Nineteen. In, Mostly ‘Out,’ & The Spaces Between. Part III

The first step in all of this meant admitting my total helplessness to restore myself or to be this awkward super Christian thing I formerly let people and even myself believe I was. As Brennan Manning or Donald Miller would both echo in their books, (Ragamuffin Gospel and Blue Like Jazz respectively) it is better to be a beggar at the door of God’s mercy than to live in rich man’s delusion.

I had been the “pharisee,” I had been the “sinner,” and now I was coming into an understanding of myself as a child of God in a way totally unexperienced up until that point. As it turns out I think we’re all a bit self-righteous at times, a bit rebellious at times, weird at times (most of the time) but all the more immeasurably loved by the Father. Amazing grace they call it and more than just saying that, singing that, or accepting that just as an idea it was becoming more and more of a transformative reality. I had been asleep and God came and woke me up. He woke me up and laid out the next steps of the path.

So after all this wooing and all the milage made I had the opportunity to transfer to Columbia International University which in its conservative approach to the Bible and lifestyle choices made me incredibly nervous… but I was just compelled that this was where I needed to be to start grappling with what I was finally able to reference as “same sex attraction.”

[…Which I’d like to just pause and laugh at because , well, that’s a really formal and impersonal phrase for something that hasbien (don’t act like you didn’t know that was going to get thrown in here)…and is incredibly informal and deeply personal. ]

August of 2010 rolled around and it marked my first exposure to group therapy and accountability partnership. I was received by a school and a congregation that made it clear that this fight was not my own. I was shown that God’s primary vehicle for waging war against my struggles, doubts, and insecurities was going to be His people…His Church and this was just as alarming as it was enchanting. 

There was room for me at the Table. And I became acquainted with the strangest and most beautiful sense of belonging .

Since this time I have stumbled along this funky …but very narrow path of sanctification, experienced defeat, known triumph, and been delivered of so much the confusion and shame that characterized the days of this former life. I’ve learned that there are no unique or ‘worse’ ways that we fall short but rather we’re all these peculiar hypocrites in transition…people who are no longer who they used to…but aren’t quite yet who they are going to be. I’ve learned that whether or not my impatience, my indulgence, my pride, or my ‘gay’ gets prayed away …I am nevertheless empowered to live a life free of the chains and identifying powers those things used to have on me.

I am learning what Philip Yancey calls “God’s alchemy of Redemption,” that God’s power is precisely in and through weakness, NOT in the absence of it. I am a daughter, a rascally one I’ll say though…of the Father and through all of life’s questions I am being  sustained by His promises. So whether ‘healing’ means that my ‘orientation’ changes, I form one specific attraction for a male spouse, or I live my life in celibacy, I am not my sexuality & neither are you, and  I count it privilege to be a part of the depth, height, and width of God’s true love. 

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

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Eighteen. In, Mostly ‘Out,’ & The Spaces Between. Part II

Beginning in 2007 I was in and out of relationships and flings with other believing girls who were either struggling with the same confusion or what are sometimes related issues like emotional dependence and/or promiscuity. Sometimes girls who don’t like girls will kiss you just because they want to. I don’t get that, but Katy Perry sang about it one time so evidently it’s true & presents its own unique set of problems….but anyways

All of these experiences both the intentional and the more impulsive would always begin because they felt right and would inevitably end because we were convicted at some strange soul level that they were wrong. I began to tip toe around what existed as somewhat of an ‘underground’ gay community and although conversations were held regularly amongst one another about what we all were respectively experiencing we did our best to maintain confidentiality.

This is a lot easier to do when you don’t play softball. I played softball (insert your lesbian stereotypes) and so inevitably my name was included in  all the little gay whispers that floated through the hallways and bathrooms throughout my sophomore and junior years of high school.

What would come of this though was more than just the internal torment of wrestling with homosexuality but rather the anxiety associated with secrets, living a double life, with loneliness, with the idolatry of doing “what was right in my own sight.” I was broken and restless but I just couldn’t be honest about that.

I’d pray and pray (…and pray) but the gay just wouldn’t go away.

As anyone isolating themselves  because of identity issues does I sought out Google and various online searches for solace. I spent hours upon hours upon days upon weeks on the internet looking for counsel, advice, insight, and/or instruction.

That was a mess. There are a number of reasons the internet is regularly referenced as a web and I am convinced it has less to do with connectivity and more to do with proverbial spiders and poison.

However,

I did end up coming across a response on Yahoo answers that made reference to the concept of “channeling affections.” Up until that point the only channeling I knew about involved psychics, contacting the deceased, crystals, candles, and other creepy things so I was a bit skeptical….but I gave it read.

The blogger suggested that one could attempt to take what they felt for another human romantically and project that onto Christ. This seemed pretty holy, so for my entire senior year I made every effort I could to grow in this direction. I saw far more success (behavior wise) in this than that whole “just don’t act on it thing” but its functionality  began to wane as I prepared to go to college.

