Learning from Squirrels

Squirrel Hiding Acorn Nuts in a Tree.

My apologies, posts have been and will be less frequent as of late. I have left the country! I am working at an organization in the Balkans promoting the Environment and researching Energy policy. Thanks for sticking with me through these next couple months!

I have learned a lot from squirrels. Don’t turn back to facebook, I swear it’s not as weird as it sounds.

If you live in the path of the cold chill of winter, take a quick glance out your window. See the squirrels hard at work? Busy burying their livelihood for the season of dry spells? They hurry here and there to prevent an otherwise certain death.

The winter blues are coming and you can’t avoid it. The cold is coming. The sun is ceding it’s ground. Flowers are bidding farewell. So is your energy.

It can be easy to forget how the weather affects our moods. And that forgetfulness can make this season so much more difficult than it needs to be.

It’s time we take a lesson from our furry friends.

On a scientific level- the winter season shapes our brains in ways that you may not be aware of. The lack of sun (vitamin D) can drastically alter the chemicals in your brain making you more tired and unhappy. For those that struggle with depression, the winter months can exacerbate existing negative emotions.

So what are you tucking away this winter?

I love this message in Proverbs.

“You lazy fool, look at an ant.
Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.
Nobody has to tell it what to do.
All summer it stores up food;
at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?
How long before you get out of bed?
A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
poverty your permanent houseguest!”

-Proverbs 6:6-11 (The Message)

How long are you going to nap?

Here’s what I’m holding on to:

Humor-

There is perhaps no greater antidote to the blues than a good laugh. One of my good friends and I email each other funny past memories to warm our hearts when we start to freeze. This, along with my collection of Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Rec and so on, keep me close to the crackling fire.

Hope

Running through the Scriptures is a strong thread of Hope. There are stories of encouragement and endurance, which keep us checking for Spring around the corner.

“See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.”

-Song of Songs 2:11-12 (NIV)

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. “

-Romans 12:12 (ESV)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
-Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

Adaptability

Sometimes the cold can seem like something to just get through. It’s chilly, mushy and inhospitable. Simply slick streets and never enough mittens. But, what if we started to see this season as something more. Like a work of abstract art that upon first sight is unattractive and dull, it waits before us, and suddenly we notice it’s nuances and it’s meaning begins to feel magnetic. Winter won’t leave, maybe because it wants to show us something. Embrace this characteristic of creation. Go sledding, skiing, build an igloo, throw a snowball, watch flakes fall slowly. He made it with all of it’s imperfections and all of it’s beauty, just like us.

“Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.”

~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carrol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass

Pick up your shovel and start digging.

RR

LOL

Packing up our things, we waited for the final word from my therapist. My folks and I were exhausted from the past several weeks. They were taxing, to say the least.

I was graduating from college.

When graduation comes and you realize there’s no return in the fall, the absence of a routine can cause a bit of distress in your mind. I had successfully throughout the year focused solely on my status as a student. Overall, I had achieved straight A’s and glowing references from several of my professors. The success of it all kept me moving forward. To the next project. The next test. The next final. Pretty soon, I was looking at grad schools.

Then I realized I missed the deadline for admission to my target programs.

Seeing the space of time before me, space with no offering of achievement but only… space… It drove me a little crazy. Pretty soon that space began to fill with questions, questions I had largely avoided. Questions about my future a a gay man.

It first struck me when one of my closest friends told me he was going to propose to his girlfriend. He spilled to me how excited he was, not for the proposal or even the wedding, but for a life with her. To be able to finally share his life with someone else.

And like an avalanche, I felt every little thing in this life being taken away from me. I was dragged to weddings, driven to engagement parties, greeted by pregnant friends, and seated with so many couples as they day-dreamed about their not-so distant futures as families.

I was like the man washing his hands only to see his wedding ring drop down the drain. With wrench in hand I ruptured pipes and disassembled the sink. I was feverish and desperate. Despite the sting of the water hitting my eyes and the flooded kitchen floor, I kept digging, I kept hoping I could find it somewhere in the sewage.

It just couldn’t be gone.

In the middle of it all I collapsed. I told my folks I couldn’t stop thinking about these questions. I couldn’t stop criss-crossing my five-year plans. I couldn’t stop thinking about Christmas 20 years from now.

I just couldn’t stop.

This, my friends, is an echo of an anxiety attack.

Hitting rock bottom on several occasions eventually landed me in a group therapy session with my parents. All of us were coming at this from different directions, unsure of how to move forward. They were unsure of how to put a stop to this broken record and I felt consigned to let it finish its song.

