wanted for possession

There was a fairly long period of my life where one thought in particular would almost bring me to tears whenever it crossed my mind. “You know, Jordan, if everyone in the world paired up, nobody would choose you. You’d be all alone. Alone. Alone. Alone. Alone…”

My subconscious was like a tool who had discovered a reverb machine.

It was only recently that I finally discerned what exactly was going on for those two or three years: I was craving exclusivity. In the throes of a crippling fear of a dark and lonely future, I felt, viscerally and relentlessly, that if I just had one person, one person who I knew would choose me above anybody then I would have peace and all would be well. It might also end world poverty! (I was a desperate prayer-bargainer).

This made me a terribly jealous friend. I knew it was bad, I knew I was ruining my ability to be content in my relationships, but I didn’t know how to stop that panicky ache from flaring up.

Wanna know what’s really helpful when trying to combat such bitter anxiety? Reading the Bible. Wanna know what’s really unhelpful? Reading the Bible’s stories about David and Jonathan. Man I hate those guys – all super non-sexually intimate and “you’re love is better than a woman’s” and “our souls are knit together” and stuff. They’re the worst.

I wanted that, and I let my journal know just how upsetting it was not to have it on a regular basis. But what did I really want? Well, I’ll you what I wanted, what I really, really wanted[1]: to have that one person into whom I could wholly pour myself, who meant everything to me and returned those feelings. It didn’t have to be sexual, it just needed to be a certain degree of exclusive.

Oh, the twisted siren song of that word, tempting me to passionately wreck myself upon the rocks in pursuit of an unattainable phantasm of desire. It almost had me.

I had come to grips with giving up the exclusivity of marriage, but somehow the lie that I needed another person to “complete me,” so to speak, continued to ring powerfully in my ears. But exclusivity is not the end-goal of sexuality. Granted, in marriage there is a sexual exclusivity, but sex is not the totality of sexuality.

Sexuality is never about possessing someone. Never. It is, rather, all about giving yourself to another. And not just one other. We serve a Christ who has literally given himself entirely for the sake of everyone.

The searing myopia that was causing me such pain only began to fade as I slowly gave up on my quest to find the “perfect someone” who could provide me with that life-giving friendship and opened myself up to God’s call to serve others. My desire to give myself to someone was a good desire – but it was far too singular. How arrogant and vain was I to judge others unworthy of my time, my service, my love, and my friendship? Jesus doesn’t play hard to get, and neither should I.

Once I began opening up to people, abandoning my desperate quest for exclusivity, the loneliness, the anxiety, and the fear began to dissipate like an unwelcome morning haze. It was only when I stopped trying to possess my friends that I actually felt secure in my friendships. And on top of that I was finding increasing joy in my interactions with almost everyone because I was persistently asking myself how I could be used to bless them, to communicate to them their immense worth before God. I need to be careful not to over-do it, as always, being sure to pace myself so I don’t bleed out on the altar of self-giving. But thus far it has only been a fantastic turn of events in my life.

This is what sexuality, properly oriented, is designed to do – it draws us to others so that we might display to them the love of God and receive from them the same.

Do I still read the story of David and Jonathan with a twinge of longing? Absolutely. But God has given me a taste of something sweeter. I am rarely more like Christ than when I am casting off the shackles of an exclusive, possessive love and offering myself so that another may know life more abundantly. I have a lot left to learn about what it really looks like to live this way, but these are some of my initial thoughts. Feel free to fill them out.

Peace,

Jordan

P.S. All the major hurdles that arose when I initially came out to my family have been cleared, praise God. Praise God, praise God, praise God. Mom, who was having the hardest time of it, came up to me today and told me God had given her peace about it and had confirmed to her that I was living rightly before him, doing what he had called me to do. It blew both of our minds. Thanks for your prayers, it is truly a humbling thing to be so blessed.


[1] I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really really really wanna zigazig, ha! (Betcha weren’t expecting me to quote the Spice Girls. Please don’t leave me.)

