New York was where I ended up next.
I stayed with my favorite cousin and was also able to meet up with some friends. One friend in particular met up with me and showed me around Brooklyn. We ended up at this restaurant with this hebrew name and for the life of me I can’t recall it- but it was amazing food and I had mint lemonade for the first time. It was real mint and real lemonade. Pure heaven.
I never did the video for my church.
The idea that captured my heart in a myriad of ways was a series of questions that I set out to answer.
What is the trajectory of my life and the stewardship of my sexuality going to look like?
What if I am wrong about celibacy being the default answer to a faithful Christian expression for someone like me?
What about those individuals and portions of the church that affirm that God blesses same sex monogamous unions?
See, I was going to do a video and say:
I follow Jesus,
I have same sex attraction,
and because I believe Jesus is better- I’m going to commit to abstaining from acting on my same sex attraction
…for life” something along those lines…
I began to doubt both for myself and for those I’d be saying this to that this was in fact true/necessary.
I realized that I had always known only one side of the discussion of this issue. I knew my convictions. I was convinced of them and lived by them and was at peace and gave no thought to the “other side” of a dialogue that was being held by people who loved and followed Jesus just like I did.
I was content to just be me and not really engage or understand why other Christians believed something different.
This is why when this idea came to my mind I knew I had to wrestle and engage head on.
I knew that years down the line these same questions would inevitably come up again. It just so happened that these questions came at a time where I had the free time to engage them.
I’ve gone through a number of phases during my short time alive. In no particular order I’ve done the following over the years..
* Coming to terms with my sexual orientation and varying degrees of loving myself in the process
* Successfully and unsuccessfully entering into opposite sex relationships for a time
* Going through a period of refusing to actually name or speak of my sexual orientation or call myself gay because “Jesus was my identity” *Countless nights of prayer and tears and anguish for God to take “this” away
*Counseling- lots of counseling
* Consulted preachers for the possibility of having the gay prayed /exorcised out of me.
all of this – to finally coming to terms with this part of my humanity and seeking as best I could to live up to my conviction regarding celibacy- to say yes to what I believed to be a prohibition from God to act on my same sex inclination.
The next two months after my return from Rocky Mountain National Park, when the idea/questions emerged- I plunged myself into wrestling.
Talking to people who were close to me who already walked along side me in my journey of faith. My close friends that I spoke of in my last post.
Also, I did a TON of reading.
In about 6 and half weeks time I read 7 books.
I read books on both sides of the dialogue. The two most convincing for the side I was already on were:
Wesley Hill’s “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality”
(which by the way wasn’t the first time because I’ve literally read that book 11 times- it’s just that amazing)
Also, Kevin DeYoung’s “What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?”
The most compelling and insightful book that I’ve read on the other side of the dialogue was
“Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships” by James V Brownson
This guy is extremely thorough- it’s a dense read. I liked it.
In addition to my time in New York – I went to a small coastal town in North Carolina for a retreat where a group of people from the support group I mentioned in the last post were gathered. It was so life giving to be with these people who I had known online for a few years and was finally able to meet in person.
It was perfect timing in the midst of my wrestling because it helped reinforce where I already stood on the issue and remember why I believed what I did.
I realized during my wrestling that there was a subconscious fear that I would not be able to endure life long celibacy.
It took having a conversation with a friend, someone I looked up to –
(a man who was heavily immersed in secular gay culture and ended up coming to faith, marrying a straight woman, together they now have a baby boy, and he’s pastoring a church and ministry that seeks to build bridges between the church and the gay community as a whole)
this friend helped me realize my subconscious fear by reminding me of Jesus instruction to not worry about tomorrow.
I realized I was projecting into the future what “couldn’t be possible” and not taking in to account God’s grace each day. Or spiritual growth and maturity over time. That if I lived each day in dependency on God that I could in fact – go a whole life time being celibate if that was what God had for me. So that helped and put things in perspective.
Still, I began to wonder about potential life long loneliness and the expectations and boundaries within intimacy and what that would look like for my life.
At some point during all of my wrestling I became mentally exhausted. I had earnestly hoped that I would arrive at a clear cut- “this is it – clear and simple” destination.
I wanted to find this invisible yet palpable line that I could either confidently avoid or cross, but instead I found this amalgam,textured hue of grey.
Please don’t misunderstand.
I’m not saying this isn’t a black and white issue. I’m sure it is. But so far in my journey, grey is what I’ve found.
The week when the sermon about being Gay and Christian at my church was supposed to be preached (when, my video would have aired had I went ahead with it) I met with my Pastor in the hospital as he was with his wife who was bed ridden because of pregnancy complications with their yet to be born son. (special note- he was born, and survived and is doing exceptionally well now thank God)
My Pastor and I had a deep conversation that day about my wrestling and journey and I can honestly say that God met us in that moment together as we talked.
A week later during a seminar follow up to the sermon I found myself decidedly putting down the pursuit of wrestling. I was at peace with remaining with the conviction I had always known. Holding to it for myself.
Something did happen though. I came away from my time of wrestling with a deeper understanding and empathy towards the other side. I knew the way they saw things now.
I also, currently find myself in this place where I don’t believe the other side is “wrong”. Does that make me affirming? Some would say yes, I think so to.
On a Sunday while in New York, I got lost trying to go to Hillsong Church and ended up stumbling into this beautiful Gothic style Cathedral. It was an Episcopal Church. I attended services there and afterward met a priest who invited me out to dinner with their 20’s/30’s group.. It was his way of building community in the neighborhood. I began to talk to him at dinner and learned that he was married to another man. This was my first face to face encounter with an individual who was Christian and affirming and in an actual marriage.
On my return to Atlanta I met other affirming Christians had some pretty insightful conversations with people who were gracious enough to grab coffee, invite me to worship, and parties, etc. and patiently answer all the questions I had for them.
I’m not sure how to land this plane, so i’ll just end on some final thoughts.
Sometimes I miss the place with the six kitchens. Sometimes I get anxious with what may be ahead as far as my vocation. At present I still don’t have full time work. Only three part time jobs. One of which includes being an extra on different film sets here in Atlanta. I’ve done a few tv shows and about to work on a second major film in a week. This has been a lot of fun and i’ve been able to meet some great people.
On one of my hikes while in Rocky Mountain National Park I met and walked with a woman in her sixties. I remember telling her about having recently lost a great job and feeling really down about it and she said simply “life is more than just work” and that has stuck with me.
I’ve tried to make mint lemonade on my own but so far it doesn’t compare to what I had while in New York.
Thank you for your time and sharing in my story telling- coming out- therapeutic vent session. God bless.