Glancing at my mom and dad, my therapist recommended a regimen of reading, attending support groups and ordering films. Each of these pertaining to the parental role of an LGBT child. Both nodded and quickly jotted his directions down.

Turning to me, my doctor, who I had been seeing for several months, started to smirk:

“For you… for you I am going to prescribe a healthy dose of humor. Seriously. Go out, have fun with your friends, stop straining your heart and mind, it’s too much all at once. It’s exhausting. It’s unhealthy. A little bit of laughter could do you some good.”

I didn’t like this. In my head, it made sense that if I sat with my worries for long enough, solutions would come and crop up in my heart.

Yet, I knew it’d be best if I took a break.

Interestingly enough, what started as a stopgap measure weaved its way into my lifestyle. I needed to be reminded that the future was nothing more than a phantom, and a bullish one at that. I had taken my own perception of what was possible for my life and pummeled myself daily for it. Essentially, I was being a bully, to ME!

But real and imaginary bullies don’t leave us alone when we scream.

They leave when we laugh.

So I kicked back and watched the Office. Texted funny memories to friends. Smiled when I didn’t feel like it (try it, it works). Pranked my pals. Flipped through old year books. Drove my dog nuts by shining the flashlight on the wall. And sometimes, just laughed, for no apparent reason.

It was like I was Bill Murray in What About Bob? just “taking a vacation from my problems”.

Call it charm and disarm
Call it denial
Maybe even call it lunacy

But what I came to realize on the other side of this recovery was that humor was not just a painkiller, it was part of the cure. Anxiety and fear have way of tricking us into believing that our best vantage point is from rock bottom.

But the truth of it is, when we are stuck in feelings of loneliness, shame, panic and so on, we can’t see a damn thing beyond a funhouse mirror.

In adjusting my eyes to the light, I was able to calmly look at my worries and wonder why I needed them. Beyond being gay there was nothing that said I couldn’t be a dad. There’s nothing said I couldnt have a family. There’s was nothing that said I couldn’t experience the joy that everyone else seemed to be promised. I just didn’t know what those would look like for me. I still don’t know.

I feel like I have been beating this drum throughout past posts but its worth repeating again. The last thing any of us need is a crystal ball mentality. We need to live in the joy and fullness of now.

And right now- the words of Ecclesiastes 3:4- that there is “a to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” have never felt more true..

RR

The Head and the Heart

 

There are times when the relationship with my redeemer feels like a long-distance one. While on occasion, this can be nothing more than a feeling of being stale in the faith, for most phases it comes during a season of busyness. Or at least, perceived busyness. I try to work hard, fill in time to write a short blog, catch up on emails, meet my social quota with friends and then go to bed at a reasonable hour. But rarely do I allow the schedule to dissolve and reveal the eternal reality before me. And when I get here- where I am today, I notice a couple things that have changed within me.

 

First- the Bible bores me terribly. It appears unattractive and complicated, and at the end of a chapter I will feel unmoved, even though I know I should be.

 

Second- I make the Bible into textbook. Feeling like a victim runs the risk of allowing yourself to dwarf the holiness of the words and convince you that it is only in academic study you satisfy your soul.

 

Over the course of the past several days I have tried to reconnect the dots of my faith. Burying my nose in the gospel didn’t give me a turn, so I listened to Christian music, for five minutes, then played T-Swifts new song. In the middle of the madness, I returned to the writer who has done more for my faith then any pastor ever has or could. That author is Brennan Manning.

 

Brennan has touched the lives of millions through his gorgeous works on God’s love and grace. I like to think of him, and many others like him, as a liaison between the spiritual wanderers and the father that loves them. I trust this man because of his honesty and his story of a life lived under grace. He has awoken my conscience on several occasions and consistently reminds me why I love this God so dearly.

 

One of his favorite passages of scripture-, which has become MY favorite passage of scripture- gives a glimpse into why oh why we love Him.

 

“My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,


11 for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.


12 The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing[a] has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
is heard in our land.


13 The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.


Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.”

                        -Song of Songs 2:10-13, ESVUK (emphasis mine)

 

See, what I so often forget, when I reduce the Bible to a book report, is the intensity of our father’s affection towards us. This passage is so beautiful because of its imagery and its assurance of our belonging to him. The creator of the heavens and earth fell so deeply in love with us that he seeks to woo us, to court us, to make sure we know that he is mad with love for us.

