Thursday, February 21, 2013


If I've ever given the impression that I'm perfectly okay with my beliefs about my sexuality, then I deserve an Oscar...or a least a nomination.

The Bible can be a hard book to believe sometimes. Amid all the good stuff, all the grace and mercy and glory, there's a lot of stuff I wish was different. There's a lot that I may be able to wrap my head around, but not my heart. I can wrap my head around God's right and moral authority to wipe out cities of men, women, and children in the Old Testament...but I struggle to wrap my heart around that. 

I can wrap my head around the fact that God designed sex for monogamous, heterosexual relationships, and nothing else...I believe that. I do. I absolutely do...but friends, my heart lags behind

My heart doesn't get it. Yes, I know, marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. That's cool. I love that. But I can't help but wonder why I'm asked to deny some of my most fundamental desires for intimacy to play along with some grand, cosmic narrative. Marriage is a beautiful and complex picture of Jesus' self-sacrificial love for his Bride...why don't I get to experience that?

I'm sorry if this makes you nervous. If it makes you feel any makes me a little nervous too. 

But I don't think it makes God nervous. In fact, I know it doesn't. He knows I'm his child. He's the one who rescued me in the first place! He has given me his Holy Spirit, who speaks through his Word. He knows my weakness, my lack of understanding. In his grace, he meets me in my doubt...but thankfully, he doesn't leave me there.

I'm not one of those guys who says true faith requires doubt, but I am one of those guys who says a true relationship requires honesty. It is my sincere prayer that God leads me to a deeper understanding of his design for sexuality; not just a head understanding...a heart understanding. But in the meantime, in the tension, I must trust him. 

Saying I wish some things in the Bible were different doesn't mean I actually think they should be different. I believe in God's design for sex. I believe it's good, and I believe it's right. But...well...I wish it was different. All I can do here is look to Christ:

"And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'" Mark 14:36

Jesus himself, on the Mount of Olives, wished that his Father's will for him was different. He wished there was another way, but he ultimately trusted the Father's will. Likewise, I must keep my trust in the goodness and wisdom of God, even when my heart does not understand. 

As I think about what it looks like to open up and share my struggle with more people, these are the fears that run through my head. "What will they think of me?" My first gut reaction is rushing to assure them I believe what the Bible says about homosexuality. "Don't worry, I'm not going to do anything crazy."

Maybe this is more insecurity on my part, and less expectation from other people. Maybe it's a mixture of both.

As your brother in Christ, your brother who has to trust Christ with my brokenness just as you trust him with yours, I humbly ask you for space. I ask you for the freedom to struggle, to wrestle. I ask you for the freedom to remove my ever-smiling mask. I ask you to let me mourn...and for you to mourn with me. 

I ask you to trust that God has me in his grip, and that he's not letting go. These storms of doubt may toss the ship around, but it's never coming loose from its moorings. I ask you to listen to me when I say I wish I could pursue a God-honoring same-sex relationship...and I ask you to trust me that I know that's not his plan for me. 

I don't need someone to continually convince me of the truth I already believe. I need someone to walk with me, to listen to me, to cry with me, to laugh with me. I don't need another Bible verse. I need someone to be the hands and feet of Christ in my life. I need a friend. 

Now, of course, I'm not saying I shouldn't be challenged or questioned. Friends don't have to walk on eggshells. If my behavior is out of line with God's Word, I need to be confronted. If I say something that's not true, I need to be lovingly corrected. If I have a blog post that misses the mark of the gospel, I should get emails. Accountability is a part of community. 

I'm just asking for space. I firmly believe that it's not God's will for me to pursue a same-sex relationship. However, when I struggle to accept the implications of that belief, when I struggle to understand why God let me be this way, when I'm faced with another night of seemingly hopeless loneliness, when my head collides with my heart...these are the times when I need a friend who trusts Jesus enough to give me the space to struggle. Not space as in distance, but space as in freedom: the freedom that only comes from faith in our sovereign, omnipotent Savior.

This post sounds so needy. I hate being needy. I desperately want to do all this myself, to fight my own battles. I want to say that I got this, that I'm fine flying solo...but I'm not. I need Jesus, and I need friends who point me to Jesus. 

