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

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

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

Getting Off the Island

Image

The past few days have been unreal. My folks felt so blessed when they read all of the encouraging comments on http://rachelheldevans.com/church-stories-forgive-them-father, and on my own blog. I love you guys.

As my story was being shared on the web, I was sharing a drink with the closest of friends… and I couldn’t tell them anything. The void that always existed between us felt bigger that night than ever before. With every weekly “high” and “low” that was uttered, I struggled to think of something significant besides the replies. I wanted to tell them about it. I wanted to say, “Here’s my story, it has a purpose! Check out what it meant to so and so!” But there I sat. As they chuckled about work stories, I stole glances at the screen of my phone, taking in every empathetic word with quiet gratitude.

Being locked up in the closet is nothing new for me. Prior to cracking open the door, my life was lived in isolation. I felt invisible. One friend of mine, the author of the previous post, described our predicament as being stranded on an island just off a coastal town.

You sit on the beach looking across the water, watching families and friends have picnics and build bon fires. You sit and watch, all alone, day in and day out. You call out to them, exchange shallow conversations over roaring waves, but that is it. They couldn’t possibly get a glimpse at your gashes, and even if they could, you know they would reject your repulsiveness and expose you as alien. So you stick to superficial bonds and embrace the safety of the island.

But, as I found out, the island can’t save you from yourself.

I tried compartmentalizing this part of me, considered it a thorn to be covered. I tried therapy, thinking confidential chats would stop the broken record. I tried crying out to Christ for a miracle, for my sexual orientation to be “healed”. I tried church then tried praying on my knees. Tried to seek out scripture. Tried to pretend everything was okay. Tried to help more people. Tried to drink away my demons. Tried to smile more. Tried to befriend myself.

And then I tried to suicide.

Obviously and thankfully, I wasn’t successful, even though I was walking within distance of death.

The following morning was a miserable one. The conversation that I knew had to happen was one that I had avoided for my whole life. It was the moment where I had to choose whether I would die on the island or swim towards the uncertain. With each baby step up to my parents’ bedroom, I felt waves beating me back. I anticipated anger. I expected disgust. I felt only fear.

But then, I washed ashore.

They asked why I waited so long.

“I thought you’d be grossed out by me,” weeping.

“Son, you have been lied to. We could never love you less.”

“So you’re not afraid of me?” sniffling.

“Of course not” they whispered, and they pulled me into a pile of hugs.

My fear of what was beyond the water’s edge kept me on a nightmarish island for over a decade. Where I only saw gashes in the flesh, they saw diamonds in the rough. I felt alien, they told me I was family.  I hated me, they loved me.

But the story isn’t over yet.

Unfortunately, I still take many trips back to the island. When I am with friends and many extended family members, I return to the old distant fellow they all know. I keep my temper in check with every fleeting political or religious slur. I keep my hopes at bay when I hear someone call them out.

What I have learned is,

in some settings, the island is safer

in others, it’s unnecessary.

So here I am, playing hop-scotch in-and-out of the closet. Riding in on the waves when I reach my front door and hitting the water again when I walk out. It’s a stressful place to stand, but it’s where I am right now.

Even though my fears have yet to be realized, I still worry about those on the other side of that conversation. I worry about love lost and friendships flushed. I worry about rejection and gossip. I worry about what they’ll do.

But I still have hope.

I have hope that when I bring forth those same fears of before.

When I tell them I am afraid they will hate me.

I’ll hear them whisper back.

“Lie.”

RR

*Photo Credit

TreePeople

Image 

“22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into[a] the village.”

         – Mark 8:22-26 (NIV, emphasis mine)

One of the greatest treasures within the story of Christ is his sneaky way of inserting subtext into all of his actions. It keeps us guessing, and more importantly, expresses the eternally relevant messages that freshen our eyes with every turn of the page.

Taking the blind man by the hand, Jesus led him to a remote location where they could be alone. No crowds, no ovations. Just an intimate one-on-one conversation.