 

listening

Like every card-carrying evangelical, I am a proud believer in the Wesleyan quadrilateral – that the order of Christian authority descends from Scripture to Tradition to Reason, and finally, to Human Experience. It really is a fantastic system. The problem, however, is that it is employed by less than fantastic people like myself. The subordinate position of Experience was meant to check the volatile tempest of “feeling” against the more stable revelation of Scripture and the teachings of the Church throughout history. So, for instance, all those days when it felt as if God was some distant sadist are challenged by the testimony of the Bible and history that tell of a passionate, loving God who is near. If my experiences dictated my perception of God, I would probably be one of those crazy angry people who only believe in God so they can ridicule him. I certainly wouldn’t have made it very far at all.

And yet out of fear or uncertainty about the role experience plays in the Christian life, evangelicals all too often disregard the profound reality of, well, reality. We are too eager to judge the nature of someone without ever listening to his or her story. This is because stories are powerful things. You can’t disagree with someone’s life story (well, you could try, but you’d look dumb); it simply is. It doesn’t matter how flawlessly I can articulate orthodox doctrine about the problem of evil, the moment I am confronted by a woman who watched her child die of cancer as she prayed and prayed and prayed to a God she had always thought was on her side… well, my super awesome arguments seem woefully inadequate to address her suffering.

This is because they are inadequate. And so the evangelical church, with its love of easy answers and apologetics, tends to shy away from the painful histories of those around them if those histories pose a “threat” to standard evangelical beliefs. So here’s my mantra (as of three seconds ago):

Stop trying to find the quick way out of the tension. Sit in it. Live in it. Learn to love in it.

Tension sucks. We don’t like it. I don’t like it. It complicates everything. As some dead philosopher (the best kind!) once said, “Certainty is to the mind as rest is to the body.” I think this is true. But haven’t we always likened Christianity to running a race? Rest, in the sense of freedom from effort and struggle, is strikingly foreign to our faith. Christ rarely gave straightforward answers – he always liked to catch the listener off guard and set her mind reeling. You comment on some nice architecture, he responds with an apocalyptic prophecy. Stuff like that.

All this to say, the Church needs to repent of its sinful addiction to easy answers and a tension free existence. We live in a society where churches have split because they couldn’t handle different opinions about what color of taupe the sanctuary carpet should be (the correct answer is, of course, neither, because taupe is a result of the fall and should never be used ever). This is a huge barrier to constructive, gracious dialogue of any kind.

Sexuality defies easy answers, especially today. I used to think I had it all figured out; “I may have given up pursuing romantic relationships, but at least,” I thought, “I wasn’t a nominal, uncommitted Christian like all those other gay people pursuing romantic relationships.” Then I met some. It’s funny how easy it is to “know” people until you actually meet them. I’ll save the story of how these particular men and women changed me for later, but I want to put forth just one thing God taught me through our friendships that I think is necessary to begin building bridges of grace and humility:

Any belief, no matter how seemingly orthodox, is sinful if it is founded in anything but passionate love of God and neighbor.

It is not wrong for me to think I am living in accordance with the truth of Scripture and God’s desires for human flourishing. It is not wrong to have convictions that exclude other convictions.  It is not wrong to call sin “sin.” But it is wrong, absolutely evil, to base these convictions on a fear or alienation of another. It is wrong to turn a person into an “issue” so that his story can be more readily categorized and disregarded. It is wrong to use theology as a weapon that tears apart the humanity of someone God would have me meet in love.

It seems the evangelical church’s stance on homosexuality is not so much based in the goodness and love of God as it is in some bizarre, righteous xenophobia. We have to move past that. For me, this has meant shutting up and listening. It has meant countless coffee dates and walks around town. It has meant bawling at my computer as I vividly imagined the abuse suffered by one of my new friends at the hands of the church, hands that should heal, not wound. It has meant becoming vulnerable, open to ideas and experiences that hurt me and complicate the categories to which I have grown accustomed. It has meant asking for grace and forgiveness for all the times I contributed to the stigma and pain.

Everyone has to come to the table ready to ask forgiveness and grant pardon. This is true for every area of life, and if we want to have any chance at moving forward, I simply ask that we never forget that we are dealing with people, each one seen and loved by God. I know I want people to take the time to actually get to know me before they start slinging judgments my way. Didn’t Jesus say something about this?

