Hiding and Wholeness

At the time, it felt like I was trying to get God’s attention, but now I know it was the other way around. I was taking a long walk in my neighborhood in the budding days of early spring, 2016. As is common for me, I was restless, wanting to go deeper in my relationships with my friends, yet not knowing how. Long have I had a tendency to idolize friendships. Simultaneously, I have often felt unsatisfied and discontent in the guarded vulnerability and brevity of commitment I have found there.

From the time when I was little and preferred sad movies like The Fox and the Hound to the princess movies other girls my age would fawn over, I began to feel isolated. The forbidden friendship between Todd and Copper in The Fox and the Hound spoke to a longing in me much more than romances between Befox-and-the-hound-2lle and the beast, Prince Eric and Ariel, Cinderella and her Prince Charming. In fact, I resented those romantic relationships, because each of those pulled the main character away from their friends. I didn’t know why this made me so upset. My little heart didn’t even know I was hiding anything.

For the longest time, I stuffed all of the pain and confusion into a confined space in my mind, where occasionally I would hear it crying and pounding on the door trying to get out of the cell to which I had condemned it. I heard the pain weeping again, during that long neighborhood walk.

It’s time to unlock the door and let this part of your heart be heard.

fox-and-hound-3I felt the inaudible whisper in my soul. Interestingly, I felt a thrill of excitement, of adventure calling me. I felt ready. I simultaneously felt a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty. Was this some semi-conscious manipulative scheme I was formulating to attract compassion and comfort and deeper friendships? Was this really something I needed to bring up? I began to doubt my own motives.

But sometimes, you can’t wait until you have full confidence in your own completely pure motives. Sometimes you can’t want something completely before taking steps to explore it. Sometimes you can’t want to let go of addictions before trying to do it anyway. If I chose not to move forward in my warring motives, a part of my own humanity would have remained ignored until I reached a boiling point.

Back then, I was safer.

Now, I am in danger.

Then, my heart was incomplete.

Now, my whole heart is being allowed a chance to speak.

I’m allowing myself to fully experience a tension similar to what Tod and Copper experienced in their chaotic friendship.

fox-and-hound-1I thought by locking a part of my heart in a cell, I was doing my duty in restraining a monster. In actuality, I was ignoring a very sad, tender, isolated part of myself. I have come to embrace this part of me with simultaneous love, understanding, and grief.

Whatever you are hiding, Satan and yourself are going to tag team against you, telling you that it is not necessary to bring those things to light.

They’re right. It is not necessary to acknowledge the real, vulnerable areas of your heart. That is because there will be a time when the things you hide will come to light whether you want them to or not.

It is your choice: to confront your own heart or to wait until your heart confronts you.

I see you now, heart, in your desperation. I see your scared hound dog of a self wanting something that seems for all the world to be good, but, like the song says above: “if only the world wouldn’t get in the way.” And I’ll add to that the more important aspect – if only God wouldn’t get in the way.

At this point, perhaps you’ve guessed it. But maybe you have not, in which case here is the big reveal:

For one year I have wrestled with God and with this part of myself.

I am going to define the identifier before saying the term, to minimize confusion.

I am holistically attracted (emotionally, socially, sexually) to women. As of right now, I experience nearly an exclusive attraction to the same sex. My feelings have been as such for at least ten years, but for those ten years I denied my feelings any expression, thereby denying any sexual or romantic longings in their entirety. Can you perhaps see how this was unhealthy?

Thus, at twenty-four years old, I have gone through those intense and inexplicable and chaotic and painful hormonal feelings of turmoil that the scientific world likes to call: puberty. The chaos has only been magnified by the fact of where my attractions are directed. The chaos has been magnified even further by the fact that I claim to follow Christ. I say this in all seriousness . . . this internal chaos has been my own personal hell. It has been hell even when, in comparison to most, the responses of friends and family have been overwhelmingly positive and loving.

I can honestly say that I would love to be in a committed, Christ-following, sacrificial, mutually encouraging, physically intimate same-sex relationship. I have a homosexual orientation. I am gay. There we go . . . I’ve said it. That is the identifier to which my last 20+ blog posts have alluded.

I am not going to try to defend myself, my feelings, or the term I identify with to you here. I will leave the depth of such questions to face-to-face conversations . . . and I pray you will be kind and courageous enough to have these conversations with me.

