Healing, a foreword

My favorite toy growing up was, hands down, my dollhouse. I loved it. Even sitting here as an adult I find comfort in knowing it’s still in my parent’s attic. ‘Make believe’ truly defined my childhood, with my dollhouse as the centerpiece. I loved that I could approach it every day or hour by hour either extending the narrative I had created earlier or completely starting from scratch. I was never stuck in a story I didn’t want.

Which reminds me of the time I once ran away. I honestly cannot tell you what provoked this rebellion, but I went all the way to the back of the yard (take that mom and dad!) and hid under my favorite pine trees. What did I bring with me? Two beloved old books from a garage sale (that I couldn’t yet read on my own) and a notebook. I sat under the trees and pretended to be a stranded professor. I was smart and a survivor and able to do anything because that’s what smart, stranded professors could do. It’s a cute story, but underneath it (just like the dollhouse) packs a message I’ve feared my entire life: my story as is, is not enough. A self deprecating mantra that stated, “To be worthy you must be more than you are.”

To sit inside the understanding that as a child day dreaming was both an escape and a nightmare is unnerving. I was a creative kid. I loved story. I never realized that part of that obsession was because I felt my own narrative was broken and less than. How could I? The problem now is that I’m starting to see a pattern, a cycle of chasing worthiness from the wrong sources, with the wrong tools, for the wrong reasons. And the problem with seeing is, once you see something you cannot unsee it.

The world as we know it right now is in a forced pause as we navigate through quarantine 2020. I like calling it a forced pause because it is truly how I am experiencing the epidemic. You see whether I wanted to acknowledge it or not, I’ve been running for some time. I don’t mean the healthy kind you do for cardio and extra wine on the weekends. I mean running, as fast I could and as far as I could, from the place that I was. You see, if you run hard enough and fast enough you don’t have time to look back. You don’t have time to pay attention to the signs and red flags. Your history of pivoting when shit hits the fan is like muscle memory and you accept it like you always have. You turn a blind eye because you have to. That’s what competitors do to survive. They don’t’ listen to anyone else on the course, they focus on their goal ahead. Getting to the next finish line. Creating the next story because the one you built your life on just fucking crumbled.

Running isn’t always actual movements by the way, but it is always internal decisions. Sometimes running takes the form of hunkering down, ignoring the things around you because you believe surviving demands it. Sometimes running is giving up, letting go of all your ambitions and hope because it’s getting to be too much work to keep holding them up as the world says no. And yes, sometimes running is actually getting up and escaping. No matter what it looks like physically on the outside, I define running as a defense mechanism response to personal trauma and triggers. Running is rough stuff.

As you can imagine, then, a forced pause is a crippling thing to a well accomplished running plan – if accomplishment means distance created from the thing you can’t or aren’t coping with. It forces you to… pause. To stop. And if you can’t focus on the next thing in your fixer upper, if you can’t keep yourself dizzy with activity, if you can’t run after the displaced blame you put somewhere else, you eventually have to experience all the things you were running from. What’s worse is you eventually can’t help but turn around. To see how far you’ve gone (not come). To realize you’re bulldozing your own path into a place never meant to walked . Into a place never meant to be under construction. Into a place never meant to be… yours. And once you turn around, you cannot unsee what we’ve begun to see.

So with all this on my mind and these wounds still newly opened and nowhere near healed, I found myself in contrasting emotions. I found myself relieved to find a moment of peace. I know that sounds utterly ridiculous, peace when all hell has broken loose internally but it was there nonetheless. Like my heart had been beaten up so much by the running it never had a chance to rest. Peace as if the indescribable pain was better than the numbing mechanisms that had been in practice up until this point. Peace as if just maybe the pain had moved from ‘self sabotaging’ pain to ‘self becoming’ pain. Yet in the contrast I admit there was also a lot of shame. Shame I didn’t pay attention to the signs, shame I didn’t have the strength to stay where I was, shame that I wasn’t brave enough or kind enough or wise enough. Shame. Shame. Shame. On repeat.

