His Love is Deep

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Sometimes, the internet feels like a house of horrors. Like the place I know better to avoid, but I move my feet forward anyway. I don’t know why. The thrill perhaps. And because I want to be braver and give the bullies a bit of their own medicine. I want to throw down as many hits as I can.

 

Then vwalla! An hour passes, just like that, and I am exhausted and I am enraged and in my head, there is this scrolling feed of tweets, of heavy-handed and bold and italicized comments, and it is all I can see, all I can hear, and I beat myself up for it, because I know better than this. I know who I am- why do I suddenly feel less than? Other? Kept Out?

 

I walked into church last night a bit banged up by twitter, and these past weeks, and really, I might’ve stayed put at Caribou, duking it out in the latest round of Am I Christian Enough?, had it not been for my brother preaching that night. It was his fourth sermon of the weekend and he had poured his whole heart into his message. Issues of social justice, they vibrate in his bones, and even though he played it cool and was self-deprecating, I know him better. This is a message nailed into his heart: Jesus. God. The Poor. Justice. Love. Mercy. This is what gets him up there.

 

I sat in the parent-child room with my sister-in-law, Lauren, as baby Wyatt slept in his car-seat beneath a blanket. Matt came in during the preliminary praise and worship and sat on the couch, calm. Lauren looked at him, “Should we pray?” and he nodded and then we did. It was a small, private moment, and I felt the weight of the spirit on us. In their marriage, in our family, in snoring baby Wyatt. I braced for the coming message he’s been carrying.

 

I would have heard more of what he had to say had I not been so crazy entertained over Wyatt’s antics. He woke up ten minutes in. He was crying one moment, laughing the next, doing the sign language he’s just learned. More! More! He said with his hands and Lauren tried to feed him, but he’s just turned eleven months, and thus, very picky. Lauren and I pointed at the glass, there’s daddy! And he began pounding so hard against it we worried the whole church would turn around. My sister Molly ran over and flirted with him through the glass, like he was an inmate. It was great.

 

At the close of the service came communion, and for this time, the band plays. I swear on my life, Wyatt sung along. He is just a baby, but his babble rose into a high note, the most earnest tone in the world. Just for a fleeting few seconds and then done. I felt a flutter in my chest.

 

At the back of the church, I stood and checked my twitter compulsively, my mentions, my feed, feeling the weight of my salvation hanging on the edge of some conservative writer, but then my phone died. The tether broke. I drifted away. And all I could really do was look up at the screen. Sing along to these words:

 

 

Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

 

And then this:

 

His love is deep, His love is wide

And it covers us

His love is fierce, His love is strong

It is furious

His love is sweet, His love is wild

And its waking hearts to life

 

It is classic evangelicalism. Songs I grew up singing. I should be cringing and running, but my mind, my heart, threw up hands in protest: Hear this. 

 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze. – Isaiah 43:1-2

 

Here is the Truth: They are powerless in separating us from his deep and furious and wild, head-over-heels, never-leave-nor-forsake-you, take-heart, I-am-with-you sort of love.

 

 The spirit came before them, before us, before evangelicalism, before the church, before the earth even dropped into orbit. So no, they cannot duct tape a line. Jesus is not a trophy they can keep on their side of the world, behind the gates lined with their tweets and comments and mob intimidation. Sin is not some stamp they can print on every one else. Sure- they can jeer us away, but only if we let them. They can tweet out barks of Hell, proof-text ’til the sun goes down, but by the end of the service, I am feeling it. My worth and my hope and my belovedness circling around me like a halo. Pointing to the ground, this ground beneath my feet. I whisper: This. Is. Church.

 

I can see it in my nephew sleeping with hymnals in his ears and two parents raising him to be a peacemaker. I can feel it in the two pastors who come alongside me after the service and talk through everything with me- World Vision, Mean Christians, and the Jesus leaning in against the Church, smiling over at me. One of them tells me I need to plant myself, daily, in the love of God. And it’s a call I’ve felt linger over me for days.

 

Pope Francis said the internet is a gift from God and though there is so so so much shit rising up in a haze over that realm- a church is being built there too. When I was hit hard, a blogger friend stood up for me. I messaged him, “thank you and I look up to you” and he messaged back, “you’re my family” and then, tears. Voxer has become a window for me and a couple other friends, ones with big hearts who leave me prayers like notes on the sill.

 

When I drive home, I am still singing those hymns. I am feeling myself planted firm in Christ and him Crucified. The radio is off and I am praying aloud thanksgiving. I am laying hands over all the things said and all the passion burning in their words and saying: He Paid It All. I am singing, out on the freeway, heart no longer afraid: His love is Deep. His love is Wild. And it Covers Us. 

  • I love you, Ben, and I love this. Thank you for the hope in these words, and for describing a faith-community which sounds so healing. (And I love the way you tell stories).

