God is Love- A.J. [Love Letters]

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I am incredibly grateful to this next Open Letter. AJ is one of the reasons I have changed my opinion about what kind of proximity the online community can bring. There were many times, many times, when I was going through difficult situations and after a quick tweet for prayer, AJ would respond, and then shoot me a direct message with words of encouragement. Most of the time- he is just plain witty and hilarious. He’s the real deal!

 

AJ also (with a bit of urging on my part) has his own blog that you can visit here.

 

This letter is one of my favorites. 

~~~

Dear Reader,

 

When RR first asked me to write this letter, I was tempted to send him the following email:

 

Hey RR, here is my post for your blog:

 

 

“God is love.”

 

 

….That’s it.  Best, AJ.

 

However, I thought that, along with being banned from ever writing on this blog again, some context may be helpful.  But really, if all you take away from this post is that God is love, it will have been successful.

 

I think people say that God is love so much that we become numb to it.  It becomes routine, dry, worn-out.  So, to help with this, I’m going to start off with a story.

 

It’s the story of why I am a Christian.

 

I was born and raised Catholic.  And like anything a person does from the time they are young, I became really good at it.  I had all the accessories: the rosaries, the hymnals, and the statues.  While some boys collected baseball cards, I collected holy cards.  I won an award for my mad altar serving skills and could tell you more about the sacraments than anyone in my grade.  Not to brag or anything, but if Church were a sport, I was on track for the Olympics.

 

Then things fell apart.  Why, exactly, is neither relevant nor helpful here, but by the end of college, I was pretty content with all that mumbo-jumbo being behind me.  Like the guy who finds the childhood basket of stuffed toys in the basement, it was a part of my life I saw as slightly pathetic and best to move past.  The rosaries and holy cards stayed in my dresser drawer, forgotten and dusty.  By the time graduation day rolled around, I was itching to set off on my new life: no God, no girlfriend,[1] and nothing holding me back from an exciting future.

 

Then the sad times started.  Like so many of us, I’ve always had my bouts with the sorrow monster, and not long after leaving my friends and the safety of college, he returned with a vengeance.  I struggled to make new friends.  I was not succeeding professionally like I had expected.  And I generally hated where I was living and what I was doing.  By the time the spring thaw came, and that first anniversary of my college graduation drew near, I was near full emotional free-fall.  And I didn’t have a parachute.  It was really, really horrible.

 

There are some moments you never forget.  It was spring day, though it was still cold.  I was working in my room when a rush of anger overcame me for no real reason.  I slammed the large book I had open shut and, looking straight ahead, I said out loud: “I’m gay.”

 

[Insert dramatic sound effect here]

 

If the statement ever had context, I honestly don’t remember it.  All I remember is the rush of words forming themselves in my mouth.  And then I said it.  And there it was.

 

Gay.

 

I’m sure many of you understand what I’m about to say next.  While this was not the first time I knew I had these feelings, this was the first time I understood this about myself.  They are very different things.  I knew how I had always felt about men, both abstractly and in particular, but a person just gets so good at lying to themselves, that it is easy forget.  I had become a master of the narrative, and it took this complete emotional collapse to allow myself to feel what I had always known: I’m gay.[2]

 

The next few years were a roller coaster, which themselves could fill many blog posts.  But, skipping to the end, something amazing happened: I learned what love is.  I had always subconsciously kept my capacity to love on a pretty tight leash, lest I love the wrong person or, worse, someone caught me loving the wrong person.  Yet, once I admitted my sexuality to myself, I found myself able to feel things anew: compassion, desire, and, most of all, love for others.  I was able to connect to people more authentically than I ever had before.  I was able to laugh with them more heartily and cry with them more honestly.  And behind all of these feelings, behind all of these joys and tears, I found something else.  I began to glimpse a transcendent essence that goes beyond human understanding underlying all of these emotions.

 

To be cliche, I found God.

 

I always get mad when people frame the conversation as “reconciling” Christianity with being LGBT, like it is some accounting error that needs to be settled.  This never made sense to me.  You see, I am not Christian despite being gay; I am Christian because I am gay.  Had I not been honest with myself and opened myself up to love, I likely never would have returned to the Church.  And I never would have experienced what God truly is, beyond the statues and laminated holy cards.

 

