Thursday, June 29, 2006
My brother is an intense person; he focusses on his ministry and not much else, anything that doesn't align with that is unimportant. While it makes him a great minister it can make him lousy at relationships. Despite our differences, I know he is a man of God, and has gone through a lot to get there. Yesterday I realized that he expects everyone to come to the same conclusions he has, to reach where he is at without the intervening years of experience. I cannot and will not let those expectations be placed on me; I am where I am at today because God has brought me here, if God wants me to come to the conclusions my brother is at He will bring me there. My job is to follow follow God, not to "become" anything.
Expectations have nearly torn me apart before and I won't let it happen again. No man can say where God will take me and no one has a right to. The only expectation I will live up to is seeking God first in all things. In the end He makes the decisions, not me, my brother or anyone else. If I am doing what I think God wants then I won't beat myself up when I make a mistake. If God wants me to become straight then He will bring me to the place where I believe that to be His will. Is self-deception possible? Yes, but I will not let it force me into inaction.
Does any of this clear up any confusion for me? Not really, but it calms the turmoil in my heart. I can sleep easy knowing that God won't lead me wrong.
What impresses me about you is your integrity. It is easy to stuff our feelings and desires, make believe they don't exist or don't matter or are less important than others' needs. From what you write, seems you are willing to be honest with yourself and others, which can help so much in hearing God's heart.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
More fragile than I thought...
Right now I am in a bit of a funk. The past two years, and especially the past six months have been all about coming to terms with who I am. These months have been the happest, ever. For the first time I bared my soul and allowed myself to feel. When someone said they loved me I felt it inside of me, instead of just thinking, "Yeah, right. Not if they knew." When someone hugged me instead of recoiling at their touch because I was unclean, I hugged them back, thinking that maybe, just maybe I deserved to be loved. I actually had some real conversations with my parents. I showed them my heart, who I really was and even though they may disagree my relationship with them is better than ever. And best of all, I really discovered who God was. I discovered that I don't need to change for him to love me. I can be gay and Christian. It was like all my efforts to change were preventing him from working in me. Now I feel like all of that is slipping away.
When I arrived here in the US, I was so sure of myself. I could say I was gay and not cringe. The other night I had a long talk with my older brother. I love him so much. He is a real man of God and has always been there for me. So we are talking and he wants to know what's up with me, and I tell him(he already knew I was "struggling with homosexuality(he was the first I had told)") that I have accepted the fact that I am gay and may never change. First of all he made sure I knew that he loved me. Than he responds, in his most loving manner(he can be fairly blunt at times and tends to steamroll the opposition), saying that it seems like I've given up because I am afraid of failing. He talked a bit about being decieved and says I am putting myself in bondage, because if I choose to be gay and celibate(I am not sure what I believe about that yet) that I will be fighting it my whole life and will be putting myself in bondage to homosexuality. I try to explain that having my life revolve around homosexuality by trying to get rid of it is bondage but he doesn't understand. He goes on to use a cancer analogy and says that if he had cancer wouldn't I want him to get treatment, even if the success rate was very low?
I tried to explain what I felt, what has happened to me over the last six months but I just can't get it across. It seems like all that is irrelevant. I am starting to wonder; is it? Was the last six months a lie? Was my conviction that I am doing the right thing really just deception? I don't know what to do. My brother said that the way I was last summer, when I was fighting it, is better. Last summer I hated myself. I looked in the mirror and wanted to throw up. I would lie in bed thinking about running a knife down my chest, then thrusting it in just below the sternum. Or maybe drawing it across my arms, and watching the blood well and begin to pour as my life seeps out of me in a crimson cascade. I've thought a lot about it. Last night I was looking at the knives, and wondering, is that it for me? I set the phone down beside me and prayed that God would send help, that someone, anyone would call. If he can do miracles why can't he make someone pick up the phone and rescue me? It seems like I am losing myself. Do I have to resign myself to a life of deception or a life of self-hatred? Should I just end it? I don't want to have to go back to the way I was, but if what I have gotten over the last six months is all a lie I don't want that either. I don't want any of it.
Sorry about the stuff with your brother. I do not mean any disrespect to him (or any of the people in my life who feel the same way, for that matter), but I cannot understand how people feel that living in a state of self-hatred is better than accepting God's love, and learning to accept yourself.
I cannot say what God wants for your life... celibacy, relationship, heterosexuality... but I can say that God does not want you to hate yourself. If the last six months of your life have been about accepting your sexuality, then perhaps the next six months should be focused on something else... maybe just let the gay thing lie for a while and once you're over the 'trauma' of it, then think about it. I don't really know you, so it's hard to even think of giving advice (and if you read my blog, you know, I'm hardly the person to be doing that anyway), but it's possible the whole thing is too raw right now anyway.
Just my thoughts. Have fun in the US!