That’s where I find myself. In contrast. What I’m learning is that maybe healing is a stage of existence, not a step to check off on the ‘to do’ list. And if healing is an entire stage in the human condition, in my current condition, than maybe healing is defined differently than what we’ve tried to make it in the past. I’ve always looked at healing as a place to get to – a mountain to defeat with a constant climb up of glowing reviews and gold stars along the way. An internal fanfare event if you will, with pats on the back and ‘way to go sluggers’. Like when you were in t-ball back in those early years. You could have missed the tee every time and ran the bases backwards, but by golly you’d get a pat on the back at the end anyway. I guess I’ve looked at healing as a place I wasn’t required to try much. I was doing it, ok? I was there in the grief, what more could you actually need of me?

The thing that I’m realizing in this new place, in this place where life is paused and pain is being demanded to be felt, is that healing comes in waves. Sometimes there is peace, sometimes there is shame, and sometimes there is more pain than there was when you started. Healing lives in contrast because it is not stagnant. It’s not something you show up to and get a ‘participating’ trophy for. Healing is a different kind of sport entirely, one that does not happen without surrender to it, without an active willingness to get down into the trenches and dig up the junk you’ve been burying one by one. Healing is a choice.  

I’ve lost a lot of time and gained a lot of bruises viewing healing as something that will just happen along the way. If I say the things and I keep mimicking all the right movements, healing would just occur as a I ran forward into the next chapter. If anything I viewed healing as a distraction, something preventing me from moving forward. It’s excruciating to sit still and become aware that yes you were moving, but forward isn’t exactly what you would call it. Left of center maybe? Backwards possibly? Just not forward.

Forced Pause

With the forced quarantine and isolation, has anyone else realized how devastatingly lost they’ve been?

This has been the question, in one form or another, on my heart and in my mind. Has anyone else ever gotten this far down a road they were never meant to travel? Has anyone else talked themselves into not looking back? Has anyone else been terrified to stand still? Has anyone been here, deep down a rabbit hole of their own design?

What a forced pause does is….. force you to pause. My prayer of ‘I don’t know where to start’ remains a centerpiece in my hour by hour existence. I find moments of peace, where I am able to truly surrender, but my spirit is not what it used to be. Peace is only found in small moments, eventually the test of spirit is lost against all the anxiety and fear that surrounds me. The honest reality is … my spirit is not strong. She became cynical and selfish and tired. She stopped practicing what she preached. She became stagnant and dusty with excuses. And then she became shocked when she realized how diminished and weak she really was. So when the lies of depression clouded the sky and anxiety rained down suffocating the small amount of spirit left, well… she drowned. She let the rain fall, she encouraged it, and when it became too much she gave up. She surrendered to the wrong things.

I reopened my bible. That was one of my responses to ‘I don’t know where to start’. I know it feels pretty self explanatory, but it wasn’t for me. In the move I brought little with me, but it turns out despite all my bad decisions I made a few good ones. I don’t just have one of my bibles with me, I have four. Why does one bring four bibles with limited space especially during a time of ignoring their faith/ running from the center of themselves? I don’t know if I can answer that except to say while I don’t always know why or when God intervenes in our lives… this was defiantly one of those moments.

Reopening your bible after years of letting it collect dust on different shelves is a strange act, but one that came with little output at first. I don’t know if you know this but there are A LOT of books in the Bible. I’ve read the Bible quite a bit in my past life. I used to know my way around it like the back of my hand. It felt hopeful but foreign to me. Similar to when you try sports you were once good at. Some of the skills are still there – you know how to shoot the ball properly towards the basket, doesn’t mean you’ll make it with ease anymore. You know you can sprint fast towards the goal, doesn’t mean you won’t pull a hamstring in your old age and out of practice body. That’s honestly how it felt reopening my bible. I knew the joy I had once found it in, the peace that my faith had brought me, and I knew how much I had once had memorized and organized in my brain. Shame and guilt and fear swarmed me when I realized I couldn’t conjure up any of my favorite verses. I couldn’t even remember where to find them. I held my bible in my hands and I found yet another pause inside all these pauses. Faith, to me, is surrendering to grace. Acts of faith are then an expression of that surrender and eagerness to live inside that grace – such as reading your bible and finding your own nuggets of truth through the stories. ‘Fun’ fact, similar to sports or weight lifting or yoga … if you do not use these muscles they weaken and break down. It takes willpower and a conscious effort to regrow them. I should mention I’m not saying this with any authority, I’m saying this as a person who is now having to be very intentional to regrow muscles she never thought she’d lose.

