Sloppy Wet…

John Mark McMillan rocked us all with his song, “Oh How He Loves” over a decade ago. Christian artists, whether rocked by the lyrics or hoping to capitalize on the popularity, all started producing their version, many dropping the controversial lines “sloppy wet kiss.”

“Jesus’ love isn’t sloppy,” some would claim, ripping the lyrics out like an explicit cologne commercial in a magazine at the doctor’s office, breathing more easily now that the offense had been executed and no children would stumble upon the horror.

As a gay Christian, the most accurate description of Jesus and I’s relationship is sloppy and wet. But it’s not just the homos he’s sloppy with — it was also Peter.

In the final chapter of John, we are confronted with a story that’s both intimate and odd — Jesus decides to visit his disciples one last time before heading back to Heaven, and instead of a display of power or a vision of wisdom, He decides to cook fish for the men (really boys) he had spent the last three years of his life with.

While this act is incredibly beautiful and reveals something really special about Jesus (that he’d rather eat with those he loved in an intimate setting rather than boasting of his resurrection), I want to focus on what this chapter reveals about Peter.

The chapter opens with Peter deciding he’s going to go fish.

This man had spent the last three years of his life following a man he believed to be the Messiah, only to have him murdered. The man of power hung powerless on a cross and Israel remained in the clutches of Rome. What was it all for? What was the point? Yes, he was raised from the dead, but what on earth was Peter supposed to do now? The salvation he was hoping for — Jesus coming in as King and Conquerer — didn’t happen. Instead, he’s been abandoned by the man he loves to figure out life alone. Yes, Jesus went to Heaven. But I could imagine, being Peter, on that early morning, staring off into the distance, wondering, “What in the world do I do now?”

So he did what he knew how to do, what he felt competent to do: fish.

And there, on the waters of Galilee, Peter threw out his nets, finding some solace in doing something he knew he was good at, only to find he couldn’t catch any fish.

“What was the point of these past three years?” Net thrown out. No fish. “What am I supposed to do next?” Net thrown out. No fish. “I thought I could do this disciple thing. But I fucked it up.” Net thrown out. No fish. “And now I can’t seem to get fishing right!” Net thrown out. No fish. “Why can’t I do anything right?” Net thrown out. No fish. “FUCK THIS!”

They did this all night, and in the darkness of the desert, Peter was confronted again with his own darkness when all he just wanted was to escape. Escape his failure. Escape his confusion. Escape his terror of not being enough and not knowing what to do next… if only for a moment.

His soul was given no solace on that peaceful sea.

But as the sun rose, a man calls out, “Throw the net out on the other side.”

It’s not like it’s that big of a boat. What the hell does this guy know? Peter’s the fisherman. Not this guy.

But exhausted and angry, he throws it on the other side, completely forgetting that these were the first words his friend and Messiah had said to him three long years ago. He missed his Jesus entirely. But out of exhaustion, Peter just tried something that seemed dumb and pointless. Not because of faith. But out of a lack of options and delirium.

And they caught fish! Too many fish.

As the nets began to break and tear, John points to the man on the shore. “Peter, it’s Him.”

Peter stops struggling with the ripping nets. He turns to the shore. Because ultimately, it wasn’t about fishing. It wasn’t about staying up all night not catching anything. He was there, trying to escape his pain and failure and uncertainty and failed miserably.

But his Messiah was back. And that’s what really mattered; that’s what he really wanted.

In spite of betraying Him. In spite of the plan not working out the way he hoped. In spite of his uncertainty and confusion and terror about life, deep down, he just wanted Him.

But then Peter does something so odd.

He puts on his cloak before jumping into the water. He had stripped to fish, and now, seeing Jesus, he puts it on.

What the Hell?

Why would someone put on clothes before jumping in the water?

Here’s my thought: maybe Peter was trying an act of faith, thinking, “Jesus, this time I’ll keep my eyes on you. This time I’ll walk on water. This time I’ll get it right. I’ll show you. I’ll put on my cloak and keep my eyes on you. I learned. I learned that if I keep my eyes on you, I won’t sink. I can’t get anything else right. I can’t even get fishing right. But with You, I catch fish. With You, my life makes sense. With you, I can walk on…

“Shit.

“I’m sinking.”

But this is where I think there was a turn for Peter.

Instead of getting back in the boat, instead of throwing off his cloak to swim more easily, he just tried to get to Jesus.

It didn’t matter that he wasn’t walking on water. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t catch fish. What mattered was moving towards His Messiah.

And as he heaved himself and his sloppy, wet, heavy cloak onto the shore, there was fresh, warm fish.

In that act, I think Jesus was saying, “I know you were scrambling to find something to do, to curve your anxiety, to find some normalcy, to just escape for a little bit from this chaos. I know this ultimately wasn’t about the fish, but here it is. This is ultimately about Us, it’s about moving towards connection with me, towards the kingdom. Regardless of if it’s a sloppy pursuit or pleasant journey, whether you’re walking on water or nearly drowning in your tunic, whether your faith is weak and you betray me three times or you passionately cut off a guard’s ear in zeal and devotion to me. What matters is not the ‘quality’ of the pursuit, but the pursuit, moving towards me, period. That’s what matters. And I promise if you do that, I’ll take care of the fish.”

Seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you…

This idea is affirmed yet again when Jesus asks Peter, after eating fish, “Do you love me perfectly?”

Peter replies, “I love you. But not perfectly.”

Jesus smiles. “That’s okay Peter. That’s all I need. Lead the others in this messy, fucked-up, sopping-wet pursuit. Show them the way. Lead them with your imperfect love. It’s not about the quality of the pursuit. It’s about continuing to keep me in your sights rather than staring at the waves, claiming you’re failing. You’re not failing. You’re learning. And this near-drowning is just as important as the passionate claim that you’ll call down fire. In fact, it matters more. Because this isn’t about your pursuit of me.

“I. Picked. You.

“Here, have more fish.”

God in the Devil

I started watching this Netflix show — Lucifer (and this is where I lost all the Christians, but then again, I probably lost them a long time ago when I came out as gay), and God is really speaking to me through it.

He’s speaking things like we’re never beyond redemption, God radically loves His kids, He intervenes in spite of our decisions.

Just to name a few nuggets.

And why are we so perplexed by this? (Maybe it’s just me.)

When I mentioned I’m watching the show to my parents, you would have thought I just confessed I was gay and sexually active on Christmas Eve (different story for a different time), but we inject God (or rather open up a listening ear) into the “Devil” all the time.

When we take a deep breath before opening up a fortune cookie. When we close our eyes before scratching off the next lotto square. When Solomon, the next king of Israel, came from an adulterous affair.

Growing up, I was not allowed to watch anything with a witch because magic is evil (even though Aladdin had the genie, and that was totally okay… must have been because it had women magic in it, the worst kind). I wasn’t allowed to play DND or collect Pokémon cards. I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music.

Keep the world out so that a good and clean heart can remain in (should be some plaque in a homeschool house).

But Jesus didn’t keep the dirty/unclean/unholy from Himself — He stepped into it, knowing His Father was in it all, knowing His presence would make it holy, including a show about Lucifer, including an app made for the purpose of hookups.

Grindr. If you’re looking for love, keep swiping, but if you’re looking for a good time with a random stranger in 2.5 minutes, look no further.

Grindr is a pretty rough place. For me, it pulls out the worst in me, and I’m not just talking about casual sex that includes glory holes, group play, and sex clubs. I’m talking about sexual consumerism. I’m talking about treating people like commodities. I’m talking about racism and ablism and agism and fat shaming. That app doesn’t just bring out terrible actions; it brings out the worst in people, including myself.

