My Quarter Life Crisis

It always starts like this for me: the new year rises up on the horizon and tells me it’s time to Get Serious. It’s time to start worrying about the future of my life, that blank page stretching endlessly before me, all that white space that should be filled with five-year plans, with narrowed down career choices and grad school applications, with all the things that I should’ve begun by now… because by now, I should be an adult.


My initial efforts to stop the downward spiral, my self-care regimen of deep breaths and I’m thankful for lists, were quickly thwarted by the daily reminders of Success Elsewhere: An email from LinkedIn telling me who now I needed to congratulate. A Facebook feed full of engagements and new houses and babies on the way. An instagrammed Paris. A tweet of a Book Deal. A claim on happiness. A life that is better.


I’d drive to Caribou and settle into the corner to make a “Life Plan” (Fix-My-Life Plan) only to close my MacBook five minutes later because the Future is too overwhelming. It is an anything-is-possible place, and for me, that’s terrifying. My anxious mind graffitis over it with all my worst fears. My biggest doubts.


This worrying is so ridiculous. My life is very good: I have a job that pays well and good friends to spend weekends with. I have a warm family, the best people, and they know me inside and out. I pay my own rent, do my own laundry, buy my own groceries and set my own bedtime. All things considered, you might call me an adult.


But there are these things that can work their way through the seams of your life. Inadequacy and Expectations. Wildest dreams, still unfulfilled. Altogether, they make up what the scientists are calling the Quarter Life Crisis.


I turned twenty-five this past month. A quarter of a century old. It was the first time I wanted to lie about my age.



In 2015, time suddenly became rare and valuable, and so I started scratching all the things that appeared extravagant like reading and exercise, blogging and writing, making even the smallest amount of time for others. Then I took that surplus time and spent most of it at Caribou, where I stared for many minutes at Grad School applications I never finished, skimming blogs about climbing out of the Quarter Life Crisis and Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Teacher and trying to figure out a great pitch for a big magazine somewhere. I was thinking hard and dwelling deep and worrying myself to the bone.


I began to seriously question my own worth and abilities, and that’s when I knew something had gone terribly wrong.


I knew where I had to turn- but I really didn’t want to do that. It felt like failure. Like a confirmation of my collapse. To turn there, to go back there, would mean I had forgotten. And I hadn’t… had I?


With a desperate voice, I just said it anyway:


I am accepted.

I am loved.

I am enough.


And I stopped shaking.



In a way, I was forced into these words. A friend had asked if I would speak at his church (which I have never done before) and I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about. My story: from self-loathing to self-love, my journey into the heart of the God That Sees Me.


In my circle here in Minnesota, I told only a few about this church thing. I was terrified about it. I am not a public speaker. That is not how I am built. So I told them I needed them their for moral support, and perhaps some kind reassuring words after I botched the whole thing.


They all came.

I sat on the stool beneath stage lights in front of a handful of people, and I saw every one of their grinning faces. For a half an hour, I got to watch my people show up for me.


Near the end of my talk, I said this:

I am accepted.

I am accepted.

I am accepted.


And it’s just three words, but they are my holy words. They are my song. The tied knot at the end of my story, the first words that started my ascent from the darkness, the words that found me.

I am accepted is such an easy thing to say, to yourself or to others… but believing it? That’s another conversation. That takes work. That takes a lifetime of learning and practicing and prayer. And if you’re here, in the Minnesota Winter of your Quarter Life Crisis, it can be impossible to hear it at all.

But in that moment, on that stage, my desperately hopeful theology was met with the proven witness gathered before me. The warm faces reminding me of the Success Here. The success in me. The success through me. The success to come. My words and my people, both pouring into one in my heart. I am accepted.

God is here, in the midst of my circle walking. In the coffee cups and the slouched sitting. In the panic and the fear and the rage, in the twenty-fifth year of my striving. He is here. And He is working something new in me. Something that cannot be rushed or scheduled or detailed down in a plan. God is saying to me, once again, for the millionth time: You Are Accepted. You are Loved. You are Enough.