I don’t know where to start.

It seems to be my life’s prayer right now. It’s the most honest I’ve been with myself in a long time. I feel like I have so much to say, to cry out about, to be outraged by, to ask forgiveness for, to ask for help for… that sometimes or maybe I should say almost all the time it just overwhelms me and I short circuit. When I look at the full picture of the mess, my mind and body shut down. It reminds me of a home I used to live at, more than once I was down in the basement with a flashlight looking at the fuse box and figuring out what fuse needed tending to. That’s how I’ve had to begin looking at my spirit, my life, and my aches – as a fuse box. It’s a weak fuse box, this thing has been through the ringer so it’s not one that will hold up when too many things are causing a stir at once. But, when the inevitable happens and something shorts, I try to get myself to the internal fuse box and see what fuse is the source of the rest of the problems. Sometimes I can see it on my own, sometimes I have no light to guide me and it takes longer as I pray through it.

I don’t know where to start.

As for my bible, throughout the Easter weekend I listened and read the Resurrection story (found in the Gospels for those who may not know – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). This morning however, when I understood I needed to keep going – that for me healing will be found in continuing to dive in – I found myself responding to the Psalms. So that’s where I’m going next. The cries and hurt and love and prayers of David. He’s a bit of a mess, but faithful in his cries and I guess I can’t really see myself anywhere else. I’m a mess, but I want to relearn my faithfulness. Because I haven’t been. Faithful to my spirit, to myself, to my person, my being. I got gobbled up by the idea that if I can run away the problems would be left in the dust but the thing about that is…. even if you can outrun them for a time, you may find yourself in a forced pause. Maybe even a pause that the nation hasn’t seen since the Great Depression. And you may feel anxiety and fear and regret and shame and isolation and confusion ….. and then you may wonder to yourself and be in awe at the question…. Does God love us so much that he would nearly pause the world to get our attention? To bring our eyes back to him? To use the loss of everything in order to rework our hearts? To heal us with grace?

That’s pretty radical grace.

I want to believe in radical grace again.

The World in Quarantine

It’s been a while. Years in fact. And I’m not just talking about since the last time I approached a keyboard with the intent to write here, a blog that once brought healing to my own soul. I mean it’s been years since I’ve submitted to the outrageousness of grace. I feel nothing but shame when I state that and yet… my ego wants to defend it and explain away all the reasons that this occurred. As if stating that it was on my list of “Things To Do’ is an adequate argument.

Sitting in quarantine has felt much like a ‘Holy Saturday’ the space of waiting, sitting…. being stuck inside a demanded pause. Life is no longer what it was and at the end of this… I just don’t think life can ever be the same. And that’s where I find myself. In the awareness of how deep this radical pause must go.

On Good Friday I woke up and felt uneven. It had been weeks of quarantine for NYC, something just under 30 days. At first I wanted to blame the long days of required ‘stay at home’ as the reason for the shakiness but the more I dwelled on it across the morning, the more I realized I was stuck inside a critical moment. That Easter had creeped up on me in a different way than it had in years. Without the ability to hide behind the practice of spending time with others or cooking a meal, I was stuck to sit and dwell on the actual reasons… the deeper, more profound purpose of Easter. I’m ashamed to say I tried to push that aside and fight it. Dealing with it, sitting in it, would mean sitting with all the things I’ve been running from. Because if I’m honest, I knew what all the miles and years represented. I knew how hard it would be to be still. I knew it would begin a crack in my ability to just adapt… expose that adapting is not healing. It’s simply begin able to continue until the hurt is muted or quieted down by time. So I sat inside that critical moment and I did something I hadn’t done authentically in years. I prayed a very simple, very honest prayer…

“I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to start.”