Could God show up there?

“Hey! I’m a Christian too!” The chat dumbfounded me.

Excuse me what? Ain’t nobody a beloved child of God up in this place. You got the wrong one. And where the hell did this guy even get this idea? He some witch? (My parents were right about Pokémon after all! Now the occult was after me!)

But it wasn’t witchcraft. It was my ADHD.

A few weeks back, I had this weird thought that the reason I behave so poorly on these apps is because it’s completely detached from my actual life. Not connected to my real life? No real consequences. I had isolated the issue.

So I decided to connect it… through Instagram… where I pour out my heart and soul about my existential dread, sexuality, and Jesus. I had been found.

Fuck.

The conversation gets going, and next thing I know, I’m having coffee with this guy in my kitchen, talking about Jesus.

And as we stand there in my kitchen, talking about Jesus, my heart starts to beat again. And hope starts to grow again. And as he talks, I dare to think, “Maybe God is in this. Maybe He’s not done with me yet. Maybe He caught me. Maybe this was the best of traps.”

And I will make you fishers of men…

I think He was in Grindr, luring me into hope. I think He’s in this show called Lucifer, captivating me with love. I think He’s in the last seven years that have felt like a total waste where I’ve doubted Him and ran from Him and got into an abusive relationship and slept with an abundance of strangers and tore down my faith and feel completely lost and without purpose.

I think He’s in it all.

When I was younger, I came to God for witchcraft. I felt powerless and asked Him into my heart strictly in a last-ditch effort to gain some semblance of control. And as the years have gone on, as life has tossed me this way and that, I keep finding God refusing to let go of me, and I’m so grateful…

My God is growing into something bigger. He’s breaking down my walls of limitation, and a horizon of possibilities stretches out before me because I’m daring to believe that He is also in the shadow.

Why?

Because this story is not about my faithfulness to Him; it’s continually, perpetually, eternally about His faithfulness to me.

Does this mean we can go off and ride out into the darkness?

Sure. We can. It’s an option. But it feels like Hell.

God doesn’t need to punish us for our darkness. Our darkness is punishment enough.

Instead, He hovers in the shadows, waiting for the tiniest crack of light, the smallest scent of faith, so He can show us He’s been there all along, making something beautiful.

Prayer House

Prayer House

Her

Colors of Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka dance on her olive skin, sunlight filtering through their flags. We sit with coffee between us at the local prayer house in the bookstore, while further in the building, diligent worshipers pace, kneel, cry.

But we are not pacing. We are not kneeling. We will be crying.

We’ve been laughing about nothing and everything for at least an hour. The coffee is now lukewarm, and as the exchange dies down, the only thing that drowns out the silence is screeching milk and cherished memories…

…Kidnapping my best friend on his birthday to watch one of the most disappointing sunrises in history.

…Napping on a mini-golf bridge after watching the elderly powerwalk through the mall.

…Dancing besides a pond under the moonlight after bailing out on Homecoming — the silence and discarded Chik-fil-A wrappers far better company than the beating music and throbbing bodies.

I smile as the memories return. Every moment meaning so much…

…meant so much.

“This has to end. We’re going in separate directions.” I don’t look up from my not-hot coffee.

I coach myself with the wisdom of an adult as the painful words exit my mouth, unable to be redacted.

But I’m not an adult. I’m sixteen.

You don’t think about mature things like marriage and kids and careers and all those heavy but lovely things at sixteen. You’re barely thinking about college. Instead, you should be thinking about the latest video game that just came out, the acne that refuses to go away after you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on skin care, the cliques at school that you both hate and want to be a part of, what homework you forgot about over the weekend, and, most importantly, cute, annoying, immature love.

But not for me. It’s always been heavy.

Love. It’s no joking matter. It’s for keeps. It’s for a future together. For marriage. It’s for propagating the world with more of your acne-ridden spawn.

So this had to end.

I take a deep breath. I muster courage. I act mature.  

“We’re going in different directions. You want to move to Africa and be a missionary, and I want to move to the city. I love you, but we’re eventually going to have to part ways, and that’s not fair for either of us. We need to stop now before this hurts worse than it already will. I can’t be your boyfriend, but the man who gets to be your boyfriend down the road will be so lucky to have you. You’re amazing! We’re just not going in the same direction. We need to end this.”

Silence floats between us. Then comes the foreshadowed crying.

Through soggy eyes and a weak smile, she looks at me and says, “Thank you… of all the things you’ve done, this is the moment I have felt most loved and cared for by you because you fought for my heart.”

I smile back at her, matching her tears. Of all the moments, of all those unforgettable moments, this is the one that she felt the most cared for — the moment we say goodbye.

Dad

We get out of the car. Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka are nowhere to be seen. Tonight, there is only one flag: the United States stands at half-mast. Someone has died.

There’s barely any wind. Just enough to have the cleats knock against the pole, clanging as we walk towards the prayer house doors.

My dad leads me forward. His pace is quick and determined.

“Pick it up.” He calls but doesn’t look back. His gaze is fixed on the door.

I quicken my pace but don’t look up. My eyes gaze at the ground, and my hands fidget in my pockets.

I don’t want to be here.

The two of us enter the main prayer room where he points to a chair, telling me to take a seat.

Still no eye contact.

He exits the room, leaving me alone with nothing but a massive globe slowly rotating for company… well… that and a pungent smell.

It’s hard to describe. But anyone that’s been to the prayer house knows it well. I grasp for the source of it. Clean sweat or sweaty cleaner. Makes sense.

Thousands of men and women have laid prostrate in this room, sobbing into that dated carpet. For years, desperate teens have paced and rocked and jumped till sweat danced down their bodies, joining the tears. They both find a final resting place in that rug.

Faithful custodians have attempted to remove it, day after day, but it hasn’t worked. The smell refuses to leave, only now the salty musk is accompanied with a hint of freshness.

The mingled scents produce a comforting affect; it’s as if hard labor will bring about cleanliness, as if simple tears and sweat will produce purification.

That’s why my dad had brought me here — to purify me with sweat and tears, to make me clean, to make me straight.

That’s right. My dad brought me here, to the house of prayer, to “pray the gay away.”

It was the only thing he could think to do after catching me looking at gay porn just moments prior.

 “What are you looking at, Brandon?!” The screen had frozen while my heart did nothing of the sort. It threatened to burst out of my chest, just like my secret, a secret so dark and shameful, I had been hiding it for five years.

But here it was. Frozen. In the open. For my dad to see. And I was terrified.

“Brandon. What. Is. That?!” His finger pointed to the screen, shaking in rage. He kept asking the same question over and over and over again, as if asking it enough would change the answer: his son was looking at gay porn.

But the relentless questions didn’t resolve the problem. He had to find a different solution.

The prayer house.

My dad returns, looking directly at me. He finally looked at me. But he didn’t meet my eyes. It’s as if my sin were his. He doesn’t say a word. He touches me on the shoulder and motions me to follow, leading me out of the main room into a side corridor.

He opens a closet and closes it behind us. The irony is palpable, stronger than the clean musk.

And there he prays. But he never says the word “gay,” as if saying it would make it real.

Instead, he closes his eyes, and looks with his soul to a reality he wants to see — a straight son, and maybe if he prayed hard enough, sweated long enough, and squeezed those eyes so tight, tight enough to form tears then maybe the reality in his mind would become real. Maybe his son would be made clean.

But just like that clean musk, the smell refused to go away. The gay refused to go away. And as the father prays, his son stands in shock. Frozen. Exposed. Like the men on the screen. But now it’s him. Sitting in a closet. Again.

