Reneging on My Six… Maybe

A while back, I wrote I was a counter-phobic, sexual six. If you’re not an enneagram nerd like myself, no, I’m not having sex with six people.

In short, a sexual six is scared and presents courageous to prove to themself and others they’re able to beat anything.

I promise I’m getting to sappy, personal stuff like I normally do in a moment. But first I need a witty lead-in to reveal myself.

When I first heard of the enneagram, it was in passing by my friend, Taylor, like five years ago, before it was actually cool. He shared how a friend told him about it, and how it’s all about your deepest fears and wounds.

That got my attention, for reasons that’ll make more sense if you’re ARE an enneagram nerd like myself.

He shared how he was a two and how he loved to get love in return. He then shared how the test was a big deal for his friend because it revealed a deep secret: he believed he was inherently flawed and wanted to be rescued.

I was halfway paying attention, mainly because I can be selfish, and I didn’t really see how this was about me (sorry, Taylor). But when he talked about his friend, I remember thinking, “Other people feel like that too?”

His friend is a four.

Ever since I could remember, I’ve wanted to be rescued.

I’d run away to the end of the street when I was spanked, wishing someone would drive by and take me away. I’d walk the fence at school, hoping someone would see me and come to me. In middle school, we’d craft foam swords and fight each other. I was always the captured prince needing to be rescued. One time my friends even put me in a dog kennel as my prison. It felt oddly safe and right, as fucked up as that sounds.

By high school, I learned that wanting to be rescued as a guy wasn’t cool or manly, at least, that’s what Eldridge said. “Every man desires a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”

… uh… question: what if we want to be rescued? Never mind. I’m gonna sit back down.

Over the years, I stuffed down my desire to be rescued. I acted strong and independent. I’d sit on the side of the school, looking out at the other boys, hoping one would come talk to me and rescue me from my pain and loneliness. But if anyone asked if I was okay, I’d get angry and say I was fine. After all, boys don’t need to be rescued. I’m supposed to be doing the teaching. I’m supposed to be tough and strong, not needing anyone or caring about anything. An emotionless rock.

Or so I thought.

I’m not sure when I made the promise to myself or at what point I decided to go about this all differently, but somewhere along the way, I started moving towards things I feared to look like I could do more than handle myself. I could take on anything.

I signed up to do a missionary training program where you get kidnapped and have to kill a goat and get fake murdered. But that school got shut down (I wonder why), so I went to the next best thing: a Christian leadership academy built around the methodology of the military, equipped with its own hell week. We prided ourselves in “beating our body and making it our slave,” (yes, that’s a Bible verse) and “doing all things through Christ who strengthens me” (especially the hard stuff). After that, I ran a ministry by myself for three years, not having any clue what I was doing, but I was capable and the Lord would provide. Right? I flew across the world to Haiti and Germany and India with no friends or family, to show I could do the hard things. When that was done, I hitchhiked through Europe just because the idea terrified me.

Anything I could do to prove to myself that I didn’t need anyone to rescue me, I could save myself, I did.

But lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling helpless, that yearning to be rescued crawls to the surface.

In spite of all my endeavors to look strong and independent and prove I didn’t need anyone, this thing in my chest, this thing latched to my bones, this thing to be saved by someone else screams to be heard.

Through all the years, the thing I wanted more than anything in the world was for someone to not be fooled by all the bullshit I hide behind, all the fake courage, and to see the scared little boy that just wanted to be rescued. The boy who believes he’s irreparably broken and unworthy of anything except standing in the mud as it rains, alone. And yet, in spite of the belief that they’re not good enough, a yearning for someone to see me, take me in, and keep me warm.

I know this doesn’t sound manly. I know this looks weak. And that’s what probably scares me the most: I don’t want to show this piece of me because it feels so scary, so vulnerable. So much so that even as I’m typing these words, I’m thinking of people reaching out to me or calling me on it, and me pretending like it was just some emotional, midnight blog post. They shouldn’t think anything of it. Because if they do, I’ll feel infinitely exposed, and in the past, when I’ve been exposed, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been called too much or too sensitive, and eventually pushed away.

Lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling my helplessness and wanting someone to rescue me, I feel guilty. Guilty that I don’t turn to God and say, “You know what? You’ve saved me! You’ve rescued me from all my fears! Hallelujah!” (Insert hand wave and stopping foot.)

But lying here with a fever, unable to sleep, feeling my helplessness and wanting someone to rescue me, I hear God prompting me when I push down these truths. “Nope. Don’t hide that. Not from me. I see it. Say it. Say all of it. Every word that you’d rather me not know, every emotion that feels like betrayal, g it to me. Let me hear it.”

The fact is: He did save me. But that doesn’t change how I feel. That doesn’t change how much I’d rather a human rescue me, than Him. It doesn’t change the fact that it meant the world when I walked outside to “be alone” and a man came outside looking for me. It felt like a long-withheld inhale. It doesn’t change the fact that when I was in pain and reeling last week and yelling at a friend in a bar, trying to defend myself and stand my ground, that what I really wanted was someone to step between us and defend me.

That means so much. That matters so much.

When my friends know something was likely hard or they call me on my bullshit, I feel seen and known and like I matter. When my family says, “Oh! That makes sense!” in relation to my sexuality and the struggle I have as a gay Christian man, I feel known.

And that’s what I ultimately want: to be known, past my façade.

I try to be authentic, but I put it out there with this, “Yeah that’s me! Deal with it!” (as most fours do). I don’t present myself with a naked heart, laid bare and exposed to the world because that is risky. That’s scary as hell. Because what if someone attacks you and your vulnerability? Or worse, they don’t even see it and acknowledge it?

But how is someone supposed to be rescued if no one knows they need help?

I think what I’m learning, again and again, is that, in spite of me not feeling it, it’s in my vulnerability that God can prove Himself rescuer, and in doing so, make me genuinely strong.

That doesn’t change the fact that I desperately want a partner that can see past my bullshit, who can actually see me, who can be strong for me when I desperately yearn to be weak.

But even writing that here is vulnerability, and I’ve learned that that’s where God can work.

Final thing, and then I’ll shut up. I am CONVINCED that things would have been different if Adam and Eve would have stepped forward from their hiding when God called for them. But they hid. They covered their nakedness, their vulnerability.

God is the “I Am.” How is He supposed to step into communion, to show up as the “I Am” when we’re hiding.

He yearns for us to say, “Here I Am,” when He asks, “Where are you?”

Right here. In the wake of the consequences of my decisions. In the wake of me not trusting Your word. In the place where I believed a lie over Truth. This is where I am. Right here. Here I am.

It’s a millennia later, and He’s still asking the same question, and He’s looking for people who will remember we are made in His likeness.

The Great I Am asks us to align with who He is and say, “Here I Am.”

Here I am, God. All of me. Especially the icky, fucked up parts. The scared parts. The irreparably broken parts. The parts begging to be rescued.

Here I am. Save me.

