Monday, June 14, 2010

Such Adventures...

Well, this is the 200th post of "Adventures of a Christian Collegian," and I am sorry to say that it is also the last post. It took me awhile to figure out what to do with this blog, but ultimately I decided that I had really said all I needed to say about homosexuality and my college experience. I want to take this time to just reflect back on these past four years, in my usual completely random and unedited style, and thank all of you for being a part of the adventure. Because, truly, "adventure" is one of the only appropriate words to describe it.

Man, this is a lot harder to do than I thought. How do I encapsulate four years and all the incredible experiences I had in that timeframe? How do I talk about how much I grew in God, how many wonderful, challenging, interesting, frustrating, infuriating, complicated, or downright fun people I encountered? How do I mention my shift in theology, and my oftentimes erratic relationship with God? How do I talk about the many, many mistakes I made, many of which weren't even hinted at on this blog?

It's true that this blog doesn't even come close to representing a complete picture of my life, struggles, views, and quirks. As much as I've tried to be authentic, when push comes to shove it simply isn't feasible to write about every time I stumbled, every time I was depressed, or even every time I was joyful and at peace. There is a lot that I've processed away from this space online, and as the years went on and the friends around me grew closer, the amount of personal things that I processed became less and less.

And that's how it should be. One of my biggest hopes is that, as the church and society become more tolerant and educated about the issue of homosexuality, people won't have to rely on online contact, which can only do so much in the development of strong Christian men and woman. It can do almost nothing compared to genuine fellowship and community with living, breathing people. Sure, it can be messy. There is a lot of false or potentially harmful information out there, and it is often mixed in with good intentions and sincere, honest people.

I am reminded of the recent passing of Alan Medinger, who wrote Growth Into Manhood, a book which pretty succinctly summarizes the traditional conversion model of homosexuality. It's a theory that I've spoken out against multiple times, and which has led to a lot of harm among families and men seeking to live out their faith in boldness and orthodoxy. I think it creates more ex-ex-gays than it does ex-gays, and it certainly has no scientific backing. Does that mean Medinger was a bad person or a bad Christian? No. Just a bad theorist.

The thing is, this journey isn't an easy one, and it doesn't have clear route markers or hurdles to jump. Some people are going to believe some silly stuff for a season, and then find that it doesn't work for them. Others might hang onto it for life, but then again, I'm sure I'll have some prejudices or dumb ideas still lurking in my mind when I pass from this life to the next, as well. The main thing is whether or not I genuinely love Christ and love truth, regardless of whether or not I get either of those things perfectly right all the time.

Does this mean that we don't continue to speak out against what is untruthful or potentially harmful? Of course not. But we also have to recognize shared humanity, shared journeying, and shared belief in Christ. An elderly woman in a small southern town may never resolve the prejudices about race which she was raised with, but that does not mean that Christ's grace, love, and forgiveness couldn't be expressed in other aspects of her life. We're human beings, and we're tricky. As I've grown more, I've realized that black and white is a horrible way to see.

And sometimes I have to stop and look and realize just how much I have grown over the past four years. Every stupid mistake, petty argument, broken relationship, irresponsible choice, and foolish endeavor taught me something about myself and my relationship with God. Every individual who interacted with me, online or in person, positively or negatively, did something to help make me a better person and show me a way to be, or not to be. I hope those whom I am out of contact with now see this and realize that, good or bad, I appreciate them.

There have been an amazing adventures over the past four years, and this blog only shows a fragment of them... Vacations, conversations, parties, concerts, books, music, movies... I really am losing coherence just thinking about all the fabulous things I have done, and I praise God daily for all the things he has shown me over the past four years. I've screwed up a lot, and realize that I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go on the path of sanctification, but when I take in everything, I am left with a sense of wonder and awe about how much He has done.

Now I am at a place where I really have no idea what is ahead of me. I feel I've defined my views on homosexuality here, and I will be leaving this blog up in order to encourage others. I have a new blog up, although there is nothing at all there yet. Feel free to subscribe to it, so when I do eventually post there, you will know. Until then, I would love for longtime readers and lurkers to say their goodbyes to "Adventures of a Christian Collegian." Even if I never blog again, I'll always be around to engage with comments and e-mails.

Until then, than you all for everything. Thank you all for being a part of the adventure. Thank the fellow believers for challenging me and encouraging me in my walk with Jesus Christ. Thank the nonbelievers for keeping me on my toes and challenging me. Sure, we never agreed, but it was great to engage in respectful dialogue and learn how to think about what I believed and why I believed it. I hope and pray that you all come to a full relationship with Jesus Christ, and I pray that you all enjoy the adventure, whether you're in college or not.

