Ugly Crying: A Story of Dogs with Chicken Bones in Their Throats

You know when you hold back tears and hold back tears and hold back tears, and then you begin to forget the last time you cried because you’ve been kept it all in for so long in the name of nobility or fear or reputation; but then that dumb puppy post pushes you over the edge, and what’s been held back for maybe years begins breaching to the surface and the next thing you know you’re crying everywhere, unable to stop? That’s what this post feels like, but in those moments, there are two types of people: you’re either the person that cries so poetically you move an entire room to tears or you’re that ugly crier with snot in their eye that everyone is awkwardly wondering what the hell they can do to make you stop crying because they want to stop feeling guilty for witnessing this awkwardness…

This feels like the second kind.

I know I’ve pent up all these emotions for so long that it’s no longer succinct. Everything muddles together. Regardless, I know I need to let it out, just like a good cry. I only hope everyone isn’t awkwardly staring by the end of it, praying to God that someone would just make it stop.

So, without further ado, let the tears commence.

***

It’s been a year and a half since my relationship with my ex-boyfriend ended; it’s been four years since I left my community house; and it’s been six years since I came back from Europe, vowing to never step back into ministry.

Why the hell did I just include all those dates that seem to have nothing in common? Because they tell a story, a story of me believing I alone had to fight for the desires in my heart because God abandoned me, and for the first time in six years, I am daring to trust God with those desires because I can’t do this on my own anymore. I keep fucking it up. But before I can explain where I’m at now, I need to explain how I got here, and to do that, I need to go back to a lonely and confusing plane ride home from Europe.

I had just finished a whole year of being a missionary with YWAM. I had preached on the streets of Berlin, written a multicultural show, scored original music, toured throughout Europe, comforted the dying in India, ran after-school theatre workshops, and prayed with countless people, some who heard the voice of God and still others who received healing. Then, on the weekends, my friends and I would get lost in Berlin, exploring its many flavors and scenes. We had a beautiful talented community of diverse countries and backgrounds. There were so many beautiful moments, but some of my favorite being so personal and intimate with Jesus.

During my time in Berlin, I used to go on these walks with God. I’d pray and share my heart with Him. He’d speak beautiful truths to my heart. There would also be times where I’d hear directions, telling me to go left or right. Multiple times I found hidden coffee shops. They were perfect, some like out of a movie, including a coffee shop built into the side of a canal, overlooking a rose garden. It was magical. I felt like I was being wooed and loved very personally by God with these special gifts. But one day, those directions led me to the middle of nowhere. No coffee shops. No cute overlook. Just a gross part of town with nothing but closed dive bars.

And then the thought came, “Maybe this is all just a voice in my head. Maybe I’ve been making this whole thing up.”

The moment seems so stupid and insignificant, after all I was just walking around Berlin looking for a coffee shop! But to me it was momentous, but it’s because this moment didn’t stand alone. There were so many hard moments leading up to it.

Manipulation and lies from leadership. Exhaustion from being forced to create over and over again but never once mentored. A lame woman in India crying in my arms, asking why God wouldn’t give her leg back.

It was piling up.

Shortly following that moment on the streets of Berlin, my friend Josh and I started hitchhiking through Europe. When I first planned this trip, it was meant to be a “Journey of Faith.” I had read the stories of Jesus sending out his disciples with only a cloak. During their time traveling, they never wanted for anything and saw signs and wonders. This time of being sent with nothing would be critical to their future, believing that God comes through.

I thought that’s what this hitchhiking trip was supposed to be—a critical moment. But after all the letdowns in YWAM, I was no longer eager to grow in my faith. In truth, I was scared, scared I would go hungry and thirsty, that I would be cold and alone on the streets of Europe.

I couldn’t trust God with this trip. He had failed me so many times during my time in YWAM. I had to figure it out alone.

Over the next six weeks, I would scheme and plan, finding houses to stay in on Facebook and cars to share on carpooling.com. I would not leave it up to fate. I was too skeptical, and the moments Josh and I had while hitchhiking did not help my skepticism.

While on the road, I found out the leader of our school had been having an affair with one of the younger missionaries, the same young missionary who would watch his kids while he and his wife went out together.

While on the road, I found out my brother was in a severe car accident. His engine had smashed into his leg, sending a piece of his tibia into the street. My family was praying for a miracle, but the tibia didn’t grow back, and the piece lying in the street was thrown in a biowaste bag.

While on the road, I intentionally didn’t plan out our time in Geneva. I viewed it as a test. Would God actually come through on the one piece of the trip I didn’t have planned out? We had no place to stay, so, with cynicism, I said to Josh, “Let’s go ask a local church if we can sleep on their pews. After all, Jesus commanded them to take in the foreigner. Let’s see if they’ll actually do it.” They didn’t. We slept under a willow tree.

While on the road, my old friend from Bible school offered us her flat. She had since de-converted from Christianity, and when we went out bar hopping, she began to tell me all the reasons why my faith was absurd, telling me of this study and that study.

By the time I was on the plane home, returning to a family that was broken, I was crushed. Literally, everyone in my family was in crisis, including me. But I couldn’t afford a crisis. I was the oldest. It was my duty to keep it together. It’s my responsibility.

I used to think that this need to keep our family held together was something I put on myself. You know, oldest sibling syndrome. But my family actually put it on me. They literally told me, “Brandon, you’re the only one that can save our family. Please save it.” So, I declined my acceptance into Boulder’s Journalism program and hunkered down with my shattered family, a family that was praying for a miracle, but never received one. And it was in this space, this space of cynicism towards God and needing to not only take care of myself but everyone around me, that I had my first encounter with a guy.

For years I had this urge to be with a man. For years I denied it, terrified that I would become another Ted Haggard. But now I didn’t care. I was no longer trying to make God happy, after all, my life was a shit show. If I wasn’t going to look after myself, who would? I alone could be depended on. I couldn’t trust God with this desire that had been growing for over a decade now. I had to take matters into my own hands.

So I did. I had my first sexual encounter with a man… and I was terrified.

On the drive home, I called an older friend, asking him what to do. He gave me lots of love and asked lots of questions. But then he said something that made me mad. “Brandon, I think this is a divine moment. I can give you answers and ask you meaningful questions, but I think this is an opportunity to talk to God.”

Not what I wanted to hear. I hadn’t talked to God in over a year, and I was not about to start now in this moment of terror.

Resentfully, I hung up and tried to start my car. If I was going to talk to God, I needed all the help I could get, sitting trashy parking lot was not helping. I needed some grand overlook or to be surrounded by beautiful nature. But when I turned the key, it wouldn’t start. I tried to open my door. It wouldn’t open.

In a fit of rage, I slammed my hands on the horn and screamed, “Why do you keep trapping me?!”

Because I refuse to let you go.

It was the first time I heard something from God in a long time, and I knew it was him. It was like declining a call from an unknown number, but when you listen to the voicemail, it’s an ex that you have so much history with, telling you how they were thinking of you. In spite of the negative history, you’ll never forget that voice. You’ll never forget what that slight quiver actually means, and how so much more is being said that what was being said. In spite of our history, I knew this was God’s voice.

In the hour that followed, I felt that God was telling me to root, and that meant staying in Colorado Springs. I was planning on moving to Greeley, but instead, I turned down yet another college acceptance letter. I was also planning on producing a show but canceled it. I truly felt like I was supposed to strip my life down. But I had two demands of God in exchange: a better job and a new living situation.

He delivered on the job, but every housing situation I found and fought for fell through. We’re talking at least five opportunities, and I was pissed.

“This was part of the deal! I gave up all this to still be trapped at home with my family?”

But God had a better and more fulfilling plan. None of the opportunities would compare to what God had in store, and instead of fighting for it, I was given it.

A friend and I were exchanging stories at the Wild Goose. We wanted more coffee, so we went back up to the bar. There was a guy there with a cross tattoo. Being the cynical and sarcastic human that I had become, I said, “Nice cross tattoo, you some sorta Christian or something.” I sipped the coffee, loudly, looking over the rim of my mug with disdainful eyes.

“I mean. You could call me Christian, I guess. But I consider myself more spiritual.”