Between the lines of this story remains that mysterious walk and the conversation that must’ve occurred. It seems, and I have no real historical evidence for this, that Jesus intended this walk to be an intake of sorts. I think he wanted to hear this man’s story. More importantly, I think he wanted to establish a friendship.

After they settled into their makeshift hangout, Jesus spit on this man’s eyes and then laid his hands upon them. When he asked him what he saw, the man gave one of the most easily understandable descriptions, people look like trees, I know they’re not trees, but that’s what they look like. Jesus received the man’s perceptions, laid his hands upon his eyes again, and perfected his vision.

In 1st Corinthians, Paul writes:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  -1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV, emphasis mine)

 

Jesus did not have to make a second go at healing this man. He was all-powerful. If he wanted to, he could’ve snapped his fingers and given this man the eyes of a hawk. But there was a deeper subtext he sought to convey.

We all have moments when all we need is perspective. Two weeks after I came out, I remember lying on the couch in the living room, burying my face in a pillow, shouting at my parents about the loss of my sanity. Seriously.

In the tangled mess of my thoughts I started to question whether I truly existed or if I was living in some sort of Matrix. I threw my middle finger in the air at a God that I had reduced to a mere flight of the imagination. And I just laid there, shivering in a nightmarish world that I had no hope of waking up from.

My mom looked at me, smiling.

“Honey. You’ve known that you were gay for roughly ten years and have been afraid to open up about it until now. Furthermore, you came out to the whole family and you did so less than 24 hours after a failed suicide attempt. That is a lot to happen all at once, for anyone. Now, here’s what we can do. If you believe that you are truly losing your grip on reality, you can come upstairs and lay in our bed for as long as you want. We could just sit on this for a few days. I think after this night is over, you will see that much of this is simply the anxiety of the moment. If it turns out its not, we’ll go to the hospital.”

She couldn’t possibly put herself in my head that night or roll the tape of my past decade. This was completely unfamiliar territory for her. But yet, she could still relate somehow. She knew what it was like to be swept away in the anxiety avalanche and she knew where to look for the clearing in the clouds. She took what her tears taught her and showed me that trees are not people.

That what I see is not necessarily what is.

The dialogue that takes place in Mark is an undertone of a greater truth. It is an intentional example of how we are all blind when left to our own devices. Without the hands of healers and the words of the wise we will always fail to see where we are situated in the greater story. I don’t think that this account is simply about repairing the fellow’s retinas. It was about restoring reality.

In our prayer life, the old adage: “pray until something changes or you change”, fits this story well. When we meet with Christ, he desires us to vent about our life. He wants us, if just for a minute, to forget the fact that he already knows and instead let him in like we would a confidant. I think he wants to take that walk with us first. As we return and return to that oasis of confidence, he continues to rub our eyes clean of lies.

It’s clear that Christ is the only force capable of clearing out our inner cobwebs, but that doesn’t mean that this happens only through prayer.

It’s a call to walk with one another no matter the distance. It’s a promise that when we reach that place of intimacy, we will see that our walls are stumbling blocks not shields. In that place, we stop theorizing about the future. We cry out: Carpe Diem! The scales slowly pile up at our feet and our distortions no longer deny us that sweet breath of life. And then, we dust one another off and take a different road home.

We see trees and we see people.

RR

Forgive them, Father

Image

I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up without a dad.

Not just the physical absence of a father, but with a workaholic, all-too-serious sort, that just so happens to have his name on your birth certificate. The jerk that chooses conference calls over chanting at a Twins game. The idol that forever promises a fishing trip that never happens. The drunk that just spent away your soccer money.

I have been so blessed.

See, my pops is the total package. If you think yours is better, you are so wrong.

The most magical memories of my childhood consist of him chasing me around the house, falling asleep while he yawned through Bernstein Bears, and sitting securely in his lap as sirens rang. Beyond being the playmate of my siblings and myself, he was always our biggest fan. Whether it be in sports, music, school plays, or video games, he covered us in his confidence.

