Friday, December 5, 2014

I Need to Keep Listening.

I wrote this about a year and a half ago, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict. It seems all the more appropriate now. As I read back over my words, I'm convicted that I have not listened very well over the last few months. I've a lot more talking and "convincing" than listening and learning. I can still echo my words from the summer of 2013: "As I reflect on the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin [Mike Brown, Eric Garner, etc. etc. ] verdict [or lack thereof], I'm [still] realizing just how much I don't understand.


It was a little after 9:00 on a cold, Chicago winter night. Our RUF group was spending a week serving, learning, and living on the city's South Side with a local ministry, and we had just finished dinner at a couple's home. As we walked the few blocks back to the ministry's office, a woman came around the corner. She gave us one look, and, in a low voice, she warned, "You boys watch out. There's a cop back there."

I was confused. Watch out? For a cop? Why did we need to watch out for a cop? In fact, I felt safer knowing that cop was there, know. We were a group of white kids wearing expensive clothes walking through a black neighborhood late at night. Surely we weren't the ones the cops should be looking out for!

But then it dawned on me. I remembered what the ministry staff had told us earlier that week. White kids from the suburbs do come to this inner-city neighborhood on a regular basis. They come to buy drugs.

It suddenly made sense. I wanted to turn around and chase down this woman. I wanted to say, "Wait a minute! You have it all wrong! You think that we're here to buy drugs...just because we're white? As if that's the only reason we'd ever be in your neighborhood?"

Those words that I wanted to say, those perceptions and assumptions I wanted to all stuck with me for a few days. It made me uncomfortable, but as I reflected on that discomfort, I realized that it was temporary. It was limited. It was localized. At the end of the day, it didn't really impact my life.

In just a few days, I would be leaving this neighborhood and returning to my life in the majority. I would return to no longer worrying about society pre-judging me and my motives by the color of my skin. Store clerks would not watch me any more closely than anyone else when I went shopping. People would not lock their car doors when I passed by. Overzealous neighbors would not follow me with a gun when I walked around my neighborhood.

My mom never had to have the talk with me about how to avoid being seen as a threat simply by existing somewhere. I've never thought twice about getting into an elevator with a white woman...or anyone, for that matter. When driving through the gate of my Christian college after midnight, my friends and I could hold up slices of cheese instead of our Samford ID cards, and the security guard would simply wave us through, chuckling.

As I reflect on the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict, I'm realizing just how much I don't understand. 

It's one thing for me, as a white man, to say, "this isn't about race!" It's another for me to realize that for thousands of my fellow Americans and brothers & sisters in is most definitely about race. It's one thing for me, as a member of the majority, to say, "I don't care what color you are! It makes no difference to me!" It's another for me to realize that many of my fellow Americans and brothers & sisters in Christ care very deeply about what color they are...that it makes a very big difference to them.

It's one thing for me to say, "Justice was served! It was a trial by a jury of peers! Let's accept the decision and move on." It's another for me to realize that, regardless of the trial's legitimacy, the verdict does nothing to calm or assuage the deep-seated fear and pain of these fellow Americans, my brothers & sisters in Christ. If anything, the verdict confirms those fears, it intensifies the pain, and my callous words of color-blindness only spit in their wounds. 

If I'm going to love my brothers and sisters of different races, I don't need to explain and argue to them why I'm not prejudiced. I don't need to tell them why my words weren't intended to be hurtful and why they should give me the benefit of the doubt. I need to be quiet. I need to reflect. I need to pray. I need to cry. I need to sit beside and stand in solidarity. I need to listen. I need to listen a lot. I need to keep listening until I think I can't bear to hear anymore, and then I need to keep listening. 

Then...maybe then...I can speak.

I don't understand prejudice. I don't understand race relations in America. I can't understand the depth of pain and fear and anger generated by George Zimmerman's not-guilty verdict. I don't know what a black mother feels now every time her teenage son walks out the door.

But I can't be content to sit here in this lack of understanding. I must listen, I must ask questions, and I must learn. I must be willing to admit that I've been blind, that I've been callous...that I've been wrong. I must let myself be shaped by the love of our Savior, love that isn't color-blind, but love that sees and values the beauty of diversity he created...diversity that leads us to greater unity. 

There's a lot I don't understand about racism and racial prejudice, but I want to learn. Before I speak, I need to listen. Before I claim my innocence, I need to consider where I might be complicit...or even guilty. I need friends of different races and cultures who can tell me their stories, who can teach me, who can show me different aspects of the gospel that I've never seen.

When we do this, whether or not our beliefs or political positions change, we will be able to engage in the conversation in a way that truly reflects the love of our Savior. When we discuss the Trayvon Martin case, we won't just think of a generic "them." We will think of names and faces and stories and tears. We will think of people we care about so deeply that their pain becomes our pain.

Christians are called to identify with the outcast, to stand with the oppressed and seek justice.

We're called to weep with those who weep, to mourn with those mourn. Right now, the African-American community is mourning. It's hurting. What will our response be, people of God?

Let's start by listening.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We Must Do Better.


Simple word, but it packs a punch. 

They. Those. Their.

We use these words everyday without any concern. They're basic, 3rd-person plural pronouns, after all, merely indicating objects or people that are in some way other than oneself. 

These words are basic building blocks of language, seemingly harmless--and most of the time they cause no problems. But have you ever considered what it would feel like if you were only ever described by these pronouns? If you were always "they" and "them" and never "we" or "us"? What would that do to you? You may not notice at first--it may be that subtle--but I imagine that after a while, you would begin to experience that otherness, to feel it. 

Pastor Scott Sauls in Nashville let me post part of my story as a same-sex attracted Christian on his blog a couple weeks ago, and I've been overwhelmed by the feedback. Many of the messages are short expressions of gratitude and encouragement. I've also received my share of criticism and misunderstanding...from both sides of the "issue." (I'm learning to have thick skin and a soft heart...which is a hard combo to master). I truly appreciate each of these messages, but the ones that have touched me most are the stories--the "me too" stories. Many of these stories involve struggle with same-sex attraction, but some do not. Every story is unique, but every story also seems to have something in common--a sense of longing to be known, to be understood. Every story is characterized by a deep desire to be truly known and truly loved, which, Tim Keller says, is "a lot like being loved by God." 

