Love Thyself

Love thyself.

That is hard to do for a man attracted to men. How are you supposed to love yourself, when the rest of the world says that that piece of you is not loveable, especially the culture that says, “God is love”. The narrative reads, “Yes, God loves you, but not that part,” and that in turn fractures a person. When people are willing to talk with you about everything else except anything that looks remotely gay, it doesn’t allow you to incorporate your whole self. When they want to small talk about everything, including the bloody weather, but they pretend your love life doesn’t exist because they’re scared of “encouraging” that piece of you, you have to deliver a self that the person will receive. You cater and tweak your identity to deliver someone that can be accepted. In doing so, you shapeshift to meet other people’s needs, not your own.

I sat down with a pastor not too long ago over lunch. After he was vulnerable about how my family and I hurt him (News Flash: pastors can get hurt too because they’re human too), he goes on to say, “Brandon, you need to know that God loves all of you, including the gay part of you.”

To hear those words felt so good, but also like blasphemy. It was like apprehensively drinking from a faucet you think might be poisoned. It felt good and refreshing, but doubt steals the blow you honestly need.

I recently spent a weekend with 1,100+ LGBTQIA+ Christians. Yep. I just said that. The whole weekend was powerful in the sense that I became normal, I was able to accept all pieces of me. Not just certain parts, but all of me. I belonged, and not just an arm or leg. All of me belonged. Though the speakers and worship were all powerful and freeing, there was an undercurrent that took me under in the least likely of places–a gay club.

After the conference, a group of us hit up a local gay club. As the bass pulsed through my body and laser lights danced on my skin, that undercurrent swallowed me whole, and I was caught in its riptide–I’m accepted, wholly accepted. In a place that most Christians would say God is not, but there be plenty of other “familiar” spirits, I experienced the love of God in the most powerful way.

Above the throng of people and the rhythm of EDM, I felt and heard a voice so calm and quiet, but far louder than all the noise, “You’re loved. All of you. All of you is lovely.” As that truth sunk deeper and deeper, I began to dance like a madman. I was pulled into the current of true acceptance.

PS, I don’t dance. You can ask my friends. I’m awkward and embody the spirit of Urkel (suspenders included). I normally jump up during a line dance because I know what’s expected of me and do it with my own flair (#mylife). Instead, without an expectation of how to dance, I danced how I wanted, knowing it was accepted, knowing the goober in me was cherished, knowing that I can be fully me and me is loved. I danced for three straight hours that night and had one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I’ve had in a long time, in the “least likely” of places.

But it’s easy to remember that truth when everyone around you is communicating it. It’s quite another to hold onto that truth in the midst of the whirlwind that is life, especially when that whirlwind wants to suck in some pieces of you and throw the others away. It rips you to shreds.

So now, in “normal life” the wake of a breakup, it’s really hard to remember that. The person that would remind me of that is now gone. And that’s when I realized… I didn’t just want someone to love that piece of me, I needed someone to love that piece of me, and the result was putting pressure on someone to meet needs I needed to meet in myself.

I went out dancing (because I now love it since it’s an act of accepting myself) with a friend. He said, “I don’t see many healthy gay relationships.” He’s someone that’s working out his sexuality, and that reality makes it hard to even see a relationship with a guy. The fact of the matter is it’s true. When I look around at the gay culture, I do see a lot of unhealthy relationships, and I think a rejection of self is a key reason. So many LGBTQIA+ humans have denied and not loved this piece of who they are. They’ve ostracized portions of themselves. So when someone affirms that orphaned portion, they, in turn, need that person to keep affirming that orphaned piece of themselves. And unfortunately, a lot of times, the other person is looking for the exact same thing. Now, instead of two whole people delighting in each other, you have two fractured people that need each other, unable to offer all they are, because they haven’t reconciled themselves. They finally are having pieces of themselves loved that they are unwilling to love themselves and to lose that is terrifying. They can’t lose it.

It’s like parching a thirst you didn’t even know was there because you’ve stuffed it down for so long. Now that the thirst has been quenched, you have no clue how to live without it. And unfortunately, society has done a terrible job of quenching that thirst. The desperation builds, twisted with shame, and you quench the thirst in the dark places. Why? Because you haven’t accepted them. How can you bring it forward and love it, when everyone will shame you for doing so? Fear and shame force you to put pieces of you in a corner and punish it with a dunce cap.

What does this do to our psyche? What does this create? You get men looking for hookups on Grindr when they just need this piece of them loved. You get men who have to take a pill to not get HIV because they can’t find the right guy so the find the right now guy. You get men who get drunk and take off their clothes on a dance floor because they just want this denied piece of them to be seen and loved. You get married men who all of a sudden want to open their relationship to a third.

This internalized homophobia, this self-hatred is robbing all of us. It’s robbing us of health. In our relationships. In our family. In our internal world. Because we’ve been told a piece of us is unlovely and we refuse to love that piece of us, we will latch onto anyone that will love that piece of us.

I have a question, how are you supposed to embrace someone when you’ve chopped off an arm? How are you supposed to run through life when you only have one leg? This is what happens when we fracture ourselves. We amputate pieces of us. Then we find a relationship that allows us to do a “three-legged” race through life. But when the one person wants to go one way, and you need to go the other, you panic. How can you continue on without your legs? No person deserves this pressure. It breaks people and demands things from them that we’re meant to give to ourselves or find in God.

At conference, I saw healthy gay relationships. And you know what they had? Each person was loving themselves, all of themselves. They weren’t looking to their partner to meet that need. They weren’t asking a person to love them in a way that only God could. They finally believed God loved that piece of them, and they could, in turn, love that piece of themselves. They didn’t need a person to love them. And in doing this, they could offer a whole self to the other person. A healthy relationship blossoms for the world to see.

This blog post came from one such healthy gay relationship. The relationship that he and his fiancé share honestly gives me hope. Healthy relationships with the same gender are possible, and I think it happens when we first love ourselves, when we know in the depth of our being, every piece of us is lovely before God. You can undo the very curse Adam and Eve brought upon themselves. “Who told you were naked?” In other words, “Who told you ‘You need to carry shame’?” You don’t need to hide behind the fig leaf anymore. Your arms and legs are not just accepted by God, even those private and intimate places are lovely to the Father. You can love all of you because God loves all of you. And that’s what this couple has done the hard work of doing.

My friend told me, “If my fiancé left me today, I’d be okay. It would hurt. But I’d be okay. Because more than loving my fiancé, I love myself. I love me some me.” In doing this, my friend isn’t looking to his fiancé to meet places in his heart, and when he doesn’t get them, he gets angry. He meets those needs in himself through the help of God, and in doing so, offers a whole self to his fiancé. It’s beautiful to see.

Fractured pieces mold back to wholeness. Silhouetted shadows are brought to the light, offered to the world and your partner.

Regardless of sexuality, I see lots of people get into toxic relationships just to have a piece of us loved that we’ve deemed unlovely. But before we can give ourselves to the world in any healthy way at all, before I can give myself to another person, I want to love myself completely. I want to own and bring to light every piece of me. I wanna cherish all my legs and embrace all my arms, and I wanna love every piece. I wanna “love me some me”. I think that’s the reason this blog exists, to bring a piece of me forward that I’ve hidden for so long to simply say, “I see you and you’re worth being seen,” and in doing so, cultivate some health in my life, because I sure as Hell need.

