why gay is not choice: we are biological beings

I am furious.

As he posted on our Twitter account, my brother Jordan was told by a counseling pastor to his face (and to his mother) that he chose to be gay and that he might not be saved. Are you kidding me? Are you serious? For starters, if you knew Jordan in person, you would know that questioning his salvation is just foolish; he gives ample evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. It is clear that he is saved.

I have difficulty taking seriously individuals that hold to beliefs like this. I question their theology, and I even question their intellectual capabilities. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that these individuals have been taught a heavy anti-psychology bias. Every mental issue becomes spiritualized. Feel depressed? You must not be seeking the joy of the Lord. Anxious? You clearly aren’t casting your fears unto the Lord. Paranoid? You must not trust God.

To assume that people have “willful” control of every emotion they experience, of every impulse they feel, of every thought that crosses their mind is flat out heresy.

It’s heresy because it denies that our conscious experiences —- our thoughts and emotions —- do not have biological components. It denies that we have bodies, that we are physical beings. Everything that we do involves neurons firing in our brain. If I activated certain neurons in an individual’s brain, I could make them feel certain emotions, even make them move certain body parts. If you drink a bunch of alcohol, you will exhibit certain behaviors, regardless if you want to or not. If I give you a sedative, you will feel more relaxed and act more subdued. If I kept you awake for several days, you would be unable to sustain attention.

The reality is that all of our brains have been wired in particular ways. They’ve developed that way due to the genetic code that we have inherited, the chemicals exposed to that genetic code, and even how our cultural environment has interacted with us. Some people’s brains become wired in ways that make it easier for them to exhibit acceptable behaviors. Others don’t. Would we expect people who are mentally challenged to be able to grasp complicated concepts? No. Would we expect a child on the autism spectrum to always act socially appropriate? No. Would we expect someone who has no brain area for producing speech to suddenly talk? No.

So then, tell me, why do some churches/Christians expect some people who are consistently depressed, or have a high level of anxiety, or who experience same-sex attraction to suddenly have volitional control over these areas?

Some of you, same-sex attracted or not, have been spiritually abused and manipulated when it comes to whatever mental calamity or deficiency that your suffer from. You’ve been told that you’re not trusting God enough, not turning to Him, that you simply need to pray more for whatever you’re experiencing to go away.

Sometimes our struggles are the result of our failure to turn to God. But sometimes, no matter how many times we pray, our brain cells are going to stay that way and things aren’t going to change. And this isn’t because you’re doing something wrong; it’s because you live in a world that has gone wrong.

I’m not trying to be a pessimist. I’m not trying to say there isn’t relief for people who suffer from mental anguish. But to assume that people are only experiencing brokenness because they haven’t prayed in the “proper” way is dangerously tinted with shades of a triumphalism that does not do justice to the confusing depth of human suffering. To assume that every conscious experience of ours is spiritual (or within our control) is naïve, it’s bad theology, and to be blunt, it’s stupid.

When it comes to being gay, we have a part of our brain that is devoted to sexual arousal (the hypothalamic region). If I’m correct, all mammals have sexual arousal response systems in this part of the brain. In humans, it is a less “advanced” part of our brain, meaning we have less control over it. It isn’t part of our outer cortex. So it should not be hard to believe or come as a surprise, that there are males who have wiring that causes them to be sexually aroused by other males and that there are females who have wiring that causes them to be aroused by other females. Biologically, this could easily develop. There is sexual arousal in other parts of the brain too that is more plastic (changeable), and maybe this is why some people’s homosexuality is more malleable and flexible.

My point is that believing that people could be attracted to the same-sex isn’t a complicated concept. It’s not rocket science. Forgive me, I know I’m coming across as arrogant, but I’m so frustrated that there are people who refuse to believe this, especially those in some churches. It just makes Christians look dumb.

Now practically, no matter what we face in our lives, we are still called to turn to God — to trust that He is control of our lives, to trust that our God is bigger than anything we face, to trust that He can still use us despite any mental deficiency that we may face. And believe it or not, focusing on God’s love for an individual could help rewire a depressed person’s brain (thoughts have power to change connections and chemicals released). And focusing on how God is in control of our lives, could relieve some anxiety. But it may not bring complete relief. Some people’s brains are fairly hardwired, especially in regions that are less influenced by thought. They may always have a level of anxiety or perhaps a level of depression or perhaps a reduced ability to control their emotions.

