Space at the Table

Space at the Table: An evangelical father and his gay son tell their story and show us how to live a radical new kind of love and acceptance.

Space at the Table is an upcoming book which voices a crucial message for everyone–gay or straight, Christian or non-religious. I expect it to be encouraging and challenging to all of us.

Co-author Dr. Brad Harper has been a tremendous support to me in my struggle with mental health, suffering, and in my process of beginning to come out. He is a compassionate, down-to-earth man who is all about relationships.

I urge you to consider backing their Kickstarter campaign and spread the word.

God is Alive Enough

I tend to think of myself having a meter or bank account for amount of life (I mean this in a physical/mental/etc energy sense) I have. I weigh each activity or task and think of its input/output effect on my meter. When dealing with mental health, chronic pain, etc., activities “cost” more. Have you ever heard of The Spoon Theory? It’s a similar idea.

On my drive to work a few weeks ago, I misheard a line of a song I was listening to. I thought the line was “[God is] alive enough.” Upon hearing it, I burst into tears–a pretty unusual reaction for me. Isn’t it cool that even though those weren’t really the lyrics, God still used it to encourage and teach me?

You see, I’ve been struggling with a lot lately–mental health, job transitions, death of loved ones, coming out, and walking through tragedy with friends. There have been a lot of times when my “alive meter” has run pretty low, when I wasn’t sure how I could possibly make it through the next hour, let alone day.

But God is alive enough. The line hit me so hard because I was not alive enough. He is alive enough to give me strength and listen to my laments without growing weary of compassion. He is alive enough to mourn with me in grief over death and injustice without growing faint. Jesus is the God who suffers and understands, and He is also the One who offers water of life and satisfaction (for free!) without ever running dry.

You guys. We can’t afford to be fake with each other. We can’t. There is too much hurt going on for us to lose the urgency of loving people. I desperately need God’s grace, and being honest about my weakness allows me to point to His aliveness in my life. He has more than enough to share with everyone around us. He has more than enough peace, strength, kindness to give to anyone who will seek Him.

I end with a chorus from Helen Lemmel’s:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

To Be Loved AND Known

In my community I have always had people who would say that they love me. I know that I am so fortunate to have lived around such loving people. There is nothing like it.

Yet… it is difficult for me to accept that I truly am loved as people say.

Having fought relentlessly to hide my pain and turmoil (and any expression of either) for all of my childhood, I ran myself into the ground as a shut-down, voiceless mess. The last several years I have been working to reverse the devastating effects.

I have been on a become-known adventure especially these last few months. It has been wild. In being more open and vulnerable with others about my story, I have had taken both baby steps and uncertain leaps with a fair amount of set backs mixed. It has been both difficult and freeing, exhausting and invigorating,

I want to share with you a quote that has influenced many of these major decisions in the last year by Timothy Keller:

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. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

Hiding feels safe. But in hiding, we are also confined. 

I could only accept love to the extent that I was known.

Living honestly does make me feel more vulnerable, but because of it, I am beginning to experience acceptance and belonging in a way that I never before deemed possible.

Does “happy” = “good”?

This post is about why I think they’re different (I’ve written about something related here too):

Talking with a couple of close friends last summer helped me articulate a question that has been a theme in my life for the last year: is doing well the same thing as being happy?

Honestly, I’m in a tough season. I’ve had mental illness flare ups that I thought were gone. I’ve Come Out to close friends (what a consistent adrenaline rush that is!). I’ve started establishing healthy rhythms and spaces to be in close community. As I have started to accept my vocation in celibacy, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to thrive as someone who is single in a culture where most intimate friendships are connected with marriage or romantic relationships. I still feel the need to be a part families where I can just do life with other people honestly. Because this way of life is pretty uncommon, I have been feeling the weight of cultural neglect of practical space and provision for people like me.

Day to day tasks have required a level of determination (I’m living with chronic depression, depersonalization/derealization, anxiety) that feels impossible with my seeming absence of vitality.

Oh Lord, how I desperately need Your mercy. If I am able to get through this next hour it will be because of strength You provide.

You know what? Somehow I’m still able to work; somehow I have resisted to the temptation to hermit myself from the rest of the world. Time after time I have felt the Lord somehow give me the strength to get through each day, each minute. The few times when I just couldn’t go on, He held me through whatever happened. I’ve made it to this point so far, and I count that as the grace of God.

