I'm on fall break, ya'll, which means a much-needed week back home in the mountains. This part of the country was created specifically for this time of year. Thursday promises a mess of fried chicken, fried vegetables, biscuits, and apple butter. Friday will feature a hike to the most perfect and beautiful spot in southern Appalachia (just ask me...I'll share), and Saturday will be spent watching college football in one of the biggest and loudest stadiums in the country.
Right now? I'm sitting in my favorite coffee shop...my old haunt and former "office"...sipping the best pumpkin-spice latte I've ever tasted. (Confession: I've tasted a lot.) It's one of those cozy gems that's hidden behind a crumbling brick exterior, in one of those tragically beautiful neighborhoods where there are as many couples taking engagement photos as there are people asking you for money. As I sink back into my chair in the corner (and I do mean my chair), I remember sitting in this very spot less than a year ago when I started this blog. Many of my favorite posts have been written right here in this spot.
I'm running out of things to write as "the Mask." I'm certainly not running out of things to say, but I named this blog after the mask I'd worn my whole life--the mask that hides the fact I'm mainly attracted to members of my own sex. When I started writing in January, that mask was still firmly attached. Now...it's largely a formality. I guess I'm still wearing it (loosely), but too many people know it's me to actually call it a disguise. My story now is less about my mask and more about learning to live without it.
Basically...I'm ready to write as me. This blog has been a great outlet for me, and I've enjoyed writing it. Writing is very therapeutic for me, and often, I'm in a much better place when I finish a post than when I started. It's also been a great avenue for meeting many of you...many of you who I probably would have never met otherwise. It's also how I met one of my new "real-life" best friends. (Here's lookin' at you, @EleisonBlog).
But this puppy's run its course.
I'll certainly leave this blog online, but over the next couple months, I'll start transitioning to a new blog...my blog. There are still just a few loose ends I need to tie up, a few more conversations and a whole lot more prayer, before I start blogging as me. If you want to know when that transition happens, follow me on twitter at @themaskblog1. You can also get in touch with me on the "contact" page above, and I'd be more than happy to let you know.
Until then, thanks so much to those of you who have read, and especially to those of you who have faithfully encouraged and prayed for me...even though you don't even know my name. I deeply appreciate it, and I look forward to hopefully connecting with many of you in the future...as real people...and soon.
God is good, friends. He's not just good when I'm hiking in the mountains on a beautiful fall day with a group of friends. He's also good when I'm sitting on my couch in the dark...lonely, depressed, and discouraged. You and me? We change with the slightest breeze. Our love and affections often come and go depending on how much love we're feeling ourselves, but His love never changes. It never fails. It pursues us, embraces us, kisses us, and ultimately...it transforms us. Radically.
God will be good if I marry a woman and start a family. God will be good if I remain single. God is good...and He will not, can not cease to be good. Because He is good, I know He will provide, no matter the circumstances.
May your hearts be gripped by the magnificent grace of our Savior, and may you experience His peace that passes all understanding.
Signing off, for now...
Your Brother Behind the Mask.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
"Your life is meant for something bigger."
The words jump off the page of my Christian-twentysomething magazine. Jagged mountain peaks soar above the clouds in this full-page advertisement for a new book. A climber perilously perches atop one of the peaks, surveying the scene laid out before him. "Become bold and courageous," the description promises. "Live undaunted."
I flip a few more pages and find another advertisement, this one for a "seven-month overseas experience." Beneath the words "Live Your Dreams" and a faded picture of a mustached, outdoorsy-looking guy sporting a toboggan and backpack, I read, "Most of our lives we are told to, 'Grow up. Quit dreaming. Pull your head out of the clouds and get a grip." But, what if you truly could live your dreams? Imagine if you could discover your passion, learn how to walk it out, and use it to touch the world."
Well...wouldn't that be nice?
Please don't hear me questioning the value or helpfulness of these things. I know absolutely nothing about either. However, I can't help but poke a little fun at these advertisements, because they're targeted directly at the fears, insecurities, and vanities of our generation.
I mean, who wants to be ordinary? Most days I feel like I've had my fill of ordinary. I scroll through my Facebook feed and my Instagram, and it looks like all my friends are living much more exciting and adventurous and meaningful lives than I am. Where am I? Probably sitting in a nondescript coffee shop trying to focus on the stack of books I have to read for class. Or maybe I'm eating another Trader Joe's frozen meal over the kitchen sink. I might be sitting in traffic on the interstate...wondering if I'm just wasting my life.