It was my heart’s plea. The most honest and truthful thing I could say. Could feel. Could express. A little while later I reached out to a friend I hadn’t truly spoken with in over 8 years, a friend I knew could dive in where I needed to go – even if I wasn’t quite ready to go there. I also reached out to another friend who allowed me to join her service that day and to connect 1/1 virtually the next week.

These things are not simple to me. This is not a moment unnoticed. I didn’t know where to start and then I was lead on how to start. This is not a miracle moment where I can say everything is fine. It’s not. I am not fine. My faith is not healed. My connection with God is clouded by ego and bruises and empty miles of space between us that I let get there. And I don’t quite know how to truly get back.

But… this may have actually been the bravest, most truthful thing I’ve done in a very long time for myself. To submit to the painful awareness I’m in over my head. I had no idea where to start.

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. Sitting. Being still. And being still, in this sense, doesn’t mean while staying busy. I often like to purposely confuse those two together. This kind of stillness demands more from us than the busyness of phone calls and social media and tv marathons and the occasional thriller novel. This kind of stillness is to come to a place within ourselves where we are willing to dig in and be intentional with ourselves. This kind of stillness, this kind of waiting is…. uncomfortable.

Though Holy Saturday will soon pass, the symbolism will live on as the days continue here in quarantine. We are in a very scary, unsteady, unnerving time. Could it be, though, that we are also in a space where we are being given a reset? I mean when in our adult lives will this ever happen again? Demanded stillness. Despite all the anxiety and fear and uncertainty it also feels…. sacred. If we let it be.

How? I’m not sure yet. This is just my acknowledgment of what once was and what may be someday.

“Because I Said So” needs an upgrade

The other day my wife and I were arguing over something trivial. If I remember correctly it was what TV show an actress in our current show, had been in previously. Without needing to know who the actress was or what the TV show might have been… I can, with reasonable certainty, tell you she was right. I’m terrible at pop culture. The point, however, is what helped us decide the answer. When we could not agree, I said, “well google it”. An endearing phrase we hold close to our heart. In fact just today a co-worker and I were teasing each other over the random crap we choose to type into the search box. 

We live in a world where the answer is quite literally at your finger tips. Even if the request is something absolutely insane like, “hitler mustaches on cats”. What you seek, you normally can find. 

Armed with this prescription of today’s quick paced question and answer lifestyle, to me it’s no wonder the church continues to take a backseat. Now, to be careful here, I want to clarify a few things before moving forward. While the ‘church’ I reference is one of a Christian origin, based in the ideology of grace through a cross, I believe fundamentally all of us who find ourselves at the center of any faith can agree we are challenged in today’s quick resolutions. 

The agenda at hand is to create a dialogue around an ever growing question the church is faced with… Why are people leaving? Why aren’t people coming? And I don’t mean this just physically – I mean this emotionally as well. 

Personally this question is painful for me to process, it hurts in a way. I don’t mean that to say I’m offended or you’ll find me in Union Square park anytime soon preaching on the corner. It hurts me because it sheds light on the deeper issue – the ever growing gap between a world of innovators and a church of decreed absolute. 

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know the whole answer. Like most things in life the answer is normally the sum of multiples, but I do believe we can begin to understand a piece of it. To start pulling at the the root of this there is an assumption we need to get our hands around first. This assumption that the more we know, the more technology that advances, the more science that surfaces, and the more innovation that comes to life – the less of God there is. Or at least the less of the church there needs to be. 

I agree with this, but maybe not in the way that you think. 

I think the old, dusty way of “because I said so” needs an upgrade. Some will immediately argue with me, with ruffled feathers, assuming I’m in the business of changing God or defacing biblical messaging for my own use. This is what some have become comfortable with calling “alternative facts”. I have no intention of changing God, because well… I can’t and second because I don’t need to. Hear me out.

One of my life mantras is centered on the belief that we can only give and understand as much GRACE as we’ve been given. The basic principle here is that if life has been easy for you, if your greatest struggle was not getting into your first college choice or favorite wedding venue, or getting a speeding ticket… then you have had a blessed life so far. We celebrate that and are happy for you. In the same breath, your need of grace would be less than someone who has lived a rougher story and therefore your understanding of that need of grace would be less. However, if your life has been difficult… if you have experience the pain of loss, the depths of loneliness, or the darkness of rejection/self hatred/ hurtful decisions… then your need of grace (either now or in the past) is much greater and therefore your understanding of that need much higher. 