It all adds up, even when it doesn’t appear to.

This is a weird winter and a weird season of life. I feel completely unprepared for it. But maybe it’s going to just be about those three words for now. That still small voice in my mind. That love, always there to catch me.

Evil and Jesus Came to Pride


We pressed ourselves up against the metal railing as the jamboree poured down the street. Thousands of red and green and yellow feathers, batons flying through the air and Katy Perry blaring out the speakers. There were drag queens glazed in make-up, politicians waving from floats, gay and lesbian couples strolling, smiling with their kids cheering on their shoulders. It was a blue warm summer afternoon and the air was filled with bliss.


We had a banner draped across the fence that said we were sorry. We wore shirts that said we were sorry. We held signs that said God loves you. We apologized for the how the church has hurt them, hurt some in our group, hurt me.


Not ten feet behind us, in a ring of police protection, were other signs. Ten foot tall banners. They were plastered with scripture and phrases like “Penis Perverts” and “Anal Addicts” and “Labia Lickers”. There were roughly fifteen of them, three of whom had megaphones, and one of them with a step ladder and thick black glasses. They took their turns barking out:


“SMOKE! HELL! SMOKE! You know what’s coming!!! God is going to burn you up! destroy you!”


“YOU ARE SICK! You sir, are a walking example of AIDS! YOU PERVERT! YOU ARE NOT NORMAL, YOU’RE A FREAK!”


“You hate GOD! You hate GOD! You hate GOD! You hate GOD”


“Shame on you! Shame on you! SHAME ON YOU!”


A lesbian couple approached the police perimeter, just below the man on the step ladder, yelling back at him. He smiled and sang.


“YOU ARE FILTHY WHORES! WHORES WHORES WHORES! But you know what? Even Jesus can save a little whore like you, REPENT YOU WHORES!”


Everybody knew these guys were jack-asses. They were hateful, crude, and yes, Evil. They were Westboro without the flag burning. As a group of gay veterans marched down the Parade, they screeched:




And even though you knew they weren’t really representing God, you felt dirty all over. Hours of hearing “SHAME ON YOU!” replays in your head and burns you with rage to the point where you start to think that breaking through the police to beat the snot out of them will be the only thing to bring you peace.


But then, there was this group of girls rollerblading down the street.

They had rainbow streamers in their hair and wore tasteful tank tops and gym shorts. One of them, this beautiful young woman was near the back. She was giggling happy, twirling in circles, gliding back and forth across the street- and I don’t know how to explain the expression on her face when she saw the protesters but it was like the air was sucked straight out of her.


She was trying to shake it off, looking hard at the ground, but the congested parade had to come to a halt and she had to just stand there. She had to stand before a mob shrieking out whore! and pervert! and Hell! Hell! Hell! She had to stand there, exposed, breathless, unable to get away.


Her eyes dropped to our sign and with a furrowed brow, she read it. She tilted her head- perplexed, and read it again and again and again and then looked up at us smiling at her. This wave of emotion flushed through her face and it was so rare. The kind where you can see the beating heart in the creases of her forehead and the sparkle of her eyes. She started nodding, weeping, choking out a proud smile.


And then she really hugged us.

Like the purest most desperate kind of hug.


She whispered thank you, thank you and then skated backwards, sizing up the sign and crying all over again. A friend tugged at her arm as the parade began moving again. But she stayed for just a few moments longer. God Loves You, God Loves You.


I had to step away. I fled past the protesters shrieking in my ears, down an emptier street where I could crash on a curb and cry. I didn’t have any clear thoughts, no prayers were said, it was just an erupting of emotions and a steadying of my breath, because maybe this is the closest I’ve ever been to Jesus.


Standing at that fence, holding that girl, in a gust of piercing barbs, love swept in and stole the stage. It was louder than their megaphones and their curses. It was faster and struck deeper than anything ever could. A love so beautiful that it stops us in our skates and draws tears from our eyes. That is gospel, my friends, that is God.