Purpose and the Politician

I spent a few days in Texas. For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Christian leadership school called Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. Acquire the Fire and all that Jazz. In spite of the trauma that was our education, or rather because of it, I came out of there with some amazing friends and memories—one of whom was getting married. Thus the trip to Dallas, Texas.

But as I’m sitting there, watching my beautiful friend get married, surrounded by our old friends from school, I wonder, “Who will be at my wedding? Would any of these people come?”

The thought sent me to the car where I pounded back two hard ciders where a crazy man was walking the center of the street yelling at passerby’s, and I pretended to be talking to someone on my phone because the anxiety of friendless weddings was overshadowed the the anxiety of the stranger man coming at me for not giving him a cider. **Reads back over previous sentence, wondering if that’s actually a complete sentence, and pats back for one long-ass sentence.**

No one really talks about the cost of being gay these days. Which is great! Because there are happier things. There’s gay prom and lesbian marriages and trans-visibility day and surrogate mothers and adopted children.

We’ve come a long way… but it’s still hard.

It’s ended friendships; it’s parentless weddings; it’s no babies that you and your partner create; it’s reaching for your partner’s hand in public and wondering if people care, and it’s getting kicked out of churches and evangelical spaces, spaces you found a lot of purpose and belonging and passion…

I watched the Politician tonight. If you haven’t watched it, do it. It’s a stroke of genius. But as I’m watching, the main character, Payton Hobart, is depressed and hopeless while playing the piano in a local bar and it’s because he lost access to his passion. To deal with the loss, he killed any hope of returning to the very thing that gave him life: politics.

I’m not political. At least not like Payton. I’m not sure if anyone is as political as Payton. But to steal one of those annoying pages from those middle school grammar books: Payton is to politics as Brandon is to ministry.

Stressing to sell out an event. Staying up till four to set up a stadium. Kneeling in the snow as a fake Jesus in a skit you’ve done for the 200th time. Praying with a stranger. Holding a dying woman’s hand. Laughing and spooning friends you met three months ago, but you’d call them family. Talking with a kid over coffee about Jesus. Leading a congregation in worship.

All of it. I miss it.

When I came out, I felt as though I was disqualified from all of it. It was as though I was sacrificing all of these things related to ministry and family and friends for the sake of love, which is why I felt like my relationship needed to be perfect. If it wasn’t, why was I giving all of this up?

Watching Payton Hobart come alive while debating politics made me miss the things that make me come alive, the things I feel so disqualified from.

“My people perish for lack of vision.” It’s a verse… somewhere in the Bible. I could go look it up, but I’d rather keep writing.

I feel that. I feel a perishing or squandering in myself that yearns to wake up and feel and know it’s worth living, to know it’s doing something only it can do, a sense of purpose and destiny. I miss destiny. I miss believing every word and movement had intention, a kiss of the eternal, and not something passing and wasteful. I miss that.

I yearn for a kiss of destiny, to burn again.

How does one get fire back when life has thrown snow and rain on not only the embers but the wood and coal? How do we rekindle the flame?

I miss that Brandon. I want him back.

No Man’s Land

In Lady Montague’a “Turkish Embassy Letters” she describes a people group in South Eastern Europe, during the Ottoman Empire. They existed between Islamic nations and Christian nations. Out of fear, they kept both holy days, refusing to work on both Friday’s and Sunday’s.

I resonate with that—binding yourself to fear so intimately you live in two worlds instead of one, two realities instead of one, caught at a crossroad, committed to nothing, becoming a citizen to this space between countries: no man’s land.

———————

I’ve been depressed lately. About four weeks to be exact.

I’m not positive of the catalyst. What I do know is that I’ve been paralyzed by fear, watching as much Netflix as possible, so I can just not feel for the next x amount of episodes. (I’ve nearly watched all of Grace and Frankie, and finding a new show is really hard!)

The amount of nights committed to ice cream and television is abhorrent. I need to get homework done.

But it’s hard to live. If I’m being honest. It’s hard to live when it feels like an elephant is stepping on your chest. Makes it hard to breathe.

I came out 3.5 years ago, and if I’m honest, it hasn’t “gotten easier.” It’s gotten harder.

Being gay isn’t easy. There are some days I wish I never came out. Not because I want to hide the truth but because it doesn’t feel true most days.

Most days I deal with imposter syndrome, like someone gave me a script I’m not familiar with and I’m fumbling through the lines. I don’t get being gay. It doesn’t fit, like an oversized, hand-me-down sweater.

I can’t do the drag shows or the hyper sexuality or the open relationships or the club scene or the death after thirty or the gym-ing or the kinks or the sex on the first date or the need to be fashionable and interesting.

I don’t like any of it. It doesn’t fit.

But then I attend an old church and they feel like clothes that shrunk in the wash.

The with-every-head-bowed-and-every-eye-closed faith that doesn’t amount to anything, the come-Lord-Jesus-come’s when He said He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, the mini-money sermon before the plate passes, the every-one-is-welcome-but-not-really, the bless-you’s and shake-the-hand-of-the-person-next-to-you. I can’t take any more of it.

It’s like when I came out of the closet I looked behind the curtain of church and all the churches feel fake, the Bible feels like a weapon, and Christians feel like vacuum salesmen who are selling a product they don’t believe in but they’re terrified of not making their quota.

But I get it.

I’m terrified of Hell. I’m terrified of wasting my life. I’m terrified of being gay. I’m terrified of marrying a woman. I’m terrified of marrying a man. I’m terrified of being a father. I’m terrified of doing anything or believing anything.

I’m paralyzed.

So what do I do? I honor both days. I don’t do anything on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I’m exhausted. Like feel-it-in-my-bones exhausted. Like God-please-take-me-home exhausted.

In my cult school down in Texas, we did an activity where staff members pretended to be a hostile government while we students were persecuted Christians. The role-playing led to my friends being thrown in jail (a camp shower house). I was supposed to rush the door, but a man with an automatic paint-ball gun stood between me and the door. Instead of rushing him, smacking his gun away, and freeing my friends like some Christian McGiver, I slunk away.

That moment haunts me. It haunts me because it reminds me of what’s happening again and again: I’m to scared to throw myself at either country: gay or Christian, and you best believe people will tell you can’t have dual citizenship. Both countries are separated by a big Trump wall and missiles pointed at each other, just waiting for any excuse to jump on the other.

The two identities i carry within me are at war with each other, not just externally in the world around me, but inside me as well, and I don’t fit into either of them anymore, and I’m scared as hell in this no-man’s land.

I just want to be comfortable in my own skin, to know and believe who I am, who God is, and be unapologetic about it. But I can’t find a mirror or God, so I’m a bit fucked at the moment. So I’ll watch this really cool movie where a nerd falls in love with Arya with cancer, because I would rather feel that than feel this unresolved mess of confusion that is my life.

Netflix: your next episode starts in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

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. 6 – Redding, CA

Redding is special to me… and the why doesn’t really make sense.

When I lived there a few years back, people would ask me, “How do you like Redding?” My answer would always be a dodge. “Bethel is great!” (the church I was attending at the time). But somehow, this place that I had no affection for and continually visit when it’s triple digit heat, seems to recenter me. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s as if the skies clear, and I’m able to find my North Star after long years of fog.