It's telling that I feel like I have to assure you I'm fine, that I'm not on the verge of some kind of 
meltdown (I'm not) nor even walking through any particularly dark spiritual valley (again, by God's grace, at this point in time, I'm not). I've had a moment of honesty, and now I want to clean up the mess, to get back to normal, to make sure you know I'm okay. 

I am okay, but I'm okay because of Jesus, our true Friend. He's our friend who meets us in our moments of messy, needy honesty, sits with us, listens to us, weeps with us, laughs with us. He embraces us, and he tells us he loves us even when we struggle to find words of response. He doesn't meet our doubt with anxiety and insecurity...he meets our doubt with Love. Love so amazing that it starts to chip away at our fears and struggles to believe. 

Because of his Love, his never-ending, never-giving-up Love, my heart can finally start to wrap itself around his Word. 

Because of his Friendship, I can start showing this same friendship, compassion, and freedom to those around me who are just as needy as me. 

Friends, this is the good news. This is the gospel. Jesus meets us where we are, but thank goodness he doesn't leave us where we are.

"Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."

The grace of Christ, and the peace that passes all understanding,

Your Brother Behind the Mask

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lord, Have Mercy.

"If only God would take away this same-sex attraction, I'd be a pretty good guy. Still sinful, mind you! Depraved since birth! But really...overall...pretty darn good. (See? "darn." I don't even cuss!)"

I wish I could attribute this quote to someone else...but I can't. No, I've never said this out loud. I don't even think I've thought it (not consciously, at least). But this sentiment has run deep in my psyche for years. There was even a point where I decided God had given me this burden to keep me humble, because otherwise, I wouldn't have a whole lot to confess. 

What a bunch of shit. ( I do cuss).

My same-sex attraction has always been my "go-to" during silent confession time in church. I know I only have about 30 seconds of silence before the assurance of pardon, so I slip it in real quick. "God, I confess my attraction to other guys. I'm screwed up. This is not your will for me. Please forgive me. Amen." Or something  like that. Sometimes I'm a little more eloquent, and sometimes I also confess specific instances of lust, but in general, my personal confessions of sin usually revolve around my sexual orientation. 

It's easier that way. It's my obvious "thorn in the flesh." In many ways, it's like I've made peace with it. It's like the crazy uncle who lives upstairs that I just have to put up with because he's not going anywhere anytime soon. 

I've been taught and always believed the doctrine of total depravity. I believe that we are born in sin, unable to choose Christ on our own. But how convenient...I have such a nice, clean-cut way to view my depravity: I'm the guy who likes other guys. That's messed up, right? So messed up. Wow. Glad I understand my sinful nature. When's lunch?

Today, I sat in a little church building waiting for the Ash Wednesday service to begin. Now, I'll be honest, I've grown a lot over the past couple years in understanding my same-sex attraction. I've started to understand that, while my orientation is a tragic result of the Fall, my attractions themselves are not the sinful part. The sin is my lust, just like it is for guys who lust after girls. I've also started to see how lust is just the tip of my iceberg, that my idolatry is far more expansive and rooted much deeper than just my sexual attractions.

But as I headed to the church today, I was looking forward to my first Ash Wednesday service since admitting that my sexuality just doesn't work the way it was designed to. After finally being able to write the words, "I'm gay" for the first time, I would be in touch with my brokenness like never before when I took the ashes. It would be so moving, so raw, so powerful. 

There I sat, the piano playing softly in the background, waiting for the service to begin. The atmosphere in the sanctuary was somber, but hopeful. I silently looked over the order of worship, reading and internalizing the words of the hymns. I felt at peace.

Then he walked in. Him. You know him. He's that guy. The guy you never really want to walk in. The guy who can take even the most solemn occasions and turn them into jokes. The guy who talks too loud. The guy who can't take hints, who doesn't pick up on social cues. The guy who always comes and sits by you, probably because you're too "nice" to ever tell him to be quiet. 

I was no longer at peace.

He plopped down next to me and immediately started asking questions, loudly. He started telling me about his day, so so loudly. He seemed downright giddy about being there. Did he even know what this service was about? I smiled (I think it was a warm smile) as I quietly wished he wasn't there, that he had just stayed home.