But even with whatever affliction we face in our lives — whether it’s in our brains or pain in our joints or nausea in our stomachs — God is still God over our lives. He still loves us. He still uses us. And He will still set everything right someday.

I just wish that some Christians and some churches would stop denying the influence of our biology over our feelings, emotions, thoughts, and yes, even sexual attractions.

-Tony

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nuance

A few thoughts have been rattling around my skull for a bit, so in this post I’m going to try my hand at identifying a serious problem in the church today. Here I go:

1)    It’s not lupus. ( Anyone? Anyone?!)

2)    We have done a poor job of distinguishing the social significance of homosexuality from its intrinsic theological significance. In other words, we have conflated two things that should, I think, remain separate.

Any cursory glance at a major news source will quickly reward you with at least one LGBTQ article (or 17 of them if you read HuffPost…which I do). In fact, media references to LGBTQ rights/struggles/triumphs are so common (Chich-Fil-A, anyone?) that 35% of Americans think that 25% of Americans are gay, when the actual number is probably somewhere between 2-4%. (And seriously, America?! 25%? That means the average family of four has at least one gay person in it. Holy crap, my family has four people in it! That means someone in my family is — ohhh wait.)

All this to say: society believes that the growing presence of LGTBQ people is one of the most important social developments of the 21st century, and I am inclined to agree (until the alien overlords arrive, at least).

I think the evangelical church looks at that (and the “war” on the traditional family), sees the potential challenge such a development could pose to its teachings, and becomes immensely sensitive (in the not-so-great way) and skeptical toward all things “gay.” This, unfortunately, has at times included me.

As I’ve said before, I really don’t think the fact that I just so happen to be attracted to men is of any great theological import. It isn’t entirely inconsequential, but, theologically, I wouldn’t categorize myself differently than any other single Christian. My attractions aren’t the result of some unaddressed sin, nor do they mark me as especially incapable of faithfully living the Christian life. Truly, before God, they aren’t that big of a deal. (See this post or this post for more on that.)

And yet in the current political/cultural climate I can understand why that would be so hard for certain church leaders to believe. From almost every direction they are being told that sexual orientation is a huge deal, and so it’s not terribly surprising that the nuanced distinction between the theological and social significance of homosexuality is overwhelmed by the static roar of a divisive, so-called “culture war.”

This is one of those wonderful areas of tension within the Christian life, and I’m not entirely sure how to best move forward in it. How can the church do justice to the very real social weight of homosexuality (abstractly and concretely) without burdening our church communities with a theology that wrongly inhibits chaste, same-sex attracted men and women from serving and living like other members (or wrongly promotes stigma against non-chaste men and women)?

Wow, this is harder to articulate than I expected, my apologies. While acknowledging that the church needs to put forth a very concerted effort to reach out and minister to those in the LGBTQ community, I also don’t want things to be blown out of proportion. Because certain leaders at my church are so aware of the current controversies surrounding sexuality, I became controversial myself despite living faithfully. To them, and many others, the fact that I am attracted to men can’t be anything but a glaring theological problem that affects how I serve the church. Because the public discourse is so fraught with language of a polarized morality, it is difficult for people to imagine that my attractions could possibly be morally neutral.

Does any of that make sense? I’ll stop there and maybe let this play out in the comments, if y’all have any. If I kept writing it would just be like subjecting you guys to watching me bowl – i.e. it would only confuse and frustrate you, and invite the wrath of God upon me. It’s…not a pretty thing.

Peace,

Jordan

sinner

Recently, I’ve been having difficulty writing for the blog.

It’s partly because I’ve been busy. There’ve been family functions, apartment searching, and lots of work.

It’s also partly because I’m not always exactly sure what to write about. When I first started the blog, I had many thoughts and feelings about homosexuality that were pent-up inside of me and that I desperately wanted people to hear about because I was so exhausted and frustrated by the ignorance around me. I felt like I had to do something about it. The first month of the blog and the wide range of its impact has somewhat satisfied that appetite, at least for now.

But as I’ve reflected on why it has been so hard for me to write, I believe a deeper reason is that I feel like a fraud, like I’m unworthy to be doing this. The truth is that during the last month, I’ve struggled with my faith. Except for a few momentary exceptions, God has felt distant, and I don’t really know what I’m doing right now to serve and love Him. There isn’t any passion in my faith, no excitement for how I am contributing to the Kingdom. And when it comes to my same-sex attraction, I am letting my thoughts go too far. In short, lust has been an issue, more so than usual for me.