Sounded like some crap I would have said before I had metaphorically flipped off God and walked away from my faith.

The guy’s name was Chris. Chris went on to share why he was in Colorado. “The only thing I know is that I’m supposed to be a part of this community house. I’m not sure about anything else. But I know I’m supposed to be there.”

Chris went on to explain this “community house” very poorly. I thought it was some halfway home for delinquent youths, while my friend, Matt, thought it was some Christian frat house. We decided to investigate.

Chris told us the house was nearby, so Matt and I walked to it, continuing to talk about God and being gay (classic Brandon). When we came up to the house, we were surrounded by gorgeous, Victorian homes, including the one before us. It had an iron fence, a gorgeous front yard full of vegetation, a vibrant red door. It was beautiful.

As we stared at the house from the street, a married couple came out, asking, “Can we help you?”

Matt shouted back. “My friend Brandon is interested in your Christian frat house!”

The man became angry. “This is not a frat house! Why are you guys here?”

“Sorry for my friend. We were told by Chris that you’re running a community house, and we were curious, so we came by. That’s all. Thank you for your time. We’ll go ahead and leave now.”

I began to usher my friend away to avoid conflict with the angry husband, but his demeanor changed as he called out to us. “You wanna come take a look.”

Long story short, the angry man was Aaron Short (see what I did there), and the woman next to him was his wife Ela. They had moved into this gorgeous Victorian, a Victorian they couldn’t afford because they felt God had told them to create a community house. I was bewildered and excited as Aaron shared their vision for this place. By the end of our conversation, we had decided I would move in, and thus began one of the most beautiful years of my life. A year full of love and God and community and peace and renewed vision. My heard, cynical hear was beginning to become soft again. It was like a greenhouse where God was renewing me, causing me to grow, accomplishing the instruction He gave me—root.

To this day, I will forever be grateful for 1211 N. Tejon Street. There was so much in my heart that I desperately wanted, and that house met all of my yearnings, even the ones I didn’t know I had. God took care of me far better than I could have taken care of myself. He came through. For the first time in what seemed like forever, He came through. I was beginning to thrive in life again. I was dreaming. I had peace. I had community. I had a girlfriend. But all good things must come to an end.

As our lease came to a close, my friend Dallas decided to keep the house going. But everyone else was leaving, including me. I felt like I needed to stand on my own two feet now and start to leaning on my girlfriend for support. After all, if this relationship was meant to endure, I needed to start trusting her rather than this community house.

So, with a broken heart, I left 1211. Everything in me wanted to stay, but I felt like I needed to do the hard thing (story of my life). Little did I know this was too hard.

In less than six months of leaving, I had broken up with my girlfriend, lost my virginity, slept with over 20 random guys, and started dating my first boyfriend. And do you know what my attitude was while in that space? I can’t trust God with my heart. I can’t trust him to take care of my desires. I have to do this alone.

I had reverted back to what I was like before the community house, and if I were honest, I’m still in that place. That’s why I’ve continued to hook up with random strangers following my breakup. That’s why I’m on all the dating apps, going on dates with guys and girls, hoping to find what my heart is looking for. The problem is, my heart yearns for things in opposition to each other.

One of my closest friends, Brie, told me something that will echo with me for a long time. “The hardest moments in life are not choosing between what’s good and bad. The hardest moments in life are choosing between two things that are equally true.”

Here’s the deal, growing up, I always imagined marrying a woman. I dreamt of the guest list. I dreamt of my groomsmen. I even dreamt of what song she’d walk down the aisle to. It would obviously be “Come What May,” and we obviously would sing it to each other, rather than have a track or band play it. Do I have a flair for the dramatic? Have you met me? I was so convinced that this was how it was supposed to go that any time I was attracted to a girl that didn’t have a decent voice I didn’t even give her the time of day! She obviously wasn’t “the one.”

But here is also the deal, I’m insanely attracted to men. I have been for as long as I could remember. In contrast, I have never felt aroused by a woman. There was one time that my girlfriend and I were lying side by side in bed, watching a movie, and nothing in me wanted to feel her up or kiss her or cuddle with her. In fact, I have never done a double-take of a woman jogging past me in a sports bra, as if I were on some RomCom. A shirtless man, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

Yes, I’ve dreamed of marrying a woman, and yes, I’m aroused by men. How in the world do those two things integrate? They’re both equally true, and yet in opposition to each other, and those are not the only two.

I want to marry a woman. I want to love a man. I want to make my own babies. I want to travel the world. I want to live in community. I want to get back with my ex. I want to be independent. I want to have the support of those I love.

There are so many things I want and so many of them don’t naturally integrate into each other. So I’m left chasing one desire, but then I become frustrated and start chasing a different one. I think this was one of the reasons (there were many) my ex and I broke up.

After he broke up with me and wanted to get back together, the desire to be with a woman and make my own babies and have a marriage that everyone supported was so loud, I had to try for it. But then the desire to be loved by a man grew even louder a few months later, so then I started hooking up with strangers. And thus the rollercoaster continues.

Depending on the day, depending on the hour, a yearning climbs to the surface, I move towards it, and then another screams for attention. The result, a life that I’m scared of, a life that doesn’t have anything that I want, a life that I’m not happy with, a life of exhaustion.

“Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest. For my burden is easy and my yoke is light.”

“If you knew who I was, you’d ask me for living water, and I would give it to you.”

Here’s the deal, I have reached a breaking point. I’m over it. I’m over trying to figure out how all these shattered pieces of me fit together. It doesn’t make sense. But then again, there were a ton of dinguses in the Bible that didn’t make sense either.

Put a timid kid in charge of an army; that’s a good idea. Have a virgin girl to give birth to a savior; that should work. Liberate the world through death. Have an old infertile couple give birth to a nation. It’s literally full of impossible circumstances that shouldn’t work, but they do.

Let’s talk about that last one for a minute, and then I’ll wrap up my blubbering mess.

I resonate a lot with Abraham. The guy was given two promise, “You’re gonna have a kid with Sarah and you’re gonna inherit this specific land,” and yet, he tried to accomplish these things on his own or gave up on them altogether.

A famine comes through the land. The dude leaves the land of promise for safety and offers up his wife as a sex object. Then God has to slap Abraham in the face, metaphorically of course, and he returns to Canaan.

It’s been a few decades of having sex, and there’s still no kid. Abraham sleeps with his very fertile slave girl to bring about the promise, and what do you know, he has a kid! A boy no less. But then he has to send the child and his mother into the desert. Why? Because God wants to use an old guy and an old woman. No exceptions.

Another famine comes along, and he does the same exact shit with the Canaan ruler. Again, God has to scare him into trusting him.

Abraham’s trust was broken at best. He tried to accomplish all that was in his heart and felt incapable of bringing it about. The result was a life of mistakes and regrets.

I feel the same way. My trust is so broken. I’ve tried to answer the cries of my heart on my own, but now I’m just exhausted and have nothing to show for it. Could I take a deep breath, muster up my strength, jump back on the bull, and try again? Sure! I could, and most of my atheist or agnostic or even Christian friends would say I should. After all, the things you want are not going to magically show up; you have to work for them. But that’s just the thing when I look at the moments in my life that mattered the most—when I felt the most alive and fulfilled and myself—I didn’t work for it. My time at 1211 was one of the most important years of my life, and I had nothing to do with orchestrating it. I was trying to knock up a bunch of hoes (again, metaphorically speaking), trying to get a child (also metaphorically speaking), when God had something better the entire time. Something worthy to be written about.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Am I scared God will not come through? Absolutely. Shit! I’m also scared if He does come through too. Will I trust Him completely now that I’ve put a post up for all to see? Probably not. My trust is very fragile and broken, like Abraham’s. I need God to scare me into trusting him again, just like Abraham. But again, the stories of the Bible, my story, humanity’s story, is not a story of our faithfulness to God, it’s a story of His faithfulness to us.

“For if we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot go against his nature.”

I want to trust His faithfulness again. I want to delight myself in Him again. I want to come alive again, and I don’t think it’s going to come from me running after one shiny thing, only to realize I want this other shiny thing, only to realize… you get the point.