The service started, and he was quiet. But then, as we were reciting the corporate confession, a baby starting wailing, shrieking. The piercing sound sent a shiver through my bones. Here I was, having a moment, and this parents thought their child needed to be there in the sanctuary with us instead of the nursery. They probably thought it was cute. I tried to focus on the confession while I quietly wished the baby wasn't there, that he was back in the nursery where he belonged.

As the pastor started the sermon, the parents finally took the baby to the nursery. Peace. I listened to the message about our sin, our brokenness, and the hope that is found in the Cross. I realized that my friend wasn't there. Why wasn't he there? What, did he have something better to do? Something more important? I knew he wasn't working. Did he think he didn't need to hear about his sin, his brokenness, the hope found in Jesus? Was he too good for an Ash Wednesday service? Too proud? Too Protestant? Really, it was pretty typical of his whole attitude lately. Oh wait...there he was. He must have slipped in late. Oops. I smiled, smugly. I was glad he was there, but I was more glad that I was there first.

Now you're waiting for the part where I had some epiphany, where the ashes were placed on my forehead and all of a sudden I realized the anger that was in my heart. Well, there was no such moment. No, to be honest, I was perfectly aware of my hypocrisy...right there in the midst of it. As I was wishing that guy wasn't there, as I was hating him, as I murdered him (by Jesus' standards), I knew exactly what I was doing. I tried not to. I tried to love him. I managed to pretend love on the outside, but inside...I just couldn't. My heart sank.

It was the same with the baby. Ironic how I'm all in favor of babies when they're in the womb, but when they're crying in church and disturbing my moment, I wish they weren't there. I hate them, and thus, I murder them.

I judged my friend when I thought he had skipped out on the service. I made up reasons why he probably wasn't there. Never mind the fact that he actually was there, and never mind the fact that I've been late to church dozens and dozens of times, usually because of a long line at Starbucks. This time though, I judged him, and I felt prouder of myself for obviously caring more about my brokenness.

Once again I realized, as I sat there in a sanctuary full of God's people, full of people marked by the sign of the Cross, men and women, old and young, rich and poor, all admitting their brokenness and placing their hope in I sat there in the midst of that beautiful picture and couldn't shut off my heart's faucet of hate, I realized my sexual orientation was the least of my worries.

The root of my sin isn't finding the wrong sex beautiful. It's that I don't find Christ beautiful. My problem isn't "loving" the wrong people. It's that I don't really love anyone at all. 

So no, there was no great epiphany moment. No clouds opening or angels singing. Tonight was nothing new. I've been here before. I'm reminded once again just how deep my depravity runs, that my misplaced sexual desires are just the icing on the cake. I'm not just the guy-who's-attracted-to-other-guys. 

I'm the guy-who's-attracted-to-other-guys who lacks patience...and hates babies...and judges his friends...and stretches the truth just a little bit in some details to make his stories more dramatic. 

But as I sit here typing this post, the ashes remain on my forehead. I look in the mirror and see the faded remnants of a smudged cross. 

This ashen cross, this mark of hope in the midst of depravity, of beauty in the midst of brokenness...this reminds me that I'm the guy-who's-attracted-to-other-guys, who lacks patience, hates babies, judges his friends, and stretches the truth...but who is loved by Jesus more than he'll ever be able to imagine. 

The more I see my debt, the more I see the One who paid it. The greater I see my rebellion, the more I see the One who pursued me and captured my heart. 

Friends, whether or not you attended an Ash Wednesday service (and it's really okay if you didn't), I encourage you to imagine the cross, smudged in ash on your own forehead, marking you out as a child of the King. Marked in your brokenness. 

From dust we came, and to dust we will return, but then one day, our broken bodies will be raised up with Christ. We will be made right. Yes, my sexuality will be redeemed, but far more importantly, we will finally know Love, and know Him deeply. 

Kyrie, Eleison...Lord, Have Mercy | Christe, Eleison...Christ, Have Mercy.

Grace and peace,

Your Brother Behind the Mask

Friday, February 8, 2013

One of...Them.

It's not often that I can identify with Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls. (I know. I'm sorry. So, so sorry. Please stay with me.)