To close this thing out, I’ll quote my friend who quotes the legendary RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here?”

Love yourself. You’re worth it. Jesus thought so. He died for that person. Why call Jesus a liar by calling pieces of who you are unlovable?

Ten Things Every Gay Man Wishes Straight People Knew…

Ten things every gay man wishes straight people knew…

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  1. There is no “gay agenda” meeting – We’re not trying to make your kids gay or your wife a lesbian. We do want our love to have a level of normalcy. We also know how hard it was to feel “othered” growing up and don’t want that for the next generation.
  2. Yes, I’ve heard of Rue Paul – Doesn’t mean I’ve watched the show. But if I figuratively had *cough*, I’d also say, “Those divas be so extra, I wanna punch them in their put-together face.” (What do you mean I’m being extra?)
  3. Not all of us are liberals – Some of us open carry, drive Harley’s, and want the government to mind its own business. There were actually some of us that were not “with her”.
  4. Gay people are not perverts – I promise your son is safe at camp. Just because you’re straight doesn’t mean you’re gonna rape my figurative daughter.
  5. Being gay isn’t contagious – So stop acting like being around me or getting close to me or showing me physical affection will somehow make you gay. And just because you’re a guy, doesn’t mean I’m having sex with you in my mind. You may be ugly as hell. Attraction in the gay world is like attraction in the straight world. Also, no, if you’re my close friend, I think of you as my friend. I’m not attracted to you. Imagining having sex with you is like imagining I’m having sex with a sibling. Ya nasty! So don’t get weird after I come out to you. Treat me the same. I am the same. You now just know another part of me.
  6. Being gay JUST means I’m attracted to the same sex – It doesn’t mean I like theatre or Glee. It doesn’t mean I am feminine or have a lisp and talk with my hands a lot. It doesn’t mean I’m fashionable or super sensitive. I’m not wanting to get “mannies” and “paddies” (Although I did get a pedicure once and it was greaaaaat!) PS, a good chunk of us actually play sports and go to the gym. In fact, we go to the gym way more than any of you straight people.
  7. No, I will not be your GBF (I’m taken) or your “guncle” (I have a few nieces and nephews already) – We’re in high demand. That’s what happens when there’s one of us for every ten of you.
  8. Being gay doesn’t make me a lesser man – In fact, maybe we embody the other half of a caricatured masculinity.
  9. Just because I’m gay, does not make me more sexual – That said, if you’re gay,  you’re probably more sexual. There are a looooooot of gay men out there that are very sexually driven. But men, in general, are more sexually driven than women, and now you have two sexually charged humans in a relationship together. All that said, the gay community has done a disservice to put so much emphasis on sexuality when it comes to their identity. It creates a sexually charged sub-culture. But that’s also what you get when sexual desires have been put at bay for the majority of adolescence. It’s like we have to have a second puberty. That said, I know tons of gay men that actually don’t like sex. Did you know that over 25% of us don’t even have full-on intercourse, even in a committed relationship?
  10. Being gay is not a choice – Believe me, if we could choose to be straight, we would have, a long time ago. Anyone that “chooses to be gay” is a masochist. No one in their right mind would choose all that comes with being gay (queue for next blog post, stay tuned).

In short, we’re people. Just like you. Don’t try to pigeon-hole us. Get to know us. Like any human, chances are, we’re not going to fit your stereotype. We’re infinitely different, and yet the same in our “human-ness”, just like you.

I Came to God for Witchcraft

“Dear God, come into my heart and make me powerful.” -Me, at the age of five.

I don’t like sharing the deep details of my first encounter with God, because my intentions would be exposed… and my intentions weren’t pretty.

After getting spanked with a belt for what felt like the hundredth time (young minds have a way of exaggerating, so don’t quote me, probably more like twentieth), I ran outside and laid down on the cool California lawn, staring up at the few stars I could see.

My mind went racing, contemplating that someone had to put those stars there, and to put those stars there, that someone had to be powerful. In that moment, all I wanted was to feel powerful.

I couldn’t run from being spanked. I couldn’t fight being spanked. So I allied myself with someone more powerful.

No one led me through a “sinner’s prayer”. No one told me the “magic words”. Desperate to become powerful and not alone, I prayed, “Dear God, come into my heart and make me powerful.”

Shortly after that, I prayed for a little brother to “annoy my parents”, out of spite and vindication. I was mad, but now I was powerful, and I was gonna have my way.

With confidence, I marched my five-year-old, cocky self to my mom, told her she was gonna have a baby, and it was gonna be a boy.

I had no concept of sex. In fact, I wouldn’t learn girls had pleasure in sex till I was 19 at Bible school of all places. But with or without my mom’s permission, she was gonna have a kid. Why? Cause I prayed, and God was living in me now.

Little did I know that my parents weren’t “planning on having a kid” anytime soon. But nine months later I had a baby brother.

Shortly after that, my mom asked me to pray for her friend to have kids. “She can’t have babies, Brandon. But if you prayed for her like you prayed for me, maybe she’ll have one.” I did, and nine months later she had a baby. A year later, she had another.

In my young mind, I was convinced that if I prayed and asked for it, God had to do it because I gave Him my heart, and He now lived in me. I was powerful. In the following years, I would pray for another family’s fertility and also a young girl that had leukemia. The family had a girl, and the child with leukemia was healed.

Why do I share this, especially when I could have hidden my motives forever? Why expose myself and not pretend I came to Jesus with a pure heart?

Because that’s just simply not true, and I think there’s a lesson to be learned here in how God functions.

In the book of Acts, there’s a man named Simon. He was a sorcerer. He wanted to be baptized so he could say, “In the name of Jesus” and perform miracles. He came to Jesus for power. Just like Simon, I came to Jesus for power. They were wrong motives. But He used it.

Not only did God answer my VERY simple prayers (“Jesus, give my mom a son”), but He used it to gain a place in my heart. Once there, He began to change it.

Twelve years after praying that prayer, I transitioned from believing there was a God, to trusting God with my life, from manipulating a powerful force, to being transformed by that force.

Jesus had THOUSANDS of people following Him for free food. They didn’t come for the messages. They didn’t come because they believed He was the Son of God. They came because there was free food… and maybe because He took jabs at religious folk.

But He used it.

He used my need to feel powerful. He used Simon’s greed for fame. He used a multitude’s hungry stomachs.

He will take what you have–period–and use it to gain space in your heart.

I do not trust Jesus because I magically saw who He was and instantly turned over my life in hopes of becoming a missionary to starving orphans in Africa, or some other noble, selfless cause. I came for a selfish cause–myself. But He took it. And I’m so glad He did.

Masculine Love

 

It. A horror movie that most of us are familiar with. But for me, it was so much more than that. “It” called out to longings in my heart…

No… I don’t want to eat children and feed on their fear.

But when a bunch of boys jump in a quarry, when they walk into the face of danger fighting side by side, when they simply bike down the road laughing with one another, something stirs deep within me. In the final scene, as they cut their hands and make a circle, vowing to vanquish the evil together should it raise its ugly head, I got a little emotional.

I want that.

I recently had lunch with a pastor in town. He said, “Brandon, you crave masculine love. I see it in your eyes when you’re hugged by a man, and it isn’t evil.”