Him

Outside my windshield, hundreds of American flags flap violently in the wind, just like my stomach.

It’s as if I had swallowed an entire hive of bumblebees — they refuse to be still as questions knock in my chest.

What will it be like?

What do I do?

Who pays?

Should I be wearing something less nice?

Were skinny jeans too much?

Am I caring too much about what I wear?

Should I care less?

Does he care?

Should I pretend like I don’t care?

What’s that smell?

We had been talking via text for weeks, never hearing each other’s voice. Then, we mustered the courage for a phone call, never seeing each other’s face. Then, we FaceTimed, never letting our bodies touch.

But now it was time. Now he was on his way to meet me. Now I was panicking.

At the prayer house.

The prayer house where I broke up with my girlfriend.

The prayer house where my dad tried to pray me straight in a closet.

And now, the prayer house where I was going to meet up with a man for my first gay date.

The bumblebees refused to be silent.

Is this what it’s supposed to feel like?

Am I supposed to feel this much?

Care this much?

Ask this many questions?

Did I put on deodorant?

Do gay guys care if you wear deodorant?

Do they want you to smell nice like girls do? Or do they want you to “smell like a man”?

I sit in my Jeep in silence. My mind, nothing but silent. The flags whip.

Then his Jeep appears in the distance.

My stomach lurches as the bees swarm louder.

Am I really doing this?

What will everyone think?

Do I even want this?

What happens if it goes poorly?

What happens if it goes well?

WHAT HAPPENS IF IT GOES WELL?

I really can’t remember if I put on deodorant!

He pulls up adjacent to me.

He smiles.

We roll down our windows together.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

The bees stop.

The questions stop.

And all that can be heard is the thunder of the flags as they violently thrash as two men hold each other’s gaze.

Coffee and Existential Dread

I’m walking through the streets of Berlin on a cold spring day.

“Turn right. Now left. Keep going. Now right again.”

The voice is anything but a voice. It’s a feeling… something in my head… my heart… God.

For months I have been engaging with the Holy on this personal level, inviting Him into everything, especially a spring Saturday morning where I’m looking for a cute coffee shop to read and journal like every other basic Christian white girl. “I just love coffee and the Word.”

As crazy as it sounds, He had done it before. A few months back I was led to this coffee shop that was built into the walls of a sunken garden. The moment was so precious. A fountain. Roses. A tasty cup of coffee. All in a hidden location. The moment smelt of mystery and destiny.

Now, I was off again, trying to trust that “still small voice,” but this time, I was lost.

All around stood huge brutalist buildings, none of which had a cafe for me to shelter from the cold. Block after block, complex after complex, and nothing.

My heart began to sink and anxiety filled my chest.

Then, the haunting thought crept up from the depths of my subconscious:

“Maybe this voice is just myself. Maybe I’m making this whole thing up.”

And just like a knot in a beautifully woven sweater, in the smallest most insignificant moment, my faith began to unravel.

Surely if one lost latte was enough to make my faith crumble, we can safely assume it probably wasn’t a faith worth saving, but this wasn’t that simple.

Years of build up had come bursting forth because of one final, gentle exhale.

Pastors passionately rebuking me for sin, all while having an affair.

Leadership refusing to disciple me but happy to leverage my talents for their egos.

Missionaries boldly screaming at me to have more faith and lie about what’s in the Bible.

Starving children attending the church of a fat pastor.

An Indian women weeping in her wheelchair as I prayed for a new leg she had lost, whimpering through breaths, “Why won’t God give me my leg back?”

The latte was too much.

Maybe this was all one big manipulative scheme that had existed for thousands of years to make people obey the whims of leaders. Maybe I’ve been wrong about my faith. Maybe this was all a lie.

And it all came crashing down.

It’s been nearly eight years since that moment, and not a day goes by that I wrestle with trusting God.

The same questions that awoke over a cup of coffee continue to haunt me:

Is He there? Does He exist? Can He be trusted? Or am I utterly alone?

And, to be honest, I don’t know. At times I have felt sweet relief, a fresh warm wind that curls around my hair, caressing me with hope. Other times, I’m lost in the depths of my despondence, screaming into a cave with not even a reverberating echo, a sound-proofed studio, my please absorb into the foam of existential uncertainty.

And if He’s not there, I need to take care of myself. If He won’t look out for me, I need to remain vigilant.

I need to struggle, alone. I need to fight, by myself.

And this shows up everywhere.

I take personal inventory and find a job that will be stable and pay my bills rather than dreaming and risking. I get on dating and hookup apps in an attempt to find a partner or not feel alone for a few minutes because not having a God is only made more painful by not having a partner to walk this earth with.

I feel so alone in any attempt at walking through this life.

I miss the days of dreams. I miss the days of trust. But how does one put the sand back in a broken hourglass? And just like that hourglass, I feel like my time is running out. 20-somethings are allowed the luxury of existential dread. A 30-year-old is not. I’ve got to get my shit together, find a career I’m passionate about, know what I believe, and have a partner to journey this life together with like yesterday.

The anxiety of it all is exhausting. I miss that “still small voice.” I miss His leading. I’m tempted to trust one more time, to risk one more time. But what if there’s no coffee at the end of this spring day? Can my heart take another disappointment? Because hope deferred is more painful than hopelessness, and I’m caught in the tension.

Reneging on My Six… Maybe

A while back, I wrote I was a counter-phobic, sexual six. If you’re not an enneagram nerd like myself, no, I’m not having sex with six people.

In short, a sexual six is scared and presents courageous to prove to themself and others they’re able to beat anything.

I promise I’m getting to sappy, personal stuff like I normally do in a moment. But first I need a witty lead-in to reveal myself.

When I first heard of the enneagram, it was in passing by my friend, Taylor, like five years ago, before it was actually cool. He shared how a friend told him about it, and how it’s all about your deepest fears and wounds.

That got my attention, for reasons that’ll make more sense if you’re ARE an enneagram nerd like myself.

He shared how he was a two and how he loved to get love in return. He then shared how the test was a big deal for his friend because it revealed a deep secret: he believed he was inherently flawed and wanted to be rescued.

I was halfway paying attention, mainly because I can be selfish, and I didn’t really see how this was about me (sorry, Taylor). But when he talked about his friend, I remember thinking, “Other people feel like that too?”

His friend is a four.

Ever since I could remember, I’ve wanted to be rescued.

I’d run away to the end of the street when I was spanked, wishing someone would drive by and take me away. I’d walk the fence at school, hoping someone would see me and come to me. In middle school, we’d craft foam swords and fight each other. I was always the captured prince needing to be rescued. One time my friends even put me in a dog kennel as my prison. It felt oddly safe and right, as fucked up as that sounds.

By high school, I learned that wanting to be rescued as a guy wasn’t cool or manly, at least, that’s what Eldridge said. “Every man desires a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”

… uh… question: what if we want to be rescued? Never mind. I’m gonna sit back down.

Over the years, I stuffed down my desire to be rescued. I acted strong and independent. I’d sit on the side of the school, looking out at the other boys, hoping one would come talk to me and rescue me from my pain and loneliness. But if anyone asked if I was okay, I’d get angry and say I was fine. After all, boys don’t need to be rescued. I’m supposed to be doing the teaching. I’m supposed to be tough and strong, not needing anyone or caring about anything. An emotionless rock.

Or so I thought.

I’m not sure when I made the promise to myself or at what point I decided to go about this all differently, but somewhere along the way, I started moving towards things I feared to look like I could do more than handle myself. I could take on anything.

