Monday, October 09, 2006

Keeping the Closet Door Open

I feel like the more un-anonymous I become on this blog, the less authentic I feel free to be. When I know that certain people are reading, i'll find myself hesitating from writing about certain things. This is tough for me because I lose my outlet for processing my thoughts. It was so freeing at the start of Two World Collision when I was completely anonymous and I could pretty much write about whatever I wanted or about whatever I was feeling. Yet, at the same time, it was so freeing when I reached a point in my blog life when I was ready to "come out". I felt known.

When I self-edit myself on this blog, I can see myself following that pattern in my life of strategically presenting only the good parts of me to the world while keeping the rest of me in a closet - maybe not the gay closet, but my own closet . . . .

I don't want to do that. I don't want to continue living my life being inauthentic for the sake of potentially manipulating public opinion about me. I do want to be known. I want you to know who I am. And I do want to be a good witness of what Jesus is doing in my life. But my witness isn't that I'm "good", but my witness is that He is "good" and that He is "good" to me despite me. Two World Collision isn't about my journey of finding cohesion in what were two colliding worlds - colliding paradigms. It's about my ongoing journey of discovering who I am and revealing who I am. It's about finding the cohesion between the public Eric and the closet Eric.

Love me, hate me, know me for all of me. I'm not going to be the champion gay Christian. I'm not going to be perfect. I simply have a direction and I still have so much to figure out about all of this.

I shall continue taking the risk of being real here - even if it makes me look horrible and terrible and ugly and even imperfect. So here it is: I feel like I've made poor decisions over the past week and a half. I've been sad and tired. I've been impatient and on edge at work. I'm not happy with me right now.

I'm in a better place today, but all of last week I was doing all I could to hang in there.

I made a string of poor decisions last week. I subscribed to a 3 day trial membership at a porn site. I had a meaningless "hook up" with a guy. I've been eating fast food again.

Sometimes, I don't know what the hell is wrong with me. One poor decision leads to another, then another, then another and the panic of being in the quicksand gives me cause to make the next poor decision. Each poor decision is a way to cope with feeling crappy about the previous poor decision. And I just hate myself more each time.

Damn it.

I know i've got a problem when the shaming behavior begins. I know i'm in this mode when I start hiding. It's when I close the door and turn down the computer's speakers so that my room mate can't hear what I'm watching on the Internet. It's when I wait to be home alone to call and arrange a hook up. It's when I quickly eat the (huge) burrito and (super) nachos and (large) fries and milk shake before my room mate gets home so that he doesn't see how much of a pig I'm being and then it's when I take out the trash (and evidence) down to the dumpster so that he doesn't see in our kitchen trash can what I had been eating. Or it's when I do use the kitchen trash can but I bury the fast food bag and wrappers down at the bottom and cover it with other trash and napkins.

"But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?' " (Genesis 3: 7-10)

It's not that i'm hard on myself. Well, maybe I am. But I'm also acknowledging the truth of what I know is wrong. I was in a group discussion last week about how some Christians (gay or straight) will rationalize some sin to be acceptable because it's "better" than doing something "worse". Is it okay to masturbate while looking at porn because it's "better" than actually having sex with someone? Is it okay to have oral sex because it's "better" than going "all the way"? Is it acceptable to gawk and stare at the hotties walking down the street because simply looking is "better" than touching and embracing? Is it okay to take the "lesser of two evils"?

I don't think so.

If both options are wrong, then it's still wrong. It's time to look for the third option. But look, i'm not legalistic about all of this. Yes, we have to call sin what it is but I realize there's the practical side of living life with temptations. I don't think that Jesus is waiting to bash me over the head because of the sin of the moment. I think that Jesus is more concerned about what's going on in my heart that led me to sin in the first place. It doesn't mean that He excuses what I've done. It just means that He's walking with me through what I've done.

