, most won’t ever be open about their own. Transparency is hardly existent or prioritized within the faith community today. And we understand why. Transparency is a threatening thing.

While secular culture continues to speak out on my behalf and make it clear, in a very personal way, that they love me, the faith community has been more nuanced. It’s hard to feel love when someone says, “love the person, hate the sin.” It’s hard to feel warmth when someone says, “we welcome you, but we don’t affirm that part of you.” Why a disclaimer is superior to a simple declaration of radical love is completely lost on me. And judging from many of the response I have gotten, its lost on others too.

These are the reasons I blog. I have so many scars that I cannot show in the light of day, and I have so much energy to engage in gorgeous dialogues about the gospel. I have a desire to one day enter a worship service without folks whispering.

Luckily, I have had the pleasure of already engaging in a deep and profound dialogue with a fellow blogger. The author of www.incitefaith.com , Julie,  reached out to me via email and asked to know more of my story, without requiring me to reveal my identity. We have discussed how important it is within the context of community for transparency to flourish. This is ironic, since I am not being fully transparent with all of you. But Julie has encouraged me to continue sharing my story because it does come from an authentic place. I have been moved by her words and her concern for me, while at the same time, in awe of her complete transparency on her own blog. She has a bravery that’s tough to rival. Her story, mine and yours need to continue to be shared because that is what Kingdom Come looks like.

So for now (hopefully not forever), I hope you will accept the “flavor” of my writing without requiring the “recipe.”

Additionally, I’d like to allow you to get to know me in a more personal way. The way I see it, you shouldn’t have to only share your story with me via a comment or a “like”, but more directly and privately.

Here is my email: registeredrunaway1@gmail.com

Shoot me a question or criticism.

 

Or even your own story.

No ID needed.

RR

 

*Photo Credit

Life on the Timetable

image

The Modern life is lived on the timetable.

On a daily basis, our focus falls on moving from point A to B. We climb up the ladder, catch the boat, and race to the head of the pack. We create schedules to shortcut slip ups. Any change in plans is suspect as we are forced to face a whole new set of variables. We are obsessed with laying nest eggs and we are terrified of uncertainty.

The true mark of the modern man is his aversion to risk and his shortage of spontaneity. We set our sights squarely on the end goal: happiness. And sometimes, things do work out. Promotions happen, families are made, homes are filled, retirements are secured. Things go as planned and suddenly we realize that there is no such thing as fate.

But then, one day, the test comes back positive. The car crashes. The dog dies. The rain never comes. The home is foreclosed. The marriage splits. The kids grow up. The parents get old. And the world keeps spinning.

When life shows us how untamable it really is, we find ourselves facing that color-coded calendar, wide eyed and stunned.

How did we slip through the cracks?

Instead of accepting the ambiguity of our tomorrows, we like to theorize about them. Most of us live our lives this way, continually concocting scenarios out of our expectations.

And for those that have been bruised by the rough side of life, the timetable can be a threatening thing. Instead of holding out for the hope of happiness, we shutter with every step forward. Some see five-year plans, others only see minefields. For the latter, Tick-Tock can sound like a countdown to the crash.

 

I’m experienced in this area. Several times I have connected more to the crystal ball than to reality. Many mornings I would find myself paralyzed in bed, thinking if I laid there long enough, I could stop it. I could change my foreseeable future.

But rational thoughts are no competition with the broken record.

I would start to think about my friends getting married, again and again. My siblings having children again and again. The single-bedroom apartments I would rent, again and again. Cold Christmases, again and again. Lonely feelings, again and again. Night after night. Again and again.

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

It hung over me like a dark cloud and I didn’t see the point in moving through the next chapter. Life had become something to get through.

Thankfully, someone stepped in.

“The future… its just so… out there, you know ? It’s completely theoretical, you have no idea where you’ll be, what you’ll be doing, who you’ll be with, or whether you’ll be with anyone. All you have is right now, right here.”

The truth that took so long to sink in finally provided the peace I was desperate for:

That I am not guaranteed the next five years. The next five days.

Or the next five seconds.

All I have is now.

The rest is theory.

Life is too unpredictable to be lived on the timetable. It’s too precious to be wasted worrying.

And every now then, we get a chance to face down false fears.

Because,

Even though I feared they would, my parents didn’t hate me when I came out.

Even though I feared losing my closest friend, she didn’t leave my side.

Even though I feared the loss of my faith, it began to thrive.

Even though I planned to do it, I didn’t and I started living for the first time.

When I finally figured this out, I recalled a line I resonated with in the film Along Came Polly:

 It’s not about what happened in the past, or what you think might happen in the future. It’s about the ride, for Christ’s sake. There is no point in going through all this crap, if you’re not going to enjoy the ride. And you know what… when you least expect something great might come along. Something better then you even planned for. –Irving Feffer speaking to the worrywart Rueben. 

Stop theorizing, stop scheduling, stop worrying.

And start living.

 

RR

 

*Photo Credit

Begging For Grace

Image

Takunda Mavima had just wrapped up high school. He had been a model student and was looking forward to start four more years at a college in the fall. Following his graduation ceremony he drove off to an afterparty, riding fast on that expected “school’s out” high. The party was a kick off for these kids on what would be their last summer together.

When the evening came to a close, Takunda got behind the wheel with two friends in the car. He had been drinking. Tragically, Takunda lost control, crashed into an onramp and his two friends were both killed. Timothy See, 17, and Krysta Howell, 15.

Drunk driving is perhaps the most inexcusable reckless decision any of us could ever make. Our vehicles are considered lethal weapons by law and yet people still choose to roll the dice on joyrides.

Tim didn’t have to die. Krysta didn’t have to die. Takunda didn’t have to drive.

And in the midst of our judgment and righteous anger,

something like this happens

Image

Tim’s sister, Lauren See, spoke on Takunda’s behalf in his trial the other day. This is what she said:

I am begging you to let Takunda make something of himself in the real world — don’t send him to prison and get hard and bitter, that boy has learned his lesson a thousand times over and he’ll never make the same mistake again”

Following her statement, Tim See (dad), walked up to Takunda and wrapped him in a huge hug. He forgave him for taking away his son.

This is a staggeringly similar story to God’s forgiveness upon us for taking his one and only child. Tim chose to invest in Takunda and spare him a punishment that probably wouldn’t even begin to match his crime. He chose forgiveness that wasn’t warranted or expected. Forgiveness that was unfair.

But he did it any way.

That’s what justice looks like.

That’s what love looks like.

That’s grace.

Brennan Manning, a frequent flyer through grace, has a wonderful quote on the nature of God:

“This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all.” –Brennan Manning

God shows up in the midst of our unworthiness not after our reparations. He speaks to us immediately after the crime has been committed. He wants us to know he’s not mad. He wants us to know that he’s forgotten our past but hasn’t forgotten us.

What can we do besides drop to our knees before such radical love?

Better yet, who will you forgive today?

RR

 

*Photo 1 Credit

*Photo 2 Credit

Morning Memes: Impressions and Memories

Visual:

Image

Claude Monet: Impression, Sunrise

Quote:

Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them.
-Henry David Thoreau

Verse:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

1st Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

 

*Photo Credit