I’m exhausted. I’m tired. I honestly don’t know what I really want anymore or what’s best for me. I’ve reached a breaking point. All I know is that there was a time when I was happier, and it was a time that I wasn’t taking care of myself. He was.

I give up trying to know what is best for me and what my heart really wants. People will argue, saying, “But the heart wants what the heart wants.” But so does a dog, and then it’s got a chicken bone stuck in its throat, choking to death. My heart wants a lot of things, so many things that I get nauseous trying to catalog them all, and just like a dog, I go chasing after the next thing that smells good in this moment, which could very well be throwup if a dog is hungry enough. But the dog yields to someone greater than itself who cares for it, and I to yield to someone greater than myself who cares for me. I want to learn to bend the knee once again, to bend the knee to a good King, a good Dad, a Dad that sees my heart and doesn’t scoff at it. He smiles. He smiles because of all the little secrets and surprises the Dad has in store for His little boy. Cafes in a canal wall, overlooking a rose garden. Lanterns soaring into Chaing Mai sky, on an unplanned vacation. But most importantly, all those intricate things that don’t make sense, that don’t go together, and yet somehow, they will. Somehow they will. And He smiles.

How Can I be Gay and Christian — A Look into My Methodology

In recent news, there’s been a convergence of two major groups: Christians and the LGBTQ+ population, two groups that are normally at odds with one another. These animosities are beginning to reach a boiling point as more and more entities are choosing to create space for both identities, challenging the conception that they are incongruent.

An openly gay Christian man is hoping to become the Democratic party’s presidential candidate for 2020; a gay Christian dating app is hitting the market this year; and some Methodist churches are fighting against a recent vote within their denomination, a vote which labels homosexuality as a sin.

As I share these stories, I know there are individuals and communities alike who are angry. The reason I know this is because I’ve experienced it. As I came out as a gay Christian, friends threatened hell, parents left the room, and strangers blasted me about how I’m not actually a Christian. Even with the launch of this post, comments have soared on social media with people arguing vehemently their point and how they’re right.

When Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay Christian man, announced his intention to run for president, crowds screamed “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and major Christian figures like Franklin Graham demanded his repentance. Side note: why hasn’t Graham demanded repentance from other presidential candidates for fraud, embezzlement, infidelity, lying, or pride? I digress.

It’s as if the words “queer” and “Christian” are combustible, but instead of a chemical reaction, there’s an explosion of emotion and opinion.

But why? Why the knee-jerk anger, especially from a people whom Jesus said are supposed to be known by their love? Why is it that I’ve seen multiple YouTube videos of Christian parents throwing out their gay children, while I’ve never seen a Christian parent throw a coming out party for their child? Why is it that, according to San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, highly religious homes are far more likely to kick their kid out for being gay than non-religious parents?

One reason: the Bible, more specifically, how Christians relate to the Bible.

I was defined by being an Evangelical Christian. That identity permeated every moment of my life. At a very young age, I remember coloring in the pews as my dad played the drums and my mom led the Children’s Ministry.  As I grew up, I started volunteering with children and youth at a very early age. I was at church at least three times a week. But I was just getting warmed up. Following my high school graduation, I attended a Christian leadership academy, became a youth pastor, served as a missionary in Europe, and led worship at multiple churches. All of my immediate friends and family were and are Christian. But when those closest to me were confronted with my existence as a gay, Christian man, the majority felt torn, torn between obeying a book or loving me.

“Brandon, I’m trying to love you and your brother,” my mother said through tears, months after my younger brother came out, “but I’m caught between obeying the Bible or loving my son. It’s so hard!”

Without this book, my mom would have no problem loving her sons. Without this book, my friends would not be apprehensive about standing with me on my wedding day. Without this book, people wouldn’t feel pulled in two directions, unable to decide, and scared to form an opinion.

What does this mean? Is the Bible a bunch of garbage written by European men to manipulate and control the populace? Some would argue this opinion. But that is not what I am arguing.

As I said above, I’m a gay Christian man, and many would challenge my existence, claiming those two identities cannot cohabitate one body. But my argument is that they can. My argument is that Christians have been relating to the Bible poorly and that there is a relationship we can have to scripture that allows mothers to love their kids and sanctions peers to stand by their gay friend’s side as they declare their vows. And just as many of my opponents would start with scripture, asking me, “But what about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the two verses in Leviticus? What about Romans one?” (As if they are the first person to introduce me to these scriptures, which I’ve been aware of for the majority of my life because they directly affect me.) That’s where I would like to start — scripture.

There are six verses in the Bible concerning homosexuality. Six. For comparison, according to Blue Letter Bible, there are 16 passages on divorce, 62 verses about pride, and 111 verses concerning money.

For those of us who are gay and Christian, we call these six passages, the “clobber” passages because most Christians use these verses to clobber us. Regarding these verses, many publications and organizations, such as The Reformation Project, QCF, Unclobbered, God and the Gay Christian, Torn, Bible Gender Sexuality, Changing Our Minds (to list a few), all talk about how these verses are contextual and are actually not talking about homosexuality how we think of it today. They are either talking about idol worship that included using boys for prostitution, pedophilia, or a lack of hospitality to the foreigner. They were not talking about loving, committed gay relationships.

But people would argue, “You can’t read into this. You have to take the Bible for face value. It says what it says.” If that is the case, women should be silent in church (I Corinthians 14:34). If that is the case, we should not allow divorce on any grounds but infidelity (Matthew 19:9). If that is the case, we shouldn’t have tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), we shouldn’t eat meat with blood in it (Acts 15:20), we should yield to corrupt government (Romans 13:1-7), and we should cut off body parts when they cause us to sin (Matthew 5:29).

My list could continue for far more than a paragraph, but I think you get it. What’s my point? My point is that we contextualize all the time.

How is it fair to contextualize certain parts of the Bible and then not others? We have to look at what was applicable for ancient Israel or the early church and translate it for those of us who live in a modern world. Scripture cannot stay locked in a cultural vacuum, and I’m not just saying this because it benefits me. I’m saying it because it’s exactly what the early church did in Acts.

In Acts 15, there’s massive dissension concerning Gentiles (non-Jews) who are being baptized. Many are saying that they should be circumcised and follow the Jewish law in its entirety, a list of over 600 commandments, including two of our “clobber” verses about homosexuality.

In the end, it is determined by the 12 apostles that the Gentiles shouldn’t be forced to obey the law. They scrap it altogether. Instead, they gave them four rules: don’t eat meat offered to idols, don’t consume blood, abstain from sexual immorality, and don’t eat meat that was strangled.

In one meeting, the whole law is ruled inappropriate to a different culture and new instructions are given to non-Jews. Why? Who gave the apostles the right to change the rules?

Jesus.

“Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,” Matthew 16:19.

So where’s the law? Should we just scrap all forms of morality under the grace of Jesus Christ?

No. Instead, Jesus gave us a new law. Well, two, actually.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” John 13:34.

Not some of the law. All of it.

The apostles gave instructions that would help the Gentile believers serve God, to help them obey the first law. They did this from a place of love, obeying the second law. They were obeying the teachings of Christ.

In spite of the six verses in the Bible about homosexuality, Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality once during his time on Earth. Instead, he talks about love — about loving your God, about loving your neighbor, and about people knowing you’re one of his disciples because of your love.

Can we say that this is true? Do people call Christians “the most loving people”? Are we known by this today? No, instead we’re known as judgmental and ignorant and hypocritical, picketing queer political candidates and abortion clinics.

Is this love? Or have we done what early enemies of the church did — reimplementing the law out of fear?

As a gay Christian, I know I can exist and hold to my faith because, one, there are contexts to the verses we use to batter LGBTQ+ people that need to be considered, and two, Jesus’s commandment to me was not to be straight. His commandment to me was to love my God and to love people, that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Bubbling Anxieties

Heads up: this post is gonna be a ton of rambling about my anxieties and what I do with them as a Six. Yup. I said it. Six. I’ve begrudgingly identified as a Four in the infamous Enneagram for about a six months, but I’ve never felt settled on it. Then a friend who loves the Enneagram said, “If you’re still not settled, you’re probably a Six.”

I think he’s right.