Photo credit- Andrew Marin


And I know that these protesters don’t reflect many of the serious disagreements about sexuality within Christianity, but the bombastic slurs are the same I once leveled at myself. The same ones many of us did. The shame that overcame us like a fever and then, the surprise of Christ who came to call us good. Loved. Liked. Accepted. Created. Wept for. Rejoiced over. Loved. Loved. Loved. Loved. LOVED.


And at some point, it hit me that all this hugging and holding was for me too. I was placing my fingers over those hurt places, cleaning them with the reality that God is crazy over me. He delights in me. He made me. He holds me.


He died by lash, nail and suffocation, whispering the name of that girl in his final breaths. And she heard it. In the middle of it all, she heard it. It drew her in.



“To Be Who You Know You Are”- Nathan Kennedy [Love Letter Series]


Quick note: I changed the title of this series from “Open Letters” to “Love Letters”. Initially, the word Open meshed well because it flowed with my original post Open Letter to the Closeted I now know that the term “Open Letter” can carry some negative connotations. A lot of times it is a public indictment of someone or some institution that is meant to point out something the recipient of the letter has done wrong. And many times, they are justified.

But that doesn’t really fit this series at all. This is about loving others as you love yourself, empowering individuals to love themselves. That’s what this is.


Nathan Kennedy is an incredible writer. He is gay and he loves Jesus. I met him through twitter and then got to hang out with him over G + Chat. The piece you are about to read is both emotional and intellectual. It is understanding and poignant. It is one of my favorite reads yet. Seriously.

To read more from Nathan, check out his blog Petrychor.



A middle school civics project once had me research the life, teaching, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was then that I had met one of my personal heroes, someone with whom I could identify, emulate, and look to for guidance. His ideals and his witness for the cause of racial and social justice seared into my imagination indelibly; I had found my first instance of an ideal of moral conviction and action. This project culminated when a local minister, the pastor of one of the community’s chief African American congregations, invited me to give a speech at his community’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration. The invitation and the experience humbled and exhilarated me. At age thirteen, a lily-white, nerdy little middle schooler stood before a thousand strangers and preached about Dr. King’s legacy of love, tolerance, and peace.


And yet…


What nobody knew was that I had barely begun wrestling with the emergence of my gay sexuality. It terrified me more than I could say; growing up deeply religious in home and community, the tension was incredible. While I loved the experience of preaching to that congregation, it was the beginning of my feeling caught between two worlds, two equally distinct subjective realities, of being gay and Christian.


As long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve had at least the intuition that being Christian involves aspiring to be the best version of myself possible. Dr. King is simply an example of someone who modeled for me (and still does very much) how to become my best, fullest self through the Christian Way.


Therein was the dissonance. Being gay, you see, had nothing to do with my best self. My sexual orientation was “intrinsically disordered” away from Christlike, life-giving love and toward selfish, self-indulgent desires. I lost my faith as a teenager because I couldn’t reconcile these two worlds. I knew that being gay wasn’t going to go away. It seemed surer and truer than the platitudes preached in church. Thus, I decided late in high school that being Christian had nothing to do with my best, truest self.


I’ve since come around and reclaimed my Christian identity, and that is a story that is both very long and very much still in process. I wish to leave out a great portion of my story of struggle, not because there’s anything I wish to hide, but because to tell it would be to write an autobiography when my purpose is to share encouragement. My story’s filled with enough twists and turns to distract from that purpose, so forgive me if I leave my personal “testimony” unfinished. What my testimony strives toward is articulating how I came to see being gay as being a true and constituent part of my best and truest self – how my gay sexuality has moved me toward being more selfless, Christlike, authentic, and compassionate – and to help you to do the same.