When Janell and I got back, we crashed into bed as quickly as possible. The trip wrecked us. We had been in the car for well over 24 hours, and Janell had just made a drive from the East Coast.

In the morning, some old friends texted me, asking if I wanted to go with them to church. The service was in 20 minutes and I had just woken up (Like I said, I was tired!), and I had no car. The wife raced out of her way to pick me up so we could meet her husband at church.

Becca and Jordan have a literal going-out-of-the-way hospitality, and their friendship means a whole lot more than I give them credit for.

Becca is one of the few people that has remained in my life from my youth pastoring days. In fact, she was one of my volunteers. Whether due to fear or simply not knowing how to interact with me, most of the people from my church days faded away after I came out. But not Becca. Which is weird, because she probably has the most reason to. She lives in another state.

But right around the time I came out, she made a trek home. She just had a baby and wanted to be with family. In spite of the busy-ness, she asked me out for coffee.

Let’s pump the breaks here a second. For all you non-gay christians out there, you’re like, “Oh yay! Coffee! I love coffee! It’s the best just talking over coffee about Jesus and books and church and coffee! Yay coffee!”

When a gay-Christian hears, “Let’s get coffee”, we panic.

What are they gonna say? What questions are they gonna ask? Is this a surprise attack? Are they going to ask about my life and then, without transition, abruptly segue into talking about how God doesn’t approve of me? Or are they going to act like nothing has changed? Are they going to dodge the topic like the plague? Or worse yet, are they going to passive-aggressively talking about it, asking “Haven’t seen you at church in a while”?

We are always skeptical when someone asks us to coffee. It’s like there’s something in that black liquid that’s going to jump out at us. Instead, ask us out for rosé. We’ll think you wanna talk wedding plans. Plus, rosé is transparent. You can’t hide something in it.

All that said, I was a bit apprehensive. I hadn’t seen any of my volunteers or kids since coming out. Although the slow fade (as I mentioned in a previous post) was hard, it was also a relief–I didn’t have to deal with what those people thought. But not Becca. She reached out, and I’m so glad she did.

Right after sitting down, she went straight for the jugular. “How are you? How’s your boyfriend? How are you guys? How are people responding? How are you and Jesus?”

Note to reader: she did it good. She didn’t pretend I wasn’t in a relationship with a man. She honored it. She made space for it and treated it like a straight relationship. And she also wanted to genuinely know how I was doing. Not trying to fix me. Not hoping to point at pain as if to prove a point. She genuinely cared for my heart, and it meant the world.

Over the next hour (like I said, her schedule was full, so we packed in as much as we could), I gave up everything, crossing my fingers that she wouldn’t blow up on me. I shared how amazing my boyfriend’s love felt. I shared how scared I was about what God thought. I shared that a lot of people left me.

I. Spewed. It. All.

It’s like I needed to share with someone everything–not just the pretty side. Not just the ugly side. Both. And it felt so good, but also terrifying.

I put it all out there, and instead of redirecting with questions like I normally do to not wait in awkward and painful anticipation, I decided to sit in it. I let the anxiety of how she would respond sit in the air.

And then she spoke.

“Brandon, when you wrestle with someone, it’s an intimate act. It’s body on body. Sweat on sweat. Yes, it’s a struggle, and yes there is conflict. But you come away from the wrestling closer to the person than when you started. It just happens. You can’t be in that proximity and not become closer. Yes, you and God are wrestling, but it’s an intimate act, and He’s not leaving you. You’ll be closer after all this.”

To this day, I cherish those words. When life got shitty, and I had no clue what was up or down, I remembered Becca’s words. It gave me hope. And it was with those words in mind, that I went to church that morning. I could trust these people.

When we arrived at the Stirring, Jason Upton was leading. That was a mixture of emotions.

One–Jason Upton was one of the first worship leaders I ever listened to after I chose to trust Jesus back when I was 17. His lyrics were part of the birthing process of a new life.

Two–Jason Upton’s words are hella intense. Church can be hard enough, but he’s super prophetic, which is scary for a homo. Everything in me was saying, “Please don’t see me. Please don’t call me out. Please don’t hurt me.”

Three–Please see me, but please don’t hurt me.

To be honest, I don’t remember a ton of that sermon, but I do remember what happened in me.

A desperation was born. Apprehensions were thrown to the side. I wanted to be seen by God. I wanted to be heard by God. I didn’t want to be alone.

The one song I do remember that Jason sung was Not Alone. It’s about Martin Luther King Jr. while in his cell. In this dark and lonely place, God saw him, and God was with him. He never left him, in the midst of pain and struggle and heartbreak, God called out his name.

I felt a whisper to my heart.

“I never left. I’m right here. I’ll never leave you.”

Another thing about Jason is his heart of a father. He sees the heart of God for him in relationship to his kids. If his heart is overwhelmed by his kids, God’s must be bursting. If Jason would do anything for his kids, God would too.

Feeling that so deeply, I cried, “God, father me. It’s been a long time since I’ve asked for this. Humans keep fucking this up, but I’m asking you to father me again.” (Yes, I curse with God in my prayers. He hears it in my head anyway. Might as well put it out there.)

Leaving the service, I felt vulnerable, but renewed, like getting out of a hot tub in nothing but your birthday suit. You breathe cold air. It feels refreshing on your skin. You’re relaxed, but you’re also naked, and that can be scary. But I chose to stay present and still, sitting in the refreshing vulnerability.

I wanted to soak up as much Jesus juice as I could while in Redding, so I was planning on going to Bethel’s evening service. But something in my chest told me I’d miss the service.

“Wanna go out on Lake Shasta with us on our boat?” Becca asked.

I smiled. I guess I was gonna miss church.

There is something about Lake Shasta. Every time I go to Redding, Jordan and Becca take me out on their boat, and I miss church, and every time, it’s better than any worship song or sermon.

The last time I was on the lake, a peace just came over me in the water. God held me. It was so clear and so evident. But this time, he’d be like an arrow, shooting straight at my heart.

Jordan. Jordan is everything that Becca is not. Becca is this calming, gentle breeze that says, “I hear you. I’m hear. No pressure to be anything. I’ll just refresh you.” Jordan is like a fire. Or a rock. Or something not air.

While on the boat, Jordan asked some questions about where I was at. He said he was restraining, and I could feel it. He was seeking to understand and listen when his normal MO is to talk with passion (I’m thinking fire).

After listening and sitting with each other, he spoke with a zeal for my life that I hadn’t seen in a while, and to be frank, zeal scares me. The last time I saw zeal, two missionary friends spoke of the fires of hell for my soul. But Jordan didn’t speak of hell. He didn’t speak of “get back after Jesus”. He spoke of a living death. Instantly I was reminded of that sermon on the road from Arizona.

Jesus was after something.

