nailed it

Brent Bailey, the wonderful guy who writes the wonderful blog Odd Man Out, recently posted three heartwarming examples of how his friends “got it right,” specific stories of being treated so correctly that they stuck with him. He then asked a few of us to post something similar, and seeing as how I love what he writes I pretty much had to do it.

1. Camping

What happened: A large group of my guy friends had planned an international (ok, we were just going to Canada) camping trip that would take us to a remote island for a week. A friend and I needed to wait an extra day because I’m an idiot and left my passport at home 2500 miles away and it had to be Fed-Exed to me. As my friend (this friend) and I talked, I commented on how bummed I was that my accountability partner/one-of-my-absolutely-closest-friends flew home and wouldn’t be able to come to Canada with us. (I mean, come on, Canada has toffee and jell-o-in-a-cup and vast expanses of wastelandic nothingness, how coud he say no?!) The friend I was with, who knew I was gay, interrupted me and said, “Hey, you know he loves you a ton, right?” “I mean, yea, I know that.” “No, but listen. Before he left he told me to make sure to look out for you, and to be aware that when the guys decide to strip naked and jump over the fire or something I should go over and just talk to you. He made me promise to be there for you. Which is stupid because I was going to do that anyway!”

How he got it rightThey both were winners in my book, but I want to focus on the guy who had to go home. At that time of my life I struggled immensely to know if he really cared or not. He was the first friend I told I was gay in person and had been with me through the whole, slow, agonizing process of coming to grips with my sexuality, and therefore bore much (too much) of the weight of my anxiety. This small revelation made me feel overwhelmingly seen and loved in a relationship often punctuated by uncertainty and tortured invisibility. His comment showed that he took our relationship seriously, that he was thinking and learning and growing with me. We ended up not going camping anyway because of a certain, now-notorious, explosive incident that required a trip to the ER and some minor surgery, but the excitement of being known, of being carried in the hearts and minds of my friends even when we weren’t in the room together was a gift I haven’t forgotten.

2. Pillow Talk

What happened: My freshman year of college, while I was still deep enough in the closet to have one foot in Narnia, I went to a friend’s house for Easter. I instantly noticed there were no sleeping bags laid out in his room, and sure enough when night-time rolled around he simply asked if I wanted the left or right side of the bed. I tentatively chose the left side, unsure if there were, you know, rules to this or something. He slept with his arm draped across my chest, which was nice and not awkward but made it rather tricky when I woke up and needed to go to the bathroom really bad. Four years and an email saying I’m attracted to men later, I’m crashing at his apartment for a few nights. Still no sleeping bags. Left side. Arm across my chest as we talk late into the night.

How he got it rightHe’s always been a deeply affectionate friend, and I had no doubt he would still love me, but there’s this lurking fear that once straight guys know you are gay they’ll shy away from physical affection or closeness. Yet he displayed the same warmth and intimacy as before with the ease of someone who wouldn’t even have considered the possibility of treating me any differently in that regard. Having a friend like him is just one more nail in the coffin of my anxiety and fear.

3. Casual

What happenedI’ve mentioned this before, but at a recent wedding reception I was sitting next to a very dear friend who, during a lull in our conversation, asked if I was often attracted to people of different ethnicities. It was the first time anyone who knew I was gay had asked me for specifics about what I found beautiful, who talked about attraction in a way that included me and my experiences. The conversation shifted from that topic to others with ease, helped by a steady flow of sparkling apple cider, sometimes touching on my sexuality, sometimes not. Eventually we wound up talking about Harry Potter or something (as we always do), and that was that.

How she got it right: She treated the fact of my homosexuality like any other part of my experience and allowed me the privilege of being able to, finally, talk about my attractions concretely without having to lie (the answer, by the way, is yes, far more often than being attracted to people of my own ethnicity). Coming off of a summer in which my sexuality dominated my daily life and was a perpetual source of debate, she gave me a much needed reminder that my same-sex attraction could come and go in a conversation without shoving everything off center stage. It was a small thing, but it felt like a spell was lifted and I could finally see myself without the cursed distortion of being controversial.

So those are just a few – I have many, many more examples just as life-giving. If you’ve experienced anything like this, please tell us the story! Lord knows we could always use a bit more encouragement in our days.