I signed up to do a missionary training program where you get kidnapped and have to kill a goat and get fake murdered. But that school got shut down (I wonder why), so I went to the next best thing: a Christian leadership academy built around the methodology of the military, equipped with its own hell week. We prided ourselves in “beating our body and making it our slave,” (yes, that’s a Bible verse) and “doing all things through Christ who strengthens me” (especially the hard stuff). After that, I ran a ministry by myself for three years, not having any clue what I was doing, but I was capable and the Lord would provide. Right? I flew across the world to Haiti and Germany and India with no friends or family, to show I could do the hard things. When that was done, I hitchhiked through Europe just because the idea terrified me.

Anything I could do to prove to myself that I didn’t need anyone to rescue me, I could save myself, I did.

But lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling helpless, that yearning to be rescued crawls to the surface.

In spite of all my endeavors to look strong and independent and prove I didn’t need anyone, this thing in my chest, this thing latched to my bones, this thing to be saved by someone else screams to be heard.

Through all the years, the thing I wanted more than anything in the world was for someone to not be fooled by all the bullshit I hide behind, all the fake courage, and to see the scared little boy that just wanted to be rescued. The boy who believes he’s irreparably broken and unworthy of anything except standing in the mud as it rains, alone. And yet, in spite of the belief that they’re not good enough, a yearning for someone to see me, take me in, and keep me warm.

I know this doesn’t sound manly. I know this looks weak. And that’s what probably scares me the most: I don’t want to show this piece of me because it feels so scary, so vulnerable. So much so that even as I’m typing these words, I’m thinking of people reaching out to me or calling me on it, and me pretending like it was just some emotional, midnight blog post. They shouldn’t think anything of it. Because if they do, I’ll feel infinitely exposed, and in the past, when I’ve been exposed, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been called too much or too sensitive, and eventually pushed away.

Lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling my helplessness and wanting someone to rescue me, I feel guilty. Guilty that I don’t turn to God and say, “You know what? You’ve saved me! You’ve rescued me from all my fears! Hallelujah!” (Insert hand wave and stopping foot.)

But lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling my helplessness and wanting someone to rescue me, I hear God prompting me when I push down these truths. “Nope. Don’t hide that. Not from me. I see it. Say it. Say all of it. Every word that you’d rather me not know, every emotion that feels like betrayal, g it to me. Let me hear it.”

The fact is: He did save me. But that doesn’t change how I feel. That doesn’t change how much I’d rather a human rescue me, than Him. It doesn’t change the fact that it meant the world when I walked outside to “be alone” and a man came outside looking for me. It felt like a long-withheld inhale. It doesn’t change the fact that when I was in pain and reeling last week and yelling at a friend in a bar, trying to defend myself and stand my ground, that what I really wanted was someone to step between us and defend me.

That means so much. That matters so much.

When my friends know something was likely hard or they call me on my bullshit, I feel seen and known and like I matter. When my family says, “Oh! That makes sense!” in relation to my sexuality and the struggle I have as a gay Christian man, I feel known.

And that’s what I ultimately want: to be known, past my façade.

I try to be authentic, but I put it out there with this, “Yeah that’s me! Deal with it!” (as most fours do). I don’t present myself with a naked heart, laid bare and exposed to the world because that is risky. That’s scary as hell. Because what if someone attacks you and your vulnerability? Or worse, they don’t even see it and acknowledge it?

But how is someone supposed to be rescued if no one knows they need help?

I think what I’m learning, again and again, is that, in spite of me not feeling it, it’s in my vulnerability that God can prove Himself rescuer, and in doing so, make me genuinely strong.

That doesn’t change the fact that I desperately want a partner that can see past my bullshit, who can actually see me, who can be strong for me when I desperately yearn to be weak.

But even writing that here is vulnerability, and I’ve learned that that’s where God can work.

Final thing, and then I’ll shut up. I am CONVINCED that things would have been different if Adam and Eve would have stepped forward from their hiding when God called for them. But they hid. They covered their nakedness, their vulnerability.

God is the “I Am.” How is He supposed to step into communion, to show up as the “I Am” when we’re hiding.

He yearns for us to say, “Here I Am,” when He asks, “Where are you?”

Right here. In the wake of the consequences of my decisions. In the wake of me not trusting Your word. In the place where I believed a lie over Truth. This is where I am. Right here. Here I am.

It’s a millennia later, and He’s still asking the same question, and He’s looking for people who will remember we are made in His likeness.

The Great I Am asks us to align with who He is and say, “Here I Am.”

Here I am, God. All of me. Especially the icky, fucked up parts. The scared parts. The irreparably broken parts. The parts begging to be rescued.

Here I am. Save me.

Purpose and the Politician

I spent a few days in Texas. For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Christian leadership school called Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. Acquire the Fire and all that Jazz. In spite of the trauma that was our education, or rather because of it, I came out of there with some amazing friends and memories—one of whom was getting married. Thus the trip to Dallas, Texas.

But as I’m sitting there, watching my beautiful friend get married, surrounded by our old friends from school, I wonder, “Who will be at my wedding? Would any of these people come?”

The thought sent me to the car where I pounded back two hard ciders where a crazy man was walking the center of the street yelling at passerby’s, and I pretended to be talking to someone on my phone because the anxiety of friendless weddings was overshadowed the the anxiety of the stranger man coming at me for not giving him a cider. **Reads back over previous sentence, wondering if that’s actually a complete sentence, and pats back for one long-ass sentence.**

No one really talks about the cost of being gay these days. Which is great! Because there are happier things. There’s gay prom and lesbian marriages and trans-visibility day and surrogate mothers and adopted children.

We’ve come a long way… but it’s still hard.

It’s ended friendships; it’s parentless weddings; it’s no babies that you and your partner create; it’s reaching for your partner’s hand in public and wondering if people care, and it’s getting kicked out of churches and evangelical spaces, spaces you found a lot of purpose and belonging and passion…

I watched the Politician tonight. If you haven’t watched it, do it. It’s a stroke of genius. But as I’m watching, the main character, Payton Hobart, is depressed and hopeless while playing the piano in a local bar and it’s because he lost access to his passion. To deal with the loss, he killed any hope of returning to the very thing that gave him life: politics.

I’m not political. At least not like Payton. I’m not sure if anyone is as political as Payton. But to steal one of those annoying pages from those middle school grammar books: Payton is to politics as Brandon is to ministry.

Stressing to sell out an event. Staying up till four to set up a stadium. Kneeling in the snow as a fake Jesus in a skit you’ve done for the 200th time. Praying with a stranger. Holding a dying woman’s hand. Laughing and spooning friends you met three months ago, but you’d call them family. Talking with a kid over coffee about Jesus. Leading a congregation in worship.

All of it. I miss it.

When I came out, I felt as though I was disqualified from all of it. It was as though I was sacrificing all of these things related to ministry and family and friends for the sake of love, which is why I felt like my relationship needed to be perfect. If it wasn’t, why was I giving all of this up?

Watching Payton Hobart come alive while debating politics made me miss the things that make me come alive, the things I feel so disqualified from.

“My people perish for lack of vision.” It’s a verse… somewhere in the Bible. I could go look it up, but I’d rather keep writing.

I feel that. I feel a perishing or squandering in myself that yearns to wake up and feel and know it’s worth living, to know it’s doing something only it can do, a sense of purpose and destiny. I miss destiny. I miss believing every word and movement had intention, a kiss of the eternal, and not something passing and wasteful. I miss that.

I yearn for a kiss of destiny, to burn again.