You can only understand grace to the depth of which you have received it. I sincerely believe this (and am happy to talk more on this further another time!). If that is true, then we can also take it a step further broadening the topic and ask – what if that is the same about God? What if we can only understand God to the depth we’ve been able to discover him? 

There are so many arguments around not allowing the church to grow as our culture grows – that God should not morph to our ever changing standards (inclusivity, gender issues, etc). I’ve never seen it that way. I believe the more we are able to grow ourselves, see outside ourselves, and inside the heartbeats of those around us – the more we realize God is far more complex than we can or ever will be able to imagine. We are not changing God as we grow, we are simply catching up. 

I believe that pews are collecting dust on Sundays in far too many churches, but I do not fault the ever changing times… I fault the never changing church. We cannot remain grounded in theologies that no longer make sense now that science and generations have shown us otherwise. It’s like arguing that it’s not raining, while it pours down on your “I have to be right” parade. It doesn’t make sense, there is literally profound evidence all around you saying otherwise, and it’s not effective. In fact, it is hurtful. 

I have about a million wounds from the church, which I suppose is a story for another day. What I did learn from the church, however, at a young age that has stuck with me through the times are two things 1) Love one another and 2) remain humble. Over the years how I understood those two things, how I often failed at them, and how I came crawling back to them has brought me here… to this point. If our job as messengers of grace, as walking stories collected through experiences, is to love… then turning people away doesn’t work. If our job is to remain humble and open to those around us… then rejecting the changing norms around us doesn’t work. If our job is to defend the gospels above all else… then preaching fire and brimstone doesn’t work. 

There are so many gorgeous torches of grace around this world right now. Eager pastors and counselors and reverends and just every day folk wanting to share the real light of love. And I want to be careful that I am not saying all churches, everywhere are falling short. I am say too many churches, anywhere are not taking up the calling to grow as God opens our minds to grow. 

Think about it this way… Science, culture, technology allowing us to have any known answer right in front of us at any moment, actually allows us to know God more. We have the opportunity to know God more than any generation before us. To understand how other cultures and communities worldwide praise God, see God, and respond to him. To learn, in detail, the reasoning behind different denominations who agree with us or disagree with how we, ourselves, respond to God. 

Opportunity, however, is a choice. A choice on which lens you use to view the world, technology, God, and grace. Pews fill when hearts feel safe. Hearts feel safe when the message of acceptance is circulated. The message of acceptance is circulated when people are able to more openly hear and learn from each other. And the list continues… 

In a generation of innovators and pace changers, overly educated millennials have a responsibility to motivate the church back to its center. To create grace space. 

Romans 14:1 “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”

Grace calls us to seek understanding in one another – not through judgement, but through a sincere desire to let each story to be heard and celebrated.

Let us keep seeking – to learn who God is and the glory he can create through his creation. Through the people around us, the stories they are writing, and the challenges they are overcoming. 

Let us keep hoping – to learn more through all the channels we are now so freely given. 

Let us keep growing – to never believe we’ve come to the end of God… but merely continued to learn yet another beginning. 

Today we mourn, but tomorrow we rise.

First, we mourn then we rise.

It’s ok to mourn – this is a scary time for a lot of people. It’s ok to feel the weight of this because right now this is heavy stuff. Many people feel unwelcomed in a nation they call home. Our culture(s) and progress feel threatened. And it’s not about a candidate losing… it’s far more personal than that. It’s about your neighbors and fellow countryman actively choosing a platform that promised to oppress you… whoever you are, in whatever minority you find yourself.

It’s ok to mourn – this isn’t something you can sweep under the rug and pretend didn’t happen. You will face many people who don’t understand but will try. Give them grace as they do. And you will face people who tell you to get over it. They need grace too, but it will be much harder. I understand that.