However, let me explain why I am publishing this post.

To my gay friends and acquaintances, I am opening this part of my life in hopes that you may be encouraged that you are loved and you are not alone, not by any stretch of the imagination. Nor do you need to be ashamed of this part of who you are, wherever you are in the midst of questioning your sexuality. “Gay” and “Christian” can seem on the surface to be irreconcilable truths. They are not. I am living proof.

To my straight friends and acquaintances, I want to put a face to an “issue” to which you may not have had a personal reference. I guarantee you that I am not the only person you know who is gay, but I might be the only person who has yet spoken to you about it. I want to encourage you to be especially careful with your words and your social media posts in regards to anything LGBT-related. I want to encourage you to be a safe person for your friends wrestling with their sexuality. Safe people listen and empathize and love unconditionally.

To the Christian Church at large, I want to help bring the conversation about sexuality to the surface. Every topic, even and especially the most “uncomfortable” of topics, should be discussed. LGBT people, like every other person in the world, need their stories to be heard.

To myself, I just don’t want to hide anymore.

In a world that is encouraged to “come out” in countless ways and a Christian tradition that is encouraged to “conceal, don’t feel” in just as numerous ways . . .

It has become essential to see the real faces of the real people who all of this is affecting.

We must humanize the political rhetoric of the LGBT world, particularly in the Church. People’s lives are at stake.

I am passionate about this. I am sick-literally nauseous when I think about it-of hearing stories of people who are created in the image of God and who should be treated as such being demonized, ostracized from churches, and in extreme cases committing suicide simply because they have so bravely chosen to bring to light something that is a part of them: same-sex attraction. Guess what? Gay people who are in gay relationships are also still human. There are much worse things I can think of than living in a loving and committed same-sex relationship. Can’t you?

Forgive my soapbox. I know people who have been severely harmed by the Church in this way.

If you want to know how I’ve personally chosen to live with this truth, you’re going to have to wait, because I don’t even know.

Meanwhile, how can you tell me you love me? Invite my story into yours. I welcome questions about where I am on the journey, but I ask you to respect my response . . . there may be stretches of time when I do not want to talk. There may be a whole day when all I can do is cry. A week may pass where all I want to do is answer your questions. I will tell you what I need, but only if you ask me what I need.

One lie I struggle not to believe is that I am “destined for loneliness” and that I will never have committed lifelong relationships in my life. This is not just a gay problem (though it definitely is exaggerated by this fact) but a fear of many single people as well. From my observations and my own personal experience, Christian singles (particularly of the same sex) tend to form their own little tribes of single support groups. But is that all we really need? As a gay single Christian, I seriously wonder if I will ever have a family. Part of this longing can be met by entering into the ordinary chaotic lives of my married friends…the errand-running, the screaming babies, the folding laundry. Unfortunately, the lives of singles and couples/families are often segregated in Christian circles… I can’t help but wonder how much we are all missing. I ponder what it might mean that “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). But I digress.

In summary, this is the metaphorical crossroads I have been at all along: will I keep the seemingly reasonable option open of pursuing a mutually loving and committed same-sex relationship or will I vow to remain celibate for the foreseeable future for the sake of God’s will and in some mysterious way, supposedly for the sake of my own flourishing?

An Advent Wrestling Match

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.'”

C.S. Lewis

I have a hard enough time following God when I agree that His ways are best for me. My pride is at war with humility; my love is at odds with my fear. Though I agree love and humility are good things, I am human and I struggle. But it is an entirely different sort of “hard” when I feel that God is being unfair towards me, when I feel He is withholding or doesn’t truly have my best interests at heart. It is different when I don’t understand in any particular instance why my will and His cannot coincide. The confusion stirs up anger and bitterness. Why do I have such strong desires for more if He is all that I need? I’m discovering that . . .

it is much easier to follow God when we suppress the parts of ourselves that disagree with Him.

But God calls us to the hard task of bringing Him our hurting hearts with real God-given human longings and surrendering our past, present, and future to His goodness. Can I just say that I hate that? Well, I just did.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was smack dab in the middle of the garden. God certainly didn’t make it easy for Adam and Eve to ignore! He said, “Nope. Your choice to follow me must be deliberate. The tantalizing alternative must be in full view.” You know what? I bet the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil tasted damn good. I bet it was the best-tasting fruit they had ever eaten (a mango, perhaps). And that’s where the feeling of unfairness hits, isn’t it? It seems as if God sets us up for failure.