How does one get fire back when life has thrown snow and rain on not only the embers but the wood and coal? How do we rekindle the flame?

I miss that Brandon. I want him back.

No Man’s Land

In Lady Montague’a “Turkish Embassy Letters” she describes a people group in South Eastern Europe, during the Ottoman Empire. They existed between Islamic nations and Christian nations. Out of fear, they kept both holy days, refusing to work on both Friday’s and Sunday’s.

I resonate with that—binding yourself to fear so intimately you live in two worlds instead of one, two realities instead of one, caught at a crossroad, committed to nothing, becoming a citizen to this space between countries: no man’s land.

———————

I’ve been depressed lately. About four weeks to be exact.

I’m not positive of the catalyst. What I do know is that I’ve been paralyzed by fear, watching as much Netflix as possible, so I can just not feel for the next x amount of episodes. (I’ve nearly watched all of Grace and Frankie, and finding a new show is really hard!)

The amount of nights committed to ice cream and television is abhorrent. I need to get homework done.

But it’s hard to live. If I’m being honest. It’s hard to live when it feels like an elephant is stepping on your chest. Makes it hard to breathe.

I came out 3.5 years ago, and if I’m honest, it hasn’t “gotten easier.” It’s gotten harder.

Being gay isn’t easy. There are some days I wish I never came out. Not because I want to hide the truth but because it doesn’t feel true most days.

Most days I deal with imposter syndrome, like someone gave me a script I’m not familiar with and I’m fumbling through the lines. I don’t get being gay. It doesn’t fit, like an oversized, hand-me-down sweater.

I can’t do the drag shows or the hyper sexuality or the open relationships or the club scene or the death after thirty or the gym-ing or the kinks or the sex on the first date or the need to be fashionable and interesting.

I don’t like any of it. It doesn’t fit.

But then I attend an old church and they feel like clothes that shrunk in the wash.

The with-every-head-bowed-and-every-eye-closed faith that doesn’t amount to anything, the come-Lord-Jesus-come’s when He said He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, the mini-money sermon before the plate passes, the every-one-is-welcome-but-not-really, the bless-you’s and shake-the-hand-of-the-person-next-to-you. I can’t take any more of it.

It’s like when I came out of the closet I looked behind the curtain of church and all the churches feel fake, the Bible feels like a weapon, and Christians feel like vacuum salesmen who are selling a product they don’t believe in but they’re terrified of not making their quota.

But I get it.

I’m terrified of Hell. I’m terrified of wasting my life. I’m terrified of being gay. I’m terrified of marrying a woman. I’m terrified of marrying a man. I’m terrified of being a father. I’m terrified of doing anything or believing anything.

I’m paralyzed.

So what do I do? I honor both days. I don’t do anything on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I’m exhausted. Like feel-it-in-my-bones exhausted. Like God-please-take-me-home exhausted.

In my cult school down in Texas, we did an activity where staff members pretended to be a hostile government while we students were persecuted Christians. The role-playing led to my friends being thrown in jail (a camp shower house). I was supposed to rush the door, but a man with an automatic paint-ball gun stood between me and the door. Instead of rushing him, smacking his gun away, and freeing my friends like some Christian McGiver, I slunk away.

That moment haunts me. It haunts me because it reminds me of what’s happening again and again: I’m to scared to throw myself at either country: gay or Christian, and you best believe people will tell you can’t have dual citizenship. Both countries are separated by a big Trump wall and missiles pointed at each other, just waiting for any excuse to jump on the other.

The two identities i carry within me are at war with each other, not just externally in the world around me, but inside me as well, and I don’t fit into either of them anymore, and I’m scared as hell in this no-man’s land.

I just want to be comfortable in my own skin, to know and believe who I am, who God is, and be unapologetic about it. But I can’t find a mirror or God, so I’m a bit fucked at the moment. So I’ll watch this really cool movie where a nerd falls in love with Arya with cancer, because I would rather feel that than feel this unresolved mess of confusion that is my life.

Netflix: your next episode starts in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Bubbling Anxieties

Heads up: this post is gonna be a ton of rambling about my anxieties and what I do with them as a Six. Yup. I said it. Six. I’ve begrudgingly identified as a Four in the infamous Enneagram for about a six months, but I’ve never felt settled on it. Then a friend who loves the Enneagram said, “If you’re still not settled, you’re probably a Six.”

I think he’s right.

A Six is identified by their anxieties. They are always scheming what could go wrong. They are literally creating and emotionally living out endless possible outcomes, so they can prepare for the worst. I one time created a map of my brain to a friend she felt anxiety just looking at it. Yeah! Try living it! But the absolute worst part about being a Six is that a Six believes their anxieties are necessary. They hold them closely, refusing to let go because they believe they keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Fear actually keeps them holding their fears.

The fear bubbles up as a result of not trusting their inner guidance. At some point, a Six began to believe that they don’t have the internal resources to make it in life. The result? They believe failure is around every corner. To compensate, they look for support outside of themselves. But here’s the punch line: fears keep them from fully trusting those they look to for support. They both long and are skeptical of support, creating a push-pull relationship with their close friends, mentors, and confidants.

Anxious yet? I am! But that’s typical, since I’m a Six.

This whole mindset has recently shown it’s flagrant colors, specifically in that lovely thing we call “higher education”.

I’ve been doing school since 2008. It’s been a decade, and I still don’t have my degree. Why? Because:

  1. Life. I’d end up doing ministry or living abroad and put school on the backburner. The fact that I’m this old and I still don’t have a degree, and the one I’m pursuing will take another two years weighs really heavy on me.
  2. Choice. I am terrified that I’ll choose the wrong major, and my life trajectory will be forever off course. This has caused me to switch majors like twelve times. I’m so unsure, lacking confidence in any choice I make, determined that if I choose wrong, I’ll ruin my life.

Choice. It’s not just in school that this concept overwhelms me. Choice has a way of paralyzing me in every arena.

What if it’s the wrong choice? What if this hurts people? What if it hurts me? What if I’m screwed? How can I know this is the best choice to make? What if I ruin my life? What if I waste away my life?

The overwhelming amount of question marks that assault me on a daily basis make me want to turn on Netflix and bing another season of The Originals. While watching television shows I don’t have to make choices. Choices are made for me. I just get to enjoy the ride.

Life would be a whole lot easier if choice was just removed and some magical board of wisdom gurus made those choices for me. Why can’t I just have a Gandalf that tells me exactly what to do? Sounds great! The idea of arranged marriages and work assignments based upon test results sounds pretty fantastic to me!

As a Christian, don’t I have Someone I can trust to help me decide? Isn’t there this thing called the Holy Spirit that is called “The Counselor”, “The Prince of Peace”? Sure. In theory. Until you try to listen to that “still small voice” and those anxieties we talked about earlier whisper louder (and by whisper louder, I mean scream), “Are you sure that’s the Holy Spirit? What if that’s you? Could it be mmmm Satan!?”

To be very frank, my still-small-voice confidence has taken a beating over the years.

I used to trust that voice even in the clothing I’d wear (like I said, I hate choice). What happened?

Life.

I hitchhiked through Europe and felt so lost when all I did was pray for God to lead me.

I came home to a wrecked family and had no idea what to do or where God was amidst the chaos.

I dated a man and shut off anything I was hearing because I was scared God was going to ruin the one thing that I felt like I loved in life.

I don’t know how to trust that still small voice anymore because sometimes, it feels like it’s out to destroy me. And I would love to trust my own inner guidance, but I haven’t worked with that muscle in a hot second. From 2006 to 2013, I’ve disregarded my own will and obeyed this tug in my chest. I have no clue what I actually want, or I’m too afraid of what I want, or I believe what I want is wrong.