One such email arrived in my inbox a couple nights ago. Its powerful simplicity left me stunned. Its tragedy left me heartbroken. I'll let you read it for yourself (with the author's express permission, of course).

Hi Stephen,
I'm 17, and was raised as a Christian and believed in God for as long as I can remember. Still do. But, I'm also a lesbian. And I know all this stuff about remaining celibate to honor God, but I just can't be at peace with that. I can't want that for my life. With all due respect, I admire you for being able to do that, but I can't seem to resist temptation like that. If I have to choose between God and marrying a woman, I choose God. But I want both. I don't want to go to hell for being with a woman, but I don't want to get to heaven to hear God say I could've married one anyway. I don't know what to do right now.

I don't know this young lady. I don't know her friends or family. I don't know her church or her context. All I know is this: She was raised as a Christian, and she is attracted to other women. From her email, it seems she only sees two options for her life: she can either be lonely and go to heaven, or she can find love and go to hell. Like I heart broke. 

My heart broke for her, but it also broke because there are so many others who believe these are their only two options. This story is way more common than you may suspect: the story of the kid who grows up in the church, believing and doing all the right things. The kid begins to realize he's different than his peers, and he inherently knows that this difference must be hidden. He can't talk about it with anyone...least of all other Christians. Why not?

Remember those 3rd-person plural pronouns? Most of the time, when homosexuality is discussed in the evangelical church, it's discussed in terms of "they" and "them." It's "those people" out there. "They deserve God's judgment." "They have an agenda." "We must stop them." Even if it's a message of love, it's still "We must love them." 

You'll hear the common sins and safe struggles spoken about from the pulpit in terms of "we" and "us." Jealousy. Greed. Anger. Lust. Pride. All the usual suspects. When we talk about these sins with "we" and "us," there's a sense of our common brokenness. We may not all struggle with this particular sin, but we know there are those among us who do.  There's a sense of belonging that begins to eat away at the shame. Maybe you can talk about this after all. Maybe you can let someone else bear your burden with you. Maybe it is safe to let other believers into your life, because they are on your team. 

But if you only hear your story discussed in the Church in terms of "them," chances are you won't believe you're really on the team. As you hear "bold" and "true" statements of condemnation issued toward those people and expressions of solidarity and support for our people who are opposing those people, you'll begin to wonder just exactly which team you're really on. You can stay on the team you've always known, the team you love, but the price must be a life of secrecy and isolation. Or you can leave your team and find a better fit, but that price must be giving up all that you've known and loved and believed...and you'll always have that nagging fear that you're wrong. 

Church, this is not the gospel. This is not the good news that Jesus came to embody, the hope that must characterize His Bride until He comes back. Our doctrine and teaching about homosexuality might be sound and biblical, but if our own children are growing up in fear and isolation, believing they must choose between God and Love, then Church, we must do better. If our own children see this as their only choice, what must those outside the Church think?

Maybe we've done a good job of explaining the sinfulness of homosexual relationships, but what about explaining what it actually looks like to follow Jesus as a same-sex attracted Christian? It seems the picture we've painted is a bleak one, characterized by loneliness and a lack of intimacy. As the very Body of Christ, the Church should be characterized by intimate, loving, grace-centered friendships, for married and single people alike. In the Church, singleness should not mean a lack of intimate relationships. Maybe our main failure as the Church has not been our teaching about homosexuality but rather our teaching about the Church herself!

You probably don't know the girl who sent me this email, but I guarantee you know a girl or a boy who could write an email just like this one. You probably know a few of them. They sit next you in the pews on Sunday morning. They're active in the youth group. They have watched movies in your living room and eaten your food and swam in your pool and you might never know who they are. You probably wouldn't have guessed about me either.

If I may be so bold, may I ask you some questions? 

How do you speak about homosexuality to your friends, your church, your community, and your family? How do speak about it on social media? Are your words seasoned with grace and humility or are they characterized by arrogance and disdain? Do you talk about it as an issue to be dealt with...or people with stories to be heard? Do you only use 3rd-person plural pronouns, or do you remember that the people you're speaking to may be struggling with this themselves?

Read that email again. What if this young lady is your student or parishioner? What if she is your friend...or the friend of your child? What if she is, in fact, your daughter? Take a moment and think. Does she know that you would still love her if you knew her full story? Does she know you wouldn't reject her?

Maybe she does know. Maybe you've told her a million times that you will always love her. But maybe the real question is: does she believe it? 

As we proclaim the Truth of the gospel, may we always do so in a way that also communicates the sacrificial love and compassion of our Savior. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Real Enemy...

"Katniss, when you're in the arena...remember who your real enemy is."

The real enemy? When you're in an arena full of people trying to kill you, who isn't a real enemy? Katniss was on the way to her second appearance in the Hunger Games, where she was sure to be the prime target of the other former victors, and her mentor, Haymitch, was talking about "real enemies." 

If I'm Katniss Everdeen, I'm coming out swinging. I'm shooting my arrows first, asking questions later. I've seen too much carnage. The Hunger Games only have one survivor.

But Haymitch was right, wasn't he? At the end of the day, the other competitors were not Katniss's real enemy. Sure, some of them were trying to kill her (certainly a qualification for "enemy" in my opinion). However, even the "career" tributes from District 2 were not her real enemy...and she wasn't theirs either. The real enemy was the Capitol--the oppressive government that created the Hunger Games in the first place. It was the sadistic system that annually required all 12 districts of Panem to send two teenage tributes to fight each other to the death.

Katniss's real enemies were not the other tributes...not even the ones who were trying to kill her. No. Katniss's real enemy was the Capitol, the power that played them all against each other. While all the tributes fought and killed one another in the Arena, year after year, the Capitol was the real enemy of all of them.

This picture stuck with me from Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy--this picture of men and women fighting each other in a bloodbath, fighting for their very lives, forgetting that they all share a common enemy. This picture stuck with me because I think it's pretty similar to where we are right now in the Culture Wars. 

Make no mistake: despite some seemingly holy intentions, the Culture War is no holy war.

At the end of the day, even if a winner does emerge from the battle, like the Hunger Games, the carnage left behind is irreparable...and there will just be another fight the following year. More fear. More blood. More victims. The victor survives, but no one really one, that is, except the real enemy behind it all.

Enter "God is Not Dead," the movie...stage right.
This movie, now in theaters, appears to be one more shot fired in the Culture Wars, and a particularly vindictive one at that.