And for whatever reason, I feel that if I want to maintain integrity while writing this blog I need to have my faith in order, especially when it comes to my homosexuality. I seriously feel like I should only write a post if I’m not struggling, if I’m not having any lustful thoughts.

Now after seeing that last sentence written out on my Word document, I see the absolute absurdity and arrogance of it. Since when did I ever expect myself to be perfect, or think that I could be flawless? Since when did I expect myself to be beyond sinning (or at least to never pass my arbitrary “acceptable allotment” of sin). How prideful of me. I’ve been sinning in how I’ve been viewing my sin.

If I try and present myself as the “perfect” gay Christian who never struggles with lust or wrestles with depression and doubt, then I defeat the entire purpose of this blog. The point of us writing has always been to tell our narratives truthfully so as to shed light on a group of people that many conservative Christians have no idea actually exists. More than that, we also want to help the Church (and the rest of the world) understand, a little better, what it’s like to be a conservative Christian who is attracted to the same sex. Experiencing lustful thoughts about men is a reality of my life, and thus I have no idea why I felt like I needed to “hide it” from the blog.

I’ve believed the lie, like I have many times before, that God can’t use a sinner – that God only uses people who have their lives put together. This is entirely false, and the Bible unequivocally speaks against it. As I write this, I’ve been thinking of the many sinners who God has used for His Kingdom, like Peter, who denied knowing Christ, or  Paul, who went from killing Christians to writing most of the New Testament.

What has made this “lie” have more power in my life right now is the nagging fear that perhaps my theology of homosexuality is the catalyst for my struggle with lust. Maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time; maybe those with more fundamentalist views on homosexuality are right and I really do just need to try and “stop” being attracted to males. I fear that my admission of lust will give credibility to these people, or that someone could be reading the blog and think “see, he wouldn’t be struggling with lust if his views were right, so he must be wrong.” I know this isn’t true and that whether one is struggling with sin is not really an indication of correct beliefs. After all, the Bible says that even the demons acknowledge that Christ is Lord, yet they don’t follow Him. Correct belief does not always equal appropriate action, and I think Satan really wants me to believe that I wouldn’t be struggling with lusting  after men if I had the correct theology. Satan would rather I believe that my same-sex attraction is the real sin (rather than lust), and that I need to wallow in guilt every time I have any inclination towards a guy because I am choosing to be attracted to him, somehow. This would take me out of the picture, turn my focus away from  pursuing Christ, and prevent me from contributing to the Kingdom.

God always wants to use us to bring redemption and healing to the world. No matter what we’ve done, He’s ready to forgive us, to put us back on the battle line. His arms are always open wide, waiting for us to return to Him.

This doesn’t mean we take that for granted. As I believe Paul says, we shouldn’t keep on sinning simply so that grace may increase. And ultimately, our behavior can be an indicator of how much we actually love God (John 14, 1 John 2). If we love Jesus, we will obey Him. I know that I must keep on fighting the sin in my life by pursuing Jesus more determinedly. I will only be able to face the lust in my life if I am strengthened by Jesus’ overwhelming love, which is why the first thing I must do in this fight it is turn to Him.

There’s a strange tension between not falling into despair when we sin (i.e. realizing we are still human) and not taking grace for granted. This tension is true for everyone, including me, a sinner.

Tony

 

 

/rant

Ok, I was halfway through a much more informative post on a different subject when I randomly switched topics and wrote an entirely separate entry. So, this is a detour post. It’s kind of like that time I was trying to get home but my GPS brought me to a dark, creepy wheat field in the middle of nowhere instead… except there’s a much lower risk of being eaten by a vivified Scarecrow this time around (though I’m not saying there is no risk, mind you).

What do Santa Claus, Bigfoot, appealing shades of taupe, leprechauns, and life-long chastity as a single, gay person have in common? They don’t really exist, apparently. (Please don’t argue with me about Santa, just accept it and move on). Obviously I’m being dramatic; with the exceptions of Santa and non-ugly taupe I’m actually open to suspending my disbelief.

Ill-crafted joking aside, I’m a bit discouraged at the moment. The source of this slight melancholy was hinted at above: it doesn’t seem like anyone around here actually believes I can live my whole life without having sex of one kind or another. Our culture is simply too sexual, our biology too compelling, to remain chastely single as a gay Christian.