Also, enjoy my girl Florence's cover of the Candi Staton gospel classic. You knew I wouldn't just leave you guys hanging without some amazing music, right? Much love and peace to you all. I can't wait to see the comments.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

My Testimony, For Now

I've never really thought of writing out my testimony, which is strange. I fancy myself a writer and I know the power of stories to convey God's work in the lives of individuals. After all, the Bible is in narrative form for a reason, is it not? Stories have power. But stories can also be intimidating to write, especially when they are your own. Lives rarely move in a completely clean and clear linear fashion. They sprawl, and events repeat themselves over and over again, and memories are often tainted by our present realities, not to mention the fog of time. So when writing my testimony, I have to realize that I'm looking back over God's work in my life for the past 21 years. And really, that's only the beginning. Sometimes a story's beginning doesn't really make full sense until you reach the end, and since I haven't reached the end of mine yet, I'm not quite sure what aspects of my past are the most significant to tell.

I'll start with the fact that I was raised in a Christian home. Of course, that can mean anything these days. I'll say that my parents were Methodists, and they took my siblings and I to church, and that we went to Sunday school, youth trips, and pool parties. I'm from a really small southern farm town, not too far from the Carolina coast. The life of the church and the social life of the town were practically identical, and despite all the positives to this, I can't recall a clear presentation of the gospel while growing up. God was the Santa in the sky described in movies and country music songs -- a kindly old guy with a beard who chuckled at humanity's shenanigans and helped us out every now and again. Sadly, I have a feeling that this is how most churchgoing Americans, even if they are in Bible-believing and Bible-preaching churches, see God.

My family life growing up was pretty good. My father was a craftsman and I would work in his shop every day after school, and he taught me a lot about art, music, and the usual "dad" things like how to catch a ball or fix a car. My brother and I were very close, and together we did all the normal kid stuff: building tree houses, fishing, playing ball, riding our bikes, pulling pranks on our sister, etc. I even got along with my male peers very well growing up. And yet, I was "different." I didn't really notice my differences until puberty or so, but when I did notice them, I did everything in my power to hide them from others. That main difference was simple: while my male peers were beginning to notice and think about girls, I was beginning to notice and think about my male peers.

I actually remember the first time I really recognized I was attracted to men. I was watching a television show, and some male actor -- I forget who, exactly -- came on the screen. My first thought was, "Wow, he is beautiful!" My next thought was, "No! He's a guy, and guys aren't allowed to think that about other guys." And thus began a cycle of denying the fact that I was, indeed, attracted to men. I began to stumble with homosexual pornography, but even so, I did not view myself as anything other than heterosexual. Such a thing simply wasn't spoken about outside of the bullying and taunts that I heard at school, especially since I was involved in sports and hung around the more athletic and "macho" students and teachers.

And so I just buried it. I had girlfriends, I acted the part of the normal straight guy, while every night I would look at images of nude men on the Internet, and every day I would feel intense feelings of shame and guilt when I realized that I simply didn't find women attractive, but instead had to do everything to avoid conspicuous arousal as my teammates and I got changed in the locker room. I had no idea how I was going to deal with this issue once I got to college, but I knew it had to be dealt with. As many people do in times of crisis, I turned to faith, and I began to read my Bible and study Christianity seriously for the first time. What I found was that God didn't care about the fact that I liked dudes. I had so many other sins that were just as damning, mostly my pride, and my ignorance of him and his word. I didn't need to be worried about my sexuality at that time, because like most Christians, I hadn't even understood the basics of the faith. Without genuine belief in Christ, and understanding of the gospel, whether I was straight or not would not matter in an eternal sense.

So I made the decision to put my trust in God, and to mean it this time. I think I expected my homosexuality to go away instantly at that time, but obviously it didn't happen. Instead, I have grown in my faith in so many incredible ways in the following four years. I've learned more about grace, sanctification, theology, and true, radical, Biblical love. My understanding of God's holiness and my constant need for repentance has continued to grow, and I am learning new things daily, despite my weakness and brokenness. My sexual struggles are, to me, pretty parallel to the struggles that straight men. Yes, they are present, and I struggle with lust and pornography.

If there is any unique struggle, it is that I am not sure I will ever be able to marry a woman. Personally, I have found quite a bit of fulfillment in singleness, and have been assured that singles are just as commended by God if they serve the kingdom with their whole hearts, which is what I intend to do. It's a daily struggle, and I know I need other Christians around who can stand with me in my loneliness and despair -- when those moments come -- and remind me of God's grace. Hopefully, I can do the same for them when they struggle.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Here And There

I've been so busy lately, but I'm still reading and looking at interesting blogs and posts. Most have to do with homosexuality, but others are simply theological or political in nature. Here are some of the posts I've read recently.

-- Reader A.J. shows exactly why James Dobson sucks.

-- Brady shares his thoughts about the Day of Truth.

-- Warren Throckmorton does a round up of Day of Silence and Golden Rule Pledge activities.

-- Tim Challies writes an excellent essay about disagreements on doctrine.

-- Karen blogs about the recent coming out of Jennifer Knapp. Also, hurray for Karen blogging again!