A Six is identified by their anxieties. They are always scheming what could go wrong. They are literally creating and emotionally living out endless possible outcomes, so they can prepare for the worst. I one time created a map of my brain to a friend she felt anxiety just looking at it. Yeah! Try living it! But the absolute worst part about being a Six is that a Six believes their anxieties are necessary. They hold them closely, refusing to let go because they believe they keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Fear actually keeps them holding their fears.

The fear bubbles up as a result of not trusting their inner guidance. At some point, a Six began to believe that they don’t have the internal resources to make it in life. The result? They believe failure is around every corner. To compensate, they look for support outside of themselves. But here’s the punch line: fears keep them from fully trusting those they look to for support. They both long and are skeptical of support, creating a push-pull relationship with their close friends, mentors, and confidants.

Anxious yet? I am! But that’s typical, since I’m a Six.

This whole mindset has recently shown it’s flagrant colors, specifically in that lovely thing we call “higher education”.

I’ve been doing school since 2008. It’s been a decade, and I still don’t have my degree. Why? Because:

  1. Life. I’d end up doing ministry or living abroad and put school on the backburner. The fact that I’m this old and I still don’t have a degree, and the one I’m pursuing will take another two years weighs really heavy on me.
  2. Choice. I am terrified that I’ll choose the wrong major, and my life trajectory will be forever off course. This has caused me to switch majors like twelve times. I’m so unsure, lacking confidence in any choice I make, determined that if I choose wrong, I’ll ruin my life.

Choice. It’s not just in school that this concept overwhelms me. Choice has a way of paralyzing me in every arena.

What if it’s the wrong choice? What if this hurts people? What if it hurts me? What if I’m screwed? How can I know this is the best choice to make? What if I ruin my life? What if I waste away my life?

The overwhelming amount of question marks that assault me on a daily basis make me want to turn on Netflix and bing another season of The Originals. While watching television shows I don’t have to make choices. Choices are made for me. I just get to enjoy the ride.

Life would be a whole lot easier if choice was just removed and some magical board of wisdom gurus made those choices for me. Why can’t I just have a Gandalf that tells me exactly what to do? Sounds great! The idea of arranged marriages and work assignments based upon test results sounds pretty fantastic to me!

As a Christian, don’t I have Someone I can trust to help me decide? Isn’t there this thing called the Holy Spirit that is called “The Counselor”, “The Prince of Peace”? Sure. In theory. Until you try to listen to that “still small voice” and those anxieties we talked about earlier whisper louder (and by whisper louder, I mean scream), “Are you sure that’s the Holy Spirit? What if that’s you? Could it be mmmm Satan!?”

To be very frank, my still-small-voice confidence has taken a beating over the years.

I used to trust that voice even in the clothing I’d wear (like I said, I hate choice). What happened?

Life.

I hitchhiked through Europe and felt so lost when all I did was pray for God to lead me.

I came home to a wrecked family and had no idea what to do or where God was amidst the chaos.

I dated a man and shut off anything I was hearing because I was scared God was going to ruin the one thing that I felt like I loved in life.

I don’t know how to trust that still small voice anymore because sometimes, it feels like it’s out to destroy me. And I would love to trust my own inner guidance, but I haven’t worked with that muscle in a hot second. From 2006 to 2013, I’ve disregarded my own will and obeyed this tug in my chest. I have no clue what I actually want, or I’m too afraid of what I want, or I believe what I want is wrong.

Why would I believe what I want is wrong? It’s kinda hard not to when a core longing inside of you has been told to be depraved since you were little. At a young age, I remember hearing my dad blow up at a movie for having two men kiss each other, yelling, “Why did they have to put that shit in there? It’s a mockery to God!” I’d agree when inside I think, “I feel the same way. Don’t let them see. Hide it. Kill your desires.”

If you can’t even trust your attractions, believing they’re broken and cursed, how are you supposed to trust anything else you want?

Distrust has crept into everything I love. I wander between desires or sabotage the very thing I want.

I can’t go for a degree in writing or performing arts! It’s called “starving artist” for a reason.

I can’t write a novel! I don’t have enough information or experience to write anything of value.

I can’t produce my own show! I have no clue how to go about doing it, school is too expensive, and I’m too old.

I can’t date this man! I will lose everyone; I won’t know how to raise a girl since we’ll both be guys; I’ll have a panic attack every time we move towards sexual intimacy, and I’ll live in terror of going to Hell every day.

Every desire is a bad choice.

In response, I get jobs I don’t care about; I have hookups instead of relationships; I get a degree that I believe is safe; dreaming becomes impossible; authoring my own life becomes so taxing that I just end up doing what I don’t want to do. Why not? If God doesn’t want me to date a man, and that’s a core longing in my being, He must want me to do the very thing I hate.

This thought process has actually led me to move away from the very thing I want on multiple occasions. It’s even defined key elements of my life and has caused me to resent God.

Leaving a community house.

Not going on tour with Aquire the Fire.

Abandoning an enrollment at UNC in theatre.

It all was loaded with a belief that I shouldn’t go after that which I love, and now I’m left unsure what I actually want.

Does what I want even matter? If the things I desperately want are corrupt, where is the line to trust what I want? We say go after what you love, but where is that in the Bible? In fact, I see the opposite. I see God demanding we take what we love and burn it. Abraham. Hannah. David. Jesus. Paul. While Jesus promised to give us life and life abundant, they’re lives just seem impossibly hard, and then we’re told to “Follow me.”

How do we rectify this with our cliche maxim of “follow your heart”? Is it truly Biblical?

I feel desperately torn, torn between obligation and want, between wanting to want and wanting to be obliged. Drawn and quartered.

Being a Six sucks. Being gay also sucks. Being a Christian sucks the most.

And yet I can’t shake any of them. I’ve tried. For years of my life, I’ve tried. And yet here I am, panicking about my future and completely unsure what to do about it. I feel completely lacking in support or support I can trust. Everyone seems to want me to be gay or Christian, and very few honor both, making trust incredibly hard.

But deep down I want to trust. I want to breathe the fresh air of comradery and belief. Belief in myself. Belief in my support. Belief in humanity. Belief in God. But it all feels like sand in my hands—I can old grab hold of it for a fleeting moment, but never forever.

I normally get all Psalmy, like David, and say something like, “But I will trust blah, blah, blah…” I don’t want to today. I just want what I say to exist and be out there. Not pretty. Not fixed. Just exist. So there you go, my bubbling Six mess. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

Gluten and Genocide

Fact: gluten sensitivity has been on the rise in recent years.

Fact: scientists still are unsure of the cause of this.

Fact: bacterial DNA has been injected into the majority of our plants. This genetic modification creates pores, resulting in the stomach exploding.

Fact: one of the number one issues related to gluten sensitivity is “leaky gut” or porous intestines, allowing food to leave the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream.

Coincidence? I think not! But what do I know? I’m just a 28-year old who is incredibly paranoid. I don’t know science, but I can definitely create the worst case scenario. I’m that person who interprets the period in a text message as, “This person is angry with me!” I’m also the guy that gets a sore throat, pulls out their phone, checks WebMD and concludes I have some rare lymphatic cancer. It’s rare people. Not impossible. Meaning, I could have it!

So if your brain works even a little bit like mine, you’re probably thinking, “Huh! I should probably buy more organic food.” But it’s in organic vegetables too. So good luck not getting leaky gut! You’re better off with thinking like me and deciding you should just stop eating altogether. Better to starve until I move to another country where GMO’s are illegal.

The facts above came up in a conversation with a number of my hippy friends that grow their own vegetables, have their own chickens, and milk their own goats. They are phenomenal in every way and way better at being true to their values than I am.

They went on to talk about large corporations that sue smaller farms because their patented seed started growing in their field (because they also modify the seed to spread everywhere). As the seeds spread, they sue smaller farmers, knocking out competition.

Why am I talking about farms and GMO’s and massive corporations on a blog devoted to sexuality, spirituality, and the personal life of a guy who likes guys and this guy named Jesus? Well, one, because it’s my blog and I want to. But two, because a simple conversation of leaky gut led me to existential questions (typical of my brain).

How can large corporations get away with this? How could someone make a decision to make more money that is potentially affecting an entire nation? How could people like this sleep at night?