Is it, though? For so long, I’ve had this thirst for masculine love, and all at once I love it and think it’s so wrong. When my guy friends hug me, it means so much, and then I immediately feel dirty for it meaning so much. One time a leader of a ministry in town said, “I feel like I’m just supposed to hold you for a bit.” He held me in his arms for ten minutes, and the whole time I both craved and despised it. I wanted to give myself to it, but I can’t. I can’t want this.

Somehow, if this means so much, it’s a sign that something is wrong within me, twisted within me, gay within me. So something I crave I feel I have to hate. And in doing so, hate that I crave it.

So something I crave I feel I have to hate. And in doing so, hate that I crave it.

It makes me question my motives. It makes me want to hide.

“If this guy knew how much it meant that we’re grabbing a beer and talking so candidly, he’d freak out and fear being around me. If this guy knew how much this hug means to me, he’d never hug me again. Keep cool. You don’t even need this, Brandon. Act like this doesn’t matter. Men don’t care too much about something. You’re overbearing. You’re needy. You’re twisted. Better not show it, because if you do, the men in your life will leave, and then you’ll be missing the very thing you crave… but don’t crave it too much, because then…”

And the circle continues.

I literally psychoanalyze every motive, movement, and word that leaves my mouth. They are passed through a test of, “Does this look gay? If you look gay, they’ll run.” It’s one of the reasons that having a boyfriend is so great. The tension breaks. I don’t have to fear being gay because this person appreciates that. I don’t have to live in on an emotional tight-rope anymore. I can just fall into a masculine love that meets so many parched and lonely places of my heart. The lonely places of sitting on the side of a school building, watching the boys be boys without me. The lonely place of feeling like I should have an older sibling or for someone to show me the way. The lonely place of having best friends that choose others over you. The lonely place of wanting to be held by a man and for it to not feel wrong.

It’s one of the reasons that having a boyfriend is so great. The tension breaks. I don’t have to fear being gay because that actually opens a door to everything I’m longing for. I don’t have to live on an emotional tightrope. I can just fall into a masculine love that meets so many parched and lonely places of my heart…

The lonely place of sitting on the side of a school building, watching the boys be boys without me.

The lonely place of feeling like I should have an older sibling or for someone to show me the way.

The lonely place of having best friends that choose others over you.

The lonely place of wanting to be held by a man and for it to not feel wrong.

So, while others have adrenaline coursing through their veins from the terror that is It, I’m breaking a little inside with a feeling of forlorn.

I wanna belong with someone. I want strong arms to hold me and for it to not be tainted. I want masculine love.

Faith

Faith.

People say it’s simple.

Maybe.

But it’s also one of the hardest things.

Looking at varying religions, to have faith in the One seems like a simple request. But it is the hardest of simple requests.

Personally, I find faith murky and complicated, like stumbling through the dark.

I think a lot of people say they have faith, but in reality, they turned on the lights, took notes, and have strutted through life with the last revelation they had. “The door is here. The table is here. There’s a crack in the floor there.” But then they’re confused when they stumble over something that doesn’t fit the image they had when the lights turned on. A lamp fell, and now they tripped over the unknown. They stumble and become frustrated, trying to remember what they saw when the lights were on. They remember the lamp on the nightstand and reason that that was what they tripped over. Something must have shifted, and it fell.

But that’s just it. Their trust is actually in reason, in their memory of how the room was and how it always will be. They look at a photograph of the pitch-black room they find themselves in, studying over holy pixels. But then the furniture is rearranged, and they’re so confused as to why the room they find themselves in isn’t like the photo.

They pause. They breathe. They construct a new view of the room. They try to make sense of the unknown.

Is this faith?

I, myself, have found myself reeling and confused at times due to the re-arrangements of life. I go to sit down on what I thought was a couch, but instead, I fall through time and space, collapsing on the floor.

I pause. I collect myself. I try to make sense of my world, looking for reasons and why’s to the darkness I find myself in.

Personally, I think I’m done reasoning. I’m exhausted from trying to make sense of things, to rest in the fact that a + b always = c. It doesn’t always equal c. Sometimes you pray as hard as you know how, and the miracle doesn’t come. Sometimes you obey every letter and stroke of that holy pen, but still feel completely dead inside. Sometimes you step away from all that you trusted, to find that you want to trust it all again, just to find semblance of the dark room of life you find yourself in. To then take a leap of faith and find yourself frustrated still.

Faith is a peculiar and non-formulaic thing. It is evasive and transformative. It’s an elusive shape-shifter that has some sense of substance, but insubstantial shape. Like sand in our hands, it materializes and then sifts through our fingers.

But this is what I have found, the people who possess the paramount of peace, the humans who hold the most honest sense of self, are not the ones who have the floorplan, but those who hold a hand of the one who sees “darkness as light” and nothing can escape His vision.

He will never leave me.

He will never forsake me.

And though I stumble through the dark, I have but to simply try and close my hand to feel His strong callouses.

He will see me through, and His grip will not relent.

A Meal Fit for Thieves

Matthew nine has some pretty powerful passages. Ones that if we re-read, maybe we would be challenged at how exactly God works.

It starts with a man on a mat, forgiven of sins. Why? Because he showed up. All he did was say, “I need you to touch me Jesus.” No sinners prayer. No five-step program on discipleship. He just showed up, in desperate need of Jesus.

With that heart, Jesus says, “You’re sins are forgiven.”

A few lines down, we meet Matthew. He’s a thief, spy and traitor. He’s become rich at the exploitation of the poor and powerless. And it is he that Jesus dines with.

Furious, the religious leaders say, “Why do you eat with these people?” (A sign of friendship)

Jesus’s response? “I want the sinners. I want those that know they need me.”

Dear Jesus I need you.

As the religious scoffers and naysayers tell me Jesus can’t meet me in this place of dating a guy, as friends hold hesitations of approval or refusal, unsure of what to say, I hear God say, “I’m right here. I’m meeting you right here.”

And with those words, the turmoil of heart becomes still. I trust that He has me. Period.

Just like those misfits sitting around the table in Matthew’s house, I know that I’m not righteous by my will alone. I know that I am royally screwed if admittance into heaven is based upon my merit. I’m S.O.L. without Him.

But with Him… in the midst of my sin… He calls me son, He calls me His boy. As voices swirl around me, making me nauseous and nervous, He speaks peace to my heart.

“I have not left you. I’m right here. I’ll never leave you.”

I am holy, not because of anything I did. It has everything to do with what He did. He’s just looking for people to turn from their own efforts and cling to the cross.

This is repentance. A turning from self-dependance to dependance on Him.

Dependance for salvation. Dependance for provision. Dependance for making it through the day.

There is so much life offered to us, so much joy offered to us, so much love offered to us, offered at the expensive price of Jesus Christ. But it’s been paid. It’s like we’re at a five-course dinner, and Jesus say’s, “Eat up. The meal is paid for.” And we’re refusing to eat because we didn’t dress well and we forgot which fork to use.

We let shame starve us.

I know I do.

So much of my thinking has been conditioned to be conditional. I expect Christ to tolerate, me when I approach Him, and I find myself doing that with every person I come into contact with.

“They don’t actually love me. They tolerate me.” 

“If I love them well, if I behave well, if I meet their needs, then I’ll be loved.”

For crying out loud, I even do this in my relationship with the guy I’m dating. If I mess up in some way shape or form, my mind immediately thinks that the relationship is over.

Our relationships with people reflect what we believe to be true about ourselves and our relationship with God.