Blanche, the Georgia belle, is applying for membership in an organization called "Daughters of the Old South." By all accounts, the former debutante from Atlanta is the perfect candidate. However, to her shock and horror, as she prepares her lineage presentation for the initiation banquet, she discovers that her great-grandmother was born in Buffalo. If that didn't already spell doom for her society aspirations, her great-grandmother's last name was Feldman. Yes, Feldman. In one moment, Blanche, the charming Southern belle, realized that she was a Jewish Yankee! And of course we laugh, because for once, Blanche's prejudices are pointed right back at herself.

So how exactly do I identify with Blanche, you ask? (Again: I'm sorry. I wish there was another way.) I grew up just as evangelical Christian as Blanche grew up Southern. Like all my red-blooded, adolescent, evangelical brethren, I had dreams of finding my hot Christian wife, having passionate honeymoon sex, making beautiful Christian babies, and taking stunning family pictures on the beach wearing white shirts and khaki pants to hang over our fireplace and send to all our friends at Christmas. This was the expectation. This was what "true love" was waiting for. This was my destiny.

There was only one problem: I wasn't attracted to girls! While I, just like my Christian brethren, dreamed of the day I would meet my hot Christian wife, I actually found myself a lot more attracted to the brethren. Of course I found this inconsistency concerning, but surely it was a just passing phase, a pothole on the bumpy road of pubescence. Surely, once I met my hot Christian wife, it would all go away. It had to. After all, I knew I wasn't one of "them."

Thankfully (and I truly am very thankful for this) I was not raised in a church that taught me to hate "the gays." The Word I heard growing up was a Word of grace and forgiveness. I heard that Jesus died to save sinners, and no one was too far out of his reach.

But still, there was something different about...them. They had an agenda. They were on a mission to ruin our marriages. They were dirty. When our church & school were holding a press conference to make sure everyone knew a Democratic candidate's position on gay adoption and they held a protest across the street, our school locked the doors and told us to stay inside. You never knew what they might do. 

The message was subtle, but I heard it loud and clear. Jesus died to save sinners, but they needed a whole lot more saving than we did.

I learned all the verses that said homosexuals were sinful. I made fun of the gay male cheerleader for our rival basketball team. I joined Facebook groups like "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." I said a lot of pretty horrible and ignorant stuff that I won't repeat here. My hypocrisy never occurred to me...not even once. I was a Christian. They were the gays. I had Jesus on my side. They were trying to take over our country and force us to accept their perverse lifestyle.

So imagine my surprise when I realized that I, the evangelical poster child, was one of them. It was neither a passing phase nor some confusing hormonal hurricane. My head ran out of explanations to give my heart...I was gay.

Now, my epiphany didn't come quite as suddenly or obviously as Blanche's did. I had no official government document declaring, in black-and-white, that I was gay. I had no Bea Arthur sitting across the kitchen table telling me, "You're gay, 'Brother!' Gay, gay, gay!" old Sicilian woman to comment, "I'll be damned, the gay guy's prejudiced!" No, I had no such aid, and in fact, I would never even own up to the word itself. It had too many negative connotations, of parades and rainbows and promiscuity and "Will & Grace" and Democrats.

Moment of truth: I'm still a little uncomfortable with the word "gay." Don't get me wrong, I've come a long way. I understand the stereotype, and I understand how harmful that stereotype can be. But my entire life, that word represented a lifestyle and a worldview that I, my family, my friends, and my church rejected as an abomination. If I now say, "I'm gay," that's me giving in. I'm giving up any hope of change. I'm turning my back on God's redemptive power. I'm placing my identity in my sexuality rather than Christ. I'm taking a dangerous step down the slippery slope of sinful choices.

Or am I?

If I'm completely honest with myself, the real reason I don't want to call myself "gay" is that I'm afraid to associate myself with them.

And what do I even mean by "gay" anyhow, you might be wondering. If it's not parades and promiscuity, then what is it? There's no need to reinvent the wheel, so I'll just quote Wes Hill's recent article about the gay label (a great read by a brother I look up to and highly respect).

"'Gay' in current parlance doesn't necessarily refer to sexual behavior; it can just as easily refer to one's sexual orientation and say nothing, one way or the other, about how one is choosing to express that orientation."

