pain

I was talking about women and periods the other day.

When I normally do, I talk about it crassly because I hate how everyone skirts around it.

“Oh she’s just having her days.” “I’m just having a wee visit from Aunt Flo.” “It’s just that time of the month.”

As if she’s “just” having a “good ‘ole time.”

In contrast, I say, “Oh is the lining of your vagina peeling away slowly because you didn’t get pregnant?”

Some people may call it insensitive. I just like being honest about it because when I say it, people wince, which feels like a more appropriate response than a mild blush and a wave of the hand, as man-boss says, “Sheila, get over yourself. We’ve got orders to fill and emails to send. If you need me, I’ll be in my corner office doing nothing.”

(I have no idea where the Australian slang came in during these first few sentences. Wee? Sheila? Good ‘ole time?)

A woman’s insides are literally peeling away, and some straight men get annoyed when they can’t have sex with their partner or when their wife is “a bit moody.”

Meanwhile, as bosses and partners complain, a woman will roughly spend 6.25 years of her life menstruating, $1,229.83 on pain relievers, $1,773.33 on tampons, $2,280 on new underwear (I still have underwear from when I was in Bible school), not to mention the stress every month of whether or not to tell her employer or date (only 20% do), and if she doesn’t, what lie she’s gonna come up with if the pain becomes unbearable. And all of that doesn’t include the blood loss, hormone spikes, cramps, and another flushed egg.

Doesn’t this all just suck? No wonder there’s a daily Jewish prayer for men that says, “Thank God that I am not a woman (or Gentile or slave).”

So what the hell? Am I just putting salt to a monthly wound? (I vomited a little.)

No.

Women, I would genuinely say, as fucked up as this is (and granted I’m a man and could be talking out of my ass), I see this shared pain, this shared experience, as a super power.

Every woman, on the entire planet, regardless of culture, language, location, socioeconomic standing, or experience — everyone woman, in spite of all their differences, intimately knows another woman’s pain. And I’m not just talking about her bleeding vagina.

She understands that she will have to work twice as hard to be viewed as “equally” smart or capable as a man.

She understands that she will have to show less affect in the business world to make sure she won’t be viewed as “too emotional.”

She understands that she will have to endure everyone telling her what she should do with her body, her baby, her hair, her breast milk, her career, her sex life, her free time, her fucking ashes after she’s dead and gone.

But the same is true for other populations.

Every Black person, regardless of what state, intimately knows the pain in their gut when lights flash in their rearview mirror.

Latinx communities, regardless of if they are from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, or the U.S. before the U.S. ever existed, will know the pain of being told to “Go back where you come from.”

LGBTQ+ people, regardless of color, religion, sex, or location, all know what it’s like to be rejected by loved ones.

That pain unites us, connects us.

Back in 2009, I went to a crazy Bible school. At that school, we had to do an event where we were sleep deprived, thrown into ice water, told to roll down a hill till we vomited, march through the woods with a log over our head, all while quoting scripture and a forced smile on our faces. To this day, if I meet a complete stranger who attended this school, I have instant access to their heart because we have an unspoken shared pain; we instantly connect.

Pain is a key. It can open our hearts to others, knit us together, soften us, make us willing to receive help.

And it can also lock us away. Harden us. Shut out the light. Tie up hope and drown her in waters of despair.

It’s a key.

When I first came out, I locked the door. I was scared someone was gonna come in and hurt me again, and it would be too much. Fear made me turn the key.

But I’m learning that pain is my gift. It’s your gift. To the world. To connect us.

Now, because of my pain, I can reach into myself when I bump into a kid who has been ostracized by their church, and feel with them, be with them, truly love them. They’re no longer alone, and it’s because of my pain. We’re not connected.

Now, when a daughter has her first cramp, a mother can reach inside of herself and say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, “You’re gonna be okay because you’re one bad-ass mother! And men will never understand, but you share this now with every woman who has ever been across the entire planet. Pain transcends language and culture, time and space. You’re connected to us all, now, connected to a great cloud of witnesses, and we are at your side.” (And is this not true? When was the last time a young girl was left to fend for herself when her vagina screamed and bled and she didn’t have a tampon or pain reliever? Other women always come to the rescue because they know, because they feel.)

I think this is one of the primary reasons why women are more empathetic than men — their shared pain.

Pain has potential for power. Empathetic power.

And why are we not surprised that our savior is suffering one. He’s not a savior that is high above. That’s what all the other gods were and it didn’t work. They didn’t heal. They didn’t save. They stayed in their towers and never wept for the plight of mankind.

But the saving God was a god that subjected himself to pain and cruelty, torture and death, a God that came low, who wasn’t too big for us and our pain. And then, after suffering, he says, “Pick up your cross, and follow me,” and “Be one as my Father and I are one.”

Pain, when used correctly, is a connector; it’s a key.

Will you use it to lock yourself away? Or open yourself up?

Side note: I think the world would be better if it were actually ran by women and not just sung about. Their pain could actually connect us, and we could see beyond our boundaries and borders to the humanity in us all, the pain within us all. I’m just gonna leave that there.

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.

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.