Christian college student Josh Wheaton goes off to college and is told by the atheist Professor Radisson on the first day of philosophy class that he must sign a paper saying "God is Dead" or receive an F. He refuses, which according to the movie's website, provokes an "irate reaction from his smug professor." The professor challenges Josh to a head-to-head debate where he must present "well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence" for the existence of God...or, again, fail. And we can probably figure out what happens from there.

Okay, to be fair, I haven't seen this movie. I've only seen the trailer. So I stand ready to be corrected if my take here is wrong. However, let's remember that the trailer is produced by the same people who produced the movie. They select the clips and the quotes to include. One would imagine they'd put their best foot forward in the trailer. Well...see for yourself:

This is war. It's on. The faithful vs. the unfaithful. The believers vs. the unbelievers. The Christian faith is under attack, we must fight back. “This is something God wants me to do," an exasperated Josh explains to his girlfriend, "I can’t just turn away from it.” This is a war that God has commissioned. 

But did He? 

We often hear the verse quoted from 1 Peter, "always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." Yes, we should be prepared to make a defense...but neither should we forget the rest of the verse! "Yet do it with gentleness and respect." It appears from the trailer that Josh was prepared to defend his faith, but gentleness and respect? In the last scene of the trailer, we see Josh up in his professor's face, yelling, demanding, "WHY DO YOU HATE GOD?"

Put yourselves in the shoes of someone who does not believe in God. You've just watched this trailer for "God is Not Dead." What question are you asking yourself? Perhaps you're asking, "Why do Christians hate me?

"But there really are professors like that!" some will say. "There really are antagonistic atheists, especially on college campuses!" Yes, indeed there are. (Although I highly doubt that requiring freshmen to recant their faith in order to pass a class would fly in any serious institution today.) But yes, there are antagonistic atheists, and there are professors who try to convince their students that God is dead. There are also Christians who belittle and demonize atheists. There are Christians who make movies that misrepresent them. There are Christians who yell, "WHY DO YOU HATE GOD?" 

Atheists are not our real enemy...neither are Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, or other Christians we happen to disagree with.

"Okay, but they're fighting us!" They might be. Some certainly are! Many, I would argue, are largely indifferent toward us...when we're not yelling at them, that is. But what of the ones who are fighting us? What about those antagonistic college professors? What about the activists who want to label Christian doctrine as hate speech? What about the other tributes in the Arena--the ones trying to kill Katniss?

We must remember who the real enemy is.

Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but rather, against "the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (6:12) And what of our "enemies" here on earth? Those who hate us, who demean and belittle us, those who would even seek to do us harm? Jesus is clear: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." (Luke 6:27-28)

We are not trying to defeat people. We're not fighting against people, even if they are fighting against us. We are called to love, and there is no greater love, Christ tells us, than someone laying down his life for his friends. Christ laid down his life for us when were his enemies. Are we not called to follow his pattern of self-sacrifice? I love this line from a hymn and its description of the Church's mission: "Our call to war: to love the captive soul, but to rage against the captor; And with the sword that makes the wounded whole, we will fight with faith and valor." Amen.

When will we see the college professor not simply as the "antagonistic atheist," but as the man, created in God's image, who loves the pursuit of knowledge and truth, who has been gifted with great intelligence, who loves and takes care of his family...and who needs Jesus? When will we see our neighbor not as the "weird new-age lady," but as the woman, created in God's image, who loves our planet and our fellow creatures, who has been gifted with great creativity and passion, who works hard for the peace of her community...and who also needs Jesus?

Enter "Noah"...stage left.
I've seen a number of Christians decrying the "Noah" movie that's also out in theaters right now. They list many things wrong with it, but one argument I keep seeing goes something like this: "the movie is made by a self-avowed atheist! How could an atheist make a good movie about the Bible? It's seeking to undermine Christian teaching, and thus, we should fight against it." Yes, it's true. Darren Aronofsky doesn't believe in the God of the Bible. Yes, his screenplay departs from the biblical narrative in a number of very significant ways. However, I think he made a powerful movie. There were some large theological holes, sure. (The rock people were more-than-a-little hokey.) But ultimately, in Aronofsky's "Noah," we see the depths of human sin, we see God's divine judgment of that sin, and we see God's mercy to those who really don't deserve it. We see Noah wrestling between the concepts of justice and mercy. Is that not the gospel? Certainly not the complete gospel, but at least a glimpse of it? Instead of decrying the fact that an unbeliever made a movie that departed from the biblical account, can we not rejoice that an unbeliever made a movie that demonstrates some of the most basic themes of the good news to mainstream audiences? Can we admit that someone who doesn't believe in God can still make a movie that we can learn from?

Because of its artistry and its themes of justice and mercy, I won't be surprised if "Noah," a movie by an unbeliever, starts far more gospel conversations than "God is Not Dead," a movie made by Christians...a movie that can't seem to decide if it's an evangelistic device or self-congratulatory diatribe. 

Friends, Professor Radisson is not the enemy. Darren Aronofsky is certainly not the enemy. Our real enemy is the Devil, who would much rather us focus our firepower toward our fellow humans. He is the one we fight.

However, unlike Katniss, we fight with the knowledge that the real enemy has already been defeated. We fight with the full assurance of the outcome. We take courage, and through love and self-sacrifice, we fight to show our "enemies" here on earth that our real enemy is the father of lies, and Christ offers freedom.

The words are Haymitch's to Katniss, but they could very well be Paul's words to the Ephesian church and to us...

"Katniss [Christians], when you're in the arena [the world]...remember who the real enemy is."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lord, Have Mercy...

"If only God would take away this same-sex attraction, I'd be a pretty good guy. Still sinful, mind you! Depraved since birth! But really--overall--pretty darn good. (See? "darn." I don't even cuss!)"

I wish I could attribute this quote to someone else...I really do...but I can't. I've never said this statement out loud. I've never even thought it--not consciously, at least--but this sentiment ran very deep in my psyche for years. There was even a point where I decided God had given me this burden to keep me humble, because otherwise, I wouldn't have a whole lot to confess.

What a bunch of shit. ( I do cuss).

