Friday, August 05, 2005

The World Less Lonely


It's amazing how much being heard can make a person feel less lonely in the world. One of the loneliest places in the world for me has been the Church. It wasn't always that way. In fact, I came to Christ in the first place partly because it was where people knew my name. If only it was a place where people knew who I was.

I know it takes iniative and effort to make oneself known in a group. We've gotta be willing to engage people in order for people to mutually get to know each other. But there's a fear involved in revealing too much or the wrong things to certain people. It's definitely not something you just bring up in casual conversation. However, it's in casual conversation where you begin to discern whether or not a person may be safe to tell or not. The gay jokes can be pretty tough to hear at times but they're bearable. The really hard part is to listen to people in church speak with such disgust about those homosexuals.

And so, I'd think to myself...."that's one person i will never be able to tell."

I was saved when I was 16 years old. As a Christian, I could never tell anyone that I was attracted to guys for 9 years. Telling someone in church meant that I would be an outcast. I couldn't tell the pastor because that would mean I wouldn't be "allowed" to serve Christ in ministry anymore. I couldn't tell people in small group because I wouldn't be able to go to Bible study anymore. I couldn't tell anyone in church because the word will get out and then everyone would know and so I wouldn't be able to go to church anymore.

Can't tell anyone. I want to keep going to church. At least those are the kinds of thoughts that would keep me from telling anyone. And so, i'd remain hidden.

Between me and Jesus, I knew He loved me. But how could i ever love myself when my own "fellow" Christians didn't. I know the truth is that many of them did and/or do love me - at least the part of me that I showed to them. Another reason why I came to Christ back then was because I needed a family. At the time, my own family was pretty emotionally distant so the Church served as my spiritual family. How could I endure being rejected by them too?

Eventually, I found people in the church that I could talk to. It was great. What a release it is to have someone else know about this one single fact about me! It was like stepping into the light. The problem was typically that people in the church who are accepting and sympathetic don't often know what to say or what to do to believers who are struggling with this. It's awkward and so it seems better for them not to bring it up. It's easier just to love me and act like I'm 'normal' than to talk about it with me. That's great - I do appreciate the acceptance, in fact it's refreshing not to be rejected from someone even after knowing about me. But simply accepting me isn't the same as walking with me. What I really need is for someone not to be afraid of it. Someone not afraid to touch me or hug me or hear me. What i really need is for someone who will listen and try to understand the loneliness and darkness that a person like me can be experiencing in church and in life.

Nowadays, of course, there are more people that know about me. There are even good friends of mine that I can talk to and process some of this stuff out. It's even helped for me to process alot of this stuff in this BLOG. It was highly encouraging for me to have people leave me messages on this BLOG - many who were referred here by Brandon from BadChristian.com. He made a post in his BLOG recently regarding mine and the really encouraging thing was that he acknowledged the journey I'm on.

The thing about that is...he made me feel heard. And that made my world that much more less lonely.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Eric,

Thank you for your honesty. The truth is, we all have struggles that we suffer, they simply manifest themselves in different ways. To forgive means to separate and send away, which means when I forgive someone, I separate the person from the offense, and send the offense away, leaving the person whole. The hardest person to forgive, however, is yourself. The reason we continue in our behaviors is because we do not see ourselves separated from the act. Like you, I struggled with being attracted to particular women, and I was married with children. I had to face the fact that I could not separate myself from the act. Each time I saw me in the mirror, I saw me attached to the sin that was occurring in my life. And could I tell anyone? No, because I was an elder, and an elder should not be struggling with those temptations! What I began to realize, however, was that I had not forgiven myself, even though the Lord forgave me. Once I truly forgave myself, I separated myself from the act or desire, and began to see me as the Lord sees me. It was not about therapy, divorce, or anything like that. It was about disciplining myself to see me as He sees me. He sees you as a wonderful creation that He created in His image. Your challenge is to see yourself as He sees you.

Meg said...

Eric,
I don't know you, found you through Brandon, but just want you to know that I'm in the "dunno, but love you anyway" category. Thanks for your honesty. I don't have answers on this issue so I will watch and learn and be amazed by your processing.

Josh Fuller said...