"Gay" says nothing about my sexual behavior. I'm celibate, and by the grace of God, I intend to remain so, unless God changes my orientation. "Gay" says nothing about my lifestyle. In fact, calling myself gay flies in the face of the whole "gay lifestyle" stereotype--an unhelpful stereotype, I might add--because I don't fit that mold in the slightest. (Except that I opened with a Golden Girls reference...I get it.) "Gay" says nothing about my gender identity. Personally, I don't remember ever questioning my identity as a man. "Gay" says nothing about my beliefs on the morality of gay relationships or how I would vote on a gay marriage amendment.

Saying "I'm gay" is my way of saying "I'm broken." I don't work the way I was designed to. And, by golly, who does?

Last week, as I cried out to God in my prayer journal, I wrote the words "I'm gay" for the first my life. Not "I'm attracted to other guys" or "I struggle with same-sex attraction." I wrote "I'm gay." I was instantly filled with fear and shame as I saw the words. My pen couldn't write fast enough as I continued, trying to explain myself and qualify the statement in a run-on, stream-of-consciousness sentence. The words "I don't know" appeared 5 times in one small paragraph. Then it hit me. I stopped writing. My eyes filled with tears. I continued: "All I know is that when I say it, I feel your arms around me. I hear You say, 'Come here, child. I love you.'"

My image of God has always suspiciously resembled a kinder, gentler version of Monty Python's cartoon deity. Scripture refers to God in the masculine. This makes sense. I don't think we should mess with that, and that's why I continue here with care...

In that moment, as I took the mask off my heart and stood there before God in all my naked shame and vulnerability, my image of God was not the man with the long gray beard, waiting to hear my rationalizations and excuses. I saw a rather large, beautiful, black woman. Her smile was warm, and her eyes sparkled with love behind welling tears. Her big arms opened wide as she pulled me up onto her lap and into her embrace. I felt safe. I felt wanted. I felt loved.

I've always known that God loved me. I've read it, I've recited it, and I've written papers about it. But in that brief vision, as I was wrapped in the safe, warm embrace of that old, beautiful black woman, I think I believed that He loved me for the first time. I felt it. 

I took the mask off my heart (or perhaps...He took it off), and Love came in.

Some who share my struggle feel very strongly about the "gay" label. They use it openly to describe themselves and without apology. I don't know if I'm there yet. I'm still processing. This is all very new to me. I would ask for grace from these brothers as I process my thoughts, feelings, and most importantly, my beliefs and convictions.

Now wait, there's more to the Golden Girls illustration. (Isn't the irony stunning?) Blanche went to the initiation banquet, intending to cover up her Yankee heritage and accept her membership into the Daughters of the Old South. However, as she gets up to make her lineage presentation, she cracks. She can't do it. She spills the beans about her Jewish Yankee great-grandmother. Sure enough, she's denied entry into the club, but she knows she made the right decision. Blanche is still a Southerner, and very much so. She has a lot more in common with the other ladies in that room than she does with the Yankees in Buffalo, but she realizes she doesn't want to be a part of a club that won't accept her for who she is, Jewish Yankee heritage and all.

Okay, the illustration gets a little shaky, especially for my personal application. Thankfully, the Church isn't as exclusive as the Daughters of the Old South, although she certainly acts that way sometimes. But even when the Church is exclusive, I'm not going to reject her. I can't reject her. To quote Augustine, "the Church is a whore, but she's also my mother." Even if, at times, she rejects me, Jesus doesn't give me the option to reject her, his Bride. I am committed to the Church, and because I am committed, I instead choose to actively seek her purity and peace in the midst of her whoredom (a whoredom that I'm very much a part of, I must also point out.)

I don't identify myself by my sexual orientation. I identify as a son of God. I sit in worship on the Lord's Day and know I have far more in common with this odd band of brothers and sisters than I have with anyone else. We're all broken. We're all trusting Jesus with our brokenness. But I can't keep lying about my least not to myself. I can't sit silently as a specific group of sinners (a group to which I belong) is singled out for shaming and condemnation; as a generation of confused young people grow up believing that their sin is especially awful, more so than their friends, or that God loves them less because of it. 

The gospel tells me that while we were still sinners, while we were in open rebellion to his will, Jesus came to us, took on our flesh, became one of us, called himself one of us. Why did he do this? How could he do this? Love. 

I'm still praying about this word, "gay." Does it describe my orientation? Yes. Does it describe my behavior and choices? No. Is it helpful for the discussion I'm trying to engage in? I don't know yet. 