“If I’m dead, I don’t have rights to demand things from my wife. I’m not looking for her to complete me. I’m dead. Jesus is alive, and Jesus doesn’t need anything from anyone. Dead people don’t get offended, either. As weird as it sounds, being dead insulates me from getting hurt. And there’s life there. Cause after all, if you lose you’re life, you find it. Right?”

Being really frank here, I still didn’t get it. It was as though God was knocking on a door, but I couldn’t find the handle. I had heard of life and death before, but it had become trite–words one says when they want you to stop behaving a certain way or guilt trip you for being bad. But I knew something was there for me, I just didn’t know what. It was scary and confusing. But my heart was in a different space now.

Before this conversation, I would have shut down. Something had happened over the past few weeks where I was now open. I wanted to hope again, wanted to trust again, wanted to live again, regardless of what that took. For so long, I had been living life as if I were trying to survive it, treading water in a raging sea. I was exhausted. But it hadn’t always been this way. I used to thrive in life. I used to carry a peace. Not this anxiety.

What happened? Was the key to stepping back into this life death? What did that even mean?

Something told me I would need to wait. It would come to me in time, and I didn’t need to force this. If God was truly after this for me, He would open up my heart when the time was right. Eventually I would find the handle. For now, I needed to trust, especially when a message came from an old Bible school friend.

Part. 5 – Portland, OR

“How do you feel about driving up the coast from San Francisco to Portland this week?”

You can’t ask that question to a lot of people. But I can ask it of Janell.

Janell and I met when I was a part of a community house–a special season of life that brought hope and life to my very cynical heart.

We’d read Narnia together. Janell would squeal in discomfort as I texted boys on her behalf. I’d obnoxiously barge into her room, flop on her bed, and beg for details from work. She and I worked at a detention center for youth. The stories were always full of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. Every. Time. It’s pretty horrible and lovely all at once. But it’s not surprising that Janell took this job. It’s what she does.

To this day, Janell steps out into the world the way I long to–with joy, abandon, faith, and love. She’s always in the midst of chaos. Burning Man. The Syrian Refuge Crisis. The Carr Fire. She’s been at them all, hoping to be an agent of hope, a calm in the storm.

It is this person I can ask to drive up the coast on a bohemian adventure with a yellow lab, all the blankets, and no money. And it was worth it! The trip was so gorgeous! Red woods towering above us. Jagged sea cliffs foaming to our left. Cute fishing towns scattered up the coast. It was just simple beauty, and it was so refreshing.

The other thing I love about Janell is that she’s a feeler like me. We can literally say, “Let’s turn left because my heart wants to. Let’s go into that fresh fish market by the bay because something speaks to me about it. Let’s not go all the way up to Astoria. Let’s cut over to Portland. There’s some uneasiness in my stomach.”

And yet, every adventure has it’s moments of discomfort or pain or risk. Otherwise, it’s not an adventure. It’s vacation.

One such moment was a lack of housing in Portland. I had messaged a ton of people, some of which I barely knew. Nothing. And did I mention we didn’t have money? Oh, and did I mention Janell had just spent days traveling in her car from the East Coast?

The culmination of all those factors led Janell and I to a Home Depot. We were searching for campsites, but Janell needed to use the bathroom.

“Brandon. I’m not going into Home Depot to use the bathroom.”

“Why not? They have one, and we’re here. No one will care.”

“Are you kidding me right now? No. It’s Home Depot. They’re not public bathrooms. Brandon, go find us a gas station.”

While I found us a gas station, Janell searched the internet for “safe rest stop Portland Oregon”. We had finally given up due to pure exhaustion and lack of options.

In the end, Janell, her puppy named Gypsy (very applicable), and I sprawled out in the back of Janell’s Jeep Compass, parked next to a few homeless. And here’s the weird part–I felt… at home… and a cramp, but that’s besides the point. The point was that something from my past was reaching out to me.

My life is filled with many moments trying to “prove” something for Jesus. Do something hard for Jesus. Something you don’t like for Jesus. That though process always led me to do things that I believed were uncomfortable or straight up hated.

Sleeping on a tile floor for two months in Mumbai, India. Spooning with roommates in a school bus across country to keep warm. Inching as close to the fire in the Colorado mountains with nothing but a jogging outfit.

All of these moments were some of the most uncomfortable moments I’ve ever had, and yet I felt the most alive. Not because of the pain, although pain does have a way of saying, “Hey, you’re awake!” But because of the beauty surrounding you in those moments.

You’re going after something that’s worth more than what you lose. Cause what you’re giving up is cheap. You’re living for something beyond yourself. Whether that’s loving people or living an adventure or hopefully both, it’s worth the lack of comfort. And as weird as it sounds, I was missing the discomfort. I was nostalgia for purpose and adventure, but I had insulated myself from experiencing both.

Comfort has a way of robbing us of the very thing we actually want, and yet we cling to it so fiercely. I don’t understand why we do it, and yet understand it completely, as I do it every day. It’s as though fear causes us to cling to cheap and easy things. But that night sleeping with Gypsy, Janell, and all the other vagrants I was reminded that there’s more to life than a house, a bed, a decent job… security. I wanted more.

But all those thoughts and feelings will have to wait. I had a friend to meet.

The following morning, Janell and I were pleasantly surprised. An old friend named Sophie met us up for coffee. And let me just tell you, Sophie embodies some of the most beautiful things this world has to offer.

Hours passed as we laughed with complete authenticity. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but the years we missed poured forth with abandon. I could be fully me, nothing hidden. It was like my soul was drinking fresh mountain water. I couldn’t get enough, and apparently, neither could she, because we spent the entire day together. Which is huge. Normally, after an hour or two, I’m thinking about how many more fake poops I have to take to make it through the rest of the time with someone. It’s not that I hate people. In fact, I really deeply care. But that care exhausts me and I get tired of presenting to meet someone where they’re at.

But not Sophie. It was so naturally easy, and I loved it.

We talked about sex. We talked about church. We talked about exes.

We went not thrift shopping. Why? Because we all love grungy, trendy, cheap clothing. But the thrift stores in Portland aren’t cheap. So we bought nothing. We went to Powell’s to not purchase books. Instead, we walked around just looking at books. Maybe it’s the smell. But again, we bought nothing. We just gave ourselves points for being in a bookstore. But then again, maybe we didn’t buy books or thrift clothing because we were just straight up broke. But trendy vegan food. You always have money for trendy vegan food. So we got some.

By the time our time was up, I didn’t want to leave. We had crammed Oregon cliffs, California redwoods, and Portland coffee all into a 36-hour trip. It wasn’t enough time. Too much good stuff! Especially the good people, because ultimately, that was the highlight of this trip, and that has always been the case for me. I can be in the middle of the desert and be as happy as a clam (Why do we say that, and why are clams happy?). I know for sure, because I did it. But regardless of feeling like I didn’t get enough time, time was up. We had to get to Redding.

Incongruents (yes, plural)

Warning: Pretty language not utilized

It’s been an odd few months. The nail in the coffin of my last relationship was hammered in four to five times. I’ve hooked up with about eight strangers. I’ve lied awake in someone else’s bed, wishing I was in my bed, trying to remember what the guys name was, asking, “Why the fuck I’m here again? I was in pajamas an hour ago!”