If I am looking at porn, I think that Jesus is more concerned about my need for genuine physical intimacy and that I am expressing this need in broken ways through a love-substitute - lust. Yes, I do believe that God desires my obedience but I don't think His approach to correcting me is pointing His finger and saying, "Look at what you did! That was wrong!" Rather, I think Jesus' approach to addressing my sin is revealing to me my real need and providing grace for that. By meeting and healing the genuine need, my own attempt at meeting that need in an unhealthy way discontinues (or at the very least, subsides).

So yeah, what i've been doing is wrong. I've made poor decisions. And Jesus is walking with me through them.

I'm lonely. Some friends tell me that I'm a catch. I say this humbly but I don't disagree. My self-esteem isn't completely shot. It's just that my self-confidence takes a hit every time I see couples together enjoying the privilege of each other's touch. I want that. I want to be touched and I want him to want to touch me. It's so hard being 30 years old and not even having my first defined relationship. How much of a catch can I be?

So that's when I start believing the distorted thoughts that go through my mind - i'm ugly, i'm undesirable. I feel empty so I try to fill that feeling with food. Feeling full is at least feeling something. I want to feel something. I feel numb so I try to fill that feeling with masturbation. Feeling pleasure, even temporarily, is at least feeling something. I want to feel something. The porn and the fantasy and the food are simply tools that facilitate the feeling.

This is me just trying to understand what's going on inside. I'm not excusing my sin (and neither should you excuse my sin). But perhaps naming the need will help me to recognize "better" and healthier ways of meeting that need.

I unpacked all of this with my buddy the other day. We both have been having some very rough times in our personal lives the past several months. And we've been able to be the friend we each need. After last week, I hesitated from telling him about what I had been doing because I was afraid of what he'd think of me. That's silly because we both have confided in each other and the trust has been earned on both ends. But being vulnerable is always difficult.

In the past, I always felt like people left me when they knew too much of me. I think it's a wound that I've kept around ever since my elementary years when my parents divorced. It's like they knew that I was "gay" and so they divorced me. When I confided in friends, they never stuck around and so I felt like they divorced me. So it's easier to just not let people know me. The wall goes up and i'm selective as to how much of me my family and friends get to discover about me. They see a portion of me (the good parts) while the rest of me hides in my closet.

So the thing that me and my buddy are learning to do is keeping the closet door open (even if one of us are still inside). We may still need the safety of the closet. But with the door open, one can see in and know what's in there, and one can see out that the buddy hasn't run away. We're getting comfortable with being vulnerable with each other. We find a place where there is no judgment - and a friend who doesn't go any where when things get ugly.

Where does this all leave me now? I'm a little more aware of what I'm feeling and even why I'm feeling the way I do. It's super helpful to bounce thoughts and emotions off my buddy to help me process them. Last week, I just felt completely out of control - like everything was just happening to me and I couldn't stop messing up and the rushing waves were crashing over me and I was drowning. Whoa, actually I was feeling like Augustana's "Boston" video that I posted right before last week started. Hmm . . . interesting.

Anyway, where was I?

At the end of the day, I want to be real. I'm tired of just showing the world the flattering parts of who I am. There's more to me than the over achieving "good Christian". There's more to me than the gay guy who finally came out of the closet. There's also the part of me that needs that closet. For now, I'll just keep the door open and grow from there.


Anonymous said...

If only there were more Christians like you in the world who were open and honest about what life has brought them. You are the perfect example of the fact that we all have our skeletons in the closet but those skeletons make us who we are. We may not be proud of them, and we may not want people to see them, but nevertheless they have shaped us. But you, Eric, have the truth of Christ in you, and you make me wish I had the same courage (and truth) in me. Peace be with you....

Aaron said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Eric. In some paradoxical way, by being so open about not being the "champion gay Christian" you've come closer to being a champion! When you reach out to others in your imperfection instead of retreating to the safety of the other closet, you remind us that God's "power is made perfect in weakness".

Anonymous said...

Hugs, my friend, long big compassionate hugs. (And next week, it won't just be an idea but a physical reality, OK?)

You are amazing! I am honored to be your friend.