Jordan

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…just like everybody else

I shifted my legs around to restore pin-prick circulation as the conversation stretched into its second hour. Coming-out was rarely a quick ordeal during those early stages of growth and he was only confidante number eleven, I believe. Equal parts disarming sincerity and riotous impulsivity, he had been a dear friend from the first month of college. And then, two years after he first learned my name, he learned my deepest secret.

As the conversation began to lull, he decided to change the topic a bit. Looking me in the eye he asked, in his typical directness, “So, are you attracted to me?”

Uh. I diverted my gaze and threw out my honest answer with a less-than-natural laugh, “Ha, no, you’re safe, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Worry about? Dude, I don’t care if you’re attracted to me. It’s not like it’d be a bad thing. I’m attracted to, like, lots of my close friends who are girls. I just wanted to know.”

Leave it to this guy to turn such an ill-advised question into one of the most profound offerings of grace I’ve ever experienced.

You see, at that point in my life I lived in terror of being attracted to anybody, especially friends. I mean, this is a common anxiety of coming out, right? That not only will those closest to you distance themselves from fear that you might fall for them, but also that, well, you might fall for them.

But more than that, I was still in the midst of a painful war with my body. While the rest of my hormonal peers were frolicking in their dopamine-addled pairing endeavors,* I was beginning to despair of ever feeling at peace because attraction, that bewildering spacial distortion that would sweep over me when I saw him, whoever he was, made me feel abusive and criminal.

It was, I think, the inevitable result of being told, and believing, that an uncontrollable, biological response is a willful act of sin. Like most underexposed evangelicals, I equated homosexual attractions with lust; they were one and the same – abhorrent failures of holiness to be avoided at all cost.

I remember ranting to my accountability partner (poor soul greatly to be pitied) time after time about my crush(es), “I have no right to even look at him, much less tell you his name! It’s disgusting. I just feel like such a monster.”

And to think this was during the “stable” phase of my college career. Good times.

But this is why that friend’s comment lingered so forcefully in my mind. By saying that it wouldn’t bother him if I was attracted to him because, duh, attraction happens to everybody and is totally not a big deal, he offered a distinct manifestation of grace that I had refused myself; the grace of being normal.

The grace of a common experience. The grace of not being a monster. The grace of being human, just like everybody else.

In the two years since we sat together in that light-filled prayer chapel, tears in our eyes, rejoicing in the goodness of it all, I’ve found profound healing as I daily live into my humanity – a lifetime of aching otherness slowly finding its place in the humbly unfolding narrative of becoming whole.

And lust? I’ve finally begun to understand what it really is. By binding that willful vice up with the inescapable neurological occurrence of attraction, I not only turned my body into an enemy of holiness but I also crippled my ability to effectively fight lust.

I used to conceive of it as little more than excessively strong attractions, something beyond my control, something that was ultimately about me and my “purity.”** Wrong. Lust is about ignoring the dignity and inviolable humanity of another and turning them into an object for my own personal pleasure. Lust isn’t so terrible just because it makes it harder for me not to type Google searches of questionable character, though that’s a part of it; it’s so terrible because it makes it harder for me to treat every person as the absurdly beloved-by-God people that they are, because it turns them into a “thing” and turns me into a hypocrite.

But what is more, I’m no longer hopeless in this struggle. Back when I thought it was lustful to even notice another guy, the overwhelming impossibility of “purity” haunted me. I think I knew then, even if I couldn’t articulate it at the time, that to be free from lust as I defined it – as others had defined it for me – would require me to eviscerate a part of my humanity, to deaden myself to the very real desirability of others. But now, rather than fear I will lose my humanity in the good fight against lust, I am thrilled to see it come more vibrantly into focus and fullness as I reclaim the true purposes of the struggle and realize what is actually at stake:

that I might see each person, whether or not they possess that indefinable breath-sapping spark, as beautiful, worthy of love, full of dignity, and to be served with joy.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m a weak and rather pathetic “purity warrior,” but at least now I know that I’m not a lost cause, that I’m not some exceptionally broken screw-up with an entirely different set of rules. At least now I know, and at least sometimes believe, that my body is good and that there are much worse things I could do than realize someone has incredible eyes and great hair.

Jordan

* … or something like that. I might have been a little bitter at the time.