I wanna trust that I’m infinitely loved by an infinite God, regardless of my current condition because He said, “It is well with your soul. I made it well.”

I’m loved no matter what. His blood is for me… no matter what.

I’m desperately trying to understand that I am loved… right here… right now… Unconditionally. That He is slowly but surely unwinding the conditions I have implemented to accept His love, in order to get to my heart.

At times, I feel like I’m tearing.

Matthew nine addresses this too.

“You can’t put new wine in old wine skin. You can’t patch old wine skin with new wine skin. It’ll tear and burst.”

The Old Testament was, “Here are the steps to get to God.”

The New Testament is, “Here is how God has come for you. God has found you, and He has paid the price to build a home you can’t run from. He’s decided to take residence in you.”

When I trust that, when I get away and hear Him speak to my heart, I feel free to love well. Why? Because I’m safe and am drinking of a love that no man or woman can give me.

But when I’m not drinking of this sweet grace, this sweet safety, I look to this guy I’m dating to satisfy the longings of my heart that only Jesus can fulfill. To create safety that only Jesus can provide. To promise me he won’t leave me.

But Jesus has already promised He will never leave me nor forsake me. Jesus has already promised me that I can find shelter for my weary soul in Him.

When I drink of this grace, when I eat of the table of love even though I’m dressed in a dorky outfit and I reach for the spoon at the top of the plate to eat a salad, I’m able to love without expecting anything in return. And that’s real love. Love that pours out without expectations.

But when shame whispers to me at the table, “You cannot eat of this food,” I become malnourished, and reach out for any and everyone to satisfy my soul.

But they can’t hold my heart like Jesus does. No one can.

After my first date with this guy currently I’m dating, I felt like God said, “How was your date?”

I smiled shyly and said, “It was awesome.”

Then I felt like God said, “How did you like how he held you?”

“Whoohoo! Damn! It was nice!”

Then I felt God’s coy smile, like He had a secret. “He may hold you physically, but no one can hold your heart like I do.”

I melted. Because it’s true.

Man or woman, I know that my heart will not be secure in their embrace alone. Yes, the man in my life has healed deep wounds that I didn’t even know were there, and he’s not even intentionally doing it.

He chases me out into the field, because he misses my company. But my heart screams, “I’ve always have wanted to be chased, to be wanted.”

I have never stepped into a gym because I fee like I don’t belong. He just wants someone to benchpress with, but to me I’ve been invited in.

I feel alone and panic as I’m on my own, and he says, “I’m sticking around. I don’t know why you think I’m going to leave. We’ll make it through this.”

I feel gross with massive acne breaking out on my chest. He says, “I love you no matter what, and I think you’re attractive no matter what. But I see how much that bugs you, and if I need to help pay for it, let’s get it taken care of.”

But as amazing as his love is, it “grows strangely dim” in the light of God’s unconditional love, and it is by His unconditional love that I am released to love. Why? Because my love is no longer conditional. It no longer fears, hoping that if I love I’ll get love back. I’m no longer looking to humanity to meet my eternal needs. I’m finding my satisfaction with Jesus.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

The Gospel is hard. It genuinely is. It’s hard to trust that you’re loved and safe right here. It’s hard to trust that the mockers are wrong, that Jesus is right, and that it is truly by grace and grace alone that I am saved.

It’s hard to trust… period. But this is the Gospel.

We are loved right here, without conditions.

We are loved and forgiven before the leg is healed, before anything has changed, before another sacrifice is made. We are loved… right… here… and we need this love. It’s what our hearts were made for. Without it, life feels pointless, black and white, filled in with gray shades of rules and religion. But with Him, with Him life becomes full of color. It’s filled with every shade and hue of vivid love. All I need to do is open up and trust.

The Gospel is about learning to trust that Love, and most days, it’s freaking hard. But I’m gonna keep trying.

Arguing with God about Peanut Butter

I was in the grocery store yesterday, purchasing peanut butter, contemplating which brand I should buy. My wallet told me to buy a cheap one. God told me to buy an expensive one.

For most people, peanut butter shouldn’t be a tension point with God. It was with me. And he was showing me His love through smashed legumes (yes, peanuts are legumes, not nuts).

This is why peanut butter was a moment of conflict:

  1. Three months ago, I started dating a guy.
  2. Three weeks ago, I announced to the world I’m dating him.
  3. Three days ago, I packed my bags and left my place of residence because of a text stating, “choose God or your sin.”

I found myself standing in the grocery store aisle feeling dejected and alone, fending for myself with $125 to my name. I had bills to pay and gas to buy. The run to the grocery store was for the essentials: milk, cereal, bananas and peanut butter. All of the cheapest quality to save what little money I had.

But standing in the aisle, feeling dejected and alone, fending for myself, I hear God whisper, “Buy a good peanut butter. Buy one you want.”

And thus began the argument.

“That’s $3 more that I could spend on something else.”

“I’ll provide.”

“I have $125.”

“I’ll provide.”

“I misbehaved! I don’t get to be provided for!”

There it was: a deep belief that I get love if I behave.

I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but there’s a belief that I get love and all its benefits if I behave well.

My friends will stick around if I behave.

I’ll be “anointed” for ministry if I behave.

God will bless and provide for me if I behave.

Conditional love.

If I would have packed my bags as a full-time minister, not dating a guy, with a “superior moral caliber,” everything in me would have trusted that God would have taken care of me regardless of the lack of money in my possession.

But dating a guy?

But after a text like that?

But when people around me say, I’m the “prodigal child,” living in sin?

God won’t take care of me there.

I’m dejected and alone, fending for myself. And myself only has $125.

I’m screwed.

And there… in that place, I hear God whisper, “Buy the expensive peanut butter. Because a good dad takes care of his kid, regardless if he’s behaving or not. You’re bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, when you’re behaving or misbehaving, when you’re a monk or a misfit. My blood pumps through your veins at all times. It can’t leave. We’re bound to each other in pain or promise, poor or plenty, and I’ll take care of you because I love you… because you’re my kid, my son, my child, my beloved one. I’m not going anywhere… Now buy the expensive peanut butter.”

Walking out of the grocery store with bananas coconut milk, cereal, peanut butter and now $111.28, I tried to trust unconditional love.

I’m trying to trust unconditional love.

Little Miracle

For the past few weeks it has been evident that God is on the horizon, crafting amazing stories to whisper hope into my heart. And He has whispered to it through a powerful, yet simple miracle…

 

Many people, especially family members, have asked, “Why do you write your blog? Why do you display your intimate struggles for all to see?” Some have labeled it unhealthy, others brave, others are ashamed.

My response to both? I have to.

There’s literally no other way for me to describe this process than “bleeding out.” For so long I felt ashamed of my story, hiding in the shadows. I think a lot of people feel the same way regarding same-gender attraction–that there stories aren’t allowed.

But I think a pendulum swing has occurred. I have went from hiding in the dark to being completely exposed, and it’s the most freeing and healing experience. I’m never going back to hiding.

Tenth Avenue North has a song called, “Healing Begins.” The chorus says, “This is where the healing begins, this is where the healing starts, where you come to where you’re broken within, and the light meets the dark.”

I’ve witnessed that reality. As I’ve bled out on these “pages,” a healing of transparency has occurred. But besides healing, this blog has opened many doors. It’s allowed me access into lives still hiding in the dark. It’s given me insight into other stories other than my own. It has challenged me… as people have shared stories that challenge my beliefs, my values, my fears.