    • Thank you Cara! It truly is a healing community. I absolutely love it. (And I owe you a Vox!)

      • I’m so glad. It was fun to “see” myself in this post. But I’m patient. Looking forward to hearing from you at any time 🙂

  • Oh my, how I long for this. For this kind of community. You are so fortunate to have found it. Hang on to it. Cling to the life and the love He sends through it. You deserve every portion of this.

    There’s always such a graciousness in your words – – thank you…

    • You deserve that kind of community! I love when you stop by here Carol (but you know this!) Thank you!

  • Ronda DeVold

    Thank you for your wonderful words. Stay strong brothers and sisters in Christ.
    – Ronda

  • This is inspiring. You had me close to tears by the end. I’ve been in that place a lot recently, due to things I’ve read on the Internet, and I am so grateful that this time it was not the brokenness of the world but the overwhelming, all-sufficient love of Jesus that put me there. Thank you.

  • Jared Mifsud

    summed up so well and something I needed to hear. Thank you so much for your blog it is so inspiring! you truly are a blessing!

  • Thank you, Benjamin. The last few weeks have hit me hard (I used to work for a Christian non-profit. Well, several, depending on how you count them!)

    And then I hear the many voices of welcome, and Jesus, and hope. People who say: the love of God is big enough to embrace all who would eat at this table.

    And this is truly good news.

  • amysavage

    Gah! This message of planting ourselves deeply in God’s love… just thank you. All the hoopla fades as we do that. And, boy is it ever a choice! I spent yesterday listening to YouTube videos of Brennan Manning saying this very thing over and over. The passion in his voice about the love of God for us brought me to tears. Thank you for being a voice to direct us all back to the “restless, raging fury that is the love of God”.

    • You are a woman after my own heart 🙂 Brennan is often my intermediary with God. His words saved my faith many a time. Of all things Christianity, his voice has spoken most clearly to me.

  • Sheri

    Thank you Benjamin. Thank you for your honesty. I may never meet you this side of heaven. I wish I could & give you a great big hug. But I’d be crying & blubbering something about being sorry for what people have done to you. I’d be a mess. Not a pretty sight. But I hope that when we do get to heaven, I can sit at your table & talk a bit. Get to know you. Maybe become a friend. But before I came to that thought this morning, I opened up my computer & first thing read your blog post & started crying again. Maybe I am crying in response to how God would feel when he reads your heart here & it grieves Him for the pain you & others are going through at the hands of conservatives. Or maybe I am crying because I want to wrap my arms around you & every person I know who has same-sex attraction & apologize for the stupidity of Christians & for the meanness & pain you are going through & will continue to go through. I don’t know. But these last few weeks have changed my life. I will never be the same. Someone I know shared your your blog on his page before the WV firestorm hit. Your honesty, grace, & love changed me. I can’t go back to those old churches that I used to go to. I can’t tolerate conversations by evangelical Christians with them quoting their scriptures in hate. I can’t reconcile the pain you & my gay friends have gone through at the hands of people I used to pastor & I used to call my friends & family members. It literally sickens me. I don’t know what to do with that. I’ve since connected to some other bloggers who have talked about being in the wilderness & that others are here too. I wish I knew them. I wish they lived in my state or town. I wished they went to my current church. I wish there wasn’t such pain in the world. And I wish so much of it wasn’t done by people who I used to respect. Again, this is just me venting. But I wanted to tell you how much I respect you. So that when you feel unloved in the future after you read some stupid tweet or comment, remember, not all “straight” Christians feel the way the “mob” is voicing. One more thing, the first message I ever preached was from the passage of scripture that you quoted from Isaiah. But when I preached it, I tied it into the actual story about Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego in Daniel. How they were thrown in the fiery furnace by the angry king & that there was the fourth man there with them & when they came out, not a hair on their head was even singed & they didn’t even smell like smoke. We had a fire when I was little & it burned down our house. I try to imagine how they came out of there like that – without a smell of smoke even. I can’t. How God can do this for you? I don’t know. But meditate on it. It has helped me in terrible times. Maybe it will help you. Sending a virtual hug, my friend.

    • Goodness, reading this was like reading poetry. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I want to print off this comment and tape it to my mirror. This is beautiful. It means more than you know (and I would write more, but honestly, I’m speechless. This is so, so beautiful.)

  • beautiful and true. “they can jeer us away, but only if we let them.” let’s not. <3

    • Love you Suzannah. And your post on Sunday. We definitely are on the same wavelength 🙂

  • Laura

    Ben, we haven’t met yet, but I adore your brother (and Lauren and Wyatt!) and count it such a privilege to be seek the kingdom with him. Your words this morning are so beautiful and true…reflecting I believe, the desire of God’s heart – that we might know we are His beloved no matter what.