I hate hooking up. I do it any way.

I hate gay sex. I do it any way.

People will say it’s because of my internalized homophobia. That I would enjoy it if I’d let go of my socially constructed morality. If I’d just relax.

But as I lie in bed next to this chiseled military body (because, honestly, it’s just a body to me), I think of a woman.

I think of holding a woman. I think of kissing a woman. I think of listening to steady breathing as I play with her hair. I think of pulling her in close, and both of us holding so tight our lungs begin to collapse, but we love the breathlessness that is each other, and then we laugh because we’re ridiculous.

I think of kids.

I think of them running around with cute curly hair bobbing up and down as they belly laugh past me. Why they have curly hair? I have no clue. I don’t have curly hair. Maybe that’s what I think is cute. Or maybe I subconsciously wanna marry a woman with luscious wavy hair that our kids will get.

All the curls. All the laughs. We’ll chase them in over size sweaters and cozy up on a big couch with our obnoxiously large mugs cause that’s what the cute Instagram couples do, and that’s reality.

I think of marriage.

I think of family.

And yet I’m sleeping with some dude named Tyler I just met.

The two are not congruent, and it makes me crazy.

I think at some point I was using masculine sex to meet deep places in my heart. Young places. But now I think it’s just out of habit. It’s easier. Like eating fast food because it’s just easier. AAAAND not always having to buy the food is pretty great. And getting pursued. That’s way great! I love being chased and pursued. The fact that women get that is bullshit.

Women. Chase your men. Men. Don’t be too much of a tool to not like it. You know you do. You also like being the little spoon sometimes. Quit pretending.

Calm thy tits, Brandon, and get off the soapbox.

I guess what I’m getting at is that if we always give in to what we want now, it’s very possible that we’re robbing our future.

I’m not in denial of my attractions. I’m not gonna try and explain them away with some psycho babble that sounds smart. I’m sure there’s probably some reason why I’m attracted to men. But that doesn’t change my reality.

I think my reality changes when I trust God with the now with tomorrow in mind. With His promises in mind.

A dear friend shared a sermon on faith, and how it’s rooted in believing in a promise.

To be honest, I never got promised a man. In fact, when I think of younger Brandon, I never dreamed of having a husband.

I have friends who dreamed of marrying the same sex and they have embarked on that journey with God, believing Him to bring those dreams to fruition. I live that! It’s great!

But that’s not me. I didn’t dream of a future with a man. I never romanticized them. I sexualized them. There’s a big difference. I know, shocker. And that difference has created a massive conflict.

I’m attracted to men. But I hate engaging in gay sex. I don’t find pleasure in it.

I dream of a future with a woman, and sex with a woman actually sounds pretty damn great. But I’m so scared I’ll hurt someone.

And I know God has called me to be a dad. You don’t get babies with two daddies. You get them with a mommy and a daddy. Sex 101.

These dreams and realities are all over the place and are not compatible.

But maybe that’s the promise I hold onto. Maybe that’s the crazy Abraham promise I get. Not that I’m an old fart called to have sex with a barren woman. But that I’m attracted to men, that I’m by definition gay. But that there’s hope for me with a woman. That it’s possible, because I actually do want that. And that may sound absurd. But it happened with my friend Leah, and her story is one that awakens hope and faith and love. The eternal things. And she inspires me to trust God again. So maybe it’s not all that absurd after all. Maybe it’s miraculous.

So here’s to blabbering about nothing and everything, to not getting closer to an answer, but trusting God with the incongruents, and the obtuse and peculiar. He’s pretty great with them.

Chapter 3 | Conflict Resolution

Chapter Three-Conflict Resolution

“Is homosexuality a sin? Does God hate me? Am I going to Hell because I’m a homosexual?”

If the question of where homosexuality comes from is not enough, we have to unpack the question, that probably gives rise to the question of origin in the first place. After all, if we are born this way, then God cannot be angry with us, right? He made me this way! If He did, then I am not to blame for these feelings.

But we are not born this way. The reason someone has same-gender attraction is nurture, not nature. But now comes the question—what does God think about homosexuality, and how do we respond? Or, if you do not believe in God, should people be homosexual?

If we take God out of the picture, and we look at the issue of homosexuality completely from an evolutionary perspective, homosexuality makes absolutely no sense. The preface of Darwinism is survival of the fittest. Part of fitness is the ability of producing healthy offspring. That is absolutely impossible within a homosexual relationship. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get a baby from two “mommies;” cannot get a child from two “daddies.” Through the lens of evolution, homosexuality should be completely outlawed. It is a threat to our species.

But I am not an atheist, and I do believe in God. So what does God think about “homosexuals?”

To answer that question, I ask another. What does God think of liars and murders, of adulterers and gluttons, of fornicators and the proud, of God-haters and promise breakers?

It is all the same.

In chapter two, I spoke of all sin as symptoms to a deeper issue—we are all broken inside; our hearts are in need of mending. The reason we lie, cheat, steal, murder or slander is because of one thing—a broken soul.

So the real question at hand is what is God’s reaction to our brokenness?

I am going to be speaking about the Christian God, expressed through Jesus. Although you may consider God to belong to a different religion, Jesus is the one I am most familiar with, and the one I have “wrestled out” my same-gender attraction with.

“As he (Jesus) was speaking, the teachers of the religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. ‘And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’” (John 8 NLT)

According to Christian beliefs, Jesus was and is the only human without sin. He was the perfect man. When Jesus says, “He without sin throw the first stone,” he knew he was the only one who could initiate “justice” on the adulterer, and it was Jewish justice to stone her. According to their law, all adulterers were to be stoned. Jesus as a man after “holiness” should have picked up the stone and throw it as hard as he could, but the stone never left the dust. Instead, he showed mercy, because he knew the reasons this woman was running from man to man was because her heart was in desperate need of love, and he gave it freely.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17 ESV)

Jesus is the only one with “credentials” to execute justice, but he never does. Instead, he showed love; he showed mercy.

In another portion of scripture Jesus says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (Luke 5:31-32 NLT)

Throughout Jesus ministry he hung out with the “worst of the worst,” while the religious sneered and mocked.

We, Christians, claim to be followers of Jesus, but what would be your reaction if our kids threw a party at the house, and they invited prostitutes, drag-queens and divorcées (the “worst of the worst”)? Would we welcome them?

I once sat in a church service where the pastor was speaking of repentance (a very inaccurate view of repentance). Here were some of his words, “People don’t want to be held accountable anymore; people don’t want pastors to get mad at their sin. I have heard people complain that the church isn’t welcoming and open enough. That it’s judgmental and hypocritical. If you want to be welcomed, if you want an “open” environment, go to a bar. I don’t have time for your lack of repentance.”

How does that make someone feel who is in desperate need of love—the true healing nard, able to transform our broken souls?

The church expects people to simply “get their act together,” to repent of our sin because Jesus died for us. While growing up, the church was not a place I went to feel loved. I went because I felt like I needed to in order to be a “good person,” whatever that means. Between that and a Christian school, I felt like I was “the worst of the worst, the dirtiest of sinners.”