 

There is a risk that I have found in dropping our brains at the door of the Church. But I have also found that there is a risk of our intellect overshadowing our hearts. We need both to work in conjunction.

 

Whenever I separate myself from that understanding of God as love, letting it slip into the recesses of my mind, I lose the sacredness of my search. Like the jackass student who I found out was homeless, I cannot understand God’s words without seeing the context of our relationship. I can’t look at the Bible in an attempt to reconnect with God without first understanding that this Guy is head over heels, weak at the knees, nails in the hands, in love with me. It’s a give and take. And obviously it’s a different type of relationship than ones of conversations over coffee.

 

But at the same time it is so much more reliable.

 

I look at this passage and I am reminded of why He means the world to me. It washes me in warmth over that inexpressible feeling of affection. Of being loved. Of perfect, uncensored, nails in the hand, kind of love that has the ability to bring a man back to life.

 

As Brennan wonderfully says:

“Christianity is not primarily a moral code but a grace-laden mystery; it is not essentially a philosophy of love but a love affair;” –Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (emphasis mine)

 

 

I hope this Sunday you’ll sit with this scripture, and allow that affection to overwhelm.

RR

A Year Ago Today

So a year ago today, at 10 PM, in my parents’ bed, I came out of the closet.

It’s funny how fast time has flown since then.

On this day, I can’t help but think about my life before. Today makes me remember all of the miserable mornings that paralyzed me beneath the sheets. It brings me back to a time when the only prayer I could muster up was for strength to walk out under the sun. I am pulled back to the world of my thoughts where I played both patient and therapist.

that cold and cruel closet…

Up and down the walls were scrawled the maddening lies that kept me.

“You are disgusting” one said.

“No one has to know” said another.

In big bold letters, “take it to the grave”

“If you love them, you’ll save them from this” printed on the doormat.

And above the door hung the words “Emergency Exit”, glowing in red.

For sake of space, I won’t delve into all of the details of my departure, I’ve written about that in previous posts. But I will say, that night was one of the most loving experiences I have ever had.

After I made the “great leap” to my folks, I was met with shock, tears and then the gift of unconditional love. The single most important development after I came out was the fact that my folks still loved me. Just me. The same way they always had.

Looking back now it all seems so ridiculous to think that they wouldn’t, but when you’re in the dark, you can’t see truth. The only thing I could see was that they loved the boy they raised. The little boy they watched grow up.

But what was unseen was unlovable,
whispered the writing on the wall.

Their declaration by way of words and kisses and hugs, made love truly real for me. For the FIRST TIME, I believed that maybe God extended his unconditional love to me too.

I have spent the last twelve months sharing the secret I had buried for the last decade. There have been days when the weight of it all has left me undone. But those days, echoes of my time in the closet, have become few and far between. The intellectual and spiritual tug-of-war still rages on inside my mind. But the war is now more or less food for thought as I am able to focus on other areas of my life. Feeling the exposure of my shame still stings a bit, but it isn’t deadly like it was a year and a day ago.

Today is my anniversary. It is the day I celebrate my own emancipation proclamation. It is marked in my memory as the day I finally found freedom.

And I’m letting freedom ring..

I have been on the receiving end of so much blessing this past year. Christ once said, if someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two. Those in my corner have bent over backwards to try to better understand, stood by my side through all of my breakdowns and refused to ever let me give up. Christ said two miles, they’ve gone two thousand.

I don’t stand in the shadow of this past year, this past year is my own shadow. And it makes me look so tall, and to be honest, I feel really tall today. I cannot stop smiling! Everything good that has happened has taken me by complete surprise. I never thought I would be here. Never thought this life was really possible.

But the reality of all of it is that I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for Christ’s furious pursuit of my soul. He has taken me through fire and he didn’t let me get burned. It is his light that shines ahead and casts the shadow of my testimony behind me.

I stand on the cusp of another year with more excitement than I expected to have. Over and over I have fretted about the future and how it would look for me. Checking the calendar today, I can see how wrong I was. I’m still here, I’m still standing and I’m still wrestling with my savior. I look forward to so many things in these next twelve months, but honestly, the answers to my questions about my sexuality are not one of them. What I look forward to is more questions and more throw downs with God. No more do I worry about my life in five or ten or thirty years because the reality is, I don’t know if I’ll have tomorrow, or even the next ten minutes. In year two, I plan to accept every sunrise I am given.
And at this moment- here are some memories I am holding on to.