This is why I tell this story today, reader.  Because God loves you.  And He[3] doesn’t love you despite being LGBT; He loves you because you are LGBT.

 

As humans, we experience love in many ways.  We experience it through canoeing trips with friends.  We experience it by reminiscing with family.  But we experience it perhaps most powerfully through falling in love, in those moments when eyes meet and, even just for a second, the universe makes sense.

 

I don’t want this to become a post about what role same-sex relationships should have in Christian churches, if at all.  However, regardless of whether you feel personally called to act on your feelings, the fact remains that we, as LGBT Christians, experience love in a large part through same-sex attraction.  And regardless of all the ethical and theological issues, as LGBT people, we experience the world and human relationships largely through the lens of same-sex attraction.  And this includes relationships with the Divine.

 

Now, I’m not saying that there is a “gay way” to pray–of course not.  However, we come to the Divine as a whole person: body, soul, and mind.  And like any other person, our sexuality is a large part of who we are.  And were we to repress and deny this core aspect of who we are, if we were to shut down how we experience love, we would risk shutting down our pathways to each other.  And by denying God access to every inch of our being, we risk shutting down our pathway to Him, too.

 

So, reader, on those days when that you find yourself all a-twitter because that girl/boy looked at you in gym class, and you feel ashamed–

 

On those days when you criticize yourself for wearing that t-shirt and those jeans because of what people will say–

 

On those days when your world seems dark and empty because you are a [insert derogatory term here] and no one, not even God, could love you, take heart.

 

As I said at the beginning of this, God is love.  He is the heat that makes the calm waters of life boil over with passion, with joy, and with meaning.  He is the sun, the energy behind all of life.

 

And, above all else, He wants you to know Him.  He wants you to love others and, in doing so, love Him.

 

He wants you to love.

 

So, as you continue down this admittedly long road and discern how to best live your life, realize that the love you feel is holy and good.  And while we may debate what actions are or are not allowed as faithful Christians, we must never think that love, honest, true, and selfless love, is ever wicked. The accident of anatomy cannot make Our Lord a demon.

 

Yes, we may slip-up from time-to-time.  Because of our honesty about who we are and how we feel, we may sin.  But, if my story says anything, it’s my personal belief that loving too deeply, even if a temptation to sin, is better than the alternative.  It is better than denying yourself the ability to love at all.

 

And even if we fail, God is love–He will understand.

 

 

Peace,

 

–AJ


[1] Yes, I said girlfriend.

[2] I use gay, bi, not-straight, and LGBT interchangeably.  Don’t read too much into this–I mainly hate labels.  And, with respect, I don’t think the distinction is that important, really.

[3] To me, debates about the “gender” of God make about as much sense as debating how to count an auburn breeze.  I use He rather than She or (my preferred) It for convenience sake and because I don’t want to ruffle feathers more than necessary. But, again, don’t read too much into it.

  • Ford1968

    “Yet, once I admitted my sexuality to myself, I found myself able to feel things anew: compassion, desire, and, most of all, love for others.”

    Jesus gave us the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. How does that work out when we don’t love ourselves well? Self-loathing and secrecy cause soul crushing isolation. Loving ourselves enough to live authentically creates capacity to love others. I think knowing and being known by others is an essential desire of humanity.

    • registeredrunaway

      completely agree. To be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.

  • I see why you were so excited about this letter. Great stuff here. God is love. We are loved. Each and every one of us.

    • registeredrunaway

      Thank you Steph 🙂

  • “Loving too deeply, even if a temptation to sin, is better than the alternative. It is better than denying yourself the ability to love at all.”

    That would be true if romantic love were the only kind of love. And it’s even true that some people, in trying to squash their homosexuality somehow, also end up squashing their ability to have real relationships of any kind with other human beings.

    But that need not happen. I’ll use my own life as an example because it’s the life I know most about. I’m gay, Catholic, and celibate, and I don’t feel that my life is deficient in love. On the contrary, I’m continually amazed by how much love there is in my life, and how much poverty of love I see elsewhere.