Dallas and Ariel are enlisted vegans, living on Sierra Vista’s Army base. In spite of Dallas’s wonderful squash-frying skills, I was starving… ALL THE TIME!!! Whether the lack of meat or the desert heat, I made more McDonald’s runs in those ten days than I had in a year, devouring with unadulterated delight multiple Big Macs and McFlurries.
Little fact about Arizona… it’s BOILING HOT in June! Also, in case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of desert. I HATE THE DESERT! You can ask my friend Rachel. One time, while we were driving through West Texas, I stared out the window with a melancholy slouch. Rachel inquired what was wrong. She was always concerned about the people she loved.
“I’m in a desert.” I sighed.
Rachel then went into a long monologue about how everyone experiences seasons of “dryness” in their relationship with God and how she had been in a “desert season” for some time.
I turned to her with hopeless eyes. “No! I’m literally in a desert. And I hate it!”
“Oh.” Rachel’s faced flushed with blood, her face now matching her red hair.
Like I said, I hate the desert. So why would I start this trip in the desert? Why go somewhere I hate.
Well first off, I had a free ticket. But second off, I knew I needed to be trapped to deal with some things. I had been running, and it’s pretty hard to run when you’ll melt just by stepping outside. And finally, more than free tickets, more than trapping myself, I knew there was life for me in the desert, and it didn’t come in the form of Oreo McFlurries, though that definitely made the desert more pleasant. It came in the form of faces.
My time in Arizona was so restful and refreshing. Having attractions to guys and being a Christian can be extremely exhausting. Nearly everyone wants you to be one or the other. But not the faces in these photos. They love me deeply and don’t pretend one piece of me exists while ignoring the other. The result was a deep sense of rest. I didn’t have to be something while restraining another. I was free to be all of me.
I was able worship then poke a lesbian couple about the nuances of same-gender dating. I was able to speak of Jesus and the long journey of dating my ex. I was able to laugh with my YWAM friend, Tyané, recounting our days abroad, followed by answering her questions related to my stress with gay sex.
Both were given space and honor. And the result was finally breathing unhindered.
Dallas joked they weren’t much of hosts. His favorite thing to do after work is to sit at his computer and study. But I think it was perfect. I had a lot of time just staring at myself, or running from myself in books and Netflix. But either way, I was allowed to just be. All of me. In wonderful air conditioning! And I’m eternally grateful for it. I felt so recharged.
Then came the drive back to Colorado…
Dallas and I had been laughing and talking, scheming about community, when a lull in the conversation occurred. Dallas asked if he could put on a preacher named Dan Mohler on.
I began to squirm internally, but put on a happy face and agreed.
Preachers scare me. I’m always nervous that at some point I’m gonna get sideswiped with some tirade about the abomination of homosexuality. The result is a anxiousness any time a sermon comes on.
I prepared my heart by raising defenses. I didn’t wanna get sideswiped by anger or some comment that would make me feel like crap. But that’s not what happened.
When Dan came to the stage, there was such life and love in his voice. My defenses slowly came down. I began to open myself up. Maybe I could trust this man.
After talking about the joys of Jesus, he continued on about life and death. If you’ve been around the church long enough, when you hear “life and death”, you can normally expect the preacher to roll into “Now choose! Life or death! Whom will you serve this day?!” As he slams his hand down on a King James Bible. And yes, it is a he. And yes it is a King James Bible. But that’s not what Dan spoke of. He spoke of life IN DEATH. How a death in him produced the greatest amount of life, a new life.
Something shook in me. He’d gotten through. I wanted that life, and can remember when I had it. Joy and freedom and expectation with Jesus. A question I had been scared to face floated to the surface—am I born again?
Before we could reach the Colorado border, I threw myself in the back seat and asked Dallas to put in headphones. I knew this wasn’t gonna be pretty and I didn’t want him to hear it.
I shoved my face into the floor to try and muffle my crying and praying. I was humbling myself for the first time in a long time. My back had become too rigid for kneeling or lying face first into a car’s carpet. I didn’t mean to become rigid. The last thing I wanted was to become hardened to God. But when Christians surprise attack you with fear for years on end, you get stiff. Like carrying too much weight for too long. It just happens. It’s a defense mechanism. How are you supposed to stay humble when everyone around you keeps telling you you’re wrong? It’s like lying down for a curb stomp.
But there in the back seat, I lied on the floor praying and crying. “God, I know there are areas of my heart that are hard. I raised defenses against everyone, including you, out of fear. But soften my heart. I’m open. If I’m not truly born again, tell me. I’ll get baptized again. I’ll do whatever. Just tell me.”
And there in matted, soggy, car carpet, I felt such peace, and it wasn’t a peace that was screaming “Get saved! Get born again!” Instead, it whispered “You are saved. You are born again. You’ve simply forgotten who you are.”
Something started that day. It was a tilling, a softening, and now my heart was ready for what came next.