I usually don't comment on a blog unless I have something to say that hasn't been said, but in this case I just wanted to add my indistinct voice to the chorus of encouragement. I'm glad Brandon was able to direct so much of it your way. As he said, your honesty makes this an incredibly valuable blog. I'm just a straight guy who believes homosexuality is not a sin, but I now understand a little better how much easier it must be for me to say that than you. Yes, God has answers, but they are far from the most valuable thing he has.

Anonymous said...

Eric, God bless you my friend...

I found your blog through a link on Brandon's--though I don't know him either. I'm really moved by what you have shared.

I too am gay and a Christian. I'm the son of a pastor, nephew of several pastors, grandson of a pastor, great-nephew of a pastor... and the list of preachers in my life goes on. Sometimes it feels like church is the family business... well, it sorta is.

I was saved at 13, but didn't face my questions of sexual orientation until my late 20's. At some point, I had to face the reasons why each relationship I had with women would never work out.

It was so painful--I suffered alone in that for a long time. Now that it's a decade later, things are so much better. Honestly, though it was difficult to face the issues in the beginning, soemtimes it's a struggle even now.

Growing up, my church life was everything. And to discover later on that a core part of my life, my sexual orientation, was a direct contradiction to everything I had been taught to believe was very hard. But then I had to re-examine everything I had been taught.

It's hard to walk among those who don't understand you. It's even harder when those walking with you are also those you love (family, friends, etc.). It can cut pretty deep. Yet it helps to remember that you are wonderfully made; a designer's original.

Since then, I have learned that my family's inability/unwillingness to accept ALL of the facets of my life, does NOT mean that Jesus doesn't. I was blessed to learn many years ago that Jesus does accept me--all of me--just as I am.

I do not believe that our sexual orientations are choices, just as race/ethnicity/gender are not choices. We were created in God's image, just as we are, how we are. And He loves us. He simply loves us.

I had to learn to accept His unconditional love for me. He loves us, just as we are; and I strive daily to emulate that love to the world.

I do not belive that God is discriminatory in his love (for other gay men, lesbian women, and transgendered persons) just because of who we are or who we love.

Now I have a partner of over two years, in a committed and loving relationship--he's awesome, and heaven sent, and I look forward to growing old with him.

As you continue to grow and mature in your walk with God, may you find peace in your soul for all the issues and questions and fears that may trouble you.

There are answers!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)

anon2 said...

Eric,

I noticed that a significant portion of your conflict in your "World Less Lonely" post centered around your (?) church. While I respect that most Christians churches try to be places that embody the spirit of Christ, I also think that some places attain that goal to a fuller degree than others.

I am happy that you've found some solace in an online sort of community; no way around it, that's a great thing. But for what it's worth, might a Christian church with a slightly more open attitude do a better job at supporting you in your search for peace?

I was directed to your site from Badchristian--as it looks like several posters were. I was struck by Brandon's thoughts on honesty as the vehicle by which we approach truth. Could there be a time for applying that to a church/community?

Eric said...

thanks for your comments anon2,

my public ministry life actually involves building relationships between pastors and churches - networking - to help build unity within the Church. i definitely know that there are some really awesome local churches out there - especially in the city i live in.

in fact, i know of a really awesome 'straight' but 'gay-welcoming' church that is very sensitive to these kinds of struggles.

my post called 'The World Less Lonely' talks about my experience in many churches over a 13 year period - not just a single church. it's a common experience though for gay 'strugglers' within the Church.

it is great to have encouraging words online from people. i have, however, also found a church that i'm really excited about. I've mentioned it in previous posts referring it to "The Tab" (which is the church's nickname for itself). I'm super excited about it and i'm really connecting with people.

believe me, i'm not one to totally bash the Church because of bad experiences with certain local churches. my public ministry is all about helping churches to see beyond the denominational differences and to connect on what they do have in common - Christ. I know the Church isn't perfect, but Christ is coming back for her. He must love us so much so we as the Church have got to love one another!

Bless you!

Brandon said...

Not sure what to say, really. Just glad to have somehow meandered my way over here. Your voice is refreshing, Eric. I'm glad to have blog-met you.

Marius said...
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