-- Matthew Anderson writes about the objection of Miss Knapp, in terms of the divisive issue of which she is unfortunately a part.

-- Courage Man writes a great post about how we gay guys are kind of easy to spot, especially by women. Basically, it's because we have no trouble keeping our eyes where they should be when talking to girls, and they notice this. Straight brothers and struggling sisters beware, a picture of a scantilly clad Kardashian sister makes an appearance in this post.

-- Ex-gay Watch reports about how protesters speaking out against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" were ordered away from the White House, as were the media. No matter where you stand on this issue, this seems like a pretty clear violation of free speech and the right to peacefully assemble.

-- Reader, and friend, Freelancer posts about how Maureen Dowd's brother got it so very wrong.

-- Randy Thomas points out a movie that I might want to see. Hopefully, it's not too preachy.

Blessings, everyone! Hope life is good.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What It Means To Be Side B

So, I have to thank everyone for their prayers and concerns after yesterday's post. I really am feeling better, and the support here, on Facebook, and in e-mails has been overwhelming, especially since Neo linked my blog on a "Boundless" post about Jennifer Knapp. Thanks, Neo! I'm getting more traffic than ever before.

In a private response to my last post, a dear friend of mine, who would also identify as a gay celibate Christian (also known as Side B by the elect at the Gay Christian Network, as my friend Joe would put it) wrote a great definition of what it means to live between these two worlds. I just thought I'd post it here. If he gets mad at me for posting it, I'll take it down, but I doubt he will. Hope everyone has a blessed day.

We're different. We know this. Somehow, we have found peace with our faith and our "gayness." I truly am happy knowing I finally peaceful with my sexuality and the God who loves me, in ways I cannot even measure. Still there's that something missing. We're not the guys who can just ignore the fact that we're attracted to other men, we can't (like others) suppress what we are. And we're not like the guys who can just engage and emerge head on into the gay lifestyle, as far as pursuing guys and being physical with our partners, etc. So we find a common ground... We'll be who we are but pursue a celibate life. Yet something remains. A desire for companionship, a hope that one day we can hold the heart of another, and he can hold our hearts.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Number One

I have to admit that I'm enjoying my time in Belize, but at the same time I am feeling very homesick, and am struggling with an almost crushing loneliness and depression. It happens often, but sometimes it's worse than usual, and much more difficult to push through. Just so you know, this post doesn't mean I'm dying. I think these musings are authentic thoughts for any single person, especially those who are Christian and gay. If the Christian culture in which we live was not so plastic, perhaps more would share instead of trying to appear strong.

A lot of this depression centers around the concept of being number one. I don't mean number one at my job or at a particular sport. I mean number one to another person. I have many friends in relationships, married, dating, straight, gay, or ex-gay. They each see their boyfriends and girlfriends, or husbands and wives, as their number one person. If there was a fire, and everyone they knew was in the building, and yet they could only save one person, they would be spared. And everyone else in the building would probably also have a number one who would save them as well.

But not me. I'm not saying that as a, "Woe is me," kind of thing. It's simply a fact. Sure, I have lots of friends and family, but with all of them, I am not important enough to be considered number one. I'm number five or six, at best, with my siblings, because their spouses and children rightly come first. I'm a background character in all of my friends' lives. If every life was a television show, I wouldn't be a star in any one's. I'd be that wacky neighbor who shows up every three episodes.

I want to be number one. I want someone to save me if they had to choose one person to save. I know, the Christians here are going to say that Jesus should be my number one, and he is, but if those Christians are married or in relationships, I will politely tell them to be quiet. Jesus loves everyone, and doesn't play favorites. I want to be one person's favorite.

And I'm sure people are going to say that's selfish. Again, if those people are married, I'll remind them that they're eating cake, and they're asking me to be content with crumbs. I'll be content with crumbs: None of this should raise alarms to people who are concerned about my walk. My feelings don't change my views and I live according to the latter, not the former.

The main problem is that I can't fix this. It's a hard reality. Even for the single people who are totally content, that doesn't change the fact that -- unless they have a best friend who is also single -- they are no one's number one. I know I can push through this. I'm active, I'm friendly, I'm involved. I thrill seek (went rock climbing this past week) and do what I need to do to make it through, but the fact is I'm not any one's number one, and the guy who is mine (my brother, who I consider my best friend) puts his wife and children first, and I tie with my sister.

And yes, I really do have my relationships ranked in list form. It's how my mind works. I guess my main question is how do I live with this? It's a fact. Even if I do get married one day, it will still be a fact for other single people out there. So what can be done? How do you live when you are no one's number one, when that's one of the primary drives that we have as human beings? If you are single, how do you cope with it? If you are married, what do you do to comfort and ease the pain of your single friends, because I don't want to call people out, but I do think that's your responsibility. I don't think just leaving the single people to their own devices is a good idea, but of course that's how the church often acts, because once people have their number ones, they often just forget about everyone else who doesn't.