It’s ok to mourn – and you aren’t alone in it. I, too, am trying to process how I look the people I love in the eyes who chose this. It’s not just me. The MySilentHalf inbox has gotten to over 400 emails now. Many of us are scared. Many of us feel unwelcomed. And far, far too many people feel unloved…

“… how do I sit across from them this Thanksgiving and act grateful for the pain they voted was ok for me to go through”

“I’m scared of the hate that will blow up in my town. If I thought it was finally safe to come out I was wrong. A transwoman was egged today on my way to school.”

“My parents voted for Trump because they didn’t want to be the odd man out in their church group. Am I suppose to tell my daughter that grandma chose peer pressure over her and her father’s human rights?”

“My Facebook feed is full of hate today. People saying they hope we move and laughing at our expense. These were my friends, what do I do now? Am I supposed to pretend this doesn’t crush me?”

It’s ok to mourn – it’s human. It’s healthy. It’s needed. I’m so sorry that in the midst of what should be a celebration for our nation, you find yourself hurting. I’m so sorry that while others cheer, you are choking back fear of what the future holds. Right here, right now there are two very important things you need to know: You are not alone. And you are deeply, astronomically loved.

It’s ok to mourn – do not let anyone take that away from you. You do whatever you need to do to process. Processing takes work and you, my friend, are worth it. You owe it to yourself to battle through this. We need you on the other side.

Tomorrow we rise.

Tomorrow is a figurative time frame, one that looks at the days after this present moment. Once we allow ourselves to grieve and work through this, we must move forward. Moving forward is not forgetting. It is an awareness that action must now take place. It is an awareness that we have felt the depths of what this decision means and now we are moved to act.

Tomorrow we rise. As we pray that this new president is not the man he claimed to be throughout his campaign… as we pray that he values the lives of ALL he will govern, we cannot sit idol. We cannot let a platform of judgment, hate, and negative rhetoric break or divide us. Instead, my greatest hope is that despite all of that this makes us stronger. Time after time as human rights have progressed forward they have done so because brave men and women were moved to act. They participated in dialogue around their story and the story of so many.

Tomorrow we rise. You are more than the perception of someone else. You are more than the scars on your arms and the bruises this election has left on your heart. You are a collection of memories and memories to be made. And all of this adds up to an incredibly important piece to the next puzzle we are going to map out together. Let us all be brave enough to lay our piece of the story onto the table. Human rights, civil rights, the LGBTQ community, and the rest of our family in this minority circle are not just a clump of unknowns. We have faces and names and experiences. We are living, breathing stories. We are Americans too.

Tomorrow we rise. As hate fills your screens, as flags of segregation are lifted in towns where fear was already present, and as questions circle your own hearts – we will rise. Let us match hate with grace. Let us not let them forget we are human, and in the same breath, let us not forget they are human too. The radical task ahead of us is to never forget that. And if they are human, then they have a chance to grow just as much as we do. This will take time. This will take healing. This will take courage.

Tomorrow we rise. Let us not script the ending of a story that has yet to start, but let us not be passive either. Together let’s search each day with hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for the movement of grace, and hope for a nation in desperate need of healing.

Six of the most scarring words in history: “Hate the sin, not the sinner”

“You obviously aren’t praying hard enough”

Words from a counselor when I was 19. It was the first time I went to a counselor since the mandatory sessions after my parent’s divorce. No offense, state legal system, but as a really young kid, your mandatory counseling was one of the most scarring parts of the entire divorce. And to be honest… this experience was just as bad.

I had been going for a while, but this was the first week after telling the counselor I was attracted to women. She told me if I was still struggling, I obviously wasn’t praying hard enough. She told me all I needed was her to teach me and for me to get my “sin” under control.

She told me not to worry; she didn’t hate me, she just hated my sin.

Scarring words those are. “Hate the sin, not the sinner”

I know most people mean well by them. They mean it for those who hurt others and for those who do wrong. They mean it to be kind; to tell you, as a soul, you are wonderful, but your actions are not. I can, in some ways, understand the saying.

the-bible-doesnt-say-love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin-300x225_thumb[1]

But as a 19 year old battling with her faith, fear, and sexuality, telling me you didn’t hate me, you just hated how I felt was a wound I would carry for a very long time. It would also be a tool used inside my own depression to convince myself I was broken, disgusting, and a sinner for how I felt and who I was attracted to.