Everyone else seems to be hitchhiking across Europe...or changing the world...or having babies. I'm not entirely sure what it means to "live authentically," but I'm pretty sure that everyone else is doing that...and I'm not.
Isn't my life meant for something bigger? What have I done this week that's even close to bold or courageous? I didn't even get out of bed until 10:30 this morning. I'm not living my dreams...I'm not even sure what my dreams are. In fact, I feel a little guilty, because it seems like everyone else in my generation has dreams and I'm just trying to hold myself together until Fall Break.
Here's the crazy/funny/sad part. There are probably people who look at my Facebook and my Instagram and wish their life was as interesting or exciting as mine. Why? Because I'm so desperately insecure about how ordinary my life seems that I put significant effort into convincing everyone (including myself) that my life is indeed interesting and exciting.
[Enter Same-sex Attraction, stage left.]
Hold the phone! Same-sex attraction, you say? Well, this changes things! Not only is that interesting, but in our current cultural climate, it's incredibly important. Maybe this is how God will make me extraordinary. Maybe this is why people will read my blog posts. Maybe this is why people will tell me my life is meaningful.
On the record: I don't want all that. I don't want fame. I just want to tell my story.
Off the record: Bullcrap. Hand me that microphone...
This shouldn't come as any great surprise. Trust me, I wouldn't be pulling out this kind of vulnerability on the internet if I didn't believe that you probably know exactly what I mean.
Our generation has tended to spiritualize the extraordinary. Our everyday lives are well and good, but if we've truly been transformed by the gospel, we will do extraordinary things. Well, wait a minute...I actually agree with that. If we've been transformed by the gospel, we will do extraordinary things. I just think our definition of extraordinary is a little out of whack.
The gospel is extraordinary, ya'll.
There have been a lot of stories in history about various gods and deities and how mankind can gain their favor. However, in the gospel, we find the only story of the Divine entering our world, our time and space...eating our food, walking our soil, and breathing our air. It's the only story of a God who is willing to suffer humiliation, pain, and death for his people...people in open rebellion against him. It's the only story of a God who loves to rebuild, renew, and restore instead of replace; a God who promises to make everything sad come untrue.
This is the story of Scripture...and it's extraordinary. There's nothing else like it. When we enter into this story and live it out, extraordinary things happen. Whether we're living it out in the jungles of South America or a suburban office park in South Carolina, we can't live out the radical story of sacrificially loving our enemies without seeing extraordinary results.
In that same magazine I mentioned above, I read a fascinating quote, "When Jesus called His disciples, He didn't tell them, 'Lead others.' He told them, 'Follow Me.'" We're not called to chart our own course. With all due respect to the seven-month overseas experience, Jesus never told us to "live our dreams." He told us to follow Him. Sometimes, following Jesus takes us where we've always dreamed of going. Sometimes, following Jesus takes where we never imagined we'd ever go...only to realize there's nowhere else we'd rather be. Sometimes, following Jesus takes us where we definitely don't want to go.
We're promised that following Jesus will involve struggles, trials, and pain. It certainly won't be easy. We might follow him to the Middle East. We might follow him to inner-city Chicago. We might follow him to the Nashville suburbs. We don't get to say, "God, you've given me too much!" Nor do we get to say, "God, you haven't given me enough!" He's told us to follow him, wherever he leads us...and he promises never to leave us or forsake us. Whether we're in Texas or Tehran, our Savior goes before us, beside us, and behind us, and He has won the victory.
"I may not know the way I go, but oh! I know my Guide."
I don't have to figure out all the plans God has for me. All I can do is trust Him and follow Him day by day. I don't have to order my life in such as way as to allow God to use me. He's got that under control. I'm just called to trust and obey. Trusting and obeying might lead me into a life of epic, non-stop adventures...stuff that everyone will want to read about. Trusting and obeying might lead me to a life of faithful, long-term obscurity...only visible to those who know me.
Either way, I know this. Trusting and obeying will lead all of us into a life that is truly extraordinary. There's no way around it. Whether you're rescuing slaves in Eastern Europe or making your home a warm, safe, and hospitable place where your children can bring their friends after school...following Jesus is extraordinary, and it will have an impact on the Kingdom.
And when you stand before the Throne on that glorious day, you will hear those beautiful words: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Grace & peace,
Your Brother Behind the Mask