Anonymous said...

Oh Eric, even though we're not that close (in the sense that we don't hang out and chat on the phone and stuff) I want you to know that Alan and I (along with hundreds of your friends) care deeply about you. I am so impressed that you have the courage to talk about real things you deal with... like porn and stuff. We all struggle with that and I'm very judgemnetal on myself with that too. But it all comes back to Jesus. Jesus loves you, Jesus loves me. Temptation will always be around... but Jesus' love is greater.

A few nights ago I found myself sobbing while listening to Kathy Trocolli's song "You're Still Here" and Steve Camp's "Love That Will Not Let Me Go"... yeah so ok...i'm about 4 years older than you so my taste in music might not be the same as yours...but if you're interested I could make you a copy of these songs...hee hee

btw... can you email me our pic from Disneyland? The one that I saw here on your blog? Thanks :-)

Anonymous said...

Eric - Thanks for your honesty! Needless to say you're not the only one that has ever felt this way or acted out this way.

We are all trying our best to walk the line, keeping on the path, not wanting to act out. Yet we get lonely, in need of the physical contact that is longed for deep within our hearts. And longing for that partner wondering when will Mr. Right come along, and at times can make the world feel cold and lonely because we are stil searching.

We act as though we have it all together yet only those that truly take the time to know us and understand our hearst and where we are coming from, to make that connection and feel our pain do we then begin to understand each other. It's through personal settings and making the investment in time and the willingness to expose ourselves to each other.

Sometimes you need to make the first move in asking a person out to take the chance. I was recently told that even though you have loved before and are afraid to love again, allow to love and fall in love as though it's the first time.

In the end though through all of all faults, we are saved, our sins are forgiven and one day we will enter His presense and He will wipe away all of the tears from our eyes.

Love ya!

Eric said...

You are all so awesome! Thanks for your encouragement. =)

It means alot to me!

Anonymous said...

Saint Joon,

I thought I was the only person on the planet who knew Steve Camp's "Love That Will Not Let Me Go" It's definitely been a landmark song in my life. I get misty already when the piano starts at the opening.

Great song! Great song indeed! And so fitting at this time on this post.

Anonymous said...

Ooh btw... I'm not really a saint...well ya'll know that... :-)

But I do love that song and even sang it at a talent show once (minus the

Here are some of the Contemporary Christian songs that will stay with me "like a handprint on my heart".

The Feeling Of Your Love by Eric Champion
You're Still Here by Kathy Trocolli
Place In This World Michael W Smith (even upto 20 years later)
Touch Of The Master's Hand
and Would I Know You both by Wayne Watson.
A lot of Steve Camp's songs...he's like the Christian version of David Foster...genius and annointed.

Eric... I would recommend these songs... Alone In Love by Lisa Bevill
Somebody Love Me by Michael W Smith
Free To Fail by Michelle Wagner.

Music is very powerful... I'll make you a copy of my favorite songs... Hope you dont mind Eric


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for being honest. I've been having a similar period in my life the past couple of weeks, and I feel I'm coming out of it now. I'm one of those people who always knows why I'm doing something, even if I know it's stupid or ultimately unfulfilling. There was never a doubt in my mind as to why I was looking at porn again. I do it because I'm lonely. Coping mechanisms are never in moderation for me either, so things got pretty rough before I finally asked God what to do with the lonely. What I'm doing isn't working, and it never will. Things have slowly gotten better since. It's hard not having that person in my life to talk to, but I'm hoping that I get an opportunity to change that. In the mean time, I'm learning how to be good for myself again.

Zeke said...

Shoving fast food containers to the bottom of the trash? I thought I was the only one that did that.

Anonymous said...

Eric, we've all done things that weren't good for us, that we're ashamed of ::raising hand::. And I think that not being in denial is a good first start to changing those behaviours, the way you respond to negative things in your life.

I think you are still an amazing person (and definitely a catch!). I'm sorry you feel lonely :( (((Gentle hugs))))) I am praying for you and with you!