~a few of the best moments of the past twelve months~

It was only a few weeks after I came out to my parents that I told my best friend. Her immediate reaction was a gasp, but, without missing a beat, she leaned in and said, “nothing’s changed. I can’t explain it but you look no different to me than you did a minute ago.” She is one of the most life-giving people I have ever known. It’s pure providence that this friend entered into my story. Perhaps she was called for “such a time as this”. In any case, she has carried me. She doesn’t know how to judge or reject. She doesn’t know how to not care. She can’t leave a conversation with me without pulling me close and whispering in my ear, “I am so proud of you.” She has, more often than not, been the answer to my prayers.

Months later my brother spoke to me about a book he had picked up, one that stepped directly into the conversation regarding reconciling homosexuality and faith. The book, Love is an Orientation, made more of an impact on me than most things in my journey. It offered me the grace and peace I needed. It assured me that there were others out there, other gay Christians, trying to figure out how to approach this area of their lives in light of the Good News. It told me it was okay to be unsure.

My mom and I took a trip to Chicago to visit the Marin Foundation in search of the one thing we both desperately needed: Empathy. There is no greater feeling than empathy. And as we sat around the tables with others, it was intoxicating. Being able to stare down the lie of being alone with the faces of fellow travelers provided an inexpressible peace that I couldn’t possibly explain in 10,000 posts. Taking the time to sit with my peers, my fellow runaways, old, young, men, women, gay and straight, seemed to rip open my heart in the best possible way. I asked them questions, they responded with their testimonies. I asked, “how do I know who to tell?” they shared stories, some of rejection but most with good surprises. They told me to look for people of character and trustworthiness. One said that I had to consider the responsibility I had to tell my story, for the sake of my LGBT brothers and sisters. All of them encouraged me to pray my heart out to Christ.

Perhaps what struck me most that night was how proud I was of my mom. As people emptied out their baggage, she moved into the mess. With pen and pad in hand, she jotted down notes and questions. Immediately following a story of a woman afraid to tell her family, she choked up, looked her in the eye, and said, “I just want you to know that they’re going to love you. Just knowing you now, I know they will.” There was another mom there too. She saw the grace and perspective that my mom was raining on the room and turned to her to ask questions that only a mom would ask. It was weird, and she’ll think its weird that I write this, but she seemed more comfortable in this crowd than any I had seen her in before. But that really shouldn’t surprise me, because that’s her heart. And I’m not just talking about the heart of a mother, but an indelible mark of her maker. Her conversations with the others in that room reflected Christ’s compassion in it’s truest form. The grace that spilled out in her words and tears flowed down to the deepest parts of their lives. I love this woman!

A month or so ago I began writing this blog. It has been a way for me to share my stories and engage with fellow travelers in the blogging community without having to make the “great leap.” I’m not sure if remaining here, out to some and closeted to others, is the healthiest way to go, but I still don’t feel ready. I’ve been affirmed by many of you that it’s okay to not be.

For those that remain in the dark, I want this space, this blog, to be an open place for you to feel freedom. For you to hear my stories, and those of others, and gain courage to keep moving forward. You don’t have to be out to ask advice from me, or from others on the many other blogs out there. I realize that for many of you, coming out is actually a dangerous thing depending upon your circumstances, I hope that you will reach out to the many resources being offered out there. For those that are sitting in the Christian circle afraid to speak up, realize that the armageddon that you’re anticipating is nothing more than a funhouse mirror reflecting your worst fears. More than anything, dark forces at work want you to remain silent, for this to eat away at you, and for you to be convinced that your life will be over once you’re out. Don’t buy it. Be brave and strong, and understand that despite the fact that this will probably be the hardest thing you ever do, it will also be one of the best things.

It really does get better my friends.

To those that are in my inner circle, that know who I am and have walked with me through all of this, you have truly been Christ to me. In one way or another, each one of you have saved my life.

To all those that have written to me (I’m thinking of you Julie! Kate! Survivor Girl! Mike! Jordan! Aiden!) I have been moved more than you could possibly know. I hope to keep these friendships alive and thriving!

All of you- I love you.

RR

Guest Post: Tread Lightly

Borrowed this post from my good friend, Brent Bailey, a blogger who writes at www.oddmanout.net. He’s been an incredible brother in Christ for me and his posts have been a continual source of inspiration for many. This one in particular really hits home.

The best movies are movies with high stakes. I learned this from the hosts of Filmspotting, a film review podcast. The best movies—the ones that pull you in and stay with you—are the ones where the stuff that happens actually matters, where you have a reason to care about the story playing out on the screen in front of you. This doesn’t mean the conflict needs to escalate to Avengers-level melodrama with the fate of the planet at risk in order to count; intimate family dramas can matter just as much as intergalactic battles (and, of course, intergalactic battles can feel completely inconsequential and limp). When a film has high stakes, it has the potential to leave you completely emotionally exhausted.