So when I began realizing this wasn’t something I could run from, that it was part of me just like the blood in my veins and the hope in my heart, I tried to hide it. I couldn’t change it, I couldn’t pray it away, but I could damn well hide it. And that was my theory. I could mask it with serial dating and careless commentary that held no volume. And I could have relationships in private.

I’m not insulting privacy. I’m a private person. You’ll never see me post on twitter about my relationship problems if I had any. You won’t see me having public sex or anything of the sort. And I understand the process of coming out – I understand it because I just went through it. So please know my commentary on private relationships isn’t a stab at others, it’s how I went about these private relationships that is the problem.

You see, I had private relationships and still tried to date men. I tried to pretend that my want or attraction to women was only temporary. I only felt that way because I hadn’t found the right guy yet. This wasn’t true. I didn’t hurt people on purpose, but by bringing them into my broken reality, I chipped at pieces of them too. I thought I was going around the system, instead I was truly just hurting everyone…including myself.

And honestly, this small piece of my story is an amplification of something I keep saying. Words are powerful and words matter. I did all the hiding and broken navigating because of the seeds planted by someone who told me my sin was hated, my insides were hated. That I wasn’t praying hard enough. Does that justify the pain I personally caused? No. I own that. But it does give insight into the reality that words really do have influence.

Today’s confession is: I still carry those words around. They no longer sit like an open wound. Over time life has callused them, reopened them, and healed them again. But the scar tissue will always be there – a scarlet letter I wear without choice. All because of thoughtless words… proof that the pen will always be mightier than the sword.

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(Graphic Borrowed from John Manzo’s blog on Jesus never saying anything about homosexuality)

My upcoming marriage… and the debate it’s stuck in

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing the word “yes” come from the lips of the person I adore most. There was nothing fancy that happened. We didn’t walk on the beach or sit in a public place. Instead it honored everything I love about her – a night of conversation, with our favorite wine, in our home. It wasn’t planned (in fact I was planning for a few months from then) but I just felt it in my heart. The moment I had been trying to organize was happening organically and I went with it.

I’ve known for most of our relationship I wanted to marry her. She is easily the best person I’ve ever met and she makes me better every single day. Ask our friends and family, who truly know us, and they would tell you we’ve been on this road for a long time. But in that moment, with that ring hidden behind my back, my voice shook and my hands started to sweat. I was also not prepared for how deeply emotional it would be for me to hear her say “yes”. It was a powerful night and we kept it to ourselves until the next morning.

The next day it was so exciting for us to tell those closest to us. Having them celebrate through calls, texts, and hysterical emoji’s was just a blast. Joy filled us. We were the center of the universe, or at least in our little universe, for that day. To say we were on cloud nine would be such a limited way to describe it.

Unlike so many of our friends and family, however, our upcoming wedding still continues to have a word put in front of it. We can’t just have a marriage. People still continue to call it a gay marriage. And while we are more than blessed with those who are excited for our pending nuptials, not everyone joined the celebration. For me to list those people I think might be as cruel as their responses – so I won’t. I do, however, bring this topic up on purpose: we aren’t the only ones dealing with this.

People have asked me what I think about the gay marriage debate. First, I want to say I am grateful for it. I am grateful we are revisiting translations made centuries ago. I am grateful we are taking the time to truly understand what the context of words, poetry, and verses actually mean (especially to the culture and civilization It was being spoken to), rather than just claiming it as truth because someone told us to. I am humbled by the millions of people saying “no” to outcasting the lgbt community in the biblical, “Christian” world. I am excited to see more and more states acknowledge that all are created equally and all deserve the same rights as their neighbors. You see right now there are still states (and churches) that believe gender is what creates a good marriage and I am quite worried we’ve created a skeleton out of the contents of what was once deemed so sacred. Every day marriages are happening, without question, not because these two people will uphold their marriage, but because they are attracted to the opposite sex.