I am not convinced that when God looks at people, he sees what is bad, I think we do that (myself excluded of course, as I am SO bad, God hates me, but everyone else he likes!). Maybe it would help to find someone who can explain to you how God sees you. I can already tell that you are articulate, caring, sensative and eager to the point of desperateness to be a good person, to do the right thing. These are the signs of a good person; perhaps a very fragile person.
The difference between us, of course, is that I'm nearly 50, and I've been hiding in the church for 15 years - and coming out has been like tearing a bandage off a hairy chest.
I know you're out - but the arguments for coming out and "staying out" are very similar. My friend Tom S. wrote this great post about why being out is best. I highly recommend it.
This quote made me want to cry, though:
He goes on to use a cancer analogy and says that if he had cancer wouldn't I want him to get treatment, even if the success rate was very low?
No, as a matter of fact, I wouldn't, for three reasons.
I watched my father spend 2 years fighting tooth and nail against cancer. He spent every waking moment trying to stay alive. He bought a 2 year pass to the YMCA, even when he could no longer get out of bed without assistance. He died anyway and was a complete mess for most of those 24 months.
In contrast, 15 years later, I watched my friend Steve spend a year and a half knowing he had cancer, and saying "screw you" to the medical community. He lived five years worth of life in those 18 months, and only spent the last month in real physical distress. He filled his life with people and living, rather than spending it all fighting to stay alive.
So no, to your brother's point, I'd much rather try to live for what time I'm alive than spend all my time fighting the dying process.
(In fact, given that the Divine design for humans is for 100% mortality in this life, I'd say that fighting God to stay alive might be considered a form of idolatry... but I'll leave that for college theologians to argue about.)
But more than that, all this talk about cancer misses the really important central point: homosexuality is not a disease that needs to be healed. It is the way that your brother's Creator God made us.
We didn't "give up natural passions" (Romans 1:26); we never had 'em to begin with, though many have tried to manufacture them. We didn't choose this - but we can choose to accept it, and go forward.
A great read - especially for those who have Christian friends - is Mel White's Stranger At The Gate, where he talks about trying reparative therapy and drugs and electro-shock and thousands of hours of counseling - and still ended up (as the saying goes) as gay as a goose.
The hardest thing for me to have done - over the last 3 decades - is decide that who and what I am, as created and shaped by God, is exactly who I'm supposed to be.
And when people try to tell me that "the Bible says it's wrong," I point out to them that "the Bible also was used to defend slavery, and to persecute Kepler and Gallileo because the church thought the earth was the center of the universe. Were they right, too?"
The ancient Hebrews didn't understand even the concept of innate sexual orientation, any more than they understood astronomy or organic chemistry. So how can I govern my life using their rulebook?
It's simple. I can't. For 90% of my moral life, I can point to the Bible as the guide of my faith and life. But I don't trust the Bible when it comes to sex, biology, or astronomy.
When people ask me about homosexuality, I keep pointing them to this post, and asking, "So how do you answer THIS? How do you answer the call of Jesus, versus the call of Leviticus?"
You hang in there, brother. No brother, no father, no job, no nothing is worth your life. As Popeye would say, "I yam whut I yam, and that's ALL whut I yam."
Saturday, June 10, 2006
My Labels - Christian and gay
Jason the gay Christian
I was in first grade when I began to realize that I wasn't the same as the other kids, but I didn't really think anything of it. As I grew older I found that most of my friends were girls. The other guys would talk about who they had a crush on, but I never had one. At least not on a girl. Even though I was too young to even know the word “gay” or all its connotations, I knew that I had to keep it a secret.
By eleven I had gotten the idea that there was something horribly wrong with me. The attitudes I saw in my small, Western town had made this abundantly clear to me. I tried to ignore it and, for the most part, I succeeded. Little realizing the damage I was doing to myself, I made sure to keep it hidden and act like the perfect child.
When i was twelve my family moved to the Middle East. At first life in the was an adventure. It was exciting and I loved the newness of it all. That lasted for about three months. Tensions ran high in our home as my older sister made sure that everyone knew how much she hated living there. My little brother followed suit. When I saw how stressed my parents were I didn't want to add to their burden, so I kept my dislike, and eventual hatred, of my new home to myself. This set me on a path of withdrawing from everybody. No one suspected that I wasn't a perfectly happy twelve year-old boy.
In reality I was extremely unhappy. I was at a British school where it seemed like I would never fit in. The teachers were mocking and overbearing. I remember a teacher shouting at me on my first day of class for making a joke, and being failed in assignments because my “presentation” was bad. Through three years and five different schools life just got worse. I was hated and attacked for being American, and even though my bruises faded, the pain and the loneliness only got worse. My attraction to other guys became stronger as time passed, and I hated myself because of it. I was so ashamed of myself; even looking in the mirror made me sick to my stomach. Sometimes the pain and the loneliness was too much and I would take pencils and carve in my arm till it bled. When the blood dried I would carve again.
