Thursday, December 15, 2005

Living Life As All Of Me

What does it look like to be both gay and Christian?

I may never be able to fully answer that question. However, the best I can do for now - on this part of my journey - is to be me.

While there may be numerous characteristics of 'me', I am only one person. And I have to believe that God is concerned about my whole person. He's not simply concerned about the part of me that works. He's not simply concerned about the part of me that plays. I believe that He's concerned and cares for my whole self - my personality, my sexuality, my spirituality, my physiology.

Often times, I'll compartmentalize my life and my being. There's the Eric who works the non-profit organization (what i typically refer to as the 'public ministry'). There's the Eric who 'goes to' church. There's the Eric who exercises regularly at the gym. There's the Eric who (used to) go to school. There's the Eric at home alone. There's the Eric around this group of friends. There's the Eric around that group of friends. Am I the same person in each of these contexts? Or have I compartmentalized the person I am depending on who I was with and what I was doing?

Can someone fully love me if he or she doesn't fully know me?

One of the hardest things for me about being in the closet was/is feeling like I'm not fully known . . .

There's a part of me that's always hidden. But, as a Christian, I am called to be and remain in the light. That implies being seen - by God and by others. Granted, how much of me is visible should be discerned with wisdom because some people aren't safe enough for me to be completely known. However, I wonder what it would look like if I helped to create safe environments where people could be themselves as much as possible.

Perhaps it would look like me helping people to feel comfortable with being the person they are - regardless of their degree of faith, their race, their economic class, their gender, or their sexuality. Perhaps it would look like me respecting them enough to look into their eyes and see their heart. Perhaps it would look like me demonstrating sincere love - responding to identified needs. Perhaps it would look like me nurturing a relationship with people minus any Churchian agenda - allowing them to experience what it's like to be valued simply because they are worth loving.

Could this be an environment where I can, in turn, feel safe as well? A place where I can feel comfortable being the person I am? A place where I can be respected enough to be looked in the eyes and to have my heart seen? A place where my needs are identified and met? A place where a relationship with me is nurtured?

Maybe it's okay for all of us to live life together 'in the light'. Maybe it's okay for all of us, in community, to intentionally strive to know one another more and more - the good, the bad, the ugly. Perhaps, to be more known means to live less compartmentalized lives.

The Eric among the Church community is the same Eric at the dance club. The Eric at the bar is the same Eric at the gym. The Eric at the party is the same Eric at work. The Eric with the friends is the same Eric with the family. I think being both gay and Christian is about being whole. It's about living life as all of me. I love Jesus. I'm attracted to men. I strive to live the Way Jesus modeled - loving all people properly. I am the man God created. I am becoming the man God created me to be. I am growing. I am learning. I am stretching. I am alive.

I've been wrestling with my degree of anonymity on this blog. Should I allow people - you all - to see what I look like? Should I post my photo? It's felt liberating to have this blog as an outlet for my feelings - a place for raw thoughts. As I've journeyed these several months, I look back and I realize that one of the things I wanted most was to be able to own what I believe rather than simply accepting what other people have previously taught. It's my journey and I'm exploring, not my sexuality, but rather, my life. I'm exploring what it looks like to live life - to live out my faith.

So here it is. All of me. A photo of Eric, author of Two World Collision:

In all honesty, being anonymous on this blog comes from a place of fear. I'm afraid of what may happen if I am fully known. I may be persecuted. I may be rejected. The people relationally or professionally connected to me may be effected. My worlds colliding. However, this fear leads to hiding and it is contrary to the intent of this blog - for me to be known to myself and to others.

I have my share of struggles, battles, anchors, regrets, and shame. Perhaps, one day I'll think that making myself this vulnerable is a mistake. However, in my weakness and imperfection, I realize His strength, goodness, righteousness, grace, mercy, and purpose. I've seen the Lord use me, despite me, and I continue to learn to live in that place of grace - that undeserved favor that God grants me through Jesus Christ my Savior. He is not yet done molding, shaping, and teaching me.

I have resolved not to define myself by the mistakes that I have made, but rather by the lessons that I have learned. I have learned that I cannot change what I have "done" but that I can choose what can be "done". My choice is to be a better man today than I was yesterday.

A year ago, I'd be terrified of putting my photo up on the Web out of fear of being recognized. Today, I hope I am recognized so that I can bear witness to the realities of living my life fully - as both gay and Christian.

Can you see me now?


Eugene said...

Yes, there's definitely a degree of fear involved in choosing to remain anonymous. For me it's the fear that I could lose my job if the wrong people learned about the questions I'm asking. Even if they chose to avoid the potential legal minefield of firing me outright, I'd probably end up spending every working moment under a microscope (in the name of 'accountability,' of course).

But I identify with the desire you have to integrate all of those little compartments in your identity. One of these days I'll hopefully be in a position to do the same.

Anonymous said...

You are awesome, my friend :)

Michael Dodd said...

Interesting. I was tempted to put up a photo of myself on my blog today, so it intrigues me to see you did. (Cute, BTW!)I have given my real name on my blog before, but I still use the nom de blog except when people email me and we communicate privately.

An older friend (older than you, younger than I am) who is in the process of coming out struggled with the fact that some people wondered why he had been hiding his orientation from them. He thought he had been doing it to make things easier; they wished they had known because it meant they hadn't known as much about him as they might have. It has taken him some time to see that hiding had hurt the relationships in some way. None got shattered over it, so he is thankful for that. Since he had bought into the whole comprtmentalization ideology, though, he thought he could be just the part of himself he wanted to be, and that would be enough, not realizing that he was distorting himself in the process.

One sometimes hears that we are only as sick as our secrets. What we keep secret may not be what is sick,though; it is the keeping it secret that sickens us.

tk said...

eric, you dont know me, i just found your blog via another blog today, and i have to say, this was a very beautiful and moving entry. you sound awesome, and im going to make your blog a regular stop.

Anonymous said...

Eric ... Well done, dude. You've struck some clear chords in this excellent post. The honesty thing ("being completely known") has been in my mind also for some time ... as per the commandment, "Don't lie!"

Kudos and hugs to you.

grace said...

It does make me so sad to know that so many gays can't/don't feel comfortable being who they are...particularly to their own families. As a mother, I can't imagine my love for my sons being conditional upon ANYTHING and I'd hate to think that they could become adults and have kept something like that from me. It would say more about our relationship than anything else. I can see it being difficult to broach even IN a strong relationship with one of that case, I feel certain I'd already know it intuitively and I'd be able to help them feel comfortable talking to me about it.


Carlos said...

In the end, I do not think we really ever get to know who we really are to the fullest extent in this life. I think that is what it means in Revelations when Christ gives us our true names. I think that is when it will all be made known to us who we really are and what part we have played and what part we continue to play in God's grand scheme of things.

Vic Mansfield said...

Eric, I share your struggle between openness and honesty and fear of being known. I live with that, right now, and I hate the anonymity. I am beginning the coming out process, first coming out to myself, and to God. YES, we can be Christian and gay, in fact we (and many brothers and sisters ARE both Christian and gay. God loves us, even as we struggle to love ourselves.

The Truth is the only thing that will set us free.

I will keep you in my prayers. Prayers for encouragement, support, safe-keeping, and strength.

Grace, Peace & Blessings, "Joe."

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric-I cannot say I totally know how you feel. I can say that one of my dreams and I was telling a friend this last night...what if we could just lay it all out and still be loved. That is my dream..for people to love one another for who they are not what they are.
Becky O

Otherside said...

Your entry has spoken to really has spoken to me.

I want to thank you for your honesty and You amaze me more every day.

Anonymous said...

...thank you...