But when I look at Jesus’s life, the people who were drawn to this man were “the worst of the worst, the dirtiest of sinners.” If the church really is composed of his followers, why do we not have the same crowd? Instead, this is what we look like.

Many of us have abandoned unconditional love, and as a result, we have turned to moral management. Here in lies a fatal flaw, and a fact is quickly discovered—none of us can manage our darkness. But instead of pouring forth love, instead of speaking belonging and holiness found in “Christ Alone”, we have manufactured a moral scale with slander and pride at the bottom and homosexuality and divorcees at the top.

A wise woman I know gave the best advice to an abused wife. The woman came in with tears and bruises, looking for answers. She confessed to this wise woman that her husband was hitting and screaming at her on a continual basis. She wanted to do the right thing, and every time she went to the church, the elders counseled her to “just keep praying.” Do you know how that elderly woman counseled her? “Kill him. The church will eventually forgive you for murder and if you find Jesus in jail, but they will never let you live down a divorce.”

It is so sad, but true.

In order to cope with our humanity, we have made the more “severe sinners” feel isolated and alone, in order to put pins on our shoulders and lift a dignified nose. A pathetic cause. We are supposed to agents of love. If the pastor were to give me that same ultimatum—religious piety or the “welcoming” bar, I would pick the bar. We long for a sense of home, even if it is found at the bottom of a glass.

Jesus was the reality of home. Why do you think so many literally left their literal homes? Because he embodied a “hearty welcome”—so much better than a roof and walls. People long to belong; they long to be cherished, and they found it in a vagabond.

At the moment of his death, Jesus uttered those immortalized words, “It is finished.” What work had he completed? At the very second those words left his lips, a curtain in the temple of Yahweh, a symbol of the eternal separation between God and man, was ripped in two. Coincidence? I think not. The work that Jesus came to accomplish was to reunite the parted Creator with His beloved creation, through cleansing any stain that would separate us. In one moment came the justification of man and victory over sin through the thunder of agape.

I have a bold claim to make. It is broad, regarding the issue of morality as a whole, but it applies to the topic at hand, namely homosexuality.

When Jesus died and resurrected, the whole world was redeemed, the whole world was reborn. Sin was conquered; death was defeated. Everyone was “saved,” that term so often mentioned within the church. We were all made something new that day, the only difference between a “Christian” and an “unbeliever” is just that—belief.

Because of Jesus, I can look at everyone and say, “You are holy; you are blameless; you are something new.” It is a reality, which was initiated at the cross.

Baptism is agreeing with that fact. I am no longer what I used to be. In the words found in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Everyone has been put on equal ground at the cross. That is probably why it is always referred to in the Old Testament as “leveling of hills, and lifting up of valleys.” We all stand on equal ground, and it is the unconditional love of Jesus. There is no moral hierarchy.

Now back to the issue at hand. So what does this mean about homosexuality? Is a homosexual going to hell?

I have not gone to either Heaven or Hell, so I cannot tell you first hand, but based off of what I find in the Bible, entrance into Heaven is based solely on faith, on trusting entirely in what Jesus has accomplished with those words. Our “merit” is based entirely on belief. Period.

It is bigoted and absurd to hold up signs saying, “God hates fags!” “Those queers are going to hell!” The God who had the right to condemn chose not to. What right do any of us have in judging others? It is complete ludicrously to deem oneself worthy of determining other’s destiny in eternity. To accuse others is joining the chorus of that age old Enemy Christians have deemed “Satan.” By condemning ally yourself with the King of Lies when raising accusations.

Christ did not come to condemn, but to save.

This all bring us back to yet the question—should people be homosexual?

Now my answer. I do not believe God’s best plan for an individual is a homosexual lifestyle.

At the age of seventeen, when God came all too much like Morpheus, He did not say, “Pick me, or go to Hell.” He said He loved me no matter what, but He said I had to choose to either trust Him or trust my homosexuality. If I chose to trust Him, He promised me a “full life,” but if I chose homosexuality, He let me know it would not satisfy.

Either way He loved me, either way the blood of Jesus was for me, not by merit, but faith. But my decision that night would determine my satisfaction in life. God was letting me know homosexuality would not satisfy the crying broken pieces of my heart.

My soul had created a counterfeit—mirage—when deep down, the greatest need my heart had, was for someone to open the door, to let me in and belong. My heart thirsted for intimacy, for home, and I believed I could find it in a homosexual relationship.

In recent news, Tom Daley, a British Olympic diver “came out” via YouTube. In his very personal confession, he said “I’ve met someone, someone that makes me feel safe, and that someone happens to be a guy.” Of all the words Tom could have picked, he picked safe. Why? We are in a quest for home, and our souls are desperately searching for belonging, for safety, for purpose, for love.

“My people have abandoned the fountain of living water and hewed out cisterns for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13 ESV)

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38 ESV)

As shared before, when God asked me who to trust, I told Him I could not follow Him, I could not live right. His response was to just to get to know Him and He would take care of the rest. As I became intimate with Christ, thirsts of my soul were satisfied. The rivers of unconditional love transformed my life. It was not until I became a pastor, adding conditions and requirements to my relationship with God that I began to have thoughts of same-gender attraction.

My question to you, if you find yourself in a homosexual lifestyle, is not, “Don’t you think you should change?” Nor is it “Do you think it’s wrong?” My only question is: are you truly satisfied? Are the longings of your heart met?

I had a roommate once. Growing up he had same-gender attractions. When his mom and step-dad found out, they put him into the foster care system, where he was adopted by another family who said, “Live however you want to live. You were born this way.” Throughout high school my roommate had multiple boyfriends, and continued to have multiple men in his life on into his young adult years.

Then one day an old friend from a mission trip years ago (this was before my roommate’s family kicked him out) reconnected with him. My roommate was very blunt about his current lifestyle. In response, the old friend, after a few moments of silence, asked my roommate one simple question—are you satisfied?

Are you satisfied with homosexuality?

Statistics show heterosexual relationships last much longer than homosexual relationships. Fidelity, although decreasing overall, is startlingly higher in heterosexual relationships vs homosexual relationships. During the time of my life, while I trying to pursue a homosexual relationship, the amount of men I encountered who were in pursuit of relationship number twenty blew me away.

Yes, there are accounts of life-long homosexual partners, the amounts are incredibly low. To me this promise of satisfaction within a homosexual relationship seems all too elusive.

But the facts do not matter. This is about you the reader. If you are currently in or pursuing a homosexual lifestyle, are you satisfied? Or are you left wanting?

Below you will find three letters. It is my heart that through these letters, change can occur. We cannot keep pretending that or opinions on this matter do not matter. They do. Whether you consider yourself to be a “less than please” homosexual or simply someone who wants to be a part of a movement, ushering in the healing of an all-too-abusive topic, I encourage you to read on.