Over the last few years, conversations about LGBT issues have become increasingly visible in the public sphere, and the conversations came to a bit of a climax last week. I’m talking, of course, about Tuesday’s landslide victory for North Carolina’s Amendment One, which added a same-sex marriage ban to the state’s constitution, and Wednesday’s announcement from President Obama that he supports the right of same-sex couples to marry. I don’t really have anything to add to the online conversations about the meaning of both of those momentous events; writers have spilled enough digital ink to occupy you with plenty of online reading on all sides of the issue. What I want to contribute is my own experience of last week, which left me completely emotionally exhausted.

More than I’ve ever seen, social media was absolutely bursting at the seams with opinions and discussions about LGBT issues on Tuesday and Wednesday (and Thursday and Friday and Saturday…). Everyone, it seemed, had something to say, whether the something was a vote of confidence in Amendment One or a declaration of support for the president’s statement. I saw countless Facebook statuses and tweets about homosexuality from people who had, as far as I’d known, otherwise been mum on LGBT issues thus far—former classmates, friends, ministry partners.

Increased attention to LGBT issues is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I’ve often lamented the culture of silence that tends to surround LGBT issues in Christian institutions, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see more people pay attention to a discussion I see as crucial. When I was trying to determine to whom I could safely come out, I often wished my friends and family would say something about homosexuality just so I’d have a hint about where they stood. If nothing else, it’s nice to see people lay their cards on the table. On the other hand, though, the mainstreaming of LGBT issues almost necessarily means the discourse is going to become more shallow and careless. As people outside of that niche that cares and thinks deeply add their voices to the conversation, it becomes much more likely I’ll encounter unexamined, hasty, and irrational proclamations, that the cards people lay on the table will be unflatteringly flimsy. This wouldn’t be a problem if everyone participating the conversation were indifferent, but it’s impossible for me not to take the things you say—even the things you say thoughtlessly—personally, because the stakes for me couldn’t feel any higher.

When you log on to make a quick comment about how you support Amendment One because gay people are rebelling against God’s will, you might be able to log off and turn your attention to other matters; but my head is left spinning, because what exactly do you mean, and why are you making that opinion publicly known, and what if you’re right? Are you saying I’m living in sin because I’m innately attracted to men? Do you think I’m rebelling against God’s will for my life if I pursue a relationship with a man? Do you mean I should try to change my orientation or even that it’s already too late for me to receive God’s love? And, most importantly, are you willing to walk through those questions with me? As much as I’d love to dismiss your comment as rash and superficial, it’s so incredibly important to me to get this right that I can’t completely ignore your perspective.

Or, when you log on to voice how you support Obama’s statement because love requires us to call same-sex relationships holy and meaningful, you may also be able to log off and focus on something else; but my head is, once again, left spinning: What exactly do you mean, and why are you making that opinion publicly known, and what if you’re right? Are you saying it would be futile for me to try and remain single because God isn’t placing such a heavy burden on me—that, in fact, he may be calling me into a same-sex relationship for the sake of my spiritual formation? Do you think I’ve become a self-righteous legalist if I call something sinful that God has made holy? Do you mean my faith is too small and narrow if I don’t open myself to that kind of relationship or recognize its value in the lives of others? As above, are you willing to walk through those questions with me? Once again, I want to shrug your remarks off as simplistic and lazy, but the stakes are so very high for me that I can’t entirely banish your perspective from my mind.

Here’s my request for anyone who is committed to loving LGBT individuals with the love Christ demonstrates towards us, regardless of whether you think “love” means calling us out of the sin of same-sex relationships or celebrating them as beautiful and blessed: Please take seriously the weight of these discussions for our lives. When Christians talk about Amendment One, it’s not really about what laws they’ll enforce in North Carolina; it’s about whether God, in all his profoundly gracious and merciful love for me, might be calling me to wake up alone every morning for the rest of my life. When Christians talk about Obama’s view on same-sex relationships, it’s not really about any politician’s voting record; it’s about whether my affection for another man, regardless of his Christlike qualities that attract me to him, fundamentally falls short of God’s design for human sexuality and places me in perpetual conflict with the God whose approval matters more to me than anything else. When Christians talk about LGBT issues, they’re talking about LGBT individuals.