But here's what I do know. The Church needs to know that "the gays" are not "them." They're not "out there." They're not a lifestyle nor a political platform. They're not a sitcom nor a pride parade. We're here...well, some of us are. We're in the Church. And we love the Church, because we love Jesus. We're seeking to follow him and carry our crosses and that can be very difficult and very lonely sometimes.

The Church needs to know that we're here. The gays are here. I'm here. I'm gay.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' Name.
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Grace & peace,

Your Brother Behind the Mask

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Perish Every Fond Ambition.

We like to imagine that we're extraordinary. Get a group of guys together, get them swapping stories, and watch the competitive one-upmanship begin. "Dog bite, huh? Have I ever told you guys about the time I got mauled by a grizzly bear?"

I've been in plenty of Christian small groups where the "grizzly bear" card gets significant play. We want to have the most dramatic prayer request, the craziest conversion story, the deepest confessions of depravity. Okay, I'll stop using the royal "we" here. I do this. I want to have the best story. I want you to hear my trials and struggles and think...well, to be honest, I'm not sure what I want you to think. Maybe I want your sympathy? Your awe? Your respect? I'd say that I want you to hear my struggles and praise Jesus, but I doubt that's what I'm usually hunting after.

Because let's be honest. I have the perfect trump card for any group of American Christians today trying to be edgy and relevant. It's like the "Helen Keller" card in Apples to Apples. "I'm attracted to other guys." BOOM. Game Over. Thanks for playing.

I've started to deeply appreciate the older hymns of the Church and the full spectrum of the Christian experience that they so powerfully represent. I love their honesty, in joy and in sorrow. I love that I can identify with the cries of some dude's heart who lived more than a hundred years ago. I love that, when I'm tempted to think that my personal struggle with sin is somehow unique or special, I can find my smaller story's connection to the bigger story of Christ rescuing and redeeming his Bride.

One hymn in particular that reminds me of this is Henry Lyte's "Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken." As I read these lyrics, I read the cry of my heart that I could never write, the prayer I wish I could pray. My cross is my own to bear, but I haven't been called to do anything more than every other follower of Christ throughout history. In these words, I find my unity with the Body of Christ as we follow our Savior to Calvary, only able to carry our crosses in the first place because of his sacrifice on our behalf. 

1. Jesus, I my cross have taken | All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken | Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition | All I've sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition | God and heaven are still my own.

Perish every fond ambition. These words strike to my very core. They rip and claw at the dream I desperately believe God owes me. How could God ask me never to marry? Never to know the deep, unconditional, exclusive love of a wife? How can he tell me sex is good, and then tell me my own desires for sex, desires I have no control over, are bad? How can he expect me to remain celibate, to go through grow die...aloneWould he really deny me the joy of holding my first child, watching him or her grow, hearing people comment how much they resemble me? Will I never get to change a filthy diaper in the middle of the night? To video-tape every single dance recital or tee-ball game? To teach my son what it means to be a man? To give away my beautiful daughter in marriage?

This...all of all I've sought or hoped or known. 

But even as I ask these questions, as my heart aches over all these fond ambitions, I'm quickly reminded that I'm not alone. How many fellow children of God are lonely? How many fully heterosexual brothers and sisters, who also desperately wish to marry, are never able to? How many couples are unable to have children of their own, or can't afford to adopt? How many lose spouses or children to early death? How many are born with physical or mental disabilities that keep them from chasing the various fond ambitions in their own hearts?

Yes, I join with every other follower of Christ as I realize the fond ambitions of my heart that must be laid aside to follow the Savior. But that's not the end of the stanza:

Yet how rich is my condition! God and heaven are still my own. He never promised me a spouse. He never promised me sexual fulfillment. He never promised me offspring. He never promised me anything on my list of "must haves to be happy." He promised me Himself, and that is all I could ever need. He promised me the hope of a glorious future, one in which all the sadness and pain of this life will come undone.

2. Let the world despise and leave me | They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me | Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me | God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me | Show Thy face and all is bright.