From there my brain spiraled out into blood diamonds, battery harvesting, child starvation, and the Holocaust. GMO’s to genocide. Yay brain! But the real reason I ended up at human depravity is because I always ask the question “why?”

Why genocide? Why starving children? Why exploding guts?

That then leads to the biggest question: Why would God let this happen?

Pain and destruction have a way of pulling out the most potent question that every human will eventually come into contact with: where is God in all of this?

I’m going to expose my theology here a bit. I don’t think God allows it. I’m not a believer in the divine orchestration of everything. I don’t understand how people can believe in that and believe that God is loving. If God orchestrates horrific things like children in Africa dying of AIDS, then God is cruel and not worthy of any type of worship.

And here’s the part where all the evangelical Christians pumped the breaks, thinking they should stop reading. But I think my thoughts actually have more than logic, but biblical evidence.

In truth, I see God releasing control to man way more often than not in the Bible.

God yielding to Israel and giving them a king.

God yielding to Moses and not massacring all of Israel.

God yielding to Abraham and saving Lot.

The Bible is full of stories of God bending a knee to man, not because He’s weak. Not because He’s a people pleaser and needs our favor. But because love yields.

The Trinity is this gorgeous depiction of God yielding to God in a cyclical union that He invites us into.

God literally gave dominion of the earth to us. It’s like He created this gorgeous car and gave us the keys. Then we get mad when we drive recklessly and crash the thing. And I’m not talking about just man on man violence. Yes, our reckless decisions directly affect those around us. But the act of raising our own will above other’s literally curses the planet. It caused plants and animals to riot against us and each other. It commissioned death and pain into the world. Sickness, pain, disease. It all bleeds from the same wound that we inflicted.

When we look around the world at all the destruction, it’s not God orchestrating it. It’s a world that is in the hands of an adrenaline-junky, hormonal teenager.

So as I sat in my car with a mind that spun out from leaky guts to the depravity of man, my heart broke. I literally started crying in my car because of GMO’s. And as I cried, there was a prayer that rose above it all: “Come, Lord Jesus, come. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Come reign. Come make the wrong things right. Come redeem the pain and the suffering. Come. Come, Lord Jesus, come… and start with me.”

It’s really easy to look at the world on a macro level and say, “God, please come rule. We screwed this up. Time after time we mess this up. Your hands are stronger. Your hands are wiser. Come reign. Bring Your peace. Bring Your life.”

And yet, when we bring it to a micro level, we squirm. Especially me. It’s like I can trust Him with the world but I can’t trust Him with myself.

If I let God rule in my life, will He look out for me? Will He satisfy the yearnings of my heart? Will He hold me close like a lover when I feel desperately alone and lost? Will He show up? Is He actually good? Does He even care? Does He truly love me?”

When we choose to say, “I’ve got this,” in our hearts, we are calling God a liar. We are like our ancestors in that garden millennia ago, and we believe the same lie of the serpent.

“Did God really say that? He’s holding out on you. He doesn’t have your best interest in mind. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s wrong. You don’t need Him. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s wrong. Eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

We eat the fruit. Every day. And we wonder why the world is spinning out of control.

We expect God to “come on the clouds with fire”. We expect Him to smite the faithless, establish dominion, and “rule with a mighty hand”. We expect him to “put all His enemies under His feet.”

So did the Jews.

They expected the Messiah to ride in on a white horse and free Israel from the might of Rome with a mighty hand. But He came in on a donkey and His hands were pierced to a tree. He physically couldn’t lift a finger to help anyone as His body was wrenched from Him.

The more and more I look at Jesus, the more and more I think we may have it all wrong.

Jesus doesn’t establish dominion on land or sea. His kingdom is in hearts. Jesus doesn’t win by rising up and destroying the oppressor. He rules through dying by their hands.

He yields… to man… to His Father. And by yielding, He brings about life for the world.

In one garden, the first Adam said, “I don’t trust you.” In another garden, the second Adam wept, praying, “Not my will but yours.” By yielding, Jesus brought about life for us all, and that promise is extended to us.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I come to bring life, and life abundant.”

Do we believe Him? I know I don’t a lot. I know that I think, “God if I yield to you, you will steal from me, you will kill me, you will destroy me.”

What am I saying about God? I’m calling Jesus Satan and Satan my Messiah. That sounds strong, but can you see it any other way? I perpetuate the very pain I hate in the world. God isn’t going to win by smiting all in His path. He’s going to win the earth one heart at a time as each heart chooses to yield. It’s an invitation. Not a conquest. And it starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with the smallest and most precious world of all–our own. And as we choose to trust Him, one moment at a time, He will be faithful to fulfill His promise–”I will bring about abundant life. Not just to you, but to everyone around you.”

He wants to plant the tree of life in us all, producing a fruit that will rescue everyone that tastes its nectar.

Will we soften our hearts to Him to plant that seed? Will we yield? He yields to us every day. Can we till the soil of our hearts and open up to His faithfulness? Can we trust Him?

A quick aside before I depart. It’s easy to see that living in the knowledge of evil produces death. But it wasn’t called the tree of the knowledge of evil. It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I have seen so many Christians focus on what is right and what is wrong, that they kill the hearts of everyone they meet. We all want to know we’re in the right so badly, we’ll go to any length to ensure we’re safe.

We’ll cross the road on the way to church as a bloodied man asks for help. After all, we have to be there on time and we don’t want to get our robes dirty.

But it’s not just the evangelical Christian that does this. Every single human is guilty.

“Well, at least I don’t kill people.” “It’s not like I go around raping children.” “I’m not that bad.”

We justify ourselves rather than Christ justifying us and in doing so eat of the fruit of our ancestors, perpetuating the pain.

Probably one of the biggest vindications I’ve seen lately is in the gay Christian community. And I get it. We’ve been told we’re wrong for so long; we’re desperate to prove that we’re right. We invest hours to studying scripture; we analyze the culture and the language; we exegesis the shit out of context and in doing so vindicate ourselves. We are right. They are wrong.

If you dig deep enough, anyone can find scripture to support their cause. Even slaveholders found justification in scripture prior to the Civil War.

Am I saying that having a same-sex marriage is wrong? I’m not, actually. What I am saying is that if we simply dig into the Bible, declaring this is right, we’re no better than the people that clobber us with the same passages. We cannot keep living in the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It’s time to turn to the tree of life.

Is there life in your life (yes I just wrote that…) as a result of the choices you make? Are you yielding to Jesus?

A while back, when trying to vindicate myself and give myself permission to have a gay relationship, I reached out to a married gay couple who write a blog called Modern Kinship. They inspire me with their trust and love of Jesus. Yes, believe it or not, there are homos out there that love Jesus and do a better job than a lot of straight people.

When I emailed them, sharing my story and asking questions about marrying a man or a woman, He gave me an answer I didn’t expect.

“I don’t believe there’s a single God-honoring path to take. Maybe God has a woman in mind for you; maybe He doesn’t.” He went on to say that the number one evidence that he knows that God has called him and his spouse to this marriage is the life they see as a result of it. “My marriage serves to strengthen my faith. We serve God together and help to deepen each other’s understanding of God. Our relationship has had outward benefits in the way it has prompted people to think about God and his love in a larger, more radical way. People ruined on the church are giving God a second look. All of that, for me, has been the best evidence.”

“You will judge a tree by their fruit.”

What fruit do you have that shows you’re producing life? Not right or wrong. This isn’t about vindication. The world has had plenty of that and we’re all still bleeding. Being right doesn’t heal. It still kills. Where is life blossoming? Not only yourself but for those around you? Is there healing in your open hands? Is there a simple childlike trust breathing hope into the people around you? Are we agreeing with our Messiah’s prayer, “Not my will, but Yours”?

I want to start praying that prayer again.

Thanks for reading.

Faith and Fear Hold Hands

I went to a prayer meeting yesterday. First time I’ve been to one of those in a long time. Also read the Timothy’s. First time I’ve picked up a Bible too (okay, well it was my phone).

The skepticism continues. As the prayer leader described the demon of pleasure, I rolled my eyes. Apparently that demon looks like a man with a goat head.