I ended up attending school and playing on the women’s soccer team at Huntingdon College in  Montgomery, Alabama. From day one of the religion courses I took… liberal theology began to reek havoc on my mind, especially in reference to what it meant to understand “self” and “human flourishing.”

So naturally my head opened and my heart wandered.

I got into a relatively inclusivistic line of thought and somehow this ended up in an almost entirely works-based concept of God? “Do good. Be good. & Get God.” That is a lot of cheesy alliteration but it seemed to fit what I thought I was looking for so I went with it and consequently was drawn to other’s who “went with it too.”

That is when  I met her. 

I hate pseudonyms so I’m not re-naming…but we’re going to call her “She.”

(…or She Who Must Not Be Named if you want to appreciate the Harry Potter allusion and can do that without assuming I fell in love with Voldermort.)

Now at 19 I wasn’t really sure what I believed about people “in love.” I’d known infatuation and emotional dependence  but this was something entirely ‘other than.’ I had NO  framework for what I began to experience that December but it was deep and soul-stirring. My heart was singing notes it had never sung before and all of a sudden every dumb sappy song I ever heard and Nicholas Sparks piece I had ever read made sense. She and I made sense.

Perplexing so though… I couldn’t shake the notion that this was outside of God’s design for intimate human relationship. Perplexing so even a part from conservative biblical community I had an overwhelming sensation that this was sin. Now I know that seems to stand as contradictory, you know…sacrificial, selfless, committed love and sin coexisting within the same situation…but that’s just how it was. Perhaps what this could go to say is that even though God is love…love is not God. In other words, love is not an end within itself and must be appropriated in order to be a part of His intended relational paradigm.

This became my world though. I did my best to live but some weird college freshman version of ‘situation ethics.’ As long as my lifestyle and decisions were oriented around what I decided on my own accord was “loving God” and “loving my neighbor” then all would be noble and right in my world. As evangelicals have long maintained though, when there is no absolute standard to gauge one’s system of morals on though… everything just gets really subjective and inconsistent.

I should be the first to admit though that the confusion and frustration that surmounts from subjectivity and inconsistency was almost worth what I found in my relationship with She.

I think in every heart of every human that has ever existed is a hunger to know total security, total affirmation, and total concern. We want to totally belong, to totally give ourselves to that something of which we belong, and to intimately know the affections of another no matter the lengths one must go to or the price that it will cost us. I believe God uniquely programmed this into our species to bring about His glorification and our complete enjoyment but it all just went wild and disordered post-Fall-of-Man. As a result we seek that essential human need in everything except God and after choosing those other things over and over and time and time again we kind of get “given over” to all those other things – enslaved” to them one might say.

(If you’re singing Britney Spears circa 2001 in your head right now. Stop. That is not where I was trying to go.)

As much as I knew how to make up my mind at that point though, I’m telling you that I really did. There was nothing more I wanted than to make a real, fully-functioning, fully committed, absolutely monogamous, and self-sacrificing life with She.

BUT I SWEAR

God just wouldn’t let me. I could not go to church, listen to her lead worship music, read the Bible, or share the message of Jesus…or really have much to do with Jesus without being confronted by my inauthenticity. I was trying to hold my ideas of ‘the best design’ for my life and God’s historically established design for human life (although being contrary to one another…) in the same happy hug and that just made my insides really itchy. My devotion was divided and my skin was crawling.

I did EVERYTHING I could to subscribe to pro-gay theology but that was like trying to breath under water. I prayed for it to be true. I begged to be able to make sense of the gospel through this lens but it just wouldn’t fit.

By the end of my freshmen year something had to give. After a number of conversations, examinations of the four gospels, a few dozen articles (arguing from both sides..) podcasts, interviews, and sleepless nights of desperate prayer I began to come undone. I was overwhelmed with this idea that God had something different for my life, for She’s life…and I didn’t know what ‘different’ meant but just simply that we were being asked to

take this one risk. 

So we broke up and my journey to openness, honesty, and transparency began.

I finally acknowledged that hiding was only suffocating me and If I didn’t vacate that dusty, dark, and damp closet I was going to explode.

I ended up serving at the same summer camp I had in the past and as camp goes I was exhausted regularly. I was exhausted but I had so much time to read Scripture, to be in short…but daily solitude, and to start from the foundation of Jesus’ most bare message. My heart was obviously wrecked over the course of that two months but I kept being pointed back to God’s attribute of “long-suffering.” I was reading about Christ’s forbearance with tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, the sexually immoral, and all the in-between too. I was moved by the kindness of God and sensed a warm invitation to turn from myself and be set free.


Set free from everything. From my pride, from my selfish autonomy, my bitterness, and all that anxiety I talked about from the secret life.

(Again, if you’re thinking ABC Family’s original series. Stop. That is also not where I was going either.)

I was just really sorry. Not lousy feeling, I got in trouble so I’m saying sorry, sorry. But sorry. Sorry for the attitude of my heart, for a state of mind which declared my own perspective ruler of all morality and choice, for the attitude of heart that traded soul-satisfaction for flesh-relief. The attitude of the heart that transferred my frustration with human limitation to anger with God….I learned that summer in very profound way that the goodness of God is entirely reflective of His character and not really of our own “noble” behavior.

