The Journey Continues . . .

It’s time.  Time to hang up the Xanga.  As much as I hate to add to the mass Xanga exodus, I just feel like so much of my life has changed, and I can’t post about my journey in the way I used to, because it’s such a different journey now.  So I’m changing things up, starting with a new blog.  Please check it out and add it to your RSS feed (or whatever it is you use these days to follow your friends)!

Peace and Love, my Xanga friends!  See ya on the other side!

D.J. Free!

Advertisements

Bizarre

I find it somewhat bizarre that some of the same Republicans that insist that gay marriage is in violation of the majority’s right (i.e., the mantra “Let the people vote!”), would then turn around and obstruct the overwhelming majority of elected officials’ plans by way of filibuster.  Discuss . . .

Pitter-Patter

Next Friday, my partner and I will be having a CELEBRATION EXTRAVAGANZA!  This will be our housewarming, our engagement party, my 30th burfday party , and our official signing of the Maryland Domestic Partner Registry!

Most of our friends in the area know all about it, as they’ve been invited and are already slated to come.  Even our good friends Joe and his husband will be there, since they’re visiting us from Illinois that weekend!

But we can now add on one other celebration to the extravaganza: the welcoming of the pitter-patter of tiny, lil’ feet!  Yes, that’s right!  Even though we’re not legally married just yet, WE’VE ADOPTED!

. . . a dog.  Her name is Lacey.  And we’ll be getting her in a couple of weekends (not in time for the party, unfortunately) after we make some repairs to our fence!

Australian Shepherd Picture

Meet You in the Middle . . .

This has been a very trying summer!  My beau and I have been sheepishly navigating the worlds of family and developing relationships.  We’ve wanted to marry for quite some time now.  In fact, if we had supportive families, we would already be married.  However, we recognize the need for supportive community, and we both love our families, so we’ve been slowing things down to give them time to grieve their straight hopes, and catch up a bit to where we are.  Meanwhile, we grow closer every day.  It’s been a difficult balance.

We realized we could no longer hold off on at least making the next step (engagement), so when I returned to Vermont to pick up J from his summer school stint, we got engaged!

v:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} o:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} w:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} .shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);} v:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} o:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} w:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} .shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}  

There’s been no small amount of retardation since the announcement.  It’s really sad actually, that the happiest, bestest news of my LIFE, is met with such ambivalence (if not antipathy) by our families   On my side, everyone but my parents has been completely silent, and my parents would be too if I hadn’t forced them to say something

We’re going to see his family this weekend.  Do pray that this goes well!  They already know the news, so now we’re all going to “talk” – whatever that entails.

Most of my friends have been very cool.  Even the ones that haven’t quite figured out what they believe regarding Christianity and homosexuality.  There’s one exception: my South African friend Rebekah.  I’ve received nothing but callous judgment and arrogant derision from her . . . all in the name of “Christ”, of course  

But some friends have demonstrated much more empathy, compassion, humility, and grace – even if they couldn’t be 100% supportive.  Like our friends from church – the Mussers.  They sent a very interesting email to us expressing their confusion in how to respond.  So on Labor Day, we invited them over for dinner, had a great time catching up, and discussed things further while in town eating yummy ice cream!   They got to hear a little of our story, and I think we all walked away a little more appreciative and knowledgeable.  Admittedly though, my fiancee and I are really growing weary of having to explain our “happy” news to so many sad, confused faces.  So after this weekend w/ his family, we’re taking a break.  Doing the tough work of meeting people in the middle can get draining!

On yet another front, or church community – which up to this point has been exceptionally supportive – is now embarking on a journey to delineate our stance on various issues (sexuality included).  When we announced we wanted to marry there, they said that we could not do this behind closed doors, but that we’d have to involve the community in discussions about this (not our marriage in particular, but how we will approach gay families and their needs in the church).  Now, the leaders are more than happy to support us, but there is a substantial part of the community that either does not know what to do w/ gay couples, or does not think that these couples are “living out God’s best.”