But, being an unathletic son of a father who loves sports, my performance as a player was always a sensitive spot.

There was one time in particular.

I am a slow runner. Known this since I was little. Just an accepted fact of life. So, it makes perfect sense that in 5th grade I signed up for track. The consequences of this courage were not fully realized until I faced my first meet.

There I was, waiting for the shot of the gun in my hurdles heat, looking right and left at the boys and girls gritting their teeth as if they had waited their whole lives for this moment.

Then,

Shot.

Hesitation.

First hurdle knocked.

Last in the pack.

Second down.

Third down.

Everyone is watching.

Across the line, all alone.

I think, in those seconds of slow moving shame, an emotional instinct kicked in and I involuntarily looked up for my dad. Feeling like a failure, I imagined that maybe he would give me an “oh well” look or some sort of pity eyes. But the moment my eyes met his, I knew I had won something.

He was all smiles.

Thumbs up.

Laughing, not insultingly, but in a “way to finish!” way.

I smiled.

I laughed.

And forgot about failure.

He wears the cape better than most, and walks more humbly than I wish he would.

In the moments after I came out of the closet, that same dad swept me up in his arms. As I cried and cried, he whispered “I love you!” “I love YOU!”. He was more than just the dad I needed him to be in that moment. He was more. He is more.

As these things commonly go in the post-closet period, we sought out resources as to what we should next. After much searching, a good friend that was heavily involved in the ex-gay crowd recommended that my parents, especially my dad, watch a video entitled Homosexuality 101. It’s a short, 20 minute show that can be accessed online.

Sitting in the family room with my older brother, I heard sniffling and staggering steps approaching me. It was my dad. He was weeping. He started telling me how sorry he was that he failed me as a father. He spoke of how he pressured me too much to succeed and how that probably created a distance between us and how there were so many unmentionable mistakes he made. When asked, I couldn’t get an answer as to what they were. He was heart broken, and more miserable than I had ever seen him. I can’t even imagine what his thoughts were at that moment.

See, he had just watched a video that explains the reason why a young man develops same sex attractions is because his father never established a close relationship to his child at a young age. He did not express his love fully enough for the young boy in question to reciprocate, and in turn, trust him. The mystery of homosexuality could all be tied back to the dad that wasn’t there.

In layman’s terms: Dad, you fucked up. The pain your child feels is a direct result of your refusal to display a love that the child could believe in. You probably didn’t take him to enough hockey games, or ever confront a scraped knee with “rub some dirt in it.” You made yourself an enemy to your boy and now the consequences of your ineptitude have made him into a homo. Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.

Really?

This guy?

The daddy who kissed me on the head every night before I fell asleep and, without fail, told me he loved me every chance he got? The man who ended any argument with another reminder that he loved me? The guy who was always there? At every sports event? Every play? Every recital? Every trip? The dad that abandoned his job whenever I took ill? The father that rocked me in his arms at my most vulnerable moment?

There was never a single second (unless I was behaving horribly) that I ever ever ever felt like a disappointment to him or wasn’t loved by him. There has never been a deficiency in our relationship at all.

Despite the evidence of this theory being fully debunked and labeled a made up myth, the church continues to call it Truth. And being a man of the church, my dad bought it.

The paralyzing guilt of imaginary memories of running away from his paternal role has landed him in church-inflicted purgatory.

Even as I fight with reason, faith, the American Psychiatric Association, my mom, his friends, therapists and every piece of rational data out there, I have yet to fully uproot his convinced culpability. He has started to parse out fact from fiction, but the trauma of that video still haunts him.

And I don’t know why.

I don’t know why the church pedals reparative therapy as an answer to their theological dilemma, despite it resulting in countless suicides.

I don’t know why they think its fit to equate gays to rapists and murders.

I don’t know why they say dads make kids gay.

I don’t know why they flog my father.

But I do know how I am to respond.

Even if its through clenched teeth.

 “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”

RR