Relief was nowhere in sight. Out of necessity I became numb: I turned off my emotions because they were too painful. Although it made life seem less painful, it cut me off from all the good emotions too. Joy. Happiness. Love. At this point I couldn't feel any of these. I couldn't make other people feel them either. My life was an empty shell, a human carapace with a void inside.
In the summer of 2003 I was vacationing in the States, staying in the little Western town I grew up in. One of my sister-in-laws came to me and asked whether I wanted to join a small group of Christian youth that she led. I declined; being forced to go to church once a week was bad enough. She asked again. I still refused. Insistent, she asked until I gave in. What the heck, I thought, if I don't like it I don't have to stay. I remember every detail of that first day.
I walked into the store-converted-church prepared to bolt if I didn't like it. No one noticed me; I stood unobtrusively in the corner while they, seventeen youth sitting in a circle around my sister-in-law on faded brown carpet, talked. Instead of listening I watched them. I looked at their faces and at how they interacted. All of them were smiling. One of them began talking and started crying. The others reached out and touched her. Those nearest hugged her tightly. A dam burst within me. All the emotions I had held at bay came flooding back. I wanted to go over and tell them my story, so I could be touched. So I could be hugged. So I could be loved. Instead I stayed in the shadows.
As I watched them with a wonder bordering on awe, I saw joy in the way they talked and moved and the expressions on their faces. It was such a contrast to the feelings of worthlessness, of self-hatred and shame that filled me. I wondered how they could feel that way. The people sitting in that circle weren't strangers: I had grown up with many of them. One was an orphan, another had a father in prison for murder and another was an illegal immigrant who knew she could be taken out of the country at any time. Most had similar stories, yet there they were, smiling. I couldn't remember the last time I had really smiled.
I spent the next couple of weeks becoming part of the group. When I talked to the other youth I discovered that all had one thing in common: the focus of their life was Jesus. Technically I knew who he was; I had grown up going to church and hearing stories from the Bible. But as they talked about him I discovered that, to them, he was more than someone who lived and died 2000 years ago. He was their reason for living. I knew that I had to see if this was real. If it was, I wanted it.
I started looking through the Bible(something I had usually avoided at all costs) and discovered something incredible. I am loved, or rather, God loves me. Although I had heard a lot of this before it had never really registered. I found passages that said things like “We love Him because He first loved us” or “Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If true, this was beyond amazing. How could God love me? I didn't even love myself. I looked back at some of the things I had done and wondered how anyone who knew everything about me could look on me with anything but revulsion. It says in the Bible that Jesus died for us, to save us. But did that really include me? My shame and self-hatred said no, but this book, the Bible, said otherwise.
This filled me with hope, but also with fear. I wanted to believe it was true, but what if it wasn't? I wasn't sure whether I was ready to risk it. But then I began to ask myself whether I could live the rest of my life this way: drowning alone in a sea of self-hatred.
Lying in my bed with tears streaming down my face I asked for help. Desperately hoping that this God was listening I told him that I needed him, that I couldn't live another moment the way I was. I was ready to do whatever it took to experience the love that I had read about, the love I saw in the lives of those around me. Something changed inside me and I began to feel different. I felt like I had been dragging around this enormous weight and someone had come and taken it away.
The rest of that summer was fantastic. My cry for help hadn't gone unanswered and I found a friend who loved me unconditionally. I loved quiet times of reading my Bible and talking to God, and I loved hanging out with the other youth. I learned more about what the Bible calls sin, things that are wrong in God's eyes, and decided to make sure not to do those things.
When I got back to the Middle East I was pumped: my life had changed radically over the summer and I thought everything would be perfect. It wasn't. After a couple months life got harder again. School was tough and I was becoming more attracted to guys. I would look at the Bible and see verses that spoke against homosexuality and wonder what it meant for me. "Christian" and "gay" seemed to be two mutually exclusive words. I started praying to God to make it go away. He didn't. I thought that if I only prayed harder things would change. They didn't.
For the next two and a half I felt like there were these forces tearing me apart. I had found God, and I knew that the love I had felt from him was real, yet how could he make me gay if it was a sin? I struggled so hard. Every time I messed up, whether it was looking at pornography or lusting or even just looking at a guy and thinking “he's cute” I would feel horrible and dirty. I started hating myself again because I couldn't change. Life became a perpetual series of ups and downs. I would have “gay thoughts” and go into a depression because I had “failed” at changing. Obviously I hadn't prayed hard enough. Then I would ask God to forgive me and feel like this time I could really make it. Then I would mess up again. Sometimes I spent hours begging God to change me.