So yes, this could potentially be yet another piece of our community that we have to in some sense “battle” in order to help them understand.  And yes, the very thought of another battlefront is tiring.  Fortunately, I don’t think it will really come to blows, but it will probably be a little awkward as we move forward.

So there you have it: the drama and woes of living in the tension of the middle.  Pray for us.  It ain’t easy!

D.J. Free! 

All about Adam (Synchroblog)

Today is a pretty special day.  I’m joining several other bloggers in a “synchroblog.”  We’re talking about ways to bridge the gap between the Church and the gay community (something I’m sure you know I’m pretty passionate about since I identify as both Christian and gay).  Feel free to head over to New Direction Ministry’s blogging page to read other folks who are writing about similar themes . . .

————————————————————

Once upon a time, I was one of those “ex-gays” you read so much about.  And a pretty good one too (so I thought).  I was actually helping to lead an online youth ministry geared towards those “struggling with unwanted same sex attractions.”  Our group was very tight-knit.  To this day, some of the folks I met in the ministry are like brothers and sisters to me.  We bared our souls to one another, and shared things that we had never fathomed to utter to another human being.  Those years were transformative . . . we all learned so much, regardless of the paths we ultimately chose.

But there was one particular friend that I remember hurting very badly. His name was Adam.  Adam was really questioning a lot of things at the time: his life, his spirituality, his sexuality.  And I – his brother in Christ – did nothing to aid him.  Don’t get me wrong, I thought I was being very helpful by pointing out how sinful he was to be questioning these sorts of things, and to not stand on the Word as he should. 

It wasn’t until months later, however, when I gained access to an “advanced” section of that particular group that I read some discussions that Adam had about me behind my back (since he had access to the advanced boards long before I did).  I can’t recount his exact words.  I just remember reading them broken-hearted.  He shared with some others how painful and stressful it was to be having to deal with me (and a couple of other people who were hard on him) on top of all of these other things he was questioning. 

That day changed my life.  That day I realized how much my words, my persuasion, could be utterly malevolent.  And I was forced to inspect my own soul.  How could I have done this?  How could I have hurt a friend so?  And in the name of Christ to boot! 

FEAR.

It was my fear.  Deep down, I was afraid of Adam and what his doubts represented.  I was afraid that if he questioned those things, then I might have to question them too.  That was simply too scary for me.  My entire notion of the universe, God, and my whole self were wrapped up in a particular reading and understanding of Scripture.  If one thing unraveled, the whole ball would fall limp to the floor – tattered shreds of yarn.  Useless.

I couldn’t have my whole world crumble.  So I did what so many Christians do in those times: I tried to coax Adam out of doubt, and into safe certainty.  And by so doing, I nearly ruined a friendship – causing undue emotional trauma to a wonderful human being.

How much does FEAR get in the way of effective communication?  How much do we need God and life to be some certain way in order for our world to make sense and feel safe?  How long will we allow fear to dominate conversation, such that we prove ourselves right, and everyone to the contrary wrong?  How long will we allow our rightness to exist at the expense of loving others in the way that Christ did – in that open, inclusive, messy, precarious, undaunted, unfaltering, expansive, and beautiful way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  And please feel free to read other bloggers on this synchroblog!

DJ

“You’ll Never Be Satisfied” . . .

This was one of the mantras I picked up and promulgated during my ex-gay days.  I truly believed it.  Every time I had that strong desire to deeply know another man, I recited this platitude to calm the anxiety and assure myself that being gay was not the healthy choice for me. 

It’s the ultimate salve to any gay “temptation.”  Well-meaning (but ignorant) mentors would assure me that my deep ache would never be satisfied.  It’s not what God wants.  It won’t lead to a healthy life.  It is a deep hole from which you’ll never emerge, because you’ll perpetually seek the nonexistent bottom.

I still commonly hear this warning from Christian leaders today to those needing encouragement to stay on the ex-gay path, or those who are questioning which path to choose: “That ‘lifestyle’ will never satisfy you.  It is sin, and will only lead to death.”  Most mean this in emotional ways, but the even more ignorant will connect it to physical death, in an attempt to convince others that being gay will likely lead you to early death (by way of STDs). 