When I read Paul’s extortion to Timothy, I see sexism and slavery propagation.

It’s like the questions that have been asked can’t go back in the box. Like toothpaste. Once it’s out, it’s not going back in.

And yet, in spite of the questions, critiques, and frustrations, I see evidence like God is there. It’s as though I’m close on His trail.

A broken twig. Tracks in the mud. Warm embers from a fire.

The first sign was my most recent blog post and other moments like it. Moments where I feel so weak and unsure, and yet it affects people. I’m broken and bleeding, but somehow it brings a level of healing to those around me.

The second was the demonic-goat-headed man. Yes, I’m unsure of all that. You start talking about this spirit or that demon and I just back away slowly. Those circles have produced more abuse to me than “deliverance”. But as the man spoke of pleasure, how he spoke of God being the author of pleasure, and that pleasure is not found outside of God, but in Him, I weakened.

How long have I believed pleasure is for moments in the dark, hidden away? How long have I believed that God was trying to rob me of pleasure, rather than authoring it in my life?

The imitation continues—He offers abundant life. He’s not trying to rob me. He’s trying to awaken me.

But slumber has become a comfort, and dreams seem more real. I doubt.

The arms of a lover offered so much. Pleasure. Purpose. Passion. And all the other alliterations that start with “p” including Penis.

How would God come through to provide those longings? Why does God not feel enough? Why isn’t God here in flesh and bone holding me? That would be enough. But He’s not. And the body he’s left behind can kinda be a dick at times. We flee intimacy. We hide our dark side. We bicker against one another, claiming we have the correct truth. And in the midst of pain, we demand holiness from a people that are tired and weary and broken.

How is this burden lighter? Where is the power that was promised?

And yet the broken twigs, the muddied tracks, and the cooling embers.

How do we reconcile these things? How do hope and doubt exist in cohabitation? How do faith and cynicism shake hands?

In broken flesh. A broken flesh God hopes to bring hope through. Stumbling in the dark as we may be, He whispers, “I’ve got ya. Keep coming. I’m not scared by your frustration and pain. I see it. Just come a step more. Come a bit closer. That’s it. You’re almost there.”

The hard part is that those words and that existence are our lot. When we arrive, we’ll be dead in the mud. But maybe in that space, freed from fear and doubt, there will be a smile that says, “You dared to keep hope burning, though cynicism rained upon you. You dared to hold onto faith, though pain grappled you.”

He doesn’t smile when the lights turn on and fear dissipates. That takes no courage. That takes no faith. He smiles when we dare to take one more step in the midst darkness, reaching out with trembling hands and bloodied knees.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” – Nelson Mandela

In the desert, comes this song, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, your God will come and make a highway in the wilderness. Life will break forth from the hot desert sand, and I will bring you home.” – Isaiah 35 with creative license

To those who doubt and wonder what the fuck is this all for? I get it. I’m right there with you. But let’s dare to hope.

Thanks for reading.

Epilogue – Colorado Springs, CO

And now is the part where I say, “I returned home! My journies enlightened me. I’ve been changed.”

If only…

Life has been rough since coming back. I would love to say that all the travels and people transformed me. In the moment, it did. Hope was birthed. Love re-kindled. It was as though life was emerging from the ashes. But then I came back to Colorado to stare at the charred mess I made. A mess of lives, mine and those I love. It choked the hope out of me like the weeds in Jesus’s parable.

Upon returning home, it took me less than two hours to find a bathhouse. It took less than a week to find a man on Grindr. It took less than a month to forget I even traveled.

It’s true that traveling gave me hope. It’s true that my heart softened. But now that soft heart could feel. And it was feeling a lot.

Loneliness. Hopelessness. Aimlessness. All the nesses covered in remorse. Where was God in all this?

My life revolved around my ex for so long, it’s like my life is now revolving around a black hole. The absence of him carries an immeasurable weight that makes it unbearable most days.

The only way of explaining how I felt was like treading water. I’m not sure where to go. Where’s land? But this feeling wasn’t new. I felt like this before my ex.

In 2012, I left for Berlin to join a missions organization. I was eager to be discipled. I had been in leadership since the age of fourteen. I was ready to have someone teach me, to see God move, to be a part of something important. Instead, I was asked to produce a show while suffering emotional abuse at the hands of a leader committing an affair with one of the students. And on top of that, I was paying to be there. It’s like I’m a masochist!

If that wasn’t enough, I felt so alone. Not only was I not being led by someone, I had a peer completely abandon me for no reason whatsoever. But the abandonment was greater than people. I felt abandoned by God.

One day, while in Mumbai, I prayed for a woman missing a led. I helplessly watched as the woman wept. “Why won’t God give me my leg back?” I didn’t have answers. Maybe God wasn’t there. But I needed him, and so did my family. My brother was hospitalized from a major car accident. We all needed God. Where was He? Was He even there? Was He ever there?

As a kid, I prayed that someone would find me when I was molested for five straight years by an older boy. I was never discovered.

As a teenager, I prayed that God would make me straight. That he would change me. I’m still attracted to men.

As an adult man, I prayed I would have other men show me the way. I have yet to find a mentor, though I’ve joined two discipleship schools.

Disappointment after disappointment overshadowed me, communicating one message: I was on my own. I needed to figure out life for myself. No one was coming to save me.

And on that plane home, I began the treading.

Find a career. Figure out a future. Find love. Don’t be alone.

I downloaded Grindr; I met a man who came to my rescue, and I began the first relationship I ever had with a man… and I was petrified.

It was a late night in March. We had reconnected after three months. I had broken up with him due to fear of hell, but we had eventually navigated friendship. He had started dating another guy, and I really wanted him to see that someone was going to stick around no matter what, even if he would never date me. I wanted him to see he was worth it.

But then we’re sitting in the car and he kisses me. I pull back. “I can’t do this. I don’t know where I’ve landed on sexuality and God. I don’t want to hurt you again.”

But then a promise was given. “If you were to tell me tomorrow we need to be friends, I’m okay with that. I love how you wrestle things out with God. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m attracted to you. I just want to be as close to you as I can.”

My heart soared. The invitation for someone to walk this journey out with me was everything. For so long, I had been walking this road alone. Now someone wanted to walk with me? Take a risk on me? How could I say no?

But I should have.

The result was a relationship that hurt people, and a fallout that wrecked us both.

If I could go back in time and yell at my younger self to say, “No! Stay friends. Don’t date. Stay strong. It’ll cost you everything and you’ll lose the person you love,” I would. At least then I would still have this person I care about in my life. Instead, my friends get to keep him. They get to benefit from my investment. And that hurts. I sacrificed so much but came up empty.

Moving out of my parents. Coming out to the world. Losing friends and ministry opportunities. Getting into a house I couldn’t afford. Changing my behavior to match my partners.

It was all for nothing.

That feeling of bankruptcy rings fiercely most days. I feel like a stepping stool. Everyone else benefited from this relationship but me. Everyone else got a meal while I got the bill. And that’s really hard to live with at times.

And the treading continues. I know I should trust God, but it’s hard.

The truth is, I tried to invite God back into my life. To trust Him again. I wanted Him to be a part of my life, especially the part that mattered the most–my romantic life.

So I invited God into my relationship. I analyzed verses, went to conferences, emailed all the experts. I was realizing that maybe a gay relationship was okay. That God could be at the center. The result was wanting to set boundaries around sex.

My boyfriend and I met on Grindr. Grindr isn’t really a good platform to set expectations of showing restraint regarding sex. And why show restraint? When you believe you’ve crossed the worst line, what were the lines before? What’s a small line like pre-marital sex in comparison to being a damned abomination?

You no longer have boundaries. They’ve all been broken already.

But here I was learning that maybe I can have a relationship with a man and have God at the center. And if I wanted to invite God into my relationship, it means He gets to speak into my sex life. It means He gets to say, “Wait.”

In hopes of ending this struggle between God and my relationship, I invited Him in, and I believe God told me to stop having sex. After all, we weren’t married. We weren’t even engaged. We had no commitment to one another. But our bodies were binding to each other. Don’t believe me? Try sleeping without the person you love for a few nights. Your body literally aches.