** I don’t really like how we use the word “purity” to almost exclusively reference sexuality, especially as it has historically contributed to the social marginalization of women. Biblically speaking, someone who is greedy or who gossips is just as fraught with impurity as is someone who has committed sexual sin.

to know you belong

On December 23 I received a $10 Starbucks gift card. It was handed to me nonchalantly by one of the long-term missionary staff here at the orphanage as I was leaving the house to play some soccer. “It’s just a Christmas present from Rachel and I,” he said, “so… Merry Christmas!”

He was right, of course, it was just a Christmas present. But with it he and his wife had unknowingly given me something greater: they had surprised me with community.

My love of chatting over espresso is no secret – within the first week I had asked/begged/drugged/jedi-mind-tricked this guy into driving me to the nearby Starbucks – but I was blown away by the simple fact that he and his wife would have even thought, “Hey, let’s get Jordan something for Christmas even though he’s only been here for two weeks and we barely know him and he hasn’t really done anything except mess up easy spanish phrases and we have no obligation to get any of the volunteers anything because we’ve been here for almost a decade and have seen thousands of them come and go and he’s no different.” I mean, seriously!

Then, later, they invited me to an impromptu worship session of music and prayer. Five of us sat in a circle, enjoying the acoustic simplicity, the apple-cinnamon scented candles, and each other’s company. We left knowing it wouldn’t be long before we met again.

These are just two examples of a larger phenomenon. As I’ve thought about it, as I’ve marveled at a month devoid of anxiety and loneliness in a context in which I should almost certainly feel both, three things seemed to stand out as essential to the joy of my experiences here:

1) The first and perhaps most obvious observation is that it has taken the efforts of many people for me to feel that I am being included in the community. Yes, one young couple in particular is responsible for a majority of the warm-fuzzy feelings, but almost everyone here has said or done something that has made me know I am welcome. From offering to drive me places to telling me that I had permission to knock on their door at any hour of the night if I needed something, people have gone out of their way to demonstrate an easy self-giving that has been definitive of most of my relationships. Nothing like this is required behavior.

I totally didn’t see it coming, at least not to such an alarmingly generous degree.

But it’s not a unilateral accomplishment. I, too, have had to make an effort to include myself. Even on days when I’m feeling sick or tired (which have been frequent) I have tried to be involved. This is especially important, I think, in the early stages of entering a new context. Granted, if I’m utterly exhausted or dangerously ill, I’m not going to go play soccer or spoons or anything that doesn’t involve sleeping or vomiting as its main activity, but by this point people know that if I turn down an invitation it isn’t because I don’t want to be with them.

2) I’ve needed to grow up. A lot. I have generally suffered from a deep hypocrisy that usually compels me, in my feverish desire to be included, to distance myself from the people I don’t see helping me in my quest for social mobility. Even if I can tell that someone is lonely, if I think they are “weird” or “awkward” it becomes difficult to ever want to include them. They threaten my social stability, and when you are as desperate as I can sometimes be such people easily become burdens and competition rather than brothers and sisters. Such behavior is, honestly, one of the ugliest things about myself.

But I’ve realized it’s impossible to feel fully included in a community, fully rooted in the life-giving grace of belonging, if I am not willing to go out of my way to become the kind of person I so passionately hope everyone else will be to me. It’s simple, biblical logic. My own inhospitality, my haunting hypocrisy, corroded my ability to find peace. I was always worried other people resented my presence, my idiosyncracies and social failures, my struggles, because I knew myself all too well; I knew that if everyone else were like me, all my fears would be realized.

There are, in fact, people here who my sinful selfishness would want me to avoid. I am not. In fact, I spend more time with one of them than anyone else. And you know what? We have fun. I increasingly enjoy his company, and he has taught me some things that, well, I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. I am still in many ways an inhospitable person, but by the grace of God and the patience of others I hope to daily put such toxic hypocrisy to death.

3) I am confident that, should it somehow be discovered that I’m gay, there are numerous people who would stand by my side and advocate on my behalf. Latin America is not always the friendliest place to be attracted to the same-sex, and I’ve encountered some astonishingly aggressive homophobia among the teenagers I work with. But even so, I’ve had numerous conversations about homosexuality with some staff members and other volunteers and I’ve been amazed at the kindness and passion that has been displayed, even without anyone knowing I’m gay. These are safe people. I am safe.

