Tending