3. Man many trouble and distress me | 'Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me | Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, 'tis not in grief to harm me | While Thy love is left to me me;
Oh, 'twere not in joy to charm me | Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

The road ahead will be bumpy, and I have no idea where it leads. Will I forever remain "in the closet," only sharing this struggle with my closest companions? Or will I one day take off the mask and speak publicly about God's work in my life? I've been blessed that everyone I've shared my struggle with has responded with love, grace, and understanding. However, there will undoubtedly be those in the future who don't understand. Surely there will be believers who can't understand why I don't actively pursue gay-conversion therapy, who don't like the wrench that my story throws in their "us vs. them" theology. Surely there will be plenty more from the other side, who say I'm only repressing my true identity, who can't understand why I don't pursue my own happiness and seek out a same-sex relationship. If I "go public," I will probably face misunderstanding, suspicion, doubt, and maybe even ridicule--from both sides of the debate!

No matter what the road ahead holds in store, loneliness on the inside or ignorance from the outside, that grief doesn't hold the power to truly harm me because of the life-giving power of his love. Whatever joys I could possibly chase after, the comfort of community or the fame of a platform, they don't hold the power to truly fulfill me if they aren't mixed with the love of Jesus.

Again, I find myself in the countless company of faithful saints before and beside me, saints who faced (and still face) far worse affliction than I can ever fathom yet found their hope and their joy in Christ.

4. Go, then, earthly fame and treasure | Come disaster, scorn and pain.
In Thy service, pain is pleasure | With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba Father | I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather | All must work for good to me.

5. Soul, then know thy full salvation | Rise o'er sin and fear and care.
Joy to find in every station| Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee | Think what Father's smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee | Child of heaven, canst thou repine? 

How refreshingly beautiful. God calls us not to do, but to know. My rest is not found in my work or accomplishment, but rather in the knowledge of my full salvation. This is what empowers me to rise over my sin, my fear, my care. When I'm tempted to repine (or complain...thank you, google), when I want to grumble and gripe about this burden I've been assigned, my loving Abba Father doesn't expect me to just grin, bear it, and say it's all okay. Rather, he reminds me of His Spirit indwelling me, the joy with which He looks on me, the Sacrifice that was made for me...the burden may be great, but His Love is greater. 

6. Haste thee on from grace to glory | Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven's eternal days before thee | God's own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission | Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition | Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

How can I look ahead at my life and say it'll all be worth it? What's in it for me? What could possibly keep me from pursuing the desires of my flesh in the here and now? Sure, everyone has their cross, but isn't mine way too big? Surely He would have to understand. I know God loves me. I know Jesus is enough. I tell myself that over and over and over. But what about those nights...those long, lonely nights? I enjoy my friends and my community, but every night, I come home to an empty room, an empty bed, with no good reason to expect anything different for the rest of my life. I know Jesus is enough, but he's enough for other people too, and they also have a mate, a wife, a best friend.

I have strength in the here-and-now because of the Hope he's given me in the yet-to-come. This is my earthly mission; this is his holy calling on my life. A pilgrim's journey is a hard one, but it is a journey headed for a destination. Like the huddled souls in the dark, damp belly of an old ship, being tossed and tumbled across the angry Atlantic, I look ahead to the hope of a promised New World. I look ahead to that moment when I step out of the darkness into the glorious light of true Liberty.


Right now, I rest in hope, but one day, I will no longer need that hope. One day I will no longer need faith because I will see. My prayers for strength and endurance and comfort will change into eternal praise of the One who brought me through. Any emptiness from this life will be filled to overflowing in the Life to come, and it will be as if I never thirsted in the first place.

I set my eyes on the horizon, but I dare not forget the path he still has laid out for me. Amid the sorrow, there will surely be joy. There will surely be friends and community and this world! I will have a Family. I will have a Home. I will have Him.
"Peter began to say to him, 'See, we have left everything and followed you.' Jesus said, 'Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.'” -- Mark 10:28-31 (ESV)
What is your cross? What fond ambitions in your heart must perish in order to follow the Savior? Very often we don't get to choose our crosses. I certainly didn't choose mine. Our fond ambitions might be very good and holy things. Certainly a wife and family are good and holy things! But if we are to follow Jesus, we must leave anything behind that would hinder us...our nets (career), our possessions, our loved ones. This is a hard call to follow, but thanks be to God. His grace is sufficient.

The peace of Christ's finished work on the Cross be with you,

Your Brother Behind the Mask