In the years before my coming out, I wasn’t “gay”: I struggled with same-sex attraction. Nobody in my church community could know about it. I would bring it up in confession but that’s where it stayed. If I needed to “come out” to any of my church friends, we wouldn’t discuss it much for fear of “dwelling” or “identifying” with my flaw. Love isn’t self-indulgent, I would tell myself using different thoughts and different words every time. If you want to love, you have to hate yourself. Love is tough. Love will kill you. Love doesn’t look for self-serving affirmations.


The problem with struggling with being gay, all in the confines of my nice little closet, was that, in making it a “struggle”, I couldn’t see any value in it. It was a flaw. It was extrinsic to my true identity as a Christian, as a human being. It was a patch of mold on an otherwise good loaf of bread. Being closeted – feeling like I had to hide it – reinforced this idea. This is called “shame”. “Shame” is feeling like there is something wrong with you – not with your decisions, behaviors, or attitudes, but you yourself.


Coming out gave me the freedom to stop “struggling” with being gay and to start struggling with being human. Once I let go of shame, I was free to start focusing on becoming who I actually want to become.


For me, this means finding the confidence that being gay is no flaw at all. I’m sure many of you might disagree with that; acknowledging you’re gay is one thing, but acting on it through a romantic partnership is another. Who am I to second-guess your conscience? Who am I to tell you that what your faith tradition has taught you is wrong? If you have chosen the path of celibacy or a mixed-orientation marriage you have my support, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye about the acceptability of same-sex partnerships. But I want you to know, that even if you believe that sexual or romantic actions with a person of your same sex is sinful, your attractions themselves aren’t. It is very important that you should know this. Consider it a challenge to Christians of either side of the debate to understand how if Christian tradition is correct, being gay is even then not a flaw.


It’s important, understanding how completely okay it is to feel the way you do, to have the attractions you have, and to want to love the way you want to love.


It’s important, because I’m sure that you have an idea of who you really want to be, the “best version” of yourself. You see this person hinted at in the heroes you have chosen and in the ideals to which you strive. You see it through Christ himself. And your sexuality is important to becoming that person.


Your sexuality comes from the deepest, most intimate center of your being. It’s the part of yourself that stretches out in search of connection, in search of intimacy, because that part of yourself knows that you have something to give. Your sexuality exists because you have something to give – and in giving that, you make the world the better place. You bring about new life, regardless of whether or not you have ever or will ever have children. You should never fear it, be ashamed of it, or want to get rid of it, because your sexuality is a part of the gift you have to give to the world.


Your sexuality exists because God made us to need people and to be needed by people.


This is true whether you realize that your best self should arise through a romantic partnership, or if you realize that your best self should arise through celibacy. Every relationship you have, whether it is family, friends, teachers, employers, coworkers, etc., is in a very broad sense “sexual”. “Sexual” doesn’t mean “genital” or “having sex” – it means “relational” and “reaching out for the other”. You are a creature of relationship and your sexuality is beautiful. Your queer sexuality is beautiful. It’s beautiful because you are beautiful – you are beautiful through your sexuality. Being straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender is a crucial part of what you have to give to the world. If you embrace it – if you embrace yourself in the very deep and intimate part of yourself – you are saying yes to what you have to offer.


It took me a lot of hard and painful lessons to realize this. It’s so easy to repress it out of fear and shame, or to turn it on itself by being a libertine. But to embrace it – to embrace your fundamental drive for love, relationship, intimacy, and connectedness – is to embrace your identity as a person of love.


Because, in those moments when we’re told by our own self-criticizing voices about the toughness and painfulness of love – sometimes given us by our own churches and families – we absolutely must remember that love is patient, and love is kind, and it keeps no record of wrongdoings (1 Cor. 13).


Love does not default to pain and suffering, but it goes there if necessary.


This is my challenge to you, whether you are in the closet or not: be who you know you are. Be everything you are. Being yourself takes courage, and it means discovering things about yourself that will shock and amaze you. You are stronger than your realize. You are more beautiful than you think you are and your sexuality is a part of that beauty.


Be brave. Be strong. Be who you know you are.