As someone who wrestles out these attractions while attempting to trust Jesus, the number one fear everyone with my story has is, “What if I get married and some day hook up with the same sex, ruining my marriage and family?”

As more and more posts have ensued from this blog, many caring individuals have reached out and shared how, “My youth pastor married, realized he was gay, divorced his wife and is now happily married to man.” “I grew up in the church, tried to date girls and just realized I can’t do that, and started dating guys.””I know a pastor who’s gay.”

Growing up I first-hand experienced a pastor commit adultery with another man, get kicked out of the church and state and is shamed for his failure. His marriage is still in tact, but his name is forever tainted.

Probably my deepest fear, above snakes or needles, is that I would become him, that I would marry, be in ministry only to epically fail.

Hearing stories from these “good meaning people” added to the fear. And that fear is shared by any man or woman wrestling out marrying the opposite sex while having attractions to the same sex.

We all think at some point, “Is marrying a woman/man fair to me? Fair to my spouse? What if I mess up? What about the kids? What if…”

I’ve heard it countless times.

That is the narrative I have been hearing for a long time. It is one of fear. But recently, as a result of this blog, I have witnessed a new narrative that I had never heard till now. I wish had heard these stories growing up. But no one wants to talk about homosexuality or that they or their spouse had/has these attractions. We’ve made it shameful to talk about.

Because of its silence, I hoped for marriage but always doubted its reality, simply because you don’t hear that story. I’ve only heard stories of failed marriages. But recently, I’ve encountered some powerful stories challenging the norm of what to expect regarding same-gender attraction.

 

The Locals.

I have these friends. I deeply respect them. We’ve done ministry together. Their marriage inspires me. Their candid love and honesty challenges me. They’re simply amazing.

But never in my life would I have expected the email I received in response to this blog.

“Brandon, I just want to say, as a woman who is married to a man who’s attracted to men, that a beautiful marriage is possible. We’re living that story, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

I had no clue her husband had these feelings. Never would I have guessed that their marriage came in spite of his attractions. Never would I have believed this as part of their story, because, frankly, their marriage seems great. And it is great. But never did imagine that marriage with someone with those attractions would be great. If anything, it would be limping along. But their’s isn’t. It’s thriving.

Hope was conceived.

 

The Friend.

Last minute I bought a ticket to Texas to visit old friends. The time was desperately needed to escape. Surrounded by these people I feel the most at home. I can laugh with them, cry with them, snort with them. I can be me, and it is cherished. Not only that, but in their presence I am reminded of what my heart beats for, what I want my life to emulate.

After hardly any sleep, due to conversations, music and In and Out rendezvouses, I found myself, sitting across a coffee table with one of these cherished friends. After laughing, she gets deep on me the very next second (my favorite), “Brandon, I’ve been reading your blogs, and thank you for your honesty. But I just want you to know, there are passionately strong women out there that will champion your heart. I’m one of them. We are very rare, but we’re awesome. My boyfriend has done everything in the book, including aspects of your story, but I’m so in love with that man, and I will fight for his heart with my last breath. We’re out there. I promise.”

For so long I felt that only a man could satisfy the longings of my heart. But sitting across the coffee table from my friend, one of these “passionately strong women,” reminded me that there is a good fit for me, that this is possible.

 

The Strangers.

After first publishing this blog, a woman reached out to me named Leah. She shared that we had a similar story, but that she was now married to a man. Over email correspondents, we decided I was gonna come visit her and her husband… whom I have never met… whom I didn’t even know what they looked like… and live with them for a few days… on the complete opposite side of the state… five hours away.

Needless to say some people thought I was crazy.

“You’re doing what?” was the most common response when I shared my plans for the following week. Some people even told me to send me my location in case I was Taken, as if they were Liam Neeson.

But I wasn’t scared as I drove five hours through mountain roads to the Utah border. One, because I do this kind of thing a lot (hitchhiking, couch surfing, etc.) Second, because I had an overwhelming peace. In fact, I was excited. Anticipation grew in my chest. Something was gonna happen with these people.

At 9:45 p.m., ten minutes away from the Utah border, in the middle of nowhere, on the side of the road, I met up with Leah and her husband Zay. Though they never met me in person, they both were so excited to see me and gave me the most welcoming hugs, stating, “We’re so glad you’re here!” We jumped back in our cars and drove to their farm in Mack, CO.

And guess what? They didn’t kill me, stuff my body full of drugs and ship me across the border. Nope. Instead they shared with me their story and unconditional love. I got a taste of heaven on their farm, and I’m eternally grateful.

After a trip to Moab, a hike in Devil’s Canyon and wine tasting in Palisade, I found myself at the end of my trip sitting next to Leah and Zay mesmerized. Zay had passed out asleep after a long day of gardening, snuggling into his wife.

The thought came, “I’ve witnessed a miracle.”

Leah is very candid about her story. But she didn’t used to be that way. Growing up in the church, loving Jesus but attracted to girls, she always felt “othered,” caught in between two worlds at war with each other.

(I think lots of us with the same story have felt that exact same feeling.)

Till the age of thirty she wrestled with these attractions, never voicing them, never acting on them. The tension inside of her brought about depression and frustrations.

She would see lesbian and gay couples partnering up, feeling left out, like she couldn’t have it. Multiple times she screamed at God, “Why can’t I have that?” But His response was always, “It’s not the good I have for you.”

Unsure what that “good” was, she continued through life silent… that is until she started a young adults small group where she was challenged by God to share with them her attractions.

Terrified, she opened up… and was warmly welcomed by her peers. Thank God! Good job humans! You did good!

One such welcoming peer was a guy names Zay, who was absolutely mesmerized by this woman’s faith and love of Jesus.

A week later, something truly miraculous happened–Leah started having feelings for Zay. Small problem: Zay was dating another girl… Leah’s good friend.

Talk about rough. But it gets rougher.

God told Leah she needed to express her feelings to her friend. She did, and the friend broke up with Zay, via text message and said, “Leah likes you.”

Zay was utterly confused. “Didn’t she just come out to us? Why did my girlfriend just break up with me? Is this gonna work?” But, in spite of all his questions and confusion, Zay took Leah on a date, and a year later they’re married. And here’s the crazy part… happily married. Not begrudgingly. In fact, I would describe their love for each other as stupid cute. They’re madly in love, and it is so captivating to see.

They celebrate and cherish who their partner is. They don’t care about social constructs. There is permission and excitement with who the other person is.

Leah has complete permission to get down in the dirt with Zay without feeling “de-feminized.” She can shave her head, and Zay adores it. She doesn’t like cooking, so Zay takes her out to eat most nights. Zay can be the epitome of jock, yet have the largest heart. He can snuggle up into his wife’s shoulder and fall asleep. He doesn’t feel threatened by Leah being strong and independent. He adores it.

Social pressures and stereotypes have been completely disarmed within their marriage, and they simply love who the other is. Their each other’s biggest fans.

Sitting their watching them snuggle into each other’s arms, as we watched Seinfeld, was a precious moment for me. Why? Because it sparked hope.

“Brandon, I never saw this coming. I knew God had a ‘good’ for me, but I would have never imagined this life I have with Zay, but I love it. We live on a farm. We’re madly in love. But at the end of the day, I’m not attracted to men. I’m attracted to Zay, and he’s the ‘good’ God had for me all along.”