By all means, please don’t keep silent about LGBT issues. But before you tell me I can’t marry a man, wait a beat to feel the weight of that call—one that could potentially involve prolonged loneliness and searing pain—with me. And before you tell me I ought to marry a man, wait a beat to feel the weight of that call—one that puts me into conflict with millennia of Christian belief and would potentially ruin relationships with many non-affirming people in my life—with me. If you’re unwilling to bear the weight of those calls, even for a moment, think seriously about whether the love of Christ is motivating your words before you click “Post.”

Picking up the Pieces

I want to continue the conversation of Saturday’s post.

The analogy I used for finally accepting my place in this journey was to “burn it down”. A better one would have been to “let it collapse”. I mean this to say, I had to separate the mess I had made of myself, and collect what was left of who I really was. I had to pick up those pieces.

After I had reached a place where I could accept the uncertainty of my future, and begin to look at my sexuality as a “discovery” and not a “struggle”, I was able to reach the refuge of peace.

But there was one moment- A defining moment- I will never forget this.

For several days I had poured over theology for and against homosexuality, in addition to testimonials from happily married gay folks, celibate gay men and ex-gay individuals.

It was an honest attempt to be more informed. It really was.

If I was going to one day make a decision about something that so intimately ties into my faith, I wanted to have all the available evidence before me to make an informed decision. It may seem a bit silly since I am no where near ready or willing to settle down into any type of domesticated lifestyle. But for some reason, I needed to be moving towards… something.

I struggled with giving up the game plan. I wanted what others around me took so easily for granted- the pursuit of happiness. My friends knew what that looked like for them. They would talk about what they were looking for in a spouse, how many kids they wanted, where they wanted to live, and whether they would get dogs or cats.

I couldn’t let myself hope for anything.

I didn’t want to entertain the idea of settling down with another guy, because I wasn’t sure whether that was a sin or not, or whether that was what I even wanted.

I couldn’t bear thinking about a life of celibacy with all of its loneliness and stag holiday parties.

I couldn’t bring myself to the electric chair of ex gay therapy. The writing seemed to be written on the wall for that route.

So I sat. No I walked. Backwards. Ten steps backwards.

I think the medical definition for what I experienced was cognitive dissonance.

In a flash I would know that I wanted to pursue a partnership. It just made sense and having realized that, I relaxed a bit.

Suddenly- no, I couldn’t do that. There’s still too much muddiness in the scriptures to figure out what God’s best was for me. And could I really see myself happy with another dude? It seemed so foreign and strange to me.

So I settled upon celibacy. It is, after all, one of the highest honors in the Bible, and it frees me from chains of the domestic life. I could do anything I wanted without a family holding me back.

A few seconds later I would start to imagine what my first kid would look like. How I would hold him or her in my arms for hours. And suddenly, I couldn’t give that up.

So ex-gay seemed to be the only way. Well- if it worked- it would make it more likely that I could find a wife and be a part of a traditional family.

But I don’t think I could support something that has resulted in countless suicides. Nor would I want to set aside several years of my life to essentially wage war against myself. There was no way.

And oh how the tears rained down again. I turned down the lights, laid on my bed and blew the balloons for my own private pity party.

A little later, dizzy from my mind’s pinball games- I set out for the same spot where I had my “I am not like them” night with God. I leaned up against the same tree and looked out across the lake in my backyard. Having calmed myself, I spoke straightforward with Him.

“You’re my whole life. There’s so much more than I can see. You say you want me to have all of the joy on this side of heaven. I don’t know what you mean by that. What are the best joys? What do you want me to do? I could pursue a relationship or celibacy or reparative therapy. Just tell me what you want me to do.”

After about a half an hour of silence and ripping at the grass, something happened. A simple three worded response began to ripple through my heart, as if the Almighty had just dropped it in. At first I dismissed it as a simple thought of the head, not necessarily God. But as I continued to pray, it to took up more and more space in my mind.

“Embrace the tension”

So simple.

In that moment I started to look at my three options differently. They weren’t right before me, they were… somewhere else… in the distance perhaps. But what was before me, what I stood on the precipice of, was a faithful discovery. It would be a time teaching, I would learn more about myself and get a stronger clutch on Christ.

The confusion and questions I had were honorable to God. I think that when I went to him and to His Words for the answers, he felt me wrestle with him, he felt me struggle to see his face. We grew closer and closer as I desperately desired the answer.

And how strange it was when I realized that the answer to my question was to keep questioning. Keep searching. Keep looking for Him.

Embrace the tension.

RR