 

To those who are caught up in same-gender attraction…

I want to start by saying, “You are beloved. You are precious. There is a God, and He is not mad at you. In fact, He cannot stop thinking about you. If you are a guy, you are a manly man. You exude masculinity! The amount of testosterone pulsing through your behemoth veins bewilders me! You are handsome, strong and all together manly. To you women, you are gorgeous! You have captivated the heart of your Eternal Papa. You are His beloved daughter of grace and beauty. The amount of femininity pulsating from your body is overwhelming! You are a beautiful womanly woman, and you have ravished His heart.”

Whether you are tired of continuing in your endless chase of same-sex romance or you are not even sure what you want, I want to emphasize that this is a God of love, and He wants to know you—with or without your attractions. Just get to know Him as you are. Take a leap of faith.

Begin there.

After that, if you begin to decide that the homosexual lifestyle is not for you, a choice must be made—a choice to believe that what Jesus did actually did change you; that you truly are a new creation; that you are made in His image; that you are 100% heterosexual. To those of you who are women, you are 100% woman. You must believe you do not fall short any longer. You must not forgo your birthright. You are woman, look at you roar. To those of you men out there, you are 100% man. You are strong and capable. You do belong to your gender. You are not different. You are not alone. We all struggle, and despite the doubts, despite any uncertainty, even in the wake of committing a homosexual act, you must choose to believe you are something new.

But you cannot do this alone. In fact, life, despite the state of it, is not meant to be done alone. Some of my deepest moments of healing in my life came from taking a leap of faith, and inviting someone into my story, to have them fight for me, to bleed with me.

If you have not told someone about your same-gender attraction, it is time to do so. You cannot remain alone any longer. You may be terrified; you may lose sleep just thinking about how someone will respond? Welcome to the club. I had some of the worst reactions when I shared I had attractions to other men. But I also experienced the deepest moments of love. It is a gamble, but it is worth it.

How are you allowing the unconditional love of God to penetrate your heart, if you are unwilling to acknowledge where you currently are. Regardless of your present state, it is time to invite not only God, but others into who you are now.

Life is not about the destination; it is not about “arriving.” It is about the journey. Life is a never-ending, eternal journey, and cannot be traversed alone.

I know the number one thing that will hinder you is shame. “Christians” and even culture has done a really good job of making same-gender attraction something to be shameful of, that it is something special, the exception. Shame will rob you, rob you of the love God has for you.

One time, after looking at homosexual pornography, I felt so dirty and shameful. Tears streamed down my face as I exclaimed to God, “I’m so sorry.” But I was quickly silenced.

There in my brokenness I heard God say, “Quit robbing the cross with your tears. Get up off the ground, and just start thanking me for the death of Jesus. It was enough. I don’t need your tears.” I got up, wiped my face, and simply began to thank Jesus. He really is enough. Then God asked me, “Who do I say you are?” Holy. Blameless. Loved. A man.

Who does God say you are?

Throughout the years, as I have simply trusted that what Jesus did was enough, as I surrendered to God’s furious love, the cracks and scars of this bleeding soul become whole. My restless searching comes to a conclusion. He told me, “If you will just get to know me, I’ll take care of the rest.” He did not lie. Stop worrying about “your sin.” He took care of it.

You know what is crazy? God is not intimidated, surprised or scared of your mistakes. If fact, you see, “Crap! I messed up again!” He says, “Yes! One mess-up down! Only five more to go!” He sees the whole picture; He sees your journey, and He does not abandon you in your sin. In fact, He has brought immense healing through some of the “darkest” of moments.

One time, while I was masturbating, I heard an abnormal statement from God. “Alright, Brandon, if you are going to do this, we are going to not imagine guys. We are going to imagine this moment is happening with your wife. Imagine the amazing sex and intimacy you two can share void of shame or fear, serving each other in your ‘obedience’ to that first command I gave.” And instead of masturbating to homosexual fantasies, another fantasy was formed—a foretaste of what it will be like in marriage, and I loved it!

You may disagree thought, claiming it was not God talking to me in that moment. Well please tell me who it was, because it brought so much freedom, healing and hope. I would like to thank them.

As Christian men, our favorite “small group” conversation is about this “M Word.” Masturbation is really awkward to say as a “good Christian boy,” so we come up with code words—“riding the bike,” “choking the chicken,” “going on a date with Jane Hancock.” The list is endless, and we, Christian guys, make it our life’s goal to “defeat this awful sin.” For something we talk about a lot, you would think that the Bible does too. But in fact, the Bible does not talk about it… at all. Literally there is not one single verse on masturbation. For something we put a lot of effort and attention into, there seems to be a lack of attention on it from God. It could be He cares a lot more about other things, the things He did talk a lot about like love, servitude, money, marriage, evangelism. Just a thought.

In chapter two I briefly mentioned conditioning. This speaks of how your actions dictate your brain’s hormonal arousal. Basically, “If you masturbate to bridges, you’ll be aroused by bridges.” If you have continually trained your hormones to be aroused by the same gender, no matter how hard you “wish away those feelings,” your hormones are going to start firing when you see “dem bridges.”

We are a whole person. In Christianity we like to only talk about the spiritual, and maybe venture into the emotional. It is time to invite Jesus into not only your “spiritual,” “mental” or “emotional life, but also your physical life. Instead of praying all the time, why not exercise or eat right? “Oh no, those are physical things. They don’t matter to Jesus.” Beg to differ. He is interested in all of you, including your hormones.

I do not know what that looks like to you. I am not necessarily advocating masturbating to straight porn to change your “gay thoughts.” I am just saying you should ask God how He would like to transform those areas of your life.

Multiple times, while Jesus was on the earth, He healed people. Broken legs. Blind eyes. Leprosy. Sometimes, Jesus simply spoke a word and the healing came. Other times, Jesus said, “Get up!” or he put mud in eye balls. What I am trying to say is, faith without action is not really faith. Sometimes God in His love asks us to take a leap, and actually do something. Ask Him what “steps of faith” He has in store for you.

 

To those who have not had to wrestle with same-gender attractions, but desire to make a change…

Stop agreeing with the Devil. He is the accuser; He is the liar. Stop joining his chorus of mockery.

When you see a guy who flips his wrists or wears too many colors, believe truth about him—he is heterosexual, he is altogether manly. If you see a woman with a low voice and a short haircut, believe the truth about her—she is the straightest of the strait.

This homosexual witch-hunt needs to end, and it is completely disarmed if we all simply begin to give people the benefit of the doubt. Do not even wonder if they “struggle with their gender,” especially with our ridiculous “Christianese.” “Oh, you can just tell that she wrestles with her identity.” “Oh that guy? Yeah, he has a father wound for sure.” “You can tell they need some ‘healing.’”

Stop it! Do not even suspect that someone has same-gender attraction. As said before, homophobia is destroying so many lives. Through it, people have been ostracized and labeled falsely. It actually is an engine of depriving love of people who need it most.