I am honored to be part this movement of change, but if I were honest, I also can’t wait until it’s over. I cannot wait until there is no more gay marriage, but just marriage. I cannot wait until we, as a society, are calling a marriage good because of the character that marriage displays – not the gender of the spouses.

Because here’s the thing: I am not planning a gay wedding, but a wedding. And I’m not looking forward to a gay marriage, but a marriage. My marriage is going to be incredible, exciting, challenging, and loving. And it will be all of these things because two people have dedicated themselves to each other. Two people have chosen monogamy, trust, and devotion. My marriage is going to be amazing and the gender of my spouse will have nothing to do with it.

The marriages I look up to are those that are filled with kindness, love, joy, patience, graciousness, loads of laughter, adventures, and strength. These are the characteristics I find myself always noticing in marriages I am honored to be around. Most specifically these are the things I hope to bring into my marriage. Just like I try to bring them in our lives every day. Far before I put a ring on it we were already doing life together. Now mind you I have many places I can grow for her and for us. I have the patience of a small child. I am constantly having to work on that. There are days I feel I can be more kind or less lazy. Sometimes I could give more and take less.

There are a dozen ways I could improve and now with a simple “yes” I get a life time of learning with the person I love. That, to me, is what marriage is all about. Finding someone you can grow and learn through life with. I will not always be the best, but I will always try my best for her. I will not always get it right: there will be days I get annoyed and there will be days I am annoying. There will be days where she has to be patient for both of us and others where I move us into action. We will go through hard times, simple times, powerful times, exciting times, and just every day times. And that excites me because all I want is to spend all the time God gives me, on this earth, with her.

Whatever angle you find yourself on – whether you have an upcoming wedding or a loved one has one or just a random person on Facebook you don’t really talk to has one – I just want to remind you of one thing. Gender has nothing to do with the success of a marriage. But love, joy, happiness, humility, graciousness, and kindness? Those do. And every human has the ability to bring or remove those things from the vows that they give.

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Advice to those who are marrying (or married or dating) but are feeling some backlash: Be happy. This doesn’t mean every day will be easy. You deserve to be unconditionally loved and I am so sorry that someone has told you their love is conditional. I am so, so deeply sorry. That pain is not ok and that pain is not small. I understand that myself and I watch people I love go through that as well. Inside that, however, stay true to your core. Do not let that pain sway you into a world of darkness. Shadows are not your friends but just outlines of a life you shouldn’t have to fake. Stay true to you. Love who you love. This is your life. Be mindful who you invite into your marriage (ANY MARRIAGE) and who you allow to influence your decisions. You are amazing. You are beautiful (handsome) and wonderful. As you are. And you deserve to have the story of your dreams. Live it. It doesn’t matter who you are there will always be dragons to slay and now you have a partner to slay them with you. Lucky, lucky you. Cherish that. Nurture that.

Advice to those who may be part of the backlash: Your words matter – be careful. If what you are trying to do is understand while going through your own junk I first want to say thank you. So many of us are better off because of those who were willing to adjust their views – but your words still matter. Be wise and be willing to listen to actually hear what is being said… not just so you can talk again.

However if you are lashing out with cruel words and judgment please realize that isn’t going to help anyone. You will not only damage the person you supposedly love but you may also end up pushing them away or by default deleting them from your life. Demanding your own views onto someone else is a very unhappy way to live because in most cases it leaves you very, very alone. And I don’t want you alone just as much as I don’t want someone damaged by words. Be willing to step back and see if maybe it is you who needs to move not the other person.

Advice to those in between: Your words matter too. If you have a loved one where you don’t care who they love but others do… they need you. And they are sure as heck lucky to have you. The world is a kinder place for that person because you are in it. You allow them to be fully loved in your presence and if ever you’ve had that taken away from you… well… you know how precious such a feeling truly is. You are in a very unique position because your words may actually be the most influence of all. Not many people realize that, that those in the middle actually are often the ones moving mountains in the lives of those they love. I repeat: Your words matter. In the moments you wonder, “Should I say something?”, you probably should. Your support is everything and anything you can do to continue that will heal more than you know. In fact if I could say anything to you it would be… thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And please… please don’t stop being you.