Nevermind the fact that there’s not an ounce of veracity or reason to the physical dangers of being gay.  The real issue, I discovered, is that the statement “you’ll never be satisfied” is simply not true.  When I was finally brave enough to plot another course in reconciling my sexuality with my faith, this was one of the first lies I addressed.

The real truth – the whole truth – is that anyone who seeks their completion in another is sure to be disappointed.  This is a quality of humanity, not a quality of homosexuality.  To seek definition in “the other” is natural.  It’s actually the way God designed us, for he wants to ultimately be the one to give us that definition, as we move into his being and his love.  However, humans (gays, everstr8s, lezzies, and bi’s) often seek to make some other fallible human “the other” from which they find meaning.

But notice that this hasn’t much at all to do with one’s pursuit of companionship.  The fact of the matter is, I would never be emotionally satisfied with a woman, because women simply do not offer the amazing, comforting companionship that I desire.  My boyfriend, on the other hand, satisfies me completely.  I love him dearly, and more than anyone else on the planet. 

But my sense of completion is not found in him.  This I have discovered to be true.  And yes, I can admit that I’ve tried to make him “the other” who defines me.  I’ve made the mistake of wanting him to be my all in all, instead of our great God.  Indeed, the most significant emotional growth I’ve made (and my counselor, Lance, would corroborate this) has been in learning how to relate in a healthy way to my guy . . . in learning how to not place all my needs in his basket, with the expectation that he fulfills them.  I’ve had to learn the painful lesson that My Love (i.e., boyfriend) cannot complete me, but he does indeed satisfy me.  My heart is full of him, and happy to be so.  My salvation and definition, however, is found in Christ. 

Divorce of the Church

I’ve been fascinated by this guy Andrew Marin since my buddy (previously known as “Chicago Boy”, no known as Michael ) told me about going to a Marin foundation talk a couple of years ago.  Theologically, I think that Andy and I disagree on the morality of homosexuality, but what he and I share is a common goal to see the Church unite, despite our disagreements.

He recently started a blog, and I’ve been following along.  Not too long ago, I made a comment on one of his posts about how I’m affected by “The Great Homosexuality Debate” in the Church, and he asked me if I’d expound on that for his blog.

Yesterday, he released Part 1 of my very long post, followed by Part 2 today.  He did some minor editing, adding some emphasis that he thought was meaningful, and wordsmithing in other areas that he thought would unecessarily detract from the message.  Check ’em out!  Join the discussion!

For the sake of my integrity, I’m now posting the full, unedited version on my blog.  Drop a comment if you like . . . or don’t.  It’s all good

————————————————————————-

Divorce of the Church:

How the Homosexuality Debate Affects Gays in the Church

 

Over the past several years, I’ve discovered many revelations about my sexuality, not the least of which is how my former method for dealing with it was chosen primarily out of fear: fear of going to hell, fear of becoming a sex-monger, fear of losing my spiritual community, etc.  It was precisely pressure from the Evangelical, conservative church I was attending that was the final straw for me.  I could no longer survive under the oppressive weight of following all of the right rules in the midst of insufficient supportive relationships.  For the sake of my mental health, I began to visit another church in the area. 

 

Just two weeks into going to services, I could sense God saying, “This isn’t where you should be visiting; this is home.”  I felt a sense of acceptance and welcome that I had never experienced in a church before.  It wasn’t until months later that I began to realize how doctrinally diverse the congregants of my multi-denominational church were.  As I began to take steps towards Christ and accepting myself in the way that he had, I also began to recognize that not everyone in attendance would follow me there.

 

To say I felt split and confused is an understatement.  But I found a safe space there to seek God regarding my sexuality, eventually coming to reconcile my sexuality and my faith.  This had some unpredictable side effects, though: I felt like I would be the cause of a major rift, being one of only a few gay people at the church.