My same-sex attraction was always my "go-to" during silent confession time in church. I knew I only had about 30 seconds of silence before the assurance of pardon, so I'd slip it in real quick. "God, I confess my attraction to other guys. I'm screwed up. This is not your will for me. Please forgive me. Amen." Or something  like that. Sometimes I'd be a little more eloquent, and sometimes I'd also confess more specifics, but in general, my personal confessions of sin usually revolved around my sexual orientation.

It was a lot easier that way. It's my obvious "thorn in the flesh," right? In many ways, it was like I'd just made peace with the eccentric uncle who lives upstairs that you just have to put up with because he's always been there and he's not going anywhere anytime soon.

I have been taught and always believed the doctrine of total depravity. I believe that we are born in sin, unable to choose Christ on our own. But how convenient...I always had such a nice, clean-cut way to view my depravity: I was the guy who liked other guys. That's messed up, right? So messed up. Wow. Glad I understand my sinful nature! When's lunch?

Last February, I sat in my little church with the green carpet waiting for the Ash Wednesday service to begin. Now, I'll be honest, I had grown a lot over the past couple years in understanding my same-sex attraction. I'd begun to understand that while my orientation is a tragic result of the Fall, my attractions themselves are not the sinful part. The sin is my lust, just like it is for everyone. I'd also begun to see how lust was just the tip of the iceberg--that my idolatry was stretched far wider and rooted far deeper than just my sexual attractions.

But as I headed to church that chilly Knoxville evening, I was looking forward to my first Ash Wednesday since admitting to myself that my sexuality didn't work the way it was designed to. After finally being honest with myself about the extent of my same-sex attractions for the first time, wouldn't I be that much more in touch with my brokenness when I took the ashes? It would be so powerful.

So there I sat, the piano playing softly in the background, waiting for the service to begin. I remember the atmosphere in the sanctuary was somber...but hopeful. I silently looked over the order of worship, reading and internalizing the words of the hymns.

I felt at peace.

Then he walked in. The guy that everybody knows...the one who never seems conscious of where he is or how loud he's speaking...the one who can take even the most solemn of occasions and turn it into a joke. He saw me, smiled, and started heading my direction.

I no longer felt at peace.

He plopped down next to me and immediately started asking questions...loudly. He started telling me about his, so loudly. He seemed almost giddy about being there. Did he even know what this service was about? I smiled--it might have even been a  warm smile--as I quietly wished he wasn't there, that he had just stayed home.

The service began, and he quieted down. But then, as we were reciting the corporate confession, a baby starting wailing, shrieking. The piercing cry sent a shiver down my spine. There I was--having a moment--and this parents thought this child needed to be there wailing in the sanctuary with us instead of the nursery. They probably thought it was cute. I tried to focus on the confession while I quietly wished the baby wasn't there, that he was back in the nursery where he belonged.

As the pastor started the sermon, the parents finally took the baby to the nursery. Peace. I listened to the message about our sin, our brokenness, and the hope that is found in the Cross. Then I realized that my friend wasn't there. Why wasn't he there? What, did he have something better to do? Something more important? I knew he wasn't working. Did he think he didn't need to hear about his sin, his brokenness, our hope found in Jesus? Was he too good for an Ash Wednesday service? Too proud? Too Protestant? Really, it was pretty typical of his whole attitude lately. Oh wait...there he was. He must have slipped in late. Oops. I smiled, smugly. I was glad he was there, but I was more glad I was there first.

Now you're probably waiting for the part where I had some epiphany, where the ashes were placed on my forehead and, all of a sudden, I realized the anger that was in my heart. There was no such moment. To be honest, I was perfectly aware of my hypocrisy...right there in the midst of it...the whole time. As I was wishing that guy wasn't there, as I decided that my life in that moment would be better without him...I was hating him. By Jesus' standards in the Sermon on the Mount, I murdered him. I knew exactly what I was doing. I tried not to. I tried to love him. I managed to pretend love on the outside, but inside...I just couldn't.

My heart sank.

It was the same with the baby. Ironic how I'm all in favor of babies when they're in the womb, but when they're crying in church and disturbing my "moment," I wish they weren't there. I hate them, and thus, I murder them.

I judged my friend when I thought he had skipped out on the service. I made up reasons why he probably wasn't there. Never mind the fact that he actually was there, and never mind the fact that I had been late to church dozens and dozens of times--usually because of a long line at Starbucks. This time though, I judged him, and I felt prouder of myself for obviously caring more about my brokenness than he did.

Once again I realized, as I sat there in a sanctuary full of God's people, full of people marked by the sign of the Cross, men and women, old and young, rich and poor, all admitting their brokenness and placing their hope in I sat there in the midst of that beautiful picture and couldn't shut off my heart's faucet of hate, I realized my sexual orientation was the least of my worries.

The root of my sin isn't finding the wrong sex beautiful. It's that I don't find Christ beautiful. My problem isn't "loving" the wrong people. It's that I don't really love anyone at all. 

So no...there was no great epiphany moment. No clouds opening or angels singing. That night was nothing new. I had been there before, and I have been there many times since. I was simply reminded once again just how deep my brokenness runs, that my sexual brokenness is just the icing on the cake. I'm not just the guy-who's-attracted-to-other-guys.

I'm the guy-who's-attracted-to-other-guys who also lacks patience...and hates babies...and judges his friends...and stretches the truth just a little bit in some details to make his stories more dramatic. [artistic license, right?]

I remember driving home after the service and sitting on my couch upstairs, the ashes still on my forehead. I looked in the mirror and saw the faded remnants of a smudged cross.

That ashen cross, that mark of hope in the midst of depravity, of beauty in the midst of brokenness...that mark reminded me that I'm the guy-who's-attracted-to-other-guys, who lacks patience, hates babies, judges his friends, stretches the truth, and so on and so on and so on...but most importantly, that ashen cross also reminded me that I am the guy who is loved by Jesus more than he'll ever be able to fully imagine or understand. I'm the guy who by the grace of God has a story with way more beautiful things to talk about than just his brokenness. 

Life is easier when we can put our sin in a box, label it with a marker, and stick it up in the attic. But our sin and brokenness won't all fit in boxes. It won't even all fit in the attic. It's not that simple and clear-cut. It's just a mess...a mess we can't even fully comprehend. Pack one box away in the attic, and inevitably, you come back downstairs to find a whole lot more.