So with terror, I dared to trust. I held my breath and told my boyfriend that we couldn’t have sex. I held my breath, hoping everything would be okay. But it wasn’t.

He said wondered if our relationship was worth it. That I had hurt him too much. That this was too much. In the end, he wanted to break up. He wanted to salvage a friendship.

I was broken. I was hurt. Here I was trying to trust, and I was hurting the person that I loved. The last thing I wanted was to hurt this man. In that moment of pain, I was reminded of that premonition. “You will hurt this man.” I couldn’t afford to hurt him more.

I ended up agreeing with him. We should try and salvage a friendship. And when he changed his mind (as we had both done our two-year relationship), I said no. I refused to hurt him again. And since that day, I’ve worn this badge of martyrdom, as if I’d done something noble.

“Brandon,” my friend yelled at me. “Quit playing the victim card. You chose this.”

I chose this.

And when my day-to-day consists of hooking up with strangers, of weeping because of an HIV scare, of losing friends, of inflicting more pain, I think to myself, “Why the fuck did I do this? Why did I choose this?”

I doubt myself often and carry remorse and regret everywhere I go. I was selfish, and it hurt a lot of people. When I see their faces, I wish I could take back so much.

How did I become this selfish? I didn’t use to be. But if I didn’t have hope in a God taking care of me, who would? I had to take care of myself.

Pain gives birth to cynicism. Cynicism gives birth to loneliness. Loneliness gives birth to selfishness. Selfishness gives birth to pain.

And the cycle continues. A cycle every human has been trapped in since the dawn of time.

“Eye for an eye!” till the whole world is blind. That has been the truth for my world.

So what do we do with all of this? What do we do with selfishness and cynicism? Better question: what do I do with my selfishness and cynicism? I can’t fix the world. It’s not my job. But I can fix myself. And I knew that the root was my cynicism. But where did this root come from? The answer came at a place I never wanted to be–a men’s retreat. As a circle of middle-aged men stared at me, I was reminded of where this all began.

I was six. I was in the church attic. I was being molested by an older boy.

Where was God? Why didn’t He stop it? Why did this happen?

The men surrounding me dared me to answer that question for myself.

I stammered over words, trying to appease them.

“Why did Jesus have to die? He was always with me. He’ll redeem this.”

I stopped myself with a thought. How could You possibly redeem this?

“Because now you see people.”

I broke down. I wept in front of complete strangers. Male complete strangers! The worst kind! But I couldn’t help it. God really had redeemed my pain. They weren’t just trite words.

God does not cause pain. That’s the result of the world we’ve fucked up and the selfishness we carry out of pain. God doesn’t need our help with making the world blind. We’re capable of doing that all on our own. But we do need His help to believe that we can have an eye gouged out and “turn the other cheek”. Not because we’re weak, and we simply yield to adversity. But because we believe we have a God that will take care of us, break the cycle, and take horror and turn it into beauty. After all, isn’t that the cross? In the wounds that Jesus forever carries, he carries hope forever. Life came from his death. Maybe life could come from the pain I endured. Maybe God could redeem all the pain I caused.

So now I tell you, the reader, that since my travels and since that retreat I’m all better. All is well. I trust God, and I’m on a new path.

Nope! Still treading.

Just a few days after the retreat, I slept with complete strangers! The pain continues. The cynicism continues. The selfishness continues. And I continue to hurt people, perpetuating the cycle. How do I escape this?

I’m really scared God won’t look after the desires of my heart. Especially when my heart still desires a man’s strength, pursuit, and love. What if he doesn’t satisfy my heart? What if I’m fucked, destined to try and figure this out on my own? Destined to tread water forever? I panic. But then a calm voice speaks. The same calm voice that showed me I see people because of my pain.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart?”

Honestly, that verse scares me. Will He? Will He actually? But then I’m reminded of years before being a missionary, years where I put God first, and He did satisfy my heart. And what I’m doing now sure isn’t working. What do I have to lose?

In spite of my pain, I’ve seen too much of His faithfulness, regardless of the pain. So as scary as it sounds, I dare to trust, as intrepid as it may be. That trust may break tomorrow. But so did all the cool people in the Bible.

Abraham ran to Egypt and knocked up a slave girl. David killed a man and took his wife. Israel made deals with the devil.

And yet God calls them all His.

I don’t think God is asking for perfection, just a little bit of trust. And it may break. But here in this moment, if only for a few minutes, can I trust?

“Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines and go forth in dancing.”

With everything that is in me, I desperately hope that God can make something of this rubble. That He’ll restore. That He’ll fix what I broke. That’ll He’ll heal myself and others.

Redeem this God. You redeemed so much already. Redeem this too.

Part 8. Phoenix, AZ

Arizona. How many times have I mentioned I hate deserts on this blog? And yet, I keep ending up in them. I will say this, there is something actually magical about a desert (can’t believe I said that). It strips you of any self-resilience. Strength doesn’t matter. Money can’t buy you anything. You’re stripped to nothing but you. Laid bare.

Maybe that’s why I keep ending up in deserts in spite of my complete disdain for them.

I think Jesus knew how apprehensive I was about this leg of the trip (I mean, He is God and all that) because the week I picked to come out to Phoenix, Dura had to work a lot. And that isn’t a stab a Dura. You’ll see where this ends up. It’s a stab at me. I think Jesus knew I was in a delicate space. Shit. I’m still in a delicate space. But needless to say, I think God created some space for me to just exist in Phoenix, to calm my nerves. And that calm came from a man I had yet to meet.

Because Dura was working three 24-hour shifts, her husband Josh picked me up. I had never met the guy. But we would be spending a large amount of time together, and I’m really thankful for it.

Josh is like the Yin to Dura’s Yang (or vice versa, I’m not going to pretend to be a master of Taoism; I’m having a hard enough time with my own faith at the moment). While Dura is this ball of bright fiery passion, Josh is like water. He’s soothing and calm. He can still be passionate, but it manifests differently. Like a powerful river. But he moves and bends with the people he’s with. He’s definitely a peacemaker at heart, and I was really grateful for it.

Since I barely knew the guy, and he’s now married to one of my good friends, I asked all the questions.

How did you guys meet? What are your passions? Where do you see yourself and Dura in five years? You know, all the superficial, easygoing questions you ask when you first meet someone. Didn’t want to overwhelm the guy…

But it literally didn’t phase him. He answered every question with such an assured calmness.

“We met through mutual friends.” “We both did the World Race.” “We want to help people in crisis, so we’re both becoming EMT’s.”

There is an ease that Josh produces to those around him. The result was calm mornings over coffee, relaxed evenings watching fireworks, and easygoing afternoons climbing rock walls.

Through the fury of questions, I can’t help but see God in Josh and Dura’s love story. They truly are perfect for each other. Like a dynamic duo. They have shared passion and vision, but go about it in such different ways because of their personalities. They yield to each other because they’re yielded to God and have purpose in everything they do. And it’s not just in their marriage, but how they live that you can see God active and moving.

Dura and Josh shared stories where God told them to do something, and they just went for it. You know those people that talk of their dreams and what they want to do and it stops there? That’s not Josh and Dura. They dream and go. It’s so inspiring.

One time Dura felt like God was saying to go to Jordan. She didn’t have money or contacts, but she trusted. Once there, she met people and started hitchhiking into Israel. Why? Because, again, she felt like that was what God was calling her to do. She simply trusted a voice within.

This inner voice has led them around the world three times between the two them, a nine-month Europe backpacking trip on their honeymoon, management of an island resort, and back to the desert to become EMT’s. There’s so much adventure and purpose in this trust.

While being with them, I was reminded of my past. A past where I did the same thing, and I missed it.

When I lived in Berlin, I would walk the streets, asking God, “Where next?” With a calm trust, I would end up in the coolest cafés. Like, hidden-in-a-canal-surrounded-by-water-gardens cool cafés. I’d talk to strangers on the streets, asking God what to say. Next thing I know, the stranger is crying, asking how I knew those secret places of their heart. Or when a girl was dying of leukemia, I heard a scripture reference. Turns out it’s about bones. I read it to the girl, prayed, and she was miraculously healed.