So haven’t been happy, per se, but I do see some good that is growing out of difficulty. Seeing the Father do everyday miracles, growing in endurance, taking steps toward health–these are all good even if I’m fighting to just get up each morning. Sometimes whole-hearted devotion and life-worship looks like choosing to brush your teeth in the morning when you just. feel. like. you. can’t. go. on. It’s saying “God, I don’t feel like I can do this. But out of my love for You, I’m willing to try.”

While I may not be as blissfully carefree right now as I might prefer, I am well because I’m growing in tremendous ways, moving toward something greater. And I am thankful. This season has been difficult and painful, but it has been good. Life is more than a pursuit of happiness and pleasure. In the thick of life, I cling all the more to the Hope of the Gospel, because following Jesus is worth it.

I Too Was Burned By The Church

I know I am not the only one who has scars from those who call themselves Christians. This. Should. Not. Be.

I had given up on the Church*, on Christians. I had almost given up on God, my faith, my life’s value. But somehow, for some reason I can only attribute to the mercy of God, Grace Himself gave me the strength to try again. The Lord alleviated my skepticism long enough for me to open my heart one last time to give the Church another try.

Note: I am open to discussing my experience growing up in that church, but I always hesitate elaborating on the details unless they would be beneficial to the listener. So for now, please bear with my vagueness. My point here is what has happened since I left that local congregation.

What I saw in a new local church (I have since become a part of this family) shocked me. People actually loved one another. These Christians really believed what they said. They really sought the truth, fought hypocrisy, and sacrificed their lives for others. It is in the context of a church family that I have begun to feel the soothing waters of restoration. Yes, I still have panic attacks in church when we sing certain songs as they trigger my past experience in church. But I also know that I am slowly healing. My anxiety is less severe and my episodes less frequent than even a year ago. In order to begin this kind of forgiveness and healing, I have had to face my pain head on. It has meant allowing myself to grieve, counseling, and actually becoming an active member in the Church again.

I. love. The Church. And believe me–that really is a miracle.

Of course the Church still makes mistakes right and left–it’s made up or people, after all! But the Church is what Jesus chose to represent Him until He comes back. God is at work in His people! I have seen it, and I have been encouraged.

Something that grieves and angers me is that not everyone who calls himself or herself a Christian really follows Jesus. That devastates me… for their sake, our sake, your sake. People have done some horrible things in the name of Christianity, some of these crimes horrendous. Since I stand as a part of the Church, I must therefore stand with the Church in its failings as well. I confess that in different areas we haven’t loved well in the past, in the present, and likely will make grievous mistakes in the future. These wrongs are without excuse. We have claimed to represent God Almighty, yet have acted totally contrary to what He would have done. And I Am Sorry. I am sorry that we have neglected you when we should have acted. I am sorry that we acted harmfully–intentionally or not–when we should have extended grace. How I wish I could reverse your pain! All I can offer is a listening ear and a heart eager to extend grace to the broken. I ask your forgiveness for the ways that my people have acted wrongly in the last 2000 years. Please consider forgiveness.

I have experienced so. much. grace. in my local fellowship. I deeply respect the leadership there, and I willingly serve them with joy. They have responded to me with such affection, care, and acceptance. When I was desperate, they offered me patience and support. Even when I “came out” to leaders as questioning both my gender and sexual identity, they responded with nothing but love. They really listened and desired to understand my needs, concerns, hurts.

I testify that though I too was wounded by those in the church, I have witnessed God’s presence, freedom, truth, and grace in His global community of followers since then. My local church community has, by their devotion to God and genuine love for others, helped restore my faith that God really is at work on earth.

If you too have been burned by the church–perhaps deeper than you can express or understand–please hear this: On behalf of the Church, I’m sorry for the pain we have caused. You are not alone in your pain. I want nothing more than for you to experience healing, grace, belonging. Please, consider my story. Through the Gospel–the good news of Jesus Christ–I have found hope and am being restored. Please, consider trusting in the great Restorer, for He is good.

Blessings to you all!

*When I use capital C “Church,” I refer to followers of Jesus across the globe who together comprise Christ’s metaphoric bride, His body on earth