On Ash Wednesday, the ashes remind us that we are broken. The cross reminds us that we are helpless on our own. Our mess is too big for us even to fathom, let alone deal with. We need a Savior who is far bigger than our mess to come take care of it. We don't just need a renovation...we need to be made new. 

Friends, whether or not you attend an Ash Wednesday service this year, I encourage you to imagine the cross, smudged in ash on your own forehead, marking you out as a child of the King. Marked in your brokenness.

From dust we came, and to dust we will return, but one day, our broken bodies will be raised up with Christ. We will be made right.

Yes, my sexuality will be redeemed, but far more importantly, I will finally know Love...and know Him deeply. 

Kyrie, Eleison...Lord, Have Mercy
Christe, Eleison...Christ, Have Mercy.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Learning to Love Myself...

Thank you to everyone who read my last post, and thanks especially to those of you who sent me feedback. I really appreciate it. In light of some of your responses, it seems like a follow-up post may be in order...and perhaps a little clarification.

In my last post, I shared my struggle to love myself as Jesus loves me...especially my kid-self. At the end, I wrote that learning to love myself probably started with loving that little boy. As I reflect more on what that looks like, I wonder just how loving it was for me to post that picture and some of those childhood memories for everyone to see.

As a 25-year-old man, I have no problem with you all reading  what I wrote on Wednesday night. All of those memories are in the past. We can look back now and smile, maybe even laugh. I'll smile and laugh too. Who wasn't a little strange as a kid? However, I have to ask myself...if little Stephen was sitting next to me right could I ever explain to him why I did what I did? 

Why did I do it? I wanted to make a point about love. Sure. I wanted to share what was going on in my own heart in hopes that it would encourage some of you in a similar place. Okay. But why else? Why did I pick out one of the most awkward childhood pictures I could find? Why did I wrack my brain trying to remember embarrassing childhood moments--moments that often earned me ridicule as a kid--so I could share them with the world-wide-web? 

Maybe in my honest effort to start loving that little boy, I was still trying to publicly distance myself from him as much as possible. "That was him," I wanted you to see..."but this is me. He is not me." 

Instead of only pointing out all the awkward parts of little Stephen's childhood, why didn't I also point out the cool and awesome things about him too? Honestly, there really was an awful lot to love about him. 

He was a phenomenal artist, and his masterpieces won plenty of art contests. He also loved to write. He'd write skits and stories and even novels...illustrated novels! He loved to perform. Whether it was for the family at Thanksgiving, for the school talent show, or as Mr. Bundles in a local production of Annie, little Stephen loved the limelight. Starting with a tape recorder and working up to a video camera, he and his friends would produce and star in countless radio shows and movies. They took three regular teddy bears and gave them names, voices, personalities, and their very own entertainment franchise. He was fascinated with Star Wars. He memorized all three original movies and knew the names and back-stories of every single character, major or minor. (He was also especially gifted at doing impressions of Star Wars characters.) Little Stephen dreamed of either being a movie star or President...but either way, he wanted to be famous. He was never all that good at physical activity or sports, but he always loved the Florida State Seminoles. Some of his favorite memories were going to FSU football games in Tallahassee with his family...and he was loyal to the end, win or lose. He was fascinated by history and loved all of his family's vacations to places like Washington D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg. He enjoyed school and got good grades. He was well-behaved and sweet and sensitive, and teachers always loved him. He always loved his teachers too.With his interests being so different from most other kids, it was sometimes hard for little Stephen to make friends, but when he did have friends, he loved them well too. He never had any siblings, but he always loved his cousins like they were his siblings. He had a very tender heart, and he never liked to see anyone upset or sad. He had a way of making people laugh. 

There's more that could be said, but that's a start. It feels a little strange and unnatural writing out cool things about my kid-self, but I guess it's the least I could do. It's funny, because most of these cool things didn't really make me cool back then. Some of these things kept me isolated, feeling different and strange and awkward. How easily we believe those lies we hear as kids. They're incredibly difficult to root out. Many of those lies still have their roots in me today...evidenced by my last post. Since when did different or abnormal become bad? Since when did God create boys and girls with cookie-cutters? Our God loves diversity. He creates diversity. I believe He hates it when we try to squelch diversity. 

One last comment on my previous post, and this comment will apply to all my future posts as well. Friends, I'm a feeler...a strong feeler, in fact (INFJ, baby). I'm wired to feel things very deeply, and I believe that's a good thing. Granted, we can't all be feelers...but good heavens, we certainly can't all be thinkers! [shudder] All this to say that my feeling impacts my writing. I write what I feel. I write what I feel because I like to write that way, but I also write what I feel because I believe that's a powerful way to connect with people on a deeper level. Of course, this means that what I write is not always necessarily what I think. When I wrote in my last post that I hated that little boy in the blue shorts, I should have clarified. I'm afraid many of you understandably took me at my word. By writing that I hated my kid-self, maybe it seemed I was somehow endorsing or settling into that hatred. That couldn't be further from the truth, but I see how many of you might have read it that way. 

My goal with this blog is to be real with you guys, and maybe even to encourage you all to be real with yourselves and real with other people. I don't actively, consciously hate my kid-self, but you know what? Sometimes I feel that anger. Sometimes it burns inside me, and instead of stuffing it down and pretending it doesn't exist because anger is bad, I think it's far better to name it for exactly what it is. I'm saddened by that anger. I often need to repent of that anger, but if I don't name that anger, it will only build and continue to control me. 

What are you angry about? What are you afraid to admit that you're angry about because you're not allowed to be angry about it? This is the anger that will control you, and one day, it might destroy you or those you love. Tell someone about that anger. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with God. Give that anger to Him. David certainly did just that in the Psalms. Don't pray for distraction or numbness...a mere absence of anger...pray for healing. Don't tell yourself you shouldn't be angry. Admit that you are, and lean into figuring out why. Repent if necessary. Maybe even be willing to admit that you are right to be angry about something. Evil is real. We see evil all over this world. We do evil, and evil is done to us. All of this should rightly make us angry, but in our anger, we must trust in a God who is far angrier about evil than we are. He weeps over it. He hates it. 

He defeated it. 

I'm sorry if you find this post to be self-important or over-dramatic. Maybe you saw nothing wrong with my last post...that's okay. In fact, that's good. I still stand firmly behind the message of my last post.