Guys, enough of the strategic urinal positioning, the labeling of everything “feminine” as “gay” and “queer,” the endless amounts of time in the mirror to ensure you do not look like your trying too hard, because that would be “gay.” The endless testosterone competitions are destroying people. If you got the massive biceps, the deep voice or the “hot” girlfriend—the list of supercilious qualifications of masculinity, you feel great and accomplished. But what about the guy who falls short? As we have these purposeless competitions, the “losers” feel like they do not belong, that they are not as manly as you are, that they are lesser of a man.

It is time to celebrate the “other side of the coin” concerning femininity and masculinity. Stop viewing determined, tough women as masculine, therefore a “lesser woman.” Do not consider a sensitive, artistic guy a 65% man. Rejoice in the gender diversity; believe everyone around you is straight, because they really are.

But what if a friend of yours does tell you they have same-gender attractions? What if your son or daughter comes to you in confidence with a “dark confession?” How do you respond?

The number one thing you can do to help bring healing to their soul is to not overreact. Say you love them, that you are there for them, and for crying out loud hug them. Let them know that you are honored they felt safe enough around you to tell. After that, tell them they are a manly dude, a “sexy lady.” Speak into who they truly are. Call the woman or man out of them. But also let them know that they are not alone. You can even share this blog with them. One of the biggest reliefs to someone having same-gender attractions is to talk to someone who can relate, but it is also healthy to talk to someone who does not relate. They need you. They need to know they belong to their gender. They need to know you approve of them. Do not run away.

If you are both of the consensus that homosexuality is a sin, remind them that it is just as “sinful” as lying cheating. Remind them it is not the “worst of the worst sin.” Then remind them that regardless, it is all taken care of in Jesus.

When living in a dormitory setting, set in the ridiculously humid and hot state of Texas, we had communal showers. Every night, there was this “man’s man” that would look over at me while I brushed my teeth. “Brandon, you are a beautiful man of God.” As ridiculously as that sounds, it spoke volumes to my heart.

Another time, while working on a draft of this book, I shared with a good friend my story with same-gender attraction. “Really?” He responded. “You’re one of the manliest men I know.” Again, the healing elixir flowed.

Agape love flows freely from the heart of God. It truly heals and restores. We are not God. We are humans, and faithful to our nature, we fail often. However, we are called “to be God’s hands and feet,” to “be His ambassadors of reconciliation.” Although our love is not perfect, although it does not compare to that of the Holy One, we can give people a foretaste of Heaven, we can reflect, if but dimly, the light of the Son.

 

To the institution called to be God’s hospital, not the ballroom of perfectly painted faces…

It is time to be real. It is time to be honest. None of us are perfect, and it might be good for the congregation to know that we are all equally human… especially the pastor.

In the church, due to our ludicrous moral scale, we have resurrected the ancient order of priests—men devoted to holiness and the things of God. This is foolishness. The man on the pulpit is just as human as you are. Why do we lift them on high moral pedestals, only to fall from devastating heights? It creates a rift in the transcendent family, allowing us mere congregants to behave as absurdly as we want, while expecting perfection from the man not sitting in a pew.

We need to all be honest, and we need to talk about the taboo things. I am not saying the “homo” word needs to be uttered in every nursery classroom. But sex needs to be talked about in a positive light, starting in middle school. The church wants to produce “heterosexual” boys and girls, then teaches them that sex is bad, and to avoid the opposite sex. No wonder lots of kids struggle with same-gender attraction in the church; they have been trained to despise the opposite sex.

Not talking about the “s” word will not make hormones disappear. They are going to talk about sex. Would you like them to talk about it in church, with someone who is all to infatuated with the subject, or worse, force them to experiment with themselves and other peers because they are clueless yet curious about their bodies?

We also need to talk about homosexuality in the church. If same-gender attraction is never addressed as a “normal” sin, kids growing up in the church who struggle with it feel completely isolated and alone. In their minds, they are the only ones, and no one will understand. But when homosexuality is thrown into any other list of sins, just like the Bible does (a lot of times we list these verses on homosexuality when “debating” with someone, but we forget that in the same sentence it references liars, fornicators, immoral, gluttons, prideful, murderers… it is all the same), then homosexuality is just another form of depravity, equally bad as the any other sin.

We have to destroy the lie that homosexuality is the worst sin. It will destroy the lives of those who wrestle with attractions to the same sex.

Above all, the church needs to be restored to its original purpose—a hospital for the broken. If we will make Christ’s number one commandment, “to love as he loved,” I believe people will have faith in her, the church, once again.

When I came back from the mission field, I was so disillusioned with the church. While lying under a willow tree of Geneva, I confessed to my friend, “I’m tired of the posers.” I have heard enough sermons for a lifetime; I have sung enough songs for eternity. What I want more than anything is love that does, authenticity and proof of Christ’s power.

I would rather go to a church that the man on stage is a babbling idiot, but opens his home to anyone in need, than the most eloquent of philosophers. I would rather travel with a vagabond who trusts Jesus daily for his food and water, than a plush pastor, whose number one concern for Sunday is how good he looks in his three-piece suit or his graphic tee. I would rather study the Bible with a man whose life has transformed and whose prayers are answered, than any learned scholar.

But more than “proof in the pudding,” I am simply tired of everyone pretending to be perfect. The painted faces, dancing the dirge of religious rhetoric is repulsive. The brokenness is what gives us hope, not the morally upright.

The most glorious characters of scripture are David and Peter—two characters notorious for messing up big time. One was a murderer and adulterer, while the other abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. It was not their zeal that mesmerized us, it was not their scholarly advice, it was their failure and restoration that gave us hope.

Let us be honest with ourselves and with others and stop pretending. Let us take of the masks and live true lives, understanding that we have not “arrived.” We are all trying to figure this out one step at a time.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:36 ESV)

Do we believe it? Then let us prove it.

 

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So, where does this leave us?

I have come to all I need to say, and yet I feel there yet needs to be more. Maybe there does…

I think that one thing that has continued to come forth through this book is where am I in all of this? In fact a student, who I used to pastor, texted me a somewhat sobering question, “Brandon, does this mean you are coming out?”

If coming out means coming out of shame, of being honest with myself and others? Then yes. I am coming out.

But if coming out means confessing I am a homosexual, then no. I am not “coming out.” Well then what am I? In the words of a dear friend of mine, “I’m human.” Period.

In this life I just hope to love. I know that is simple and maybe cliché, but I have found that the number one thing that has transformed my life is love. I want to do that.

You may ask, “What was I hoping to accomplish with this blog, book, thing?”

For me, this book was a line in the sand. For too long, I have wrestled and fought about this whole issue of “homosexuality,” and I felt shame about sharing me full “testimony,” of being honest with myself and where I came from.

“For we will overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.”

Less than a month ago God walked me through a deep revelation—I need to be thankful for every portion of my life, for every piece of my story, the good and the bad because it has made me who I am today. Whether wrong was done to me or someone lavished a love unknown, whether I made stupid decisions in the heat of “passion” or I chose to trust God, whether I got mad or happy, it all has made me who I am today, and for that I am thankful.

If my story, if this book, has helped just one person to understand that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten, that they are loved, then I guess I fulfilled all I was trying to accomplish in this book. The end.