I began wondering how a God who loved me, one whose love that I experienced, could let me be like this. It was like he made this mold that I was supposed to fit, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't.
About six months ago I reached the lowest low of my life. It was the last night of a four day youth conference and I felt like I was being torn apart. I had prayed for God to make me straight, but he didn't. Everything I had seen told me that being gay and being Christian were incompatible. I thought that either God was mocking me, giving me a desire to serve him while making it impossible, or that he was deaf to my cries. I begged for a sign that he heard my prayers, but none came.
From that point on I turned my back on God. I felt like I had done everything, like I had fulfilled my side of the bargain, but he didn't make me straight. It was like I gave him my heart, and he broke it into pieces. About a month passed and life was just horrible. My life felt emptier than ever before but I refused to go back to a God who acted to cruelly.
Then one night I lay in my bed miserable and crying and the most amazing realization of my life seemed to seep over me: God loves me. Period. Everything else in my life, including being gay, is secondary. I had felt like a failure because I had been judging myself, not because God had. Being gay had nothing to do with God's love for me, and nothing to do with how much I could love him. By hating myself for being gay I had stopped feeling God's love for me, and replaced it with some supposed condemnation.
I don't know where my life is headed, and I'm not betting on ever being straight. Despite that, I stand now more assured then ever of God's boundless love for me. For me, the words "Christian" and "gay" are no longer mutually exclusive.
Glad to see you blogging. Keep it up, it's a good outlet and offers a lot of other views.
Oh, thanks for the blogroll too. Do you mind if I ask how you found mine?
I believe you've answered a question I've been asking for months... which was "who is this person who keeps reading my blog in the middle east?"... honestly, I've been very curious.
Anyway, I'm glad I found you and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I envy your language abilities, I must say... I wish I could pick up some Korean!
It took a while for the simple answer to come to me.
You are acceptable to God.
And so am I.
Friday, June 09, 2006
My Labels - polyglot
Jason the Polyglot:
Ok, I call myself a polyglot more out of pride than anything else. A more accurate term is tri(ish)lingual(English, Arabic and some Latin) with a smattering of other languages thrown in. I spent time learning Arabic(and eventually Latin) and picked up phrases of other languages. Now I kind of have a "love affair" with languages; I love learning new phrases and can spend hours looking up obscure grammatical rules. Not much else to say here, except this only made me even less “American” culture-wise.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
My Labels - white, American and TCK
I am white. Not much to say there except that I can't dance and I like rock music. Incidentally, at about the same time that I made my first appearance as a white person(well, more red than white) I also became:
Jason the American:
I am American. Or, to be more precise, I was born in America. Most of my first 12 years were spent in a small Western town. I remember doing "American" things like celebrating the Fourth of July, eating hot-dogs and singing the national anthem(which, as I discovered recently, is not God Bless America. I should be ashamed that a Canadian had to tell me). That, along with always supporting the Republican party, never questioning the government, going to church on Sundays and making sure our lawn was well-manicured seems to be what being an American is all about.
Oh, and our lawn really wasn't all that well manicured.
We had a really big yard
I didn't like mowing.
Neither did my siblings.
So that's what being an American was to me. Of course it is inaccurate, incomplete, incongruous and any other “in” word you can think of, but when my life changed radically at the age of twelve, the memory of those hot-dogs and the melody of the song I happened to think of as my national anthem was about all I had left to make me “American.” In 2000, I moved to the Middle East, and I don't mean Missouri. This led to a dramatic makeover and my new appearance as:
Jason the TCK:
Life there(which for now is “here”) was different from anything I had ever known. It involved lots of changes and being “American” came to mean that I had a passport that said “US Department of something” on it. Oh, it also meant I was disliked. For those of you who may not now, being a timid little white American boy in an Arab country when the label “American” was associated with “infidel,” “imperialist” and “Israeli supporter” is not a good thing. I had bruises to prove it. Fortunately I never got any bones broken.
After tensions calmed down and bruises healed I became part of a culture that was neither American nor Arab. My friends, neighbors and classmates were from over 40 countries. I absorbed some customs and lost others. I learned new meanings for old words such as “respect” and discovered that some people actually considered their aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents as close family; close enough to share a home with them. All in all I changed. My passport still said “American” but my heart didn't. I could claim no culture as my own and later learned the label to describe me: Third Culture Kid.
My Labels - an introduction to me
For those who like the labels here they are: I am white. I am an American. I am a Third Culture Kid. I am a polyglot. I am Christian. I am gay.
If these six labels are enough to tell you all you need to know about me then fine, stop reading. If not, I hope that my story will show you a small part of who I am. As I have grown and changed most of my labels stayed the same, yet their meanings change daily. I have struggled against most of these labels, except perhaps being white. There is no denying it. I am whiter than wonder bread.
In the following posts I will attempt to explain myself beyond these labels.