But as I seek to follow my own advice and learn to love myself, I felt like I owed my kid-self an apology for using his shame to garner laughs...for dealing callously with his pain in a public forum. That wasn't fair to him, and it wasn't fair to me. It was an affront to the loving Father who created that little me, fearfully and wonderfully...the Father who never stopped loving me, who never saw me as anything other than His. To deny that child dignity would be a great sin. That's why I wrote this follow-up post. I hope you understand. 

Grace and peace to you, folks. Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Learning to Love Yourself...

I hate this picture. 

Don't get me wrong...It's hilarious. I have to laugh every time I see it. This is one of those pictures you wish your mom had never taken...and one of those pictures you know you'll take of your own kids someday.

So what's going on here? It was Field Day...already an embarrassing occasion for awkward 2nd graders who like art class way more than P.E. My class was lined up for some relay or dash, and as we stood baking in the merciless Florida sun, I realized I could make my shadow look like a rooster. No one else seemed to notice (except for my mom), but that was okay. I was perfectly happy in my own imaginative world. I wanted to make my shadow look like a rooster. Why not?

It's a funny picture, yes, but I have to be honest...I hate it. I hate it because of how it makes me feel. I hate it because it makes me hate that little boy in the blue shorts.

If I could catch a time machine back to 1996 and show up at Covenant Christian School's Field Day, there are so many things I would say to this little boy. Maybe you can relate...

"Stop that!" I would say, "Put your hands down. You look ridiculous. Look at the other kids around you, standing in line like normal people. Why can't you just be normal? Look at the kid behind you with the soccer ball. Why can't you be more like him? Why can't you be good at sports? Why don't you even care about sports? If you would just stop being so weird you might actually have friends. Why are you looking at me like that? No no no...don't you dare cry, kid. Not here...not now. People are looking at you!. JUST STOP. JUST BE NORMAL.

That's what I would say to that boy--to seven-year-old Stephen--as he made his rooster shadows. That's what's in my heart. That's why I hate this picture.

I think it's fair to say I was a little quirky as a kid. I probably started one-too-many Star Wars clubs at school, and that was in my popular phase...when I actually had friends who would join those clubs. In third grade, I would reenact my favorite musical at the lunch tables by pulling my shirt over my head nun-style and singing "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" (a performance which ironically won me applause later in middle school: can't believe I'm posting this video.) I wasn't good at sports, and I couldn't have cared less about them...not even the Chicago Bulls. I didn't play video games, but I wrote a lot of Start Wars fan-fiction. I was really good at talking in muppet voices, especially Miss Piggy. I dressed up like Jar-Jar Binks for Halloween in 6th grade...the same year I cried in class for getting a demerit. I rarely got in trouble, but when I did, it was usually for subconsciously making Star Wars laser noises under my breath during class. (pew! pew! pew!)

Okay so what? I mean...I was kid. Now I'm 25...still plenty quirky, but a little more grown up. We can all look back at our childhoods now and laugh, right?

Maybe on the outside. I laugh because I'm supposed to laugh. I laugh patronizingly. Inside, I'm angry. Why did I have to be so weird? Why couldn't I have been a "normal" boy who liked Michael Jordan and Power Rangers and playing outside? I'm not angry at the kids who teased fact, I'm on their side. I'm laughing with them. No, I'm not angry at them. I'm angry at that little boy. I'm angry at me.

Maybe you can relate. You might not be angry at your elementary-school self, but maybe you're angry at that nerdy high-schooler or that wild-and-crazy college student. Maybe you're still angry at you. Maybe you still believe that you're to blame for everything wrong that's been said or done to you. Maybe it's not an old picture that you hate...maybe you hate what you see every time you look in the mirror.

It makes me sad that I still blame that little boy for getting picked on. I should want to hug him, to tell him how creative and funny and compassionate he is, to enter into his world of imagination and play. I should want to share some wisdom from what I've learned over the years, to be the big brother he never had. Instead, I continue to blame him. I may be older now and more "normal" (whatever that means), but deep down, I still see myself as that 2nd grader making rooster-shadows. I can't believe anyone really wants to be friends with me because I still don't think that I would want to be friends with me.

This isn't for lack of affirmation from other people. It's not a failure of communication but a failure of reception. I can't even hear the truth being spoken to me because the lies still echo far too loud.

I need to learn how to love myself.

Maybe that makes you nervous. Don't worry, as a Reformed Presbyterian, it makes me a little nervous too. I mean, isn't that what's wrong with American society? Everyone loves themselves too much, right? Everyone's too self-centered and thinks way too highly of themselves. Perhaps. That's certainly what it looks like on the surface.

You see, I definitely know how to blame myself. I know how to demean and belittle myself. I'm a pro at that. I also know how to indulge myself. I'm excellent at giving myself whatever I want and chasing after what will make me comfortable...but I have no idea what it means to show myself kindness or compassion...or love.

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus says in Mark 12:31. He didn't say "You shall love your neighbor instead of yourself," or even "more than yourself." The assumption is that we are to love ourselves...not more than we love others, but the same as we love others. If we take Jesus' words seriously, how will we ever truly love our neighbor if we can't even love ourselves? How will I honor the image of God in my neighbor if I don't honor the image of God in myself?

One of my seminary professors, Dr. Brad Matthews, said the following in class last week: "We've elevated self-deprecation to a virtue. I'm not advocating self-glorification here, but demeaning yourself is not glorifying to God." Preach.

When I get angry at that little boy in the blue shorts, when I tell him to "just be normal," to do something different to make himself worthy of love and friendship...I am demeaning the very image of God. It's a broken image, yes. Sin has marred and distorted our beauty...but it hasn't destroyed it. God created that little boy. He loves that little boy, and He loved him enough to die for him...enough to begin lovingly restoring him to the original, beautiful masterpiece that He designed.

When I dwell on all the ways I still don't measure up, all the things I could and should do better, all of my disorganization and weakness and failure--when I look in the mirror and hate what I see--I'm hating what God has loved. I'm calling bad what God has called good. I look in the mirror and see a mess, but like the father in the parable of the lost sons, God looks at me and sees his beloved child. He runs to me. He embraces me. He delights in me. 

Do you believe that God delights in you? Not just the future, glorified you, but you...right now. Does that concept sound ludicrous? Is is that unbelievable? Friend, I have been there. Hey, guess what...I'm still there. I need to hear this:

You will never be able to forgive your enemies if you can't even forgive yourself. 

