Author Ken Gire talks about crossing thresholds, and how there is generally something propelling us forward, while something else—something familiar and safe—is holding us back. Intuitively, we know we must take a step, but often, what is out there is unfamiliar. And not just unfamiliar, but a place we don’t know how to inhabit.
CS Lewis talked about heaven this way. He told us that if we didn’t belong in heaven, we wouldn’t even like it. The terrain would hurt our feet, it would be terribly boring, etc.
When I think of inhabiting a place, or even a relationship, I always forget about what this actually means. Something unfamiliar. Something I don’t know how to do. I’m excited and giddy at first, but in time I remember the pain that always comes with crossing new thresholds.
I’ve found myself here recently. Stumbling. Thinking I know how to do this when I haven’t the faintest idea. All I thought I knew about life, love, and even serenity feels like uninhabited territory. And I wonder if it’s because the rules have changed (which they have) or because my old life had become theoretical for me, as opposed to actual. In theory, I knew how to live. But then life threw me a curveball…and everything changed.
“It isn’t going to be easy,” they told me. “Are you ready for this?”
I nodded my head. I was sure I understood.
But oh, my friends, I did not understand.
You know that cute little melodramatic catch phrase, “What have I become?!?!” I’ve been thinking on that tonight. That little catch phrase has turned into a bit of an action statement for me; the current thought being:
What must I UN-become?
The anxiety I feel over this question is powerful. But it is not unfamiliar.
At 21 years old, I sat in an empty field holding the shard of a pop bottle to my wrist. I was crying. I was sobbing. And, like a good little Christian boy, I was praying.
It was a dramatic scene. Maybe even a bit melodramatic, but nonetheless, very real to me.
I knew that I was gay. Deep down, I knew. But I believed God was supposed to heal me of this infirmity. After all, good Christian leaders had told me this very thing. And so, I spent several years praying; with my hands up, with my hands clasped tightly together, with my hands on my privates. (I wish I were kidding.)
Up until then, I hadn’t been healed…a detail I wasn’t sure was God’s fault or my own. But sitting there that day, it didn’t matter whose fault it was. I just kept thinking…
If I end this…if I take my life, maybe I can be a new me somewhere else.
(Letting this sink in for a moment. This is very real. There are so many who go through with it; who end their lives because of their inability to accept themselves as they are.)
But here is the part I still don’t understand. I set the pop bottle shard aside, left the empty field, and continued to live in that same pain for many, many years. I really believe I made an agreement that day, that in order to live out God’s truth, I would never be able to live honestly. How’s that for irony?
I wish I could go back and talk to that boy.
Along the way, I found ways to cope with the pain. I told myself lies. It’s because you were abused. I told lies to others. I have “homosexual tendencies” but I’m mostly straight. I drank. I didn’t look at attractive men for more than a second or two. I didn’t do porn…like, ever. I didn’t cheat. I followed all the rules. I behaved myself.
And then one day, decades later, after weariness had gotten the best of me and I simply couldn’t do it anymore, I realized (by praying a very simple prayer) that I was, in fact, a gay man. Still a man. Still a son of God. But wired in a way I had once considered impossible. (A way I thought would take me straight to hell and disappoint every last person I knew. Especially God.)
My 21-year-old prayer had always been…
“Please help me not be gay.”
And God’s answer was always the same…
“I am with you. Always.”
But on this particular eye-opening day, my prayer had simply been…
“AM I gay?”
This time, God answered with a question of his own.
“What do you think?”
Which was then followed by a sort of pile on of expressions from him that went something like this:
God spent the next six weeks confirming a hundred things surrounding this one little question. And I sat so quietly with him each day, listening to his voice. Hanging on every word, watching myself at so many different ages in every memory that was being revealed to me.
Man, God really is kind. He sat with me in the shower of this peaceful little apartment, sometimes two and three times a day, and clarified what I thought he never would. He was patient and kind…and BRILLIANT. And he wasn’t afraid of me.
God is so good. He’s just so, so good.
This morning my pastor spoke of the resurrection of Jesus. He would talk about it for a moment and then say, “But where’s the evidence?” And then he’d put his hand to his heart and say, “It’s right in here.”
That’s what it was like for me in that little apartment. The evidence was within me…it had always been within me. Only now, I wasn’t afraid to accept it.
I was saddened by the revelation that I was gay…but at the same time, so relieved. And then so happy to finally be out from under the life-sucking, joy-hoarding lie.
Do you know what it’s like when that kind of lie gives way to the truth? It’s just…
Things changed. Hard things. Devastation. Loss. So much happened. And life as I knew it…was over.
And so…here’s what I want you to know:
The truth will set you free. But sometimes the truth is painful, because the freedom it brings leaves you not knowing where in the hell to go.
These days, I’m finding myself back at that empty field—minus the suicidal thoughts, but with all of those old feelings.
All the anxiety. All the fear. All the low self-esteem. All the confusion.
Over the years, I learned how to handle anxiety. I learned how to handle fear. I figured out what to do when I was confused. I spent decades learning my worth as a man and felt good about the person I was capable of being. Long story short…I liked me.
Fast-forward to today, and the man I’ve become must now UN-become. Because things in my life have changed. A threshold has been crossed. And the truth is setting me free…ish.
When a lie is finally made right, what you are left with is the truth, which is inconveniently staring you in the face. Oh, it’s about to set you free, alright. But to where exactly?
To a place you likely don’t know how to inhabit.
The truth sent me right back to that empty field. Back to those things I had walked away from; those things I never fixed.
I’ve learned so much over the years—mining life, sifting dirt, and turning stones.
But in that empty field, there is dirt I never sifted, stones I never turned. The anxiety, the fear, and the confusion are all still there.
The truth? Some days I walk around my house feeling like I’m going to explode because I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to do this new thing. Unbecoming is a much bigger process than I had imagined.
But I believe I will get there. I believe I will be okay. And since today is Easter, I’m just going to go ahead and say it…
I believe I will rise again.