Sure, it would be nice to have an hour where I didn’t need to creatively explain why I wasn’t dating one of the numerous single women in the orphanage, but I’ve matured enough to the point where it doesn’t really bother me all that much. And sure, sometimes it’s frustrating to work with an older woman who has a strange and magical ability to materialize whenever romance comes up in conversations, with a twinkle in her eye and a list of eligible women in her hand, but arguing with her (in spanish) has become more of a cheerful game than anything else.

I’ve learned that one community doesn’t have to fulfill all of my needs in order for it to be profoundly good.

I’ve learned that shifting my focus from “How can this community meet my needs” to “How can I meet the needs of this community” allows for surprising manifestations of care and love to flow more freely from myself and those I live with as we seek to encourage and strengthen each other.

***

These are not comprehensive observations, but rather just some small points that have been rattling around my dopamine-flooded skull for the past few weeks.

It isn’t a perfect community by any stretch of the imagination; there are some very serious problems that need to be addressed, some very real failures that vitiate the witness of this place. But my, our, passion for this place and these kids is greater than those troubles, and I consider it a privilege to be both aware of and fighting against those things which threaten the growth of this community. It means I really am a part of this place, that my life is in some serious way bound up with the future of the orphanage. It fills me with a fiery sense of purpose that is usually reserved for when I’m engaged in social peacemaking, studying theology, or eating pizza, and I am in awe of it all.

For what little reflection I’ve done on the subject, the blessed occurrence of community remains, like so much of what makes the world beautiful, a mystery.

And that $10 Starbucks giftcard? It bought a couple of mochas for some of the other volunteers before we saw The Hobbit. It just seemed like the only right thing to do.

Jordan

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

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.)

 

friend requests

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re a needy, emotional burden to everyone around you? That even though people constantly tell you they love you, that you’re great, that they want to hang out, and that they really care about the relationship, you find it hard to believe them? That, secretly, they all find you just as absurd, annoying, and overbearing as you find yourself? That one day they will all leave you, and you’ll be completely alone?

If you know this kind of mind-crushing neurosis all too well, then I’m so sorry. I hope you are doing ok, and not curled up in a gutter somewhere listening to Evanescence on repeat (totally been there). If you haven’t personally experienced what I’m talking about, then let me introduce you to a very common social reality for people who are same-sex attracted (though certainly not exclusive to them!). I will be speaking from personal experience, but I have heard numerous, similar stories from other gay men and women. But still, this is not applicable to everyone.

In the middle of the second semester of my Junior year, I wrote a list. In it I detailed the thirty things I was sure my friends hated about me. (If I do say so myself, it was an admirably incisive compilation of personal defects.) But how did I land myself in such darkness when I really was surrounded by truly dear brothers and sisters who loved me?

A large part of it was that I had ingested early in life the poisonous lie that I was unlovable. Growing up attracted to the same sex in a society that is often overwhelmingly homophobic can lead to some pretty terrible image problems. It was so easy to believe that I was disgusting for having these feelings, that I carried some atrocious blight in my chest that marked me for a deserved isolation and shame.

This potent stigma was not simply erased by one good coming-out experience… or two, or three, or twenty. It spread to almost every area of my life and became a part of my very identity. Years of believing lies about myself could not be undone by isolated moments of truth. Rather, the fear had to be slowly worn away by daily affirmations of worth and the consistent, pursuing presence of those who cared for me.

In his excellent book Love is an Orientation, Andrew Marin talks about how one of the persistent questions in a gay person’s life is “Will you leave me?” Men and women who pursue same-sex romantic relationships are afraid their actions will cause their family and friends to abandon them, while men and women committed to remaining single are afraid that everyone around them will make no room in their lives to include them, consigning them to the lonely hell of watching happy families flourish from behind a one-way mirror. The latter nightmare was my own.

It is unbelievably important to be a relentless and affirming presence in the lives of gay friends and family. Often the entire weight of a terrifying future bears down on their present life, turning small social barbs into serrated spears, innocent silences into damning judgments.