You will never be able to love other people as Jesus loves them if you can't love yourself as Jesus loves you.  

You will never fully appreciate the beauty and dignity in your neighbor if you can't appreciate the beauty and dignity that's found in an image-bearer of the King. 

I need to learn what it means to love myself...and I think it begins with learning to love that silly, lonely little boy in the blue shorts.

May God give us the grace to show ourselves grace. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Of Carpet and Character...

The hot-pink exterior is your first clue that Bayou Joe's is something special. My favorite restaurant back in Florida has mismatched furniture and gaping cracks in the floor. Tables are decorated with maps, movie stars, and cartoons of old ladies in bathing suits. Service is slow and incredibly eccentric. Joe's “trash burger” is smothered in chili and gummy worms, each bite making you feel like a daredevil. Napkins are replaced with wash cloths, and after-dinner mints are replaced with bubble gum. Some people call it sketchy. Me? I say it's got character.  

Okay sure, I know "character" is often a craigslist buzzword to sell old stuff to twenty-somethings. A couple years ago, I was trying to convince a friend to try out a coffee shop that I claimed had character. He sighed, frustrated. "See, Stephen, I'm pretty sure when you say something has 'character,' you just mean it's old." Fair point. I'm a sucker for exposed brick.

So why is "character" considered a selling point? Why would someone pay more to take a risk and eat at the local mom-&-pop instead of playing it safe with Applebee's? What is it about the aging, urban bungalow that's more appealing than the brand-new suburban cookie-cutter? Call it "hipster" or nonconformist (you might be right), but I suspect it's more than that. Could it be that we actually feel a connection with places and things that show some wear-and-tear? Do we identify with those unique, one-of-a-kind places--places with stories as complex as our own?

Maybe it's that sense of existing in a place that somehow understands your lack of put-togethered-ness. My friends and I are currently looking for a house to rent here in St. Louis. As we cruise the city's neighborhoods and investigate our options, I find myself drawn to the places that seem to "get" my to which I don't have to explain myself when I walk in the front door. I like a house with history. I want a place that's got a past and plenty of stories to tell. If there's some architectural oddities or broken fixtures or confusing layouts, that's cool. I can relate.

Similar to the hot-pink walls of Bayou Joe's, the first thing that hits you when you walk inside Redeemer Church of Knoxville is the carpet...the in-your-face, algae-green carpet. It's hard to miss. The second thing that hits you is the windows. Most of the translucent panes are also algae-green, but some are colorless. Some are broken, and a few of them have been repaired with duct tape. I remember when I visited Redeemer for the first time back in 2010, I was surprised to find a child's graffiti scrawled on the pew in front of me. "I ♥ church." It hadn't been painted over...and I liked that.

Redeemer's sanctuary certainly had character, and as I came to discover over the next three years, the church itself had plenty of character...not to mention characters. In a recent video for the church's 10th anniversary, one girl described Redeemer as "beautiful chaos." I couldn't think of a more perfect description. 

That green carpet became a reminder to me every time I walked through Redeemer's doors that it was okay to be a little out-of-style. It was okay to have some quirks. You could sit in those pews and not be worried about someone seeing your broken windows...or your patchwork duct-tape attempts to fix yourself. You didn't have to paint over your graffiti.

See, I think we love these old places with character because they remind us of ourselves. They remind us of our own humanity, with all of our quirks, beauties, flaws, and oddities rolled up in one big jumble. Some of us have our own hot pink walls. Some of us have our own dated green carpet. Some of us have mismatched furniture, broken windows, or even a rather peculiar smell. We don't have to dress ourselves up to feel at home in these old places. They get us. None of us was created with a cookie-cutter...why would we want to live somewhere that was?

I love seeing an old, historic building restored to its former glory. If it's done well, the building doesn't lose any of its original character. In fact, the most skilled refurbishments highlight and enhance those features which make a building particularly beautiful or unique. Sure, sometimes it's easier and cheaper to raze an old house to the ground and build a brand-new one, but what do we lose in that process? Do you feel a sinking feeling in your gut whenever that happens? I certainly do. Maybe that's because we know that we're all old buildings with our own unique character and flaws. We all need a lot of work. We all hope someone would take the time to lovingly restore us rather than simply replace us. 

That's exactly what our Redeemer promises to do for those who are in him. He promises to redeem us. He doesn't replace his church with a brand-new, perfect and holy army of robot clones programmed for worship. He restores us to be the beautiful, unique masterpieces that he originally created us to be. He didn't just make that promise to people, but he made that promise to all creation. He made that promise to the earth, to the critters and trees and flowers. One day, God will indeed make all things new, but our newness won't cancel out our character. I will still be me. You will still be you. Bayou Joes's will still be Bayou Joe's (and let's hope the trash burger will still be the trash burger). We'll be restored. We'll be holy. We'll be us.

I know that one day, maybe one day soon, Redeemer Church will probably have to replace its carpet. Honestly, I won't blame them if they choose a less-aggressive color. Still, I will always remember that endearingly obnoxious green carpet with a smile. That green carpet made me feel like I was home, and more importantly, it reminded me I was with people who had just as much "character" as I did.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Being Known...

"To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything." -- Tim Keller

What does it mean to know someone? I don't simply mean knowing of someone...but what does it mean to truly know him?  I think we'd all agree that knowing someone is more than knowing a collection of facts about that person...but it certainly can't be anything less.

If you know me, chances are that you already know the basics: I grew up in Panama City Beach, Florida. I'm an only child of two parents who love Jesus. I grew up attending school and church in the same building, and my faith has always played a significant role in my life. I majored in journalism at Samford University in Birmingham, and after college, I served on campus ministry staff with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I'm currently a student at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, pursuing a call to full-time ministry. When I have free time, you can usually find me writing in a coffee shop (ahem), hiking the nearest mountain (no easy feat in Missouri), or following my Florida State Seminoles (ditto). 

That's the short biography. That's the basics. If you know me, surely you know most of that information. But let's be real, you could also piece much of that together from a cursory glance at my facebook.

Beyond these basic facts, what else does it mean to know me? What would it mean for me to know you?

As I'm sure you could say for yourself, there's a lot more to that answer than could ever fit in a blog post. In fact, the majority of that answer probably doesn't even belong in a blog post. It belongs in the safe, intimate conversations of close friendships and community. It's impossible to truly know someone through a blog.