Recently, it feels as if my life has become the unfortunate playground for the unfounded fears of many dear and wonderful people. Being honest, it’s a wearying thing to know that respectable men and women think of me as an exceptionally weak, sin-prone, sexually perverse man. They wouldn’t say it in that language, so I’m probably being unfair. Anyway, that’s how it feels.

It’s frustrating that so few people seem to have faith that I’ll remain chaste for any amount of time. If I were straight and single, even though I’m sure they would want me to get married, they would expect me to remain chaste until that day and would encourage me that such a life is possible and totally within the reach of my Christ-empowered, regenerate self. That is not the message I am receiving. And that, more than anything, has made these past weeks difficult. I hate being on the crappy end of a double standard (to which the rest of the whole world – after observing my upper-class, white, male self – says, “HA!”). This reaction bewilders me. I get that people are just trying to look out for my future, but I don’t think they realize they are literally sabotaging the holy path to flourishing.

Western culture at large already relentlessly smashes me in the face with ads, movies, shows, and music that tell me there is absolutely no way I can possibly control my sex-drive, that I’m some kind of deluded, Amish/Victorian/Alien freak-show for thinking, just maybe, I can go my whole life without sex and avoid shriveling up and evaporating from a severe case of being prudish and ultra-lame (little do they know I suffered from that in middle-school and have developed ample antibodies). But when I turn to the church and I hear basically the same message, it stings a lot, and I start to wonder if I really am crazy.

Over and over it’s implied that the best possible outcome is that I would get married to a woman some day (as soon as possible) because it is simply too hard to live in this culture without having sexual release in marriage. I hear things like, “Man, I wouldn’t be able to do that” or “You’re setting yourself up for a huge fall by the time you’re forty” or “I’m just praying that God will provide you with a wife because it’s so difficult to be single.”

Has the Gospel become less compelling than sex? Really?! We proclaim the same miserable message as “the world” if we cannot trust that chaste singleness is not only possible, but wonderfully blessed. Maybe instead of trying to be a glorified Christian Mingle the church should focus on being a stunning community of brothers and sisters so dedicated to the all-consuming power of God that the single members know without a doubt that they are living a beautiful and full life that is not any less profound because they haven’t taken someone to bed. Maybe we should be spending less time telling single people how tragically unlikely it is that they will be able to resist the siren song of sex and more time exhorting them to passionately model the inclusive and healing life of Christ, assuring them that, with God’s help, they are truly able to live chastely without being married and then coming along side of them every day to support them on that road.

I have nothing against marriage or the possibility of being married (I wrote a post about it), but it is no more “good” than being single. Maybe it’s just my context and I am over-reacting, but for this whole year I had been increasingly excited about being single in the church until that church started telling me singleness was going to effectively drag me to hell.

So go find a single person and give them a huge freaking hug and let them know, by the grace of God, they can make it! That their lives are wonderful beacons of hope in a culture drifting anchorless in a roiling sea of sexual obsession. And if you are single, find a mirror and tell yourself that God loves you, that he is with you, that chastity is not beyond you as you dive deep into the still waters of his grace, that you have astounding and unique gifts to be used for his glory through edification of the Church and service of the marginalized, and that one day Christ will look at you, whether you ever get married or not, with overwhelming joy in his eyes and welcome you into his eternal rest. Because God knows somebody needs to say it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger on repeat until my ears bleed and my parents take a shotgun to my speakers.

Sorry for the rant. Has this been the case for anyone else? I’m really interested in knowing how other church communities have responded.

EDIT: I felt the need to add that even if a person falls and gives in to the temptation to have sex outside of marriage, it’s not like they instantly become the most abhorrent of sinners. Sexual sin is a big deal, but it’s not any bigger than the power of God to forgive and not any dirtier than what he can make clean. Everyone screws up in some way, and I hope the church can be there to help pick them off the floor and point them back to Christ and walk with them along the way. Am I being naïve? I’d just like to think this is what the Gospel can do…

Jordan

P.S. And I know it doesn’t seem like it from this post, but I’m doing well. Still optimistic about my church’s progress in understanding where I am coming from and really becoming a community of safety for men and women like me. I am confident God will work in mighty ways here (and I swear it really is a wonderful church). I’ve had some good conversations with my family and some friends recently, and can definitely attest to the faithfulness of God in my life this summer. He deserves some serious praise, lemme tell ya. Peace.

accepted

I currently work at a secular place, which for better or worse is unusual for me. Since I was in 7th grade, I’ve been inundated in Christian environments. I went to a Christian junior high. I went to a Christian high school. I went to a Christian college. Last summer, I worked in a non-Christian place, but our job was so intense that there wasn’t much socializing.