Here’s another awesome thing about Leah and Zay: their love transcends each other. Being in their presence I felt completely safe and loved. I could say whatever I wanted without fear. I could see that they truly saw me, and not only gave me permission to be that person, but rejoiced in that person.

Leaving the farm, Zay sent me a text. “I see this being a friendship that lasts a long time. Just keep being yourself, there is so much there for people to love and for you to bless them with. You’re the man!”

There is a love that Zay and Leah have that I think is meant for all of us to share. It’s a love that believes in people, and gives them permission to be themselves and wrestle through this thing we call life.

Some good friends of Zay and Leah’s are a lesbian couple that own a pizza joint. They never say, “Your story should look like our’s.” They love those two women right where they’re at.

While out at the farm, I told Leah that I’m still texting a guy I’m interested in. Instead of saying, “Brandon, there’s a woman out there for you,” she simply said, “Hey, your journey is your journey, not mine.”

Regardless of my story, I’m accepted by these people, and it’s freeing. No guilt. No shame. Just love, and it’s birthed hope, and man how I’ve needed it.

I don’t know my story. But to define where I’m at I would steal the words of my ex-girlfriend. “Open handed.”

I don’t know if I’ll meet a perfect woman to hoe weeds in western Colorado with. I don’t know if I’ll find a man for that matter. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll simply have a best guy friend where we share an intimacy beyond marriage, but we never have sex. Maybe I’ll create a pseudo-family around me of people who I just love. Maybe I’ll find a “passionately strong woman” like my friend “who will fight for my heart.” I honestly don’t know. But for the first time, in a long time, I’m trusting Jesus again. He has my best interest at heart. He has a “good” for me. I’m not sure what that is. It’s not Leah’s “good.” It’s my “good.”

So I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know I trust Him. And that’s saying something, and I owe it to people like Leah and Zay and the friends surrounding me, inspiring me through their trust and obedience. Thanks guys! You mean the world. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your love, belief and hope. Love you guys!

Intrepid Trust

Well… It’s been journey… And still is…
Over two months ago I broke up with this guy I really like.
But then I hated that I broke up with him, couldn’t take it, ran back, only to run away again.
As stated before, this whole journey of being attracted to the same sex while loving Jesus is really hard, especially because everyone has such differing opinions.
People want me to be with a guy.
People want me to be with a girl.
People want me to be alone.
But at the end of the day, it’s my life, and my journey to attempt to navigate.
So where am I at now?
Trying to trust God.
And it’s freaking hard.
I know God told me this guy and I couldn’t be together romantically and definitely not sexually. But I doubt if I heard wrong at times. Did I just listen to what I was raised in? But I couldn’t shake it. And that’s why I left.
Now would God have left me if I continued dating this guy? Was that my fear? No and no. I may be uncertain about a lot, but I’m not uncertain of that. He wouldn’t have left me, and He never did.
God was with me every step of the way during those two confusing months of on and off dating this guy—wooing my heart, holding me when I needed to be held, allowing me to scream and run, only to chase me and calm my heart. Whether I was alone in my room crying, reading my Bible while drinking coffee, in a church service praising His name or in a bed with this guy, I felt Him. I heard Him.
I knew He was near.
But the number one thing that drove me away was not a booming voice, saying, “Break up with this man.” It was an unsettling. It was a nausea, growing in the pit of my stomach, and I couldn’t shake it.
He’d text me, and butterflies would rise in my chest, only to get swallowed up by a raging sea in my stomach.
So I attempted to trust Jesus and left. I came back because I didn’t trust Jesus. I left again because I felt played by this guy. But who’d blame him. He probably felt played by my emotional vertigo. But it still hurt, and I doubted I even mattered to him. So I left again. Yes, in attempts to trust Jesus, but also armed with hurt.

So the current status…
I feel pulled in three directions:
1. Try to make up with this guy again, even though I know it’s broken beyond repair.
2. Try to make it work with another guys.
3. Try to obey God, remaining open handed, trusting that He has my best interest at heart.

Option one is a dead end, because there’s no way this guy will take me back.
Option two just seems super exhausting, and if I left this guy for fear of dating men, I’m not gonna run to another man. That just seems pointless.
So I’m left with option three. And as terrible as that is to say, it does feel like a lot of times. Im left wth trusting God. Not so much picking it. Left with it as an option. To be quite frank, if God didn’t break option one, I don’t know if I would have picked God. I think I would have picked his guy. I tried to pick God with the first break up, but then I ran back to something that had broken, to leave it because of regret. My will was weak, and my faith unsure. I often wonder if God broke it because He knew I couldn’t handle it.
But here in this place is “left with option three,” I’m left with questions:
How will God fulfill my heart? What woman would take a risk on me? Is that fair to her? Is that fair to me?
What happens if I find a girl, marry her, and later down the road I ruin it? What happens if I can’t perform sexually? Will she fulfill my heart? Will I fulfill hers? Is this fair? Why? Why can’t I have a guy? More importantly, why can’t I have this guy?

It’s while assaulted by these endless questions, that I feel like Abraham.
“Hey Abraham.”
“Yes, LORD.”
“Leave everything you know, your comfort, your security, your inheritance, and go.”
“Where?”
“I’ll show you. Oh, and PS, I’m gonna make your descendants as numerous as the stars, and through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
“But… I don’t have a kid… And you know how old I am, right? And my wife ain’t so hot either.”
“Yeah. I know. Just go. It’ll be fine. Chop chop. Come on. Let’s go.”
So Abraham moves to a land he doesn’t understand, trying to trust God. But then freaks out. He runs to Egypt and lies about his wife. God exposes Abraham, and he’s kicked out of Egypt. He does it again to the local Canaanites. God exposed him, and he’s kicked out. God had to keep him in the promised land by kicking him out of the rest, by breaking them. Then, after all that lack of trust, Abraham takes matters into his own hands and sleeps with his slave girl, finally having a child.
“Ha! I did it.”
“Yeah… Send him into the desert with his mom.”
“But… But…”
“I’m gonna make this thing happen.”
“Are you though?”
Are you though, God?
I so feel like Abraham, and maybe when my hearts satisfied, He’ll have me slaughter it like Isaac. After all, He said He’s a jealous God. But something deep within me is trying to trust He’s not cruel, that He’s looking out for my good. But my trust is shaky. I’m moving forward, but my heart aches at times, looking at the last.
I’ll drive by the gym we’d workout at, or someone makes a voice inflection like him or anything that’s remotely close to him reminds me of him and it’s game over. A little nostalgia and I’m pulled under into the sea of regret.
At some point, daring to hope and trust gives me buoyancy, and I breach the surface. I attempt to ride the tide, resting in the current, trusting God, till another thought pulls me under like a rip curl.
I feel like I’m in mourning, and no one died.
Maybe I’m dying.
Maybe that’s good.
The Bible talks about resurrection and new life.
But will God give me this new life, and if He does, will I be okay with it?
Deep within me, beyond emotions (cause I got a ton of those), beyond human reasoning (cause I try to make sense of everything), I know this is right. I know God will catch me, even though it feels like I’ve been falling for ages.
Father, I’m falling with open hands. I’m not gonna try and manipulate or change my heart. It’s here. It’s before you, and I’m falling. My stomach’s in my chest, and I wonder when your hands will stop the descent.
You have me. You have my heart. I’m choosing to trust you.
Just don’t make me wait till 100 years old to see the promise. I ain’t no Abraham. I’m Brandon Flanery, and I’m not as patient.
With love and intrepid trust,
Your Son.