Why would I believe what I want is wrong? It’s kinda hard not to when a core longing inside of you has been told to be depraved since you were little. At a young age, I remember hearing my dad blow up at a movie for having two men kiss each other, yelling, “Why did they have to put that shit in there? It’s a mockery to God!” I’d agree when inside I think, “I feel the same way. Don’t let them see. Hide it. Kill your desires.”

If you can’t even trust your attractions, believing they’re broken and cursed, how are you supposed to trust anything else you want?

Distrust has crept into everything I love. I wander between desires or sabotage the very thing I want.

I can’t go for a degree in writing or performing arts! It’s called “starving artist” for a reason.

I can’t write a novel! I don’t have enough information or experience to write anything of value.

I can’t produce my own show! I have no clue how to go about doing it, school is too expensive, and I’m too old.

I can’t date this man! I will lose everyone; I won’t know how to raise a girl since we’ll both be guys; I’ll have a panic attack every time we move towards sexual intimacy, and I’ll live in terror of going to Hell every day.

Every desire is a bad choice.

In response, I get jobs I don’t care about; I have hookups instead of relationships; I get a degree that I believe is safe; dreaming becomes impossible; authoring my own life becomes so taxing that I just end up doing what I don’t want to do. Why not? If God doesn’t want me to date a man, and that’s a core longing in my being, He must want me to do the very thing I hate.

This thought process has actually led me to move away from the very thing I want on multiple occasions. It’s even defined key elements of my life and has caused me to resent God.

Leaving a community house.

Not going on tour with Aquire the Fire.

Abandoning an enrollment at UNC in theatre.

It all was loaded with a belief that I shouldn’t go after that which I love, and now I’m left unsure what I actually want.

Does what I want even matter? If the things I desperately want are corrupt, where is the line to trust what I want? We say go after what you love, but where is that in the Bible? In fact, I see the opposite. I see God demanding we take what we love and burn it. Abraham. Hannah. David. Jesus. Paul. While Jesus promised to give us life and life abundant, they’re lives just seem impossibly hard, and then we’re told to “Follow me.”

How do we rectify this with our cliche maxim of “follow your heart”? Is it truly Biblical?

I feel desperately torn, torn between obligation and want, between wanting to want and wanting to be obliged. Drawn and quartered.

Being a Six sucks. Being gay also sucks. Being a Christian sucks the most.

And yet I can’t shake any of them. I’ve tried. For years of my life, I’ve tried. And yet here I am, panicking about my future and completely unsure what to do about it. I feel completely lacking in support or support I can trust. Everyone seems to want me to be gay or Christian, and very few honor both, making trust incredibly hard.

But deep down I want to trust. I want to breathe the fresh air of comradery and belief. Belief in myself. Belief in my support. Belief in humanity. Belief in God. But it all feels like sand in my hands—I can old grab hold of it for a fleeting moment, but never forever.

I normally get all Psalmy, like David, and say something like, “But I will trust blah, blah, blah…” I don’t want to today. I just want what I say to exist and be out there. Not pretty. Not fixed. Just exist. So there you go, my bubbling Six mess. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

Gluten and Genocide

Fact: gluten sensitivity has been on the rise in recent years.

Fact: scientists still are unsure of the cause of this.

Fact: bacterial DNA has been injected into the majority of our plants. This genetic modification creates pores, resulting in the stomach exploding.

Fact: one of the number one issues related to gluten sensitivity is “leaky gut” or porous intestines, allowing food to leave the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream.

Coincidence? I think not! But what do I know? I’m just a 28-year old who is incredibly paranoid. I don’t know science, but I can definitely create the worst case scenario. I’m that person who interprets the period in a text message as, “This person is angry with me!” I’m also the guy that gets a sore throat, pulls out their phone, checks WebMD and concludes I have some rare lymphatic cancer. It’s rare people. Not impossible. Meaning, I could have it!

So if your brain works even a little bit like mine, you’re probably thinking, “Huh! I should probably buy more organic food.” But it’s in organic vegetables too. So good luck not getting leaky gut! You’re better off with thinking like me and deciding you should just stop eating altogether. Better to starve until I move to another country where GMO’s are illegal.

The facts above came up in a conversation with a number of my hippy friends that grow their own vegetables, have their own chickens, and milk their own goats. They are phenomenal in every way and way better at being true to their values than I am.

They went on to talk about large corporations that sue smaller farms because their patented seed started growing in their field (because they also modify the seed to spread everywhere). As the seeds spread, they sue smaller farmers, knocking out competition.

Why am I talking about farms and GMO’s and massive corporations on a blog devoted to sexuality, spirituality, and the personal life of a guy who likes guys and this guy named Jesus? Well, one, because it’s my blog and I want to. But two, because a simple conversation of leaky gut led me to existential questions (typical of my brain).

How can large corporations get away with this? How could someone make a decision to make more money that is potentially affecting an entire nation? How could people like this sleep at night?

From there my brain spiraled out into blood diamonds, battery harvesting, child starvation, and the Holocaust. GMO’s to genocide. Yay brain! But the real reason I ended up at human depravity is because I always ask the question “why?”

Why genocide? Why starving children? Why exploding guts?

That then leads to the biggest question: Why would God let this happen?

Pain and destruction have a way of pulling out the most potent question that every human will eventually come into contact with: where is God in all of this?

I’m going to expose my theology here a bit. I don’t think God allows it. I’m not a believer in the divine orchestration of everything. I don’t understand how people can believe in that and believe that God is loving. If God orchestrates horrific things like children in Africa dying of AIDS, then God is cruel and not worthy of any type of worship.

And here’s the part where all the evangelical Christians pumped the breaks, thinking they should stop reading. But I think my thoughts actually have more than logic, but biblical evidence.

In truth, I see God releasing control to man way more often than not in the Bible.

God yielding to Israel and giving them a king.

God yielding to Moses and not massacring all of Israel.

God yielding to Abraham and saving Lot.

The Bible is full of stories of God bending a knee to man, not because He’s weak. Not because He’s a people pleaser and needs our favor. But because love yields.

The Trinity is this gorgeous depiction of God yielding to God in a cyclical union that He invites us into.

God literally gave dominion of the earth to us. It’s like He created this gorgeous car and gave us the keys. Then we get mad when we drive recklessly and crash the thing. And I’m not talking about just man on man violence. Yes, our reckless decisions directly affect those around us. But the act of raising our own will above other’s literally curses the planet. It caused plants and animals to riot against us and each other. It commissioned death and pain into the world. Sickness, pain, disease. It all bleeds from the same wound that we inflicted.

When we look around the world at all the destruction, it’s not God orchestrating it. It’s a world that is in the hands of an adrenaline-junky, hormonal teenager.

So as I sat in my car with a mind that spun out from leaky guts to the depravity of man, my heart broke. I literally started crying in my car because of GMO’s. And as I cried, there was a prayer that rose above it all: “Come, Lord Jesus, come. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Come reign. Come make the wrong things right. Come redeem the pain and the suffering. Come. Come, Lord Jesus, come… and start with me.”

It’s really easy to look at the world on a macro level and say, “God, please come rule. We screwed this up. Time after time we mess this up. Your hands are stronger. Your hands are wiser. Come reign. Bring Your peace. Bring Your life.”

And yet, when we bring it to a micro level, we squirm. Especially me. It’s like I can trust Him with the world but I can’t trust Him with myself.