So this has been a change of environment for me. And there has been a drastic difference with how my coworkers interact with homosexuality than with how students on Wheaton’s campus interacted with it. I’ve had to adjust and be flexible with how I talk about my homosexuality and homosexuality in general without compromising my beliefs. I know that some of our readers are used to these differences, but for those who have been exposed to mainly conservative Christian environments (like me), I figured it would be helpful for me to expound on my experiences.

Those who are gay are very casual about it. I work with four gay male coworkers. I’m not used to people being so open that they’re gay. I mentioned to a coworker, whom I suspected was gay but didn’t have any confirmation yet, that I planned on moving to a different suburb. His response was, “Oh, my boyfriend lives there.”

I was taken so aback by how casually he said this. It was sort of like, “of course I have a boyfriend, duh.”

Because of my surprise, I responded with “wait, your WHAT lives there?!”

Another gay coworker happened to overhear the entire conversation and burst out laughing when he heard me say this. I was almost embarrassed by how surprised I reacted, and I had to explain myself in case they were wondering if I had a “problem” with it. It probably helped that they suspected I was gay too, so they didn’t suspect that I had any offensive undertones to my reaction.

I’ve only actually admitted that I am gay to a few coworkers, and it’s interesting that when I have, I am very hesitant about it. I tend to say it in a hush tone and make sure that only the person whom I’m speaking with can hear me. Because I feel safe as a gay person at work, I have concluded that this hesitancy to out myself is likely residue from my experience at Wheaton and other Christian environments in general. At Wheaton, I was always careful with whom I told and attempted to do so inconspicuously because I never wanted any potential unsafe person to overhear.

Those who are not gay at my workplace are very relaxed about there being gay people. It isn’t a big deal to them. And the few people whom I’ve told have told me that they already knew before I told them. This isn’t because someone else told them; it’s simply because they can sense it from the way that I interact with women and men (or also perhaps from some of my mannerisms). People here understand that gay people exist, and they notice it. My experience in Christian circles has been for most people to assume that no one is gay, and thus, most people don’t go out of their way to be sensitive to this.

It’s refreshing for people here to just accept me this way and not be surprised by it. I haven’t felt the slightest judgment whatsoever. In fact, I mentioned to one of the guys that it’s not something that I really bring up to people unless it’s pertinent to the conversation, and he said, “yeah, I completely understand; I mean, I don’t tell people that I’m straight when I meet them, so why should you feel pressured to tell people that you’re gay.” This statement made me feel like an equal with him — like he attempted to understand my perspective.

My experience here has made me feel more accepted and comfortable than I ever have in Christian places. I’m talking about at an organizational level. I don’t go to work feeling guarded about my sexuality. When I’m in Christian environments, I feel guarded. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have been blessed with Christian friends who don’t make me feel guarded and who provide intimate fellowship that I can’t find among non-Christians. But despite of this, I still feel guarded within Christian groups.

This experience helps me understand why LGBT people would not turn to the Church for their community but rather secular environments. The acceptance in this secular environment, at least related to my sexuality, is overwhelming. (I’m not saying a secular environment is more accepting as a whole because there are definitely other areas where there is less acceptance but with sexuality differences, there is definitely more acceptance). I know there are people who will never turn to the Church as long as the Church does not condone same-sex marriages, but since I don’t even espouse to same-sex marriages and still feel more accepted (in regards to my homosexuality) in a secular environment, this tells me that there is a problem with the Church.

I guess the question for the Church is how do we make people feel valued and accepted but yet also be faithful to Truth? I know we have many things that we can learn from non-Christians, and I will be vigilant in the upcoming weeks to observe what specific behaviors from my coworkers make me feel comfortable with them.

I also ask for your prayers because I haven’t actually attempted to explain to anyone yet that I am chaste and don’t plan on ever acting on my gay attractions. They all assume that I will have a boyfriend (or could have a boyfriend). I will attempt to explain this to some of them when the timing feels right, and I feel like it will lead to productive fruit. I also know that it will be a very strange conversation and will seriously confuse the heck out of some of them. It also has the potential to offend some of my gay coworkers, but hopefully I can build enough trust with them before I share this so they aren’t automatically on the defensive.

I’d love it if some of you commented on your experiences with how secular versus Christian environments have interacted differently with homosexuality.