Chronicle of a Guy Who Likes Guys But Also Likes this Guy Named Jesus

 


“I’m calling it. It’s over. I’m sorry.”
I hang up the phone, looking out the window as the snow falls.
My heart shivers from more than the cold outside. It’s something deep inside me.
I exhale and close my eyes.
“This sucks God.”
I curl up on the couch and just want to pretend life isn’t happening, that I can just not exist for a while. 
It’s only been a few seconds, and I already miss him. 
It’s only been a few seconds, and I want to take back every word.
But you can’t take back words. They’ve been written into history, and now I have to live with them.

This is so hard.

Four weeks ago I was sideswiped by a man. 
In the midst of confusion and intense loneliness, I had hooked up with 13 men, gotten out of 13 beds (or cars), leaving behind 13 nights, pretending each one didn’t happen.
It had low collateral damage.
Not emotions, satisfy my need to not be alone, move on and pretend it didn’t happen.
It was working great, and by great, I mean slowly destroying my heart, till a guy messaged me and said, “I don’t wanna hook up. You seem like a great guy, and I would love to take you on a date.”
My fingers paused, hovering over the screen.
Date?
A guy wanted to take me on a date?
My heart wanted to soar. But instead, it remained cautious. I anticipated it was all a ruse. 
No guy just wants a date.
But I was proven wrong. 

I ended up bailing on the date. I had “conveniently” remembered a Christmas party I RSVP’ed to. Besides, it was easier to run from this then to get my hopes up, only to have them come crashing down–my narrative thus far.
“I’m sorry! I just completely forgot about this party.”
“It’s okay. It just sucks cause I had reservations.”
He had reservations? He cared enough about me to legitimately plan a date and make reservations?
I didn’t know how to take this. It was so foreign to me—being pursued and wanted to this caliber. I know I shouldn’t want this, that it shouldn’t mean so much. But it did, and here I was running from it.
My heart sank.
However, by happenstance, we were able to reschedule for the next day, and I was so excited.
With butterflies in my stomach and questions in my head, I waited in anticipation, while sitting in my car waiting for him outside the local prayer house.
“What does it mean to go on a date with a guy? Does he pay for everything? Should I care about how I look or just dress like a bro? Do I get all romantic or act like friends? What do I do with my hands?!?!?”
But all the questions melted away, as one of the best nights of my life commenced and swept me away in its current.
Silly charades in a costume store, making fun of people at the ice rink, sitting down for a nice dinner, talking about life and our experiences with God, laughing over ice cream, sitting in a car as he held me and stared into my eyes till two in the morning. 
Neither of us wanted it to end.
I was undone.
Desperately thirsty areas of my heart were drinking of a well I didn’t even know existed, and I had no idea what to do with it.
Someone was pursuing me; someone wanted to care for me; someone was being strong for me.
I drank fast and deeply, like a man out of a desert.
“Where have you been?” He said as he ran his fingers down my nose. I smiled and squirmed inside with the admiration. “I wanna take care of you.” I melted with peace and nearly started crying. 
The moment will forever be carried in my heart as one of my most precious moments.
But just like a man out of the desert, I drank too fast, and my stomach began to ache.

I fucked it up.

The following night we met up again. 
He burrowed into my arms, and I whispered into his ear to calm his nightmares. Then we held each other till the sun came up.
The evening was amazing, but I had reservations, processing what to make of this, as he stared into my eyes. 

I couldn’t escape the question: Is God gonna take this from me?
Dancing back and forth from the well.
He noticed.
The next morning I got a text.
“What’s wrong? Something was up last night.”
He cared enough to notice? Ugh!
“Yeah… It’s called an existential crisis!!!!”
I didn’t say that. Instead, just like someone who drinks too much too fast, I began puking. But instead of bile it was words. Via text messaging, I began to externally process the mirky waters of my head and heart. And just like puke, it was messy.
I don’t remember all my rambling, but the jist was, “I love Jesus. He’ll always be first. If he says end this, I’m out.”
After lots of one word answers to my novels of text messages there was just silence.
My heart quaked in trepidation. 
“…”
He was typing.
“Wow… that really tears me up inside.”
To read those words destroyed me. Because of my confusion, I was hurting someone I was falling for, and falling for really fast.
Turns out I wasn’t the first Christian to bail on him, due to this moral dilemma. I was adding to a narrative that was hurting him, and that killed me.
Over the course of a week, we were finally able to navigate our next step—friendship, which I was completely okay with. Maybe that was better. I could try and figure this out without risk of hurting him.
But apparently friends make out and sleep in bed together, because that’s the type friendship we had. 
But we also went to the gym, so maybe that brought it to friendship status, even though I was swooning inside as weights clanged to the floor.
Side note: gyms are intimidating, especially for a guy like me.
I have no clue how to “perform” in that arena, and the insecurity has kept me out of many a gym.
But to have someone show me the way, to not be embarrassed when I had to take off weights, to encourage me when I was down on myself, meant the world.
I again drank from the foreign well, but it was being polluted with the fear that this was somehow forbidden.
But I was so confused. We’re “friends” but I feel so much when I’m with you. You say we’re friends, but then you pull me in close for a kiss. What is this? The confusion was driving me insane.
The next day we chatted on the phone. 
He had canceled a date, and as my mind does, I blamed myself and began mind wrestling.
“Is he as into me as I’m into him? Am I taking this too fast? What is he thinking right now? Is this gonna break? Am I too much?”
The answer is yes; I am too much.
With any relationship with a guy, platonic or romantic, I’ve always been terrified that I would be just that—too much.
“I think we should take a break. You’re just too much, Brandon.” He said after text silence for what seemed like an eternity. 
My heart sank. I was ruining this. I was fulfilling my fears.
The well began to crumble, as I danced around it like Jericho, dancing between fear and desire.
In the days that followed, my mind wandered to wrestlings, providing infinite hypotheticals that were making me physically nauseous. 
In one moment I was glad it was potentially over, in the next I was terrified to lose him. In one moment I felt like I ruined everything, and in the next I felt like God broke this because He doesn’t want me dating a guy. In one moment I thought it would be best if I didn’t care as much, and in the next I’m scared I care too little.
Teeter totter, up and down, left then right. If my heart could blow chunks, it would. 
My body tried. No luck.
Then, in a moment of trying to trust God, I ended it.
“I’m calling it. It’s over. I’m sorry.”

It’s only been a week since the break up, and it’s felt like a year, and the teetering and tottering has only continued. 
One moment I’m daring to trust God, hoping it was Him that told me to end it and not my fears, the next I’m wanting to rewind time and fix everything with this guy.

Being attracted to guys while loving Jesus sucks.