If I let God rule in my life, will He look out for me? Will He satisfy the yearnings of my heart? Will He hold me close like a lover when I feel desperately alone and lost? Will He show up? Is He actually good? Does He even care? Does He truly love me?”

When we choose to say, “I’ve got this,” in our hearts, we are calling God a liar. We are like our ancestors in that garden millennia ago, and we believe the same lie of the serpent.

“Did God really say that? He’s holding out on you. He doesn’t have your best interest in mind. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s wrong. You don’t need Him. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s wrong. Eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

We eat the fruit. Every day. And we wonder why the world is spinning out of control.

We expect God to “come on the clouds with fire”. We expect Him to smite the faithless, establish dominion, and “rule with a mighty hand”. We expect him to “put all His enemies under His feet.”

So did the Jews.

They expected the Messiah to ride in on a white horse and free Israel from the might of Rome with a mighty hand. But He came in on a donkey and His hands were pierced to a tree. He physically couldn’t lift a finger to help anyone as His body was wrenched from Him.

The more and more I look at Jesus, the more and more I think we may have it all wrong.

Jesus doesn’t establish dominion on land or sea. His kingdom is in hearts. Jesus doesn’t win by rising up and destroying the oppressor. He rules through dying by their hands.

He yields… to man… to His Father. And by yielding, He brings about life for the world.

In one garden, the first Adam said, “I don’t trust you.” In another garden, the second Adam wept, praying, “Not my will but yours.” By yielding, Jesus brought about life for us all, and that promise is extended to us.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I come to bring life, and life abundant.”

Do we believe Him? I know I don’t a lot. I know that I think, “God if I yield to you, you will steal from me, you will kill me, you will destroy me.”

What am I saying about God? I’m calling Jesus Satan and Satan my Messiah. That sounds strong, but can you see it any other way? I perpetuate the very pain I hate in the world. God isn’t going to win by smiting all in His path. He’s going to win the earth one heart at a time as each heart chooses to yield. It’s an invitation. Not a conquest. And it starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with the smallest and most precious world of all–our own. And as we choose to trust Him, one moment at a time, He will be faithful to fulfill His promise–”I will bring about abundant life. Not just to you, but to everyone around you.”

He wants to plant the tree of life in us all, producing a fruit that will rescue everyone that tastes its nectar.

Will we soften our hearts to Him to plant that seed? Will we yield? He yields to us every day. Can we till the soil of our hearts and open up to His faithfulness? Can we trust Him?

A quick aside before I depart. It’s easy to see that living in the knowledge of evil produces death. But it wasn’t called the tree of the knowledge of evil. It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I have seen so many Christians focus on what is right and what is wrong, that they kill the hearts of everyone they meet. We all want to know we’re in the right so badly, we’ll go to any length to ensure we’re safe.

We’ll cross the road on the way to church as a bloodied man asks for help. After all, we have to be there on time and we don’t want to get our robes dirty.

But it’s not just the evangelical Christian that does this. Every single human is guilty.

“Well, at least I don’t kill people.” “It’s not like I go around raping children.” “I’m not that bad.”

We justify ourselves rather than Christ justifying us and in doing so eat of the fruit of our ancestors, perpetuating the pain.

Probably one of the biggest vindications I’ve seen lately is in the gay Christian community. And I get it. We’ve been told we’re wrong for so long; we’re desperate to prove that we’re right. We invest hours to studying scripture; we analyze the culture and the language; we exegesis the shit out of context and in doing so vindicate ourselves. We are right. They are wrong.

If you dig deep enough, anyone can find scripture to support their cause. Even slaveholders found justification in scripture prior to the Civil War.

Am I saying that having a same-sex marriage is wrong? I’m not, actually. What I am saying is that if we simply dig into the Bible, declaring this is right, we’re no better than the people that clobber us with the same passages. We cannot keep living in the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It’s time to turn to the tree of life.

Is there life in your life (yes I just wrote that…) as a result of the choices you make? Are you yielding to Jesus?

A while back, when trying to vindicate myself and give myself permission to have a gay relationship, I reached out to a married gay couple who write a blog called Modern Kinship. They inspire me with their trust and love of Jesus. Yes, believe it or not, there are homos out there that love Jesus and do a better job than a lot of straight people.

When I emailed them, sharing my story and asking questions about marrying a man or a woman, He gave me an answer I didn’t expect.

“I don’t believe there’s a single God-honoring path to take. Maybe God has a woman in mind for you; maybe He doesn’t.” He went on to say that the number one evidence that he knows that God has called him and his spouse to this marriage is the life they see as a result of it. “My marriage serves to strengthen my faith. We serve God together and help to deepen each other’s understanding of God. Our relationship has had outward benefits in the way it has prompted people to think about God and his love in a larger, more radical way. People ruined on the church are giving God a second look. All of that, for me, has been the best evidence.”

“You will judge a tree by their fruit.”

What fruit do you have that shows you’re producing life? Not right or wrong. This isn’t about vindication. The world has had plenty of that and we’re all still bleeding. Being right doesn’t heal. It still kills. Where is life blossoming? Not only yourself but for those around you? Is there healing in your open hands? Is there a simple childlike trust breathing hope into the people around you? Are we agreeing with our Messiah’s prayer, “Not my will, but Yours”?

I want to start praying that prayer again.

Thanks for reading.

Epilogue – Colorado Springs, CO

And now is the part where I say, “I returned home! My journies enlightened me. I’ve been changed.”

If only…

Life has been rough since coming back. I would love to say that all the travels and people transformed me. In the moment, it did. Hope was birthed. Love re-kindled. It was as though life was emerging from the ashes. But then I came back to Colorado to stare at the charred mess I made. A mess of lives, mine and those I love. It choked the hope out of me like the weeds in Jesus’s parable.

Upon returning home, it took me less than two hours to find a bathhouse. It took less than a week to find a man on Grindr. It took less than a month to forget I even traveled.

It’s true that traveling gave me hope. It’s true that my heart softened. But now that soft heart could feel. And it was feeling a lot.

Loneliness. Hopelessness. Aimlessness. All the nesses covered in remorse. Where was God in all this?

My life revolved around my ex for so long, it’s like my life is now revolving around a black hole. The absence of him carries an immeasurable weight that makes it unbearable most days.

The only way of explaining how I felt was like treading water. I’m not sure where to go. Where’s land? But this feeling wasn’t new. I felt like this before my ex.

In 2012, I left for Berlin to join a missions organization. I was eager to be discipled. I had been in leadership since the age of fourteen. I was ready to have someone teach me, to see God move, to be a part of something important. Instead, I was asked to produce a show while suffering emotional abuse at the hands of a leader committing an affair with one of the students. And on top of that, I was paying to be there. It’s like I’m a masochist!

If that wasn’t enough, I felt so alone. Not only was I not being led by someone, I had a peer completely abandon me for no reason whatsoever. But the abandonment was greater than people. I felt abandoned by God.

One day, while in Mumbai, I prayed for a woman missing a led. I helplessly watched as the woman wept. “Why won’t God give me my leg back?” I didn’t have answers. Maybe God wasn’t there. But I needed him, and so did my family. My brother was hospitalized from a major car accident. We all needed God. Where was He? Was He even there? Was He ever there?

As a kid, I prayed that someone would find me when I was molested for five straight years by an older boy. I was never discovered.

As a teenager, I prayed that God would make me straight. That he would change me. I’m still attracted to men.

As an adult man, I prayed I would have other men show me the way. I have yet to find a mentor, though I’ve joined two discipleship schools.

Disappointment after disappointment overshadowed me, communicating one message: I was on my own. I needed to figure out life for myself. No one was coming to save me.