-Tony

hugs and other such wonders

The last week has been spent gallivanting around and taking in the many manifestations of beauty that are to be found in the Pacific NW. My friends and I have witnessed many amazing things, from the misty coast with its towering sea-stacks to the dazzlingly bizarre displays of urban creativity, from the bucolic wine country to the small host of snow-covered mountains standing guard over the fragrant pine forests and waterfalls cascading over shimmering rocks and mossy logs. It’s been utterly refreshing and exhausting at the same time.

It simply feels wonderful to be running around with these friends again, to be able to slip back into that easy state of being where I am profoundly known by others and where I know them in return. I don’t have to defend myself, and how I bear myself is not an apologetic but a simple expression of personality.

Some people think vulnerability is dangerous and taxing. I get that. It takes a while to build trust, to believe you won’t be torn up and cast aside the moment you are honest with someone. But having had the chance to live in a community where I could be vulnerable without fear, it has become comfortable. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or devoid of risk – being vulnerable is never safe, by definition – but it is so profoundly good that having to live any other way feels wrong, itchy, and almost perverse.

I have come to see this happy existence as a gift, not a right. It’s a gift because it is something that can only be had if others give it to you. It is impossible to unilaterally establish a community of vulnerable ease. But praise God that we need each other to truly live the abundant life, that we can never simply remain inside ourselves, happy hermits whose universes are contained and so drably uninterrupted by the urgent presence of others.

I love how my friends constantly impress themselves into me – with their sudden laughter, wit, prayers, wisdom, tears, passions, and life. I feel like, if I really am clay, then they are the fingers of God which move and mold me into a greater semblance of the Potter’s design. And I, in turn, shape them. What a daunting thought. What a beautiful, frightening, thing.

They leave tomorrow, and that really sucks. On the plus side, I’ll finally catch up on emails and reading and learning how to coax some semblance of music out of my poor, neglected guitar. But though I still have email and Facebook and other such things, I will lose them – their bodies, their buoyant energy.

For when their fingers dig into my back in a joyful hug I know I am being molded into the likeness of my Savior, and such a blessed reminder is a hard thing to watch board an airplane.

So praise God for good friends and good hugs, and a wonderful week of being alive.

Jordan

“suspended”

“I had grasped God’s garment in the void
but my hand slipped
on the rich silk of it.
The ‘everlasting arms’ my sister loved to remember
must have upheld my leaden weight
from falling, even so,
for though I claw at empty air and feel
nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummetted.”

This masterful poem was penned by Denise Levertov, a late-in-life Catholic convert. I only recently discovered her creative and compelling works and have become quite enamored with many of them.

It reminds me, vaguely, of the delightful hagiography The Life of St. Anthony by Athanasius. During my senior year, as I experienced the rash of brutal and persistent nightmares that lasted for about five months, there were moments in which I could feel a dark vitriol building inside me that urged me to cry out that the nightmares were stronger than God, that Satan was, apparently, too powerful to be stopped.

In St. Anthony, the eponymous character is tormented in a cave by a demonic cabal – his body broken and his God disdained. The attack leads to great insight, however, and the next time he comes under fire he has quite the rejoinder for the forces of darkness. Even as he is tortured he declares to them that if they had any real power, why not just strip him of his salvation and drag him to hell?

You see, he knew they couldn’t. All they could do was sling blows and insults at him to tempt him toward despair, and he could overcome that. He never says that he wasn’t in excruciating pain, never says he wasn’t afflicted, but he was able to, somehow, see through the agony to the power he had in Christ. He never looked back. He goes on to become a total boss – a veritable anti-demon Jedi Master – and never ceases to wage war on all that would declare God weak.

Although my latent Jedi genes have not yet awakened (they’re my last hope now that I’ve given up on ever getting a letter from Hogwarts), I am still encouraged by his perspective. I can unashamedly acknowledge the pain that sometimes courses through my psyche, but I must even more boldly proclaim the power of Christ who is my shelter and strength.

I can admit that I feel as if I am held by nothing but absence, while praising the God who I know has kept me from plummetting. And trusting, always trusting, that some day I will see the truth of things clearly, even if it means waiting until I finally behold the face of Jesus as the songs of the saints fill the glorified air.

Jordan

P.S. I have friends from Wheaton visiting me this week, and am thus taking a break from the situation at church. I talked with an elder on Monday, and it was a very encouraging conversation in which I found much to be thankful for. However, there is still a lot of work to do. It’s been quite a growing experience, so praise God for that.