Seventeen. In, Mostly ‘Out,’ & The Spaces Between. Part I

Ambiguity aside, this is the story [most names omitted.]

When I was 14 I became persuaded that the meta-narrative Christianity asserted to describe the nature of reality was absolutely true. From early childhood I had been really captivated by humanitarianism (thank you Oprah) and was discontent with the notion that there was nothing to account for that. Science had told me ‘how’ things in the universe happened but the resolve for ‘why’ seemed quite insufficient. I thought other world religions were appealing, sexy (if you will) but when exposed to the faithful and loving witness of a small  faith community and the biblical account for where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going something started to happen. Intuitively, or so it would seem, I knew this had to be true, and more than simply having to be true I was driven to a sense of responsibility. Responsibility for operating independently and autonomously of a divine Creator’s purposes, responsibility for my selfishness, my impatience, my pride, and ultimately my brokenness. I wasn’t really sure what to call this at the time but it was like all at once I was overwhelmed with the notion that no matter how squeaky clean my life appeared to be, this was all wrong. I was wrong about God. I was wrong with God…and the deepest parts of me began to crave change in that in a way beyond my own capacity. Under the crushing weight of sin and this personal responsibility broke the light of the gospel. For the first time the whole Jesus thing made sense. It was amazing, groundbreaking, and because it is impossible to avoid Christianese in posts like this, I was what the Scriptures call reborn.

So everything started changing. And I was infatuated. I dove head first into church activities, retreats, conferences, music, movies, youth rallies, and the ministry opportunities within the previously mentioned faith community as well as the ‘Church’ at large within my public high school. I really was growing in love with God, the person….not the ideology,philosophy, or system of belief and experienced affirmation and acceptance at a place inside me beyond cognition.

But

as you would guess, some frustrations both personal and intellectual began to develop.

You see, I was shuffled quickly into a number of leadership positions within these believing groups and there was sort of this expectation that I had to have all my s together. Whether that came from my adult mentors, the peers around me, or my own prideful habits I can’t be sure, but nevertheless it was a very real and pervasive complex. Somewhere in the midst of learning how to articulate the message of life in Jesus to others I lost sight of my own neediness for the gospel in my own day-to-day living. I can’t explain the specifics of how that happened either… but it was a huge problem and I believe it is something every person trying to follow Jesus goes through.

It’s kind of weird though…because you never really have those thoughts out loud or even to yourself for that matter. You always tell people how desperate you are for God’s unmerited goodness but your life and your heart just exists  “above” that charity. It just feels really ugly to know the same power that conquered the grave lives in you but

you.are.still.just.so.human.

So you run from your helplessness. You try to lie to God. You try to lie to yourself. And unfortunately you successfully lie to other people.

So there I am going through high school doing what I can to try and learn how to interact and worship my savior but yet what He asks of me– a broken and contrite spirit– I just refuse to yield. So I internalized.

My doubts, my questions, the thinking struggles, and the feeling struggles as well.

You see, as sure as I was that Jesus was the Son of God and totally worth my life’s complete devotion I was also pretty sure that what seemed natural and attractive to me in terms of sexuality and gender were condemned at least 8 times in the Scriptures. What I am trying to say is that I found superior intimacy with other females and I did not know how to keep that exclusive from physical attraction. There seemed to be no choice in the matter and in the same way that I had come to understand my salvation as simply “happening” to me…in so also was all this gay stuff. Based on the notorious reputation of the Church in responding to homosexuality I was miles from being able to deal with it and so I responded with this idea that I would “just not act on it.”

Such a notion worked quite effectively until I met someone who really captivated both my heart and mind

…and from there the flood-gates burst forth.

Sixteen. 6 Feet Under.

Where were you buried, dear?

I’ve been turning stones & digging up tombs

needing to be sure what they say is true.

I’ve crossed graveyards and checked the highways

stepped through backyards and searched that entire old town.

And nothing of you remains

not a seen thing to be found.

Where were you buried, dear?

I don’t know how to believe the story

adding numbers and facts that just cannot be true.

We crossed our hearts

we said never die

stepped across state lines

we pledged the promise of Life.

and nothing of you remains

not an ounce, not a pixel,not a part in sight.

Where were you buried, dear?

I must rest on one existential note

fighting silhouettes and memories

I am certain  that it is all true

purely because all I have is a

mere

ghost

of you.

Fourteen. Aftermath.

I have never not loved you

And  mangled hands tell it true.

I made those promises and those vows I intently kept

I have never not loved you

And ink-stained pages tell it true

I made that covenant thoughtfully

and that oath, I assure you I solemnly meant

I have never not loved you

And outdated memories tell it true

I called this ‘home’ devotedly

and that place I believed in

I have never not loved you

and this debauched altar tells it true

I crawled on it because He asked

I sacrificed this

but I will never

not

love

y o u.