And on that plane home, I began the treading.

Find a career. Figure out a future. Find love. Don’t be alone.

I downloaded Grindr; I met a man who came to my rescue, and I began the first relationship I ever had with a man… and I was petrified.

It was a late night in March. We had reconnected after three months. I had broken up with him due to fear of hell, but we had eventually navigated friendship. He had started dating another guy, and I really wanted him to see that someone was going to stick around no matter what, even if he would never date me. I wanted him to see he was worth it.

But then we’re sitting in the car and he kisses me. I pull back. “I can’t do this. I don’t know where I’ve landed on sexuality and God. I don’t want to hurt you again.”

But then a promise was given. “If you were to tell me tomorrow we need to be friends, I’m okay with that. I love how you wrestle things out with God. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m attracted to you. I just want to be as close to you as I can.”

My heart soared. The invitation for someone to walk this journey out with me was everything. For so long, I had been walking this road alone. Now someone wanted to walk with me? Take a risk on me? How could I say no?

But I should have.

The result was a relationship that hurt people, and a fallout that wrecked us both.

If I could go back in time and yell at my younger self to say, “No! Stay friends. Don’t date. Stay strong. It’ll cost you everything and you’ll lose the person you love,” I would. At least then I would still have this person I care about in my life. Instead, my friends get to keep him. They get to benefit from my investment. And that hurts. I sacrificed so much but came up empty.

Moving out of my parents. Coming out to the world. Losing friends and ministry opportunities. Getting into a house I couldn’t afford. Changing my behavior to match my partners.

It was all for nothing.

That feeling of bankruptcy rings fiercely most days. I feel like a stepping stool. Everyone else benefited from this relationship but me. Everyone else got a meal while I got the bill. And that’s really hard to live with at times.

And the treading continues. I know I should trust God, but it’s hard.

The truth is, I tried to invite God back into my life. To trust Him again. I wanted Him to be a part of my life, especially the part that mattered the most–my romantic life.

So I invited God into my relationship. I analyzed verses, went to conferences, emailed all the experts. I was realizing that maybe a gay relationship was okay. That God could be at the center. The result was wanting to set boundaries around sex.

My boyfriend and I met on Grindr. Grindr isn’t really a good platform to set expectations of showing restraint regarding sex. And why show restraint? When you believe you’ve crossed the worst line, what were the lines before? What’s a small line like pre-marital sex in comparison to being a damned abomination?

You no longer have boundaries. They’ve all been broken already.

But here I was learning that maybe I can have a relationship with a man and have God at the center. And if I wanted to invite God into my relationship, it means He gets to speak into my sex life. It means He gets to say, “Wait.”

In hopes of ending this struggle between God and my relationship, I invited Him in, and I believe God told me to stop having sex. After all, we weren’t married. We weren’t even engaged. We had no commitment to one another. But our bodies were binding to each other. Don’t believe me? Try sleeping without the person you love for a few nights. Your body literally aches.

So with terror, I dared to trust. I held my breath and told my boyfriend that we couldn’t have sex. I held my breath, hoping everything would be okay. But it wasn’t.

He said wondered if our relationship was worth it. That I had hurt him too much. That this was too much. In the end, he wanted to break up. He wanted to salvage a friendship.

I was broken. I was hurt. Here I was trying to trust, and I was hurting the person that I loved. The last thing I wanted was to hurt this man. In that moment of pain, I was reminded of that premonition. “You will hurt this man.” I couldn’t afford to hurt him more.

I ended up agreeing with him. We should try and salvage a friendship. And when he changed his mind (as we had both done our two-year relationship), I said no. I refused to hurt him again. And since that day, I’ve worn this badge of martyrdom, as if I’d done something noble.

“Brandon,” my friend yelled at me. “Quit playing the victim card. You chose this.”

I chose this.

And when my day-to-day consists of hooking up with strangers, of weeping because of an HIV scare, of losing friends, of inflicting more pain, I think to myself, “Why the fuck did I do this? Why did I choose this?”

I doubt myself often and carry remorse and regret everywhere I go. I was selfish, and it hurt a lot of people. When I see their faces, I wish I could take back so much.

How did I become this selfish? I didn’t use to be. But if I didn’t have hope in a God taking care of me, who would? I had to take care of myself.

Pain gives birth to cynicism. Cynicism gives birth to loneliness. Loneliness gives birth to selfishness. Selfishness gives birth to pain.

And the cycle continues. A cycle every human has been trapped in since the dawn of time.

“Eye for an eye!” till the whole world is blind. That has been the truth for my world.

So what do we do with all of this? What do we do with selfishness and cynicism? Better question: what do I do with my selfishness and cynicism? I can’t fix the world. It’s not my job. But I can fix myself. And I knew that the root was my cynicism. But where did this root come from? The answer came at a place I never wanted to be–a men’s retreat. As a circle of middle-aged men stared at me, I was reminded of where this all began.

I was six. I was in the church attic. I was being molested by an older boy.

Where was God? Why didn’t He stop it? Why did this happen?

The men surrounding me dared me to answer that question for myself.

I stammered over words, trying to appease them.

“Why did Jesus have to die? He was always with me. He’ll redeem this.”

I stopped myself with a thought. How could You possibly redeem this?

“Because now you see people.”

I broke down. I wept in front of complete strangers. Male complete strangers! The worst kind! But I couldn’t help it. God really had redeemed my pain. They weren’t just trite words.

God does not cause pain. That’s the result of the world we’ve fucked up and the selfishness we carry out of pain. God doesn’t need our help with making the world blind. We’re capable of doing that all on our own. But we do need His help to believe that we can have an eye gouged out and “turn the other cheek”. Not because we’re weak, and we simply yield to adversity. But because we believe we have a God that will take care of us, break the cycle, and take horror and turn it into beauty. After all, isn’t that the cross? In the wounds that Jesus forever carries, he carries hope forever. Life came from his death. Maybe life could come from the pain I endured. Maybe God could redeem all the pain I caused.

So now I tell you, the reader, that since my travels and since that retreat I’m all better. All is well. I trust God, and I’m on a new path.

Nope! Still treading.

Just a few days after the retreat, I slept with complete strangers! The pain continues. The cynicism continues. The selfishness continues. And I continue to hurt people, perpetuating the cycle. How do I escape this?

I’m really scared God won’t look after the desires of my heart. Especially when my heart still desires a man’s strength, pursuit, and love. What if he doesn’t satisfy my heart? What if I’m fucked, destined to try and figure this out on my own? Destined to tread water forever? I panic. But then a calm voice speaks. The same calm voice that showed me I see people because of my pain.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart?”

Honestly, that verse scares me. Will He? Will He actually? But then I’m reminded of years before being a missionary, years where I put God first, and He did satisfy my heart. And what I’m doing now sure isn’t working. What do I have to lose?

In spite of my pain, I’ve seen too much of His faithfulness, regardless of the pain. So as scary as it sounds, I dare to trust, as intrepid as it may be. That trust may break tomorrow. But so did all the cool people in the Bible.

Abraham ran to Egypt and knocked up a slave girl. David killed a man and took his wife. Israel made deals with the devil.

And yet God calls them all His.

I don’t think God is asking for perfection, just a little bit of trust. And it may break. But here in this moment, if only for a few minutes, can I trust?

“Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines and go forth in dancing.”

With everything that is in me, I desperately hope that God can make something of this rubble. That He’ll restore. That He’ll fix what I broke. That’ll He’ll heal myself and others.

Redeem this God. You redeemed so much already. Redeem this too.