Be bold, be passionate, be convicted, but always start by listening.

-Jordan



interacting with gay non-Christians

This post focuses solely on how Christians who are not pro-gay relationships interact with gay non-Christians who are in gay relationships.

There are two major things I think Christians need to understand about most gay non-Christians:

1. Being gay feels totally natural. Believe me, I know. The pull to be in a gay relationship is very strong, and it feels completely natural to me. When I’ve thought about kissing a guy before, it makes me feel….well….good. If you’re straight, think about how you feel towards someone of the other sex that you’re attracted to or with whom you’re in love — it’s the same feeling gay people have.

One implication of this is that gay people are not twisted people trying to engage in weird, perverted, and disgusting behavior. It may look that way to a straight person, but from a gay person’s perspective, it is natural. In fact, if you really got to know a gay couple, you would probably see a lot of romantic love in their relationship —romantic love that doesn’t look much different from a heterosexual relationship.

The other implication of this is that asking a gay non-Christian to give up their gay relationship makes no sense to them. Why would anyone want to give up a person that they love or a relationship that means the world to them? They wouldn’t. So they’re not going to join the Church, at least not churches that don’t endorse gay relationships.

Unless there was something better. And as Christians we know that the something better is following God and being a part of the body of Christ. But, unfortunately, we often make it impossible for gay people to believe that this is better because (1) we say hurtful and offensive things to gay people, causing our community to appear hurtful instead of loving, and (2) as my previous post indicates (see “some of Tony’s story”) – the Church often communicates that there is no place for a gay person in its community.

I think there’s actually a third reason too. The Church tends to emphasize that having a family and kids is the best life and best way to serve God. By joining the Church, most gay people will have to remain celibate, so because of the family emphasis, they feel like they won’t have a satisfying life. Thus, some may just decide not to become Christians or if they do, they decide to join churches that support gay marriage.

2. Gay non-Christians don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God. Seems obvious? Yes. But not so much when you listen to what people say. It is unbelievable to me when I hear Christians talk about non-Christians practicing homosexuality or attempt to have dialogue with gay people when they say things like….

“God made Adam and Eve. Not Adam and Steve!”

“Why would they turn their back on God and forsake His natural law?”

“Don’t they know they’re going to Hell for being gay?” <<< many problems with this

“Marriage is between one man and one woman. God and the Bible say so.”

All of these statements presuppose belief in the Judeo-Christian God and make no sense to a non-Christian. If I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God, then I could care less what the Bible has to say about marriage or about being gay because I don’t think it has significance for truth.

So attempting to convict a gay person of their gay relationship with these statements is just about pointless and will probably result in the gay person developing alienation, bitterness, and anger towards the Church.

What a gay non-Christian needs is Jesus, just like any other non-Christian, and not some trite phrase that feels derogatory. What they need is people to respect them, to listen to their stories, to make them feel valued — something Jesus would do. If Christians think gay non-Christians shouldn’t be in a gay relationship, then they should be Jesus to them.

Then after the person knows Jesus is when dialogue about not being in gay relationships can occur. I believe Jesus saves us where we are at — He doesn’t expect us to be perfect before salvation (actually, He never expects us to be perfect). It’s after our salvation that He starts working in our hearts through the Holy Spirit’s sanctification.

Please note that I am not suggesting that we be manipulative to non-Christians and “trick” them into becoming Christians by hiding that we expect them to not be in a gay relationship once they are saved; rather, I am suggesting that we stop barraging them about their gay relationship and instead love them like Jesus.

So to summarize my post:

Being in a gay relationship is natural to a non-Christian >>> asking them to give this up is hard >>> there’s only credibility in asking someone to give this up if the Church can show they can be loved in different ways

Gay non-Christians are non-Christians >>> the Church’s rhetoric often paradoxically communicates that they are Christians >>> non-Christians who are gay need Jesus and not condemnation of their gay relationship that likely feels totally natural and beautiful to them

-Tony