I’m not saying this is “ok” – relationships are not meant to bear the weight of limitless anxieties of the unknown – but it is common and must be born out in love. People working through scary issues of great social significance are frequently aware that they are unreasonably “needy,” which only compounds their sense of guilt and shame. I felt like a crazy person for being unable to trust even my dearest friends. At one point I even collapsed outside of my apartment from sheer mental anguish, having exhausted myself trying to figure out the state of one of my friendships. I was sinfully anxious (says Captain Obvious) and had made it impossible for him not to fail me in some ways, but healing only began to come when I admitted that I wasn’t entirely crazy for feeling like that.

You see, one of the most horribly difficult things I have ever had to do is actually admit my closest friend had let me down me in very real ways. It took a whole month of a therapist and two mentors arguing with me for me to finally say, “Ok, maybe he let me down a little. I mean, maybe. I guess, if you put it that way, I dunno……..” So I had to talk to him about it, or else.

Do you know how stupid hard it is for me to tell someone (who I am afraid thinks I’m an emotional lamprey) that he isn’t treating me like the friend he claimed to want to be? It’s about as difficult as licking my elbow. Some people can do it naturally (freaks!) but I would require surgery; in this case some serious heart surgery.[1] But here’s the thing, by being willing to, one more time, go to him and graciously express my disappointments and confusion I was showing that I trusted him and believed he was who he said he was.

Now, I’d had conversations like that with him before with little effect. That’s what made it so difficult! Everything in me wanted to think he only kept humoring me out of some sense of obligation to make sure poor, insane Jordan wasn’t totally alone. Because I didn’t totally trust him, I prefaced each previous conversation with an “I’m sorry I’m so burdensome and certifiably insane” clause. When you doubt your own worth, it seems too risky, too dangerous, to let blame fall on anyone but yourself.

The tone of that final discussion, though, was different; I didn’t qualify my pain with declarations of self-inflicted delusion. I finally let go of the burden of trying to manage both sides of the relationship, and was simply honest. He could have hurt me terribly in that moment. God knows I half-expected it. But you know what? He rose up and bore the responsibility for his actions, for his part of the relationship, and committed to working through the tension with me. It’s weird how relationships are so much healthier when one person doesn’t feel like he has to carry the weight of the whole thing.

I was graceless to myself by internalizing the blame for everything, and I was graceless to him by refusing to treat him as the friend he wanted to be for me. Our mutual willingness to admit our faults during that conversation, to let responsibility lay where it should, and to forgive deeply, were all essential components to me finally breaking free from that cursed cycle of self-loathing and mistrust. The purpose of being honest about who sinned, and how, is ultimately that there might be true forgiveness and reconciliation, not so that one person is vindicated and the other shamed.

But I couldn’t have made it without his help. He had to apologize for some legitimate mistakes and he had to make a concerted effort to change behavioral patterns that were unhelpful. Praise God, he remains to this day as one of my absolutely closest friends who has been with me through almost the entire process of coming to grips with my sexuality. He consistently points me to focus only on Christ and shows me through his actions how life-giving it is to be selflessly inclusive and encouraging. I owe him a lot, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without him. I asked him for permission before posting all of this. (If you’re reading this, man, I love you so much and think the world of you. Thank you.)

I hope this has been helpful, somehow. Relationships are surprisingly resistant to summary. To clarify:

– Gay men and women are often plagued by fears about the future that amplify the anxiety surrounding present relationships.

– Such fears can be sinful, though they are largely uncontrollable, and they are frequently validated when friends actually fail (which everyone will at some point).

–  Both people need to be willing to do some uncomfortable things to move toward healing. The person who feels abandoned must refuse to believe the lies of worthlessness, trusting the friend if he says he is committed to the friendship, and acting accordingly. The other person must be patient with the recurring anxiety and be willing to apologize and make a real effort to move away from harmful behavior.

– Both people need to be disciplined enough to ask for wise counsel, and be mature enough to be the first to apologize (though, honestly, one person will almost always be too apologetic).

– Moving forward is a matter of both people committing to greater openness and humility

I am definitely no relationship guru, but these are just some small things I’ve learned.

Relationships can be the greatest barrier or the greatest asset to a healthy understanding of God. My friends have shown me love beyond anything my early fears permitted me to dream. Their endless hugs and affirmation were central to me finally believing that God loved and affirmed me and was holding me in his arms. It wasn’t always easy, and almost never painless, but I wouldn’t replace them with anyone (you know who you are!).

Jordan


[1] Somewhere in there I grew to hate that analogy.