I could share my hopes and my dreams here on this blog. I could share what makes me feel the happiest or the safest. I could share what makes me laugh uncontrollably or what inevitably brings me to tears. I could share my deepest fears and anxieties, those gut-wrenching insecurities that gnaw at my peace and keep me up at night. I could share the careless words that have been spoken to me and that I've spoken to others--words that seem to play in my head on endless repeat. I could share all that, but I won't. Not here. That sharing is meant for living rooms and coffee shops, over good food and drink, with real laughter and real tears...with real, in-the-flesh people.

[Another thing to know about me: I write long and meandering blog introductions...]

But let's get to the point. [aha! there is a point!]

There is something I want to share with you all here. It's something you may not know, even if you've known me for a very long time. It's something that I've decided needs to be known if I am going to be known--a decision made after much prayer and counsel from people far wiser than myself. It wasn't an easy decision.

You see, friends, for as long as I can remember, I've been same-sex attracted.

[wow. there it is.]

Okay. [exhale] What does that mean? Again, like what it means to know me, it means a whole lot more than I could possibly fit into one blog post...but I will try.

First of all, and maybe most obviously, it means I've always been more attracted to guys than I have been to girls. It should go without saying that I didn't choose this. There was never a point of decision for me, but rather, it was a slow process of realization. [read: denial]

What does this change? Well...nothing really. None of my beliefs regarding the Bible's teaching on sexuality have changed. I still believe, as I always have, that the marriage covenant, as instituted by God, is designed for one man and one woman. I also believe the Bible is clear that sex is a gift reserved exclusively for covenant marriage. For this reason, it is my firm conviction that there are only two options for me to honor God with my sexuality: I can either marry a woman, or I can remain single and celibate. Either way, I will need strong friendships and intentional, Christ-centered community. Either way, I know God has a perfect plan.

This isn't my first time sharing this part of my story. That's been a long process too. The first person I ever told was Jason Sterling, my RUF campus minister at Samford, during the summer before my senior year. As I began to process what all this meant for me, Jason's compassion and encouragement were so important in keeping my eyes fixed on my Savior. In the years that followed that first conversation, I've been able to share this with a growing number of friends and family.

So why this post? Why share this with the world? Why now? Why decide to share something so personal and potentially confusing in such a public setting?

It all goes back to the quote I included at the top. What does it mean to be known? Keller is  specifically addressing marriage here, but it has a great deal of significance for friendships and other relationships too. I've always been loved. I've been blessed with family and friends that have all loved me so well. That's not the problem.

You see, I've grown up wearing a mask. You probably did too. We all have parts of our stories that have brought us shame. We all have things that we try to hide. For me, my mask hid the fact that I was attracted to other guys. It was a mask I crafted carefully, and I guarded it obsessively. For years, my deepest fear was that someone might discover the secret that lay behind that mask and my life would be over. Yes, I was loved--loved deeply, loved well--but I could never really believe it. "Surely they just love my mask," I told myself. "If they knew the real me, it'd be a whole different story."

The terrible lie I had believed--that my family and friends wouldn't love me if they really knew me--was sinister enough, but far worse, I started to believe the same thing about Jesus. See, I believed that homosexuality was one of the worst and wickedest of all sins. I knew Jesus had died to save me, but how could Jesus really love me if this was what I struggled with? 

I'll be sharing more of my story in future posts, and I'd love to talk more with any of you about it! Seriously. But for now, this is why I'm sharing my story: Jesus has done some crazy awesome things in my life, and I want to be able to talk about them. He's given me this story; who am I to hide it under a bushel? I don't claim to be any kind of expert on sexuality. Far from it, but I do have a story to tell. It's a story of a Christian kid growing up in the Church, a kid who's too scared to talk about what's really going on, a kid who believes deep down that no one could ever love him. It's a story that's far more common than you may think.

God has been so gracious to me. He has provided me with loving, encouraging friends, a wonderful family, and a seminary community that reminds me every day that Jesus loves me. He has called me into full-time ministry, and my heart and passion is to share the good news of Jesus with college students, especially those students who believe that no one could really love them...least of all God.

I understand this may be a lot to process. Maybe it isn't. I don't know where you stand on this. This may be a shock to you, or you might not be all that surprised. You might be excited, or you might be dismayed. Wherever you are, I want you to know you have the space to process this however you need to. I want you to know I'm open for discussion. There is no question you can ask me that will offend or upset me. If you cross a line, I'll let you know with a smile. If you want to talk, great! If you don't have anything to say, that's fine too. Here's the thing: I'm still Stephen. I'm still me. Nothing has changed; you just know more of my story now.

Jesus is Lord, my friends. There is nothing in this world which he does not declare, "Mine!" He calls us to follow him with every part of our being, and that includes our sexuality. Jesus is Lord. That may be hard for us to hear sometimes, but here's the thing about our Lord: He's good. "Come to me," Jesus says, "All who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

The old hymn "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" has been particularly meaningful to me in the past few years, especially the last lines of the last verse. "I came to Jesus, and I found | in Him my Star, my Sun | and in that light of life I'll walk | 'til pilgrim days are done."

These are indeed pilgrim days. The journey may be long and incredibly difficult, but he gives rest. I may be weak, but "a bruised reed he will not break." I don't necessarily know where I'm going, but I know who I'm following. This blog in an attempt to walk in that "light of life." Because of Jesus, I don't have to be ashamed to tell my story. In fact, because of Jesus, I can share my own story of redemption, one small story in the grand Story of Scripture, the story of Christ redeeming his Church and his Creation. Walking in this light of life, I can find healing in the community of believers, and I can be a part of other's healing as we walk together.

I invite you to join me in this journey. Please feel free to engage and ask and challenge along the way. I'll be writing some about same-sex attraction, but I'll be writing a lot more about other things...other parts of my story that are far more important. Same-sex attraction does not define me, and it won't define this blog. Mine is a story of brokenness, redemption, and ongoing repentance. Really, it's a story that's more about Jesus than it's about me. I hope you can find encouragement through this story to share your own story, and I'd love to be a part of that.

"O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee | I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow | May richer, fuller be."

Grace to you, my brothers and sisters, and the peace of Christ that passes all understanding,

In His Matchless Love,

Your brother,