After my first date with this guy, I went to coffee with my ex-girlfriend, where I shared about the amazing evening. With a smile on my face, it quickly retreated and turned into a grimace. My face disappeared into my hands, as I lost control.
“Even if I was the cruelest person on the planet, I would never wish same-gender attraction on anyone. It’s just too hard. This is too hard.”
It’s literally the worst.
As I drank from this well for the first time ever, it was polluted with guilt, and it ruined everything. My dancing had caused a crumbling. Now the well was gone, and here I am in a desert of soul.
How can something so sweet, so refreshing, be forbidden?
That’s been my biggest question through all of this. Why God? Why can’t I have this?
Ever since I was a little boy, I remember crying myself to sleep, praying for a best friend—someone to cherish and do life with, to have each other’s back, to fight for each other. Through everything, he would be the one I could count on, and he could count on me.
If this was Acts, I’d be set. Men choosing to not marry, running off into the world, talking about their Jesus, off on a world-wind adventure, us against the world.
But I don’t live in 40 A.D. Palestine. I live 20th century America, where male intimacy is feared and everyone simply gets married and has 2.3 children and a golden retriever.
I desperately want that intimacy, but it seems the only avenue was this well I just broke with my dancing.
While dating this guy, we could talk for hours on the phone, loving every second without guilt. I could hug him without counting the seconds, making sure people didn’t get the wrong idea. I could hold him when he was scared. He could joke with me when I was too serious. We had each other.
No boundaries. No limits. Freedom.
I want someone to do life with, and I’m so scared to trust God that a woman will be enough or that mere friendship will do.
While dating girls, I always felt like I had to be strong and had to chase her, when I so deeply wanted someone to be strong with me, for us to chase each after other.
That’s what I had with this guy. 
Those desires of my heart were being deeply satisfied with promises, true or not. As he held me, he’d say, “I’m gonna take care of you.” “You’re everything I wanted in a guy… even the quirky, dorky parts.”
As he squirmed in fear at night, I whisper to him, “You’re okay. I got you.” His body stilled. “I’m not good with emotions.” He said. “Challenge accepted.” I said.
We were strong where the other was weak.
A partnership. A brotherhood.
Pursuing each other. Strong for each other.
Where else am I gonna find that?
If I trust God and marry a woman, will I have that? Or will a deep longing in my heart be forever unmet? Is that fair to her? Is that fair to me? Will she ever feel like she’s enough? What if I reach a breaking point in our marriage, having these desires unmet, and I’m unfaithful to my wife? By stepping away from this well, am I putting others at risk?
Maybe friendship will offer a level of satisfaction.
A dear friend told me, “You just desire that David and Jonathan relationship—more intimate than that of a woman.”
Which is true, but that doesn’t exist in today’s age. Eventually everyone just gets married and disappears into their island of marital bliss. Meanwhile, I’m left alone without someone to do life with. Like musical chairs, I waited too long and refused to sit on the seat that was open, declaring it dirty and off limits.
I want to trust God. I want to believe He told me “no” for a good reason, but I just don’t see it, and at times I wonder if I’m making all this up in my head. 
Is this really not allowed? Am I hearing right? Why am I really not allowed to have this?
The prayers ensue. 
“God, I don’t wanna be alone. Where do I go from here? Do I leave behind any attempt at dating men when this has felt so good? I don’t think I’ll find anything like I just had. He was great! Will I ever find a woman that can meet/satisfy my heart like he did? What’s gonna happen to me God? I’m scared. I don’t wanna be alone. What do I do with these desires? Help me, God. Help me make it through this, because every day I miss him. Every day I wanna rewind time, start over and make this right.”
But I can’t make this right. I broke it beyond repair, and that’s my deepest regret.
And it haunts me.
I wake up. 
I start another day. 
One moment, leaving all this behind me, and in the next the littlest thing reminds me of him, and with the memories come the infinite, unanswerable questions.
One day at a time. 
Trying to move on. 
Trying to trust.
I walk into the desert with trepidation, rubble behind me.
I wanna run back and dig up the well.
Breathe in. 
Breathe out.
Left.
Right.

For those reading, I believe there will be two responses to this…

From the Christians: Thank God that’s over. Don’t ever do that again, Brandon. You knew better. Why would you even play with that? I hope you learned your lesson. I’m just glad it’s over.

From the Non-Christians: Why would you give up on something you desire so much? Why do you keep denying who you are? You’re a coward. You should have seen it through. You’re simply functioning out of how you were raised. You’re scared. Don’t give up. Try this again. 

Walking the line of liking guys while liking Jesus is a lonely road.

To both parties…
Where were you when I cried myself to sleep every night in desperation for a friend? Where were you when I was in despair without purpose? Where were you when I was lost in an existential crisis? Where were you when I was hopping from boy to boy in the shadows? 
Did you rescue me from myself? Did you give me a divine destiny? Did you love me when I was unloveable? Did you chase me when I ran from everyone?
He alone has been faithful to me. He alone is able to hold my heart like He does. He alone has stuck with me through the worst and best moments of my life. He alone has made life worth living. 
Where were you?
There was an evening, while dating this guy, that God prompted me, “How was your night? How did it feel to be held by him?”
“Like heaven God. I felt so safe.”
I heard Him smile in the silence, like He knew a secret, and He was holding back for dramatic effect. Drama queen.
“No one will hold your heart like I do.”
I smiled with the thought, melting like I’d melt with this boy, but on a spiritual level.
He was right.
No one, not man nor woman, will ever be able to hold my heart like He does, and I can’t deny that.

It would be easier to deny His existence in order to live the life I want to live without hesitation. It would destroy the dance.
But to deny God would mean I’d have to deny myself. Who I am is a direct result of His intervention. No matter how desperately I’d like to pretend He doesn’t exist, so this moral dilemma can vanish, I can’t. I’m unable.

I feel like the disciples after everyone else abandoned Jesus, because He said, “Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” After his audacious statement, He turns to the twelve. The crowds were offended and left. Alone with the 12, Jesus asks, “You gonna leave too?”
“Never! We’d die before we’d leave you! We love you so much! You’re our everything! We’re not like them! We’ll never be offended!”
The disciples said none of that. Their only response was, “Where else can we go? You alone have the words of life.”
They were deeply offended. They were utterly confused. But they couldn’t deny that they had been touched by the very definition of life. So they stayed.

I’m offended by Jesus on the daily. I’m confused, reeling with questions on a minute by minute basis.
And the fear…
I’m scared. I’m terrified. The fear that I will be alone and that these thirsts in my heart will go unmet, rage consistently.
But where else can I go?
When I decided to follow Jesus at 17, He gave me a promise: “If you come with me, I promise you abundant life.”
When I reflect on my life and the moments that have mattered the most, the moments that have defined my life, He has always been at the center.
I can’t walk away from Him.
Does that mean I don’t have doubts? False! I have doubts. I’m scared I just fucked the best thing that has ever happened to me because of a moral dilemma. I analyze it to the ground. I wanna run back to this guy every day. It would be easier to say, “Screw it! I’m going to deny God’s existence, because then I don’t have to worry about what He thinks.”
But I can’t.
So despite my pain and doubt, I’m attempting to trust. Plagued with questions, I press on. But there is one question that overshadows them all, and it is the source of all the others.

“God, are you really for me?

I have found that it is often in the midst of pain where we all ask that very question. It is pain that causes us to doubt everything we hold dear.

“God, in the midst of this pain, do you even care? Are you there? If You do, why does this hurt so bad? Why is this happening to me?”
In the moments I take that leap and dare to believe He really is for me, I have rest despite all my other questions.
It is when I doubt that reality, in the thick of the pain, that my world melts to chaos and the questions define my existence.
But it is also in the pain that love can be shown the victor.

Father, be victorious over me.
Win my heart, and then heal it with your kisses. Restore me with Your affection. 
Help me walk this line. This is our journey. Not theirs. Help me trust You.
And if I run, please run after me. I can’t do this alone.