There was this faith and reckless trust I had with Jesus that led me to crazy places, meeting amazing people.

But something happened. Well, actually a lot happened.

  • My head pastor caught in adultery
  • A Bible school closed down due to embezzlement
  • A mission school wringing me dry for ego
  • The mission leader having an affair with a student

And this is the part where all the Christians say, “But Brandon, those are people. They’re not perfect. God didn’t do those things.” True. But I got beef with Jesus too.

When I served as a missionary, I prayed for a woman with a missing leg. I was believing for a miracle. I asked her to stand up out of her chair, thinking of the stories of Jesus. Instead of a miracle, I got a sobbing woman, begging God for her leg. “Why won’t He give me my leg back?”

I didn’t know.

The questions came, “Does God care or hear me? Hear her? Why didn’t that work? Jesus said it would work. Did I do something wrong? Is He even there?”

Remember those cool walks I went on? Well, there was this one time I listened to that small voice and ended up in the middle of nowhere.

The questions came, “Is this made up in my head? Does God really speak? Is He even real? Or is this just my imagination?”

At the end of my mission school, I hitchhiked, hoping to see God provide for me. The result was sleeping on the streets of Geneva. My friend and I had asked a church to take us in for the event. They said they couldn’t do that. I got drunk that night, screaming to my friend, “Some hands and feet of Jesus they are!”

I was not in a good place. But wait! There’s more!

“Brandon, we didn’t want to tell you because we didn’t want to ruin your trip. But you’ll eventually see it on social media. Nathan (my brother) had a seizure and crashed into a car. It was bad. A piece of his bone was in the street. But we’re praying and believing God for a miracle. We don’t want you to worry. Everything is going to be okay.”

But everything wasn’t okay, and I was worried. Nathan didn’t get a miracle. And to top it off, the next leg of my journey was to Lyon, where a friend from Bible college awaited me. She had de-converted, becoming an agnostic. The time was spent drinking and talking about how my faith was all in my head and most “healings” are just due to the power of belief.

Maybe this was all in my head. Maybe this is all fake.

By the time I boarded a plane to help my family with my brother, I was having an existential crisis. I didn’t know what I believed, what was true, who I could trust, and what I was supposed to do. I was breaking inside. But my family was falling apart too.

So what did I do? I buried my fears, hurts, and pain, taking on the responsibility of saving my family. I thought it was a burden I was putting on myself when my mom pulled me aside with tears in her eyes and said, “Brandon, save this family. You’re the only one that can.”

Since that moment, I haven’t been the same. I’ve felt like I was completely alone, fighting to make it through life. I wanted to believe I wasn’t alone, that God was for me, but everything said the contrary.

There’s a moment that describes my internal world perfectly.

We were standing in Nathan’s hospital room. People from the church had come to anoint him with oil and pray over him. As they began to pray, I stepped out of the room. Not because I thought it was garbage, but because all the verses on unbelief inhibiting healing blared in my head. I was believing and unbelieving all at once.

“Most cynics are really crushed romantics: they’ve been hurt, they’re sensitive, and their cynicism is a shell that’s protecting this tiny, dear part in them that’s still alive.” – Jeff Bridges.

Who I am today is incredibly cynical. I criticize worship songs, showing how they don’t exhibit true theology. I revolt flashy churches, calling them hypocritical, money-making business. I hide from prophets, fearing to be seen.

But underneath it all is a hopeless romantic wanting to believe again, to tear down the walls of cynicism to trust again.

And here I was, trapped in a desert, once again, with two people who were daring to trust God, to take a risk with that quiet voice, and I missed it. I missed the adventure, the life, the love, and destiny these two people displayed with such humility and grace. They weren’t pompous. They weren’t assuming. They were living the life they felt led to live, and it stained everything they touched with divinity.

The yearning was so fierce, I was at risk of burning. Shit, I was burning. Burning with a desire to see what was lost be found, to recover the broken and missing places in my shattered heart.

But how? How do I relinquish my cynicism when I’m so scared those tiny pieces of me could be swept away? Like doubting to protect what little belief I had left.

By the time Dura and I got time together, the apprehension had given way to desperation. I couldn’t keep living the way I was.

But instead of coming in like a passionate flame, Dura showed me patience. She asked questions. We rode bikes together in the late cool hours (cool meaning 90 degrees instead of 115). She invited me into her life and shared intimate secrets, as you would with a dear friend.

When the strike came, I was open and vulnerable. She’d jumped over my walls. Or maybe, I opened the gate, hoping someone would sneak in.

“Brandon,” Dura was sitting across the breakfast table from me. “While you were cooking in the kitchen, I saw a vision of you standing with your wife. She was petite and had dark brown hair. She was laughing at all your jokes. She understood you completely and cherished you.”

If I had not spent time with Dallas and Ariel, experiencing an unconditional love, if I had not spent time with Leah and Zay, witnessing a miracle, if I had not ridden on a boat with Becca and Jordan, exposed by direct questions, if I had not crashed on Emily and Christopher’s couch, delighting in their love, if I had not written this run-on sentence, I think I would have lashed out at Dura. I would have asked, “Why not a husband?! Why not a dear friend?! Why does it have to be a wife?!”

But something had happened to me. Something had changed by the time I came back to the desert.

A hopeful desperation.

And when Dura said those words, I didn’t get angry. I yearned for what she saw.

When you tune an instrument to other instruments, you play the notes together, adjusting till a wobble in the notes subsides. When the instruments are in tune, there’s a reverberation that lets you know, “this is right.”

I felt that when Dura shared her vision, and I was reminded of another time someone’s words rang true. It came from the least likely of places–my last boyfriend.

“Brandon,” We were lying next to each other. It was one of our final nights before he moved to Arizona. We decided from the beginning that we would break up once he left. Feeling a lot, neither of us talked much. We both knew what was ahead and knew how much this would hurt us. But he broke the silence. “We’re going to be okay. We both need this. I need to figure some things with Jesus, and you need to figure out if you’re gay or not convinced.”

Of all the people in the world to say those words, it was him. And when he did, my heart reverberated.

Now am I saying I’m straight. Yeah, no. I’m attracted to guys and dating a man offered a lot of things I’ve never experienced with a woman. I don’t think a straight person would say that.

But am I gay? If my own boyfriend was doubting, maybe there was something there. And maybe there was something in what Dura was seeing. Maybe there was something in me that had been clawing in desperation to survive on its own when there was something more beautiful on the other side of cynicism. Something that required trust.

I’m not saying that my story is right. I’m not saying that others are wrong. And I’m not saying that another narrative doesn’t require trust.

I think each of us with the burden of belonging to the LGBTQ rainbow all have our own journey to walk, navigating these queer questions, finding personal answers. But regardless of answers, I think all of our journies start with trust. Trust that God sees you and has a unique story for you. But I think mine looks a bit like Abraham.

The guy was old. His wife was old. They shouldn’t be producing kids. But they had a promise that they would. But when Abraham took things into his own hands, when he believed he was alone and had to figure this out on his own, he knocked up a slave girl.

Maybe this was the promise God spoke about! Maybe he messed up! It wasn’t meant to be Sarah! It was meant to be Hagar!

But God sent off Hagar and the child into the desert. He would not share the glory with Abraham. This was His miracle to conjure up. He didn’t want it to be manmade.

I think for a long time now, I’ve been trying to survive with things manmade of my own making. And in the process, I’ve hurt a lot of people, specifically those I love most. I wish I trusted. I wish I didn’t hide behind my walls of cynicism to preserve a broken faith. And for all the pain I’ve caused you, I’m so sorry. I wish I could take it back. I wish I could have loved you better. I’m sorry.

For my sake and those my life touches, I desperately hope I will learn to trust again, to invite God back into my life, to obey what He says. Not because I’m a slave like Hagar. God called Abraham a friend. Not a servant. And in Christ, I’m called a son who He cares about infinitely. I don’t know what the future holds. But I can’t keep treading water, drowning in my own strength. If only for pure desperation, something needs to change, something needs to give, and I think that something is faith.

To all those I who opened their house and hearts to me over the last few weeks, thank you. The little faith I have is due to you, due to your trust, and I’m eternally thankful.