Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A few answers for a few big questions

I've been spending a goodly amount of time online on GCN - the Gay Christian Network. It's a fellowship of about 4,000 gay Christians around the world who have found fellowship, common experience, and support online.

On the message-boards, I read the post of a man who is struggling in so many ways like myself. Since I'm not breaking his anonymity, I want to post my reply to Ron here, because it addresses a number of things I've been wrestling with:
- - -

Ron, you asked some powerful, challenging questions. And they are questions that I am wrestling with, myself. For that reason, please forgive my wordiness, in advance. (Your words are in bold...)

Does God want His followers to have happy, deeply satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships or is that just something that our Western culture invented? As a seminarian and former theology junkie, I can pretty much assure you that if it's Western Civ, it's not God!

I'm going to strongly, strongly suggest you pick up a copy of The Children Are Free: Re-Examining the Evidence for Same Sex Relationships, by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley, which you can read about here on GCN or over here on Amazon. The chapter on affirming scriptural passages was fantastic (especially Ruth and Naomi). I needed to hear that. It reminded me much more of what God thinks about our relationships.

I'm a guy who also comes out of the recovery community, and my belief is absolute that God wants us - gay, str8, all races, all backgrounds - to be happy in God's love. I don't believe it because it's a good idea - I believe it because I see people's lives transformed in community all the time.

But for some of us, God has yet to answer our endless prayers to satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts to find a lifelong committed partner. I can't speak for you - but the tragic part of this is that my own stupidity is mostly responsible for my being alone, right now. I stayed in the closet for 15 years after I got sober, thinking that I was "doing God's will." That wasn't God punishing me - that was me mis-hearing God's message, and buying into the lies of the institutional church. Even so, the folks in church thought they were helping me - even though they were dead wrong.

On the Moses scale (n=forty years), I'm still a "quick learner." But yeah, it's tough to see the "wasted days and wasted nights" waiting for God to fix something that really wasn't ever broken...

You may as well ask why a guy I know who is devoid of spirituality has a $300k/yr job, can pay for all the pretty young things he wants, toodling round Florida in some hot speedboat, while I'm still online "at work" at nearly midnight in northwest Ohio. I don't think that's God's will - I think that's pure human screwery. Life isn't fair, but God IS good. I've had to hold onto that one.

...I’m at a point in my life where those quick sound bites just aren’t enough to take away the pain and the loneliness anymore. Well, brother, I turn 50 on Thursday, and I've been celibate and "a solitaire" since the current president's father was in office. So I can feel your pain, at least to a degree. When I hear "wait on the Lord," I want to scream, "What the heck do you think I've been DOING for 15 years? Knitting afghans?"

Is the gay Christian life inherently painful and lonely? To a degree, it's more lonely just because a number of venues for meeting a significant-other aren't open to us, for now. But in many ways, gay life is not any more painful or lonely than straight life is, Ron. There are a lot of str8 people who are in sexually-active, yet emotionally and spiritually empty lives. For an awful lot of folks, their lives consist largely of masturbating into other people's bodies. It LOOKS fun - the whole tab-A into slot-B thing always does. But is it something good? Is it something to be proud of? I think not.

Does God want me to feel this way? No. Ansolutely not. I have never bought into the old nonsense that "God is testing you - just throwing another rock on your back to see what will break you."

I went through years and years of the pain of trying to change my own sexuality because I thought that was His will, and in doing so I lost out on a huge part of my life and youth. So did I, Ron. You and I are in absolutely the same boat there. And it's very hard not to be resentful about that.

That is, until a simply gorgeous man at a gay AA meeting turned to me and said, "You're a nice guy, Steve, but you can be such a moron at times. Did it ever occur to you that you also missed out on the single worst plague ever to hit the world - certainly the worst to ever hit North America. Are you mourning your HIV-negative status? I know a bunch of guys who would swap their years of romping around for your health. It would be a great deal, from their point of view..."
I believe that God does not set down the controls of the world and stir up raw sewage in my life, or yours. If God really is a God of love, a God who sent comfort to so many hurting people in the Bible, why would God be someone so sadistic to tease you with a cool relationship and then yank it?

Answer: God wouldn't. That's just human nature, showing how broken it really is. Happens a lot, gay or str8.

I've had to spend a lot of time reminding myself about what I really believe about the nature of God. After my seminary life ended, I had a lot of times when I felt exactly like you sound. In my blog, I wrote about seeking strength in brokenness,, three spiritual places I'm not, and this post about how my broken life sounds suspiciously like some other folks' lives.

Say it with me:
God is love. God loves me.
God is love. God loves me.
God is love. God loves me.
God is love. God loves me.

(lather, rinse, repeat as needed)

I also realize that my emotions are clouding my perspective right now and that I don’t have a very "spiritual" frame of mind these days. Well, brother, I can only say, "Welcome." Very few people come to GCN because they are on top of their game, and just need some fresh territory to check out cute boys online. Every one of us found GCN because we were looking for the last house on the block. I sure was.

I wish that my faith was stronger, but life has frankly been almost too much to bear lately... That's why God ordains us to community - so we aren't all sick at the same time. We have a God who does not snuff out the smouldering wick, or crush a bent reed. When our last strand of thread is unraveling, we are given a cord of three strands. That's what I found here, and that's what you will find as well, I am sure.

Ron, I understand heartbroken. But I also understand hope. And there's plenty. Forgive me for getting on the soapbox - but also believe me: I needed to hear, for myself, everything I wrote to you tonight.

I get back to Chicago occasionally - it would be a blast to get together when I get back there.

You are not alone. You are loved - by us, and by God. I have to remember that the whole of God's message boils down to this simple acronym: URGBAR. You are gonna be all right.

So am I.

Peace and e-hugs -

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I can't, God can...

...I think I'll let him.

That, summarized, are the first three steps of the 12 step program of recovery. And I am immersed in it, swimming in it, this weekend at the Together We Can GLBT recovery conference in Troy, MI.

It's been an eye-opener, to be sure.

I am with a fairly large contingent from my home group, the Live and Let Live gay AA group in Toledo. And I've been introduced to a whole level of camp and queeny behavior that I knew was possible, but never really experienced before. To be honest, I don't often refer to any man (gay or straight) as "girl" or "sister," so when I hear things like "oh, LOOK at that girl go," stupidly enough I'm looking for, well, a girl.

I'm getting past that.

The other thing is the freedom to look at other men. There are some beautiful men - and a whole bunch of average guy-next-door guys - and it's just o.k. to be looking. In fact, it's expected. No fear of "WTF are YOU looking at?" up here - which is a whole new level of freedom, to be sure.

And it's the chance to address so much of my past - or lack of past - sexual life. Not that I'm expecting to find any treatment for that celibacy condition I've been dealing with (for, oh, a decade and more...). But the chance to at least explore that - and hear the experience, strength and hope of others - is going to be a great thing.

Last night, the Alanon speaker spoke of the the promise of Joel 2:25 - I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - and my prayer, for this weekend, is that this can be a start. My goal is to listen, learn, and spend a whole lot of time laughing.

I hae to admit, though, that tonight will be an interesting experience. There is, after the banquet and speaker meeting, a dance. And for those of you who have been out for a while, this may seem strange for a man a week away from his fiftieth birthday - but I have never danced with another man. Ever. I have never kissed a man, other than the peck-on-the-cheek "hello." And I haven't had to ask anyone to dance that I wasn't already at a dance with since high-school.

I am suddenly struck back to 14 years old. Sober.

Pray for me...for the willingness to dance, to ask others to dance with me, to get into the mainstream of my new life. If ever there was a time to do it, it would be now.