 

As this was a transitional period in our church’s history, there was a significant amount of tension in the air, despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that we never uttered a word about the two big litmus tests for determining a “true Christian”: abortion and homosexuality.  While I was not able to articulate this then, I now realize that the hushed atmosphere began to feel like the dysfunctional home where the family didn’t talk about problems, but where it was impossible to escape them.  And I felt like the kid who was eventually going to be the cause of mommy and daddy’s divorce.  And so we trudged on in virtual silence.  I came out slowly to people I deemed safe, and swallowed my true being around those who felt “lovingly” hostile.

 

At some point along the way, people began to silently (and sometimes boisterously) leave.  No one really said it, but it was clear that things were starting to feel very “liberal”, and “unsound” to some of the more conservative congregants.  And the great divorce felt all the more imminent.

 

I can remember talking to our new senior pastor (in my early days at the church), and divulging my sordid “same-sex attractions” to him.  I intimated that I was very confused about all of this, and trying to find my way – since my previous path had brought me nothing but pain and suicidal ideation.  He made me feel very loved, and valuable to boot.  He replied that he would not preach me into the right way to go, nor look down on me and give me his sage advice, but rather, he would walk alongside me and question with me.  It was a huge relief for me.  And yet, I could tell this would not be the posture of several others in the church.  I remember pleading with him to keep my journey silent, so as not to stir up controversy. 

 

By this point, I had become pretty visible in the church, giving the welcome occasionally, and involved in several lay leadership positions.  If news were to break that I was gay, I feared people would protest. Upon discovering my “struggle,” they’d do as people have done in other churches I’ve attended: they would deem me unworthy of service, and remove me from the ministries to which I felt called.  And then the fighting would ensue.  They would fight those who would dare stand up for me and declare my value to the church, and even fight those who didn’t feel threatened by me.  My deepest fear of course, was not the fighting itself, but the inevitable result: the splitting of the church.  It seemed clear to me that I would be the cause of this split.

 

I don’t think people quite understand the pressure that the gay-oriented Christian feels in the church.  We have a hard enough time not hating ourselves, without having to face the derision and misunderstanding of others.  It is precisely this external pressure that often drives us to extreme measures: seeking ineffectual exorcisms, suppressing the very core of our sexual selves, jumping into relationships to prove we’re straight (meanwhile ruining the life and self-esteem of the hetero other in the process), and the like. 

 

I do not mean to excoriate the Christian stance on curbing same-sex sexuality per se – though I must admit that I personally found it to be a very life-suppressing and dangerous approach.  Instead, I’m merely remarking that in my experience (interacting with several hundred – mostly youth – Christians in ex-gay circles), I’ve frequently found that the motivations behind seeking such ends are dysfunctional.  Those who pursue these methods often do so due to stated and unstated pressure to conform and keep the family from getting upset.  When you think that you’re going to cause mommy and daddy to split – and worse – when one of them might hate you in the process, you will do just about anything to avoid that eventuality.  Silence seems to be the least consequential (and least destructive) way to handle these internal questions, whether you’re openly gay, celibate, or ex-gay.  This silence takes its toll.

 

I still struggle with this sense that I am ultimately the cause of enormous strife in the universal Church.  I sometimes wish there simply were no gay-ness at all.  I wish I could go back to the days before I became conscious of my sexuality.  (Many people in the Church are more than happy to relegate sexuality to this very place.)  But this is simply not reality.  This is not where I am – where we are.  With all of my unrealistic wishing, I do hope that my greatest wish has some hope for coming to fruition: I wish that mommy and daddy would just stop fighting. 

 

Perhaps if more people in the church could recognize that I’m not here to destroy the Church, nor the foundations of our society, some of the dissension would abate.  I’m not here to eradicate families, and I have no evil agenda to recruit your children.  I love the church, absolutely love it.  Why else would I put up with so many abuses from it?  My sad testimony is replete with instances where my greatest wounds were inflicted by “loving” church folks.  But I’ve remained here.  I haven’t left.  I wish everyone would stop fighting because they feel so uncomfortable about my decision to stick around.  It breaks my heart every time someone leaves my church for doctrinal disagreements.  It’s like mommy and daddy can’t seem to be mature enough to work out their differences, so they just leave.  And ultimately, it feels as if they’re leaving because of me . . . .