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.

One thought on “Ugly Crying: A Story of Dogs with Chicken Bones in Their Throats

  1. Wow. That is a truly powerful story — and one so many people would resonate with. I know you’re tired and weary. That makes perfect sense given what you’ve gone through. But I love your heart and desire to lean into God despite all of that weariness. I don’t know what this will all look like for you, but one thing I do know: He will never leave you. Praying for you, friend, as you continue on this journey.

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