The truth is, God does withhold good things from us, but only so that we can taste the best things, with full appreciation.

I am very angry at the sentence I just wrote. I don’t want the so-called “best” things. Best by whose standard? I know what I want and I want to be able to want the things that I want! So there!

None of us have always waited for the best. In our own unique, personal ways, we have eaten the fruit that God commanded us not to eat. But God doesn’t give up on us. Though we ruined our ability to fully appreciate His best, He redeemed it, and redeems it again and again, every day, every minute if necessary, imparting to us the righteous sacrifice of His Son.

Maybe God knew that only by tasting the forbidden lesser good and allowing His redemptive purposes to work could we truly appreciate the best good. Maybe He knew that wrestling was the only way to find rest. Maybe He knew that sacrificing Himself would be the only way to give abundant, eternal life.

Man . . . advent sucks.

Advent is humanity forced to stare at the good, and choosing to wait for the best. Advent is humanity biting into mangos, wanting so desperately to taste our will being done on earth (as it may or may not be done in heaven) because we know it will taste so good and right. Advent is humanity naked and ashamed. Advent is Christ, the eternal paradox.

On that note, here is a song I wrote.

“The Ones Who Wrestle”
Lindsey Snyder

You say you are enough

But I want more than you

I’ve wrestled for your blessing and

Been given bitter tears of truth

You show me glimpses of the end

But the road is so daunting and hard

What is the point of this winding path

That I keep stumbling on?

Will I have this limp

the rest of my days?

Why is suffering so long?

If you are the one that satisfies

Than why am I

still empty inside?

The name you gave me from the start:

“Hope” feels a cruel joke on this earth

I do what I don’t want

I want what I can’t have

Have what I need and yet I feel

All the lack

And maybe I’m a spoiled child

But please tell me that my pain is real

Who can save me from me

digging my own grave?

Only the one who suffered the whole world, to heal

Will I have this limp

the rest of my days?

Why is suffering so sure?

If you are the one that satisfies

Than why am I

still empty inside?

What good am I to you

If I cannot love the way you want me to

What good am I to you

If I cannot, I cannot love you?

What good am I to you

If I cannot love the way you want me to

What good am I to you

If I cannot, I cannot love you?

But that’s who you choose

The ones who wrestle you

Saving the Best for Last

Remember those days when you were a bouncing, energizer-bunny kid and you saw (or thought you saw) the shape of your most-wanted Christmas gift under the tree? When you just about rocketed out of your socks from the anticipation? I don’t know about you, but even though I always wanted to unwrap that most-wanted gift first and foremost, I would, counter to all my emotions, save it to open last.

However much I want to eat dessert before the main meal (let’s face it–sometimes I do,) open my longest-anticipated present first, give my most-thoughtful gift from the miniature wealth of my first few months of income right at the start, I wait.

nativityIn my deepest heart of hearts, I think I know that somehow, saving the best for last is most gratifying. Can it be that I secretly like the waiting, the anticipation, the advent of the season?

God, over and over again, has chosen to save the best for last. On the sixth and final day of creation, he created humankind in His image, and finally could proclaim everything He had made very good. Sarah, far from the brightness of youth,when everyone assumed that she was cursed for not bearing a child, conceived a son that would carry the bloodline of Jesus. After years of slavery and bondage, God raised Moses to shine His light to a people who had lost hope. After four hundred years of prophetic silence, when most thought that God had finally given up on them, the greatest miracle in heaven and earth broke the silence with a soft whisper of a baby that would grow into a cry on the cross and a shout from the grave.

Even Jesus’ first miracle mirrored his heart for advent, for a stalwart hope in the unseen.

John 2:9-10 (emphasis mine)–

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over.10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!

God is faithful. His advent, our birthing, groaning, crying waiting, never disappoints. Jesus knows right when He needs to come, to maximize impact, to bring the most hearts to Himself as is possible.

Let’s celebrate God’s faithfulness together this season and every season, because though waiting for the best for last can be frustrating and seem endless, He is coming. He will come again. Look at the baby in the manger and jump forward into the unreachable future to a time when unyielding perfection will finally heal our deepest wounds.

The best is still to come!