  • “feeling the weight of my salvation hanging on the edge of some conservative writer”

    I identify with that sentiment so much, and I can’t figure out why I defer so much power to writers and blogs that I just don’t agree with.
    Usually in my prayers, the Spirit’s response is something like “if you listened to Me half as much as you listened to them, you would understand a whole lot more about faith and obedience. Close the browser and let’s talk.”

    • I LOVE THAT. “Close the browser and let’s talk.” It’s so true. I’ve been watching how much energy it takes out of me to be in engaging with folks who are detrimental to my spiritual/emotional health. For me, it’s time to step back. Be more in the stillness.

  • Missy Bell

    Awesome.

  • Kim Campbell

    Ben – I found your blog via the one and only Jen Hatmaker last week and have been all soul-twisted and ugly crying ever since. You have an amazing talent in your writing. Your words are challenging me and calling me into a clearer picture of this Christ who came to ransom us ALL. One of my dearest, lifelong friends came out to us a few years ago and I honestly am not sure where he is with his faith. Your writing gives me so much hope and I’m praying for the right moment to share this blog with my sweet friend. I desperately want him to dig deep into God’s word and find comfort and direction in these same words you shared today. Thank you, thank you for sharing your gift.

    • Seriously- I have loved every person that has been sent over from Jen’s blog. (and this is not assuming your theology, because I don’t know what it is!) But the largely conservative readers from her blog that have stopped by here and commented have been so gracious and loving, despite disagreement. They’ve been a gift and have wrecked my own assumptions about conservatives (again, not assuming you are!) Please do share your blog with your friend. When I first came out, I didn’t know there were other gay Christians out there. Communities like the Gay Christian Network and BelieveOutLoud have been HUGE in my life. So good for my faith.

  • This is beautiful..and this..this>> “Jesus is not a trophy they can keep on their side of the world, behind the gates lined with their tweets and comments and mob intimidation. Sin is not some stamp they can print on every one else. Sure- they can jeer us away, but only if we let them.” << thank you!

  • jtheory

    Wow man. I am glad all our salvations hinge on the love of a Jesus, instead of some conservative blogger. I pray you hear His love more and more. I pray you keep hope. You are an amazing person, and I am glad to call you friend.

    – Justin aka Dochas82

  • Logan81

    I can relate to this so much. After World Vision reversed its decision a couple of weeks ago, I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. It took every ounce of willpower I had to not spew a hatefest all over social media. The F-bombs were primed and ready for action, the only thing that stopped me was Jesus telling me that it would serve no purpose.

    As I was laying in bed that night, telling Jesus how much it hurt and how much I wanted to lash out, he suddenly gave me an image of him on the cross. Hurting, in agony, mocked, ridiculed, and hated by everyone around him. Yet somehow, he still loved them all. The message I got from him wasn’t, “You should try harder not to hate them,” it was just, “I know what it’s like to hurt so badly from those who don’t understand you.” I then just felt him hold me and comfort me in my grief until I was finally able to fall asleep.

    Am I still angry about all of this? Yes! Does it still hurt? Absolutely! Do I believe that’s how it’s always going to be, though? No. I don’t know how he’s gonna do it, but I can already see Jesus working in so many ways through all of this. Not just in others, but in my own heart too.

    • YES! I love, love, love what you felt Jesus was saying to you, because its so reflective of my own faith. I have never felt God saying forgive, NOW! No, he has just shown up in the hurt of it. And stayed. And I know myself too well, I know I cannot forgive justlikethat and that it takes time for me to be less angry, too. Thank you for sharing this. It actually means so much to me, Logan.

      • Logan81

        I’m glad it helped! Like you, I can’t just forgive and move on in most cases. God knows the truth behind that. Not that I’m a bad, unforgiving person, but that I’ve been hurt too many times to just “let go and let God.” He’s working on it, and it’s getting better, but we’re talking about defense mechanisms that have been built up over 33 years of life. That doesn’t go away overnight. I’m just glad he knows that too. 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Hi Benjamin- I found your blog via Jen Hatmaker and I’m so glad I clicked through. I love your “brutiful” honesty. Please know that while your twitter feed and comment section may be blowing up there are so many of us out there supporting you and praying for you and every person who is feeling marginalized and cast aside. Your beautiful words about Christ’s love and passion for us are so timely. It has me thinking about the upcoming Maundy Thursday service and how powerful it can be to walk through Christ’s suffering as he prepared to pay for our hearts w/ his own. Love wins. Always.

  • Sheila Warner

    I’m still standing with you, in Christ. YOU ARE LOVED! By so many of us Christians. Take heart, my brother.

  • Thank you so much for your wonderful writing. You have an amazing skill with words and truly share some amazing things. I just recently found your blog and have been eagerly awaiting every new submission!