I enjoyed a quiet drive through the country today. One of most favorite things to do. I had my youngest daughter with me and I was pointing out different things and sharing some of my experiences growing up in the country. It wasn’t too long and she was engrossed in something on her phone, so I just moved to musing to myself.
I was struck by a particular sight that I’ve been mulling over. It seems like this was on my mind since the instant I saw it. A large acreage heavily fenced in…a well-worn path just inside the fence line obvious from daily trips tending to the fence…pastureland that has long passed from valuable and useful into a state of neglect and harboring weeds, thistles, saplings, and brush. A gently rolling landscape of what must have been, in the past, the pride and joy of someone…but has since devolved into just something ugly.
The thought came to me immediately that this is what has happened to the church in some places. So much attention has been paid to tending fence to keep in the flock and keep out the unwanted, that the vitality and beauty of the thing has turned ugly from neglect and distraction on lesser priorities. To the point that those who pass by have no interest of getting in any longer.
I remarked to my daughter that the owner needed to do some serious “brush hogging” and burning to save the value of his property.
Maybe God does, too.
In some places I’ve been told I’m not wanted, no longer valuable, not even to be a greeter or usher…certainly not to “minister” in any way. There have been times I’ve been tempted to just keep moving on and not give the church a second chance. But, I keep driving by, hoping against hope that one day I will find an open gate and a pastureland that is beautiful from its tending.
A month ago, just before sunset, I was out walking along a quiet rural road near my home when my phone rang.
“Are you sitting down?” My mother asked in a voice that clearly wasn’t normal. I wasn’t, but there wasn’t anywhere convenient to sit nearby, so I asked what was wrong anyway.
“Trent was killed in a car accident tonight.”
Trent is—I typed is out of habit, but now realize I must say was—my 18-year-old nephew. He was on his way home from studying with friends, and would have graduated from high school in just three weeks.
The day he died was also, as it happened, his mother’s birthday. Two days after Mother’s Day.
There is a before and after to grief: one minute, your life, and the lives of your family members are humming along in the ordinary way; the next moment, you enter a new and very…
My therapist told me that the more transparency I can have in my life, the happier I will be. I believe it. However, in my world, with my specific circumstances, it’s just not the best choice, either for me or for my family. I would experience more loss of close family than I care to deal with, and my wife and children would have to suffer multiple times more than they already do.
So, I continue to trust God for some kind of flourishing life within this cocoon…the shell that hides my straight acting, confident, hopeful, Christian, insecure, fearful, gay self.
It’s a place of safety. A place where I can hide, where all my stuff can be kept safely out of view of those who would never understand and who would wish me harm.
I work really hard at maintaining the shell’s strength and ensuring its integrity. But the tiniest fault line in this shell risks the oozing out of what I’ve kept so closely hidden for so long. I just can’t let that happen.
Except for the rare peek inside that I’ve allowed a few people to have, the cocoon remains intact.
I’m still here, alive and well…and doing a little better every day.
Today, I sent a FB message to those who I was pastoring when I screwed up. I admitted my sin and my failing. I admitted I failed them and God. I admitted that I really messed up the work God was doing through the efforts of our church plant. I admitted that I nearly lost my family in the process.
I asked for forgiveness.
It was therapeutic to my soul and mind. But more importantly, it was what God called me to do…sitting right there in church this morning.
Within just a few hours, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and forgiveness in expressive and gritty-honest replies. It is an amazing spectical of grace, mercy, and love the likes of which I have rarely witnessed to this point in my life…second only to that of my wife.
I recieved forgiveness….again; because, to a person, they all stated that they had forgiven me at the very beginning.
I have felt God’s presence in my life in special ways the last few weeks. The loving presence of my wife, children, and a community of faith are some powerful avenues through which I am experiencing the love and presence of my Heavenly Father.
Does that mean that “it” has gone away and that I’m now “fixed?” No.
It simply means that I’m finally reaching a place to understand that God loves me just the way I am and that He can give me strength to live my life in such a way that He is glorified and His Church is strengthened. I’m understanding that through the loving actions of my family and friends. Although most don’t know that I had a gay affair or that I secretly identify as a gay Christian man in a mixed-orientation marriage, those of them that do have had loving reactions just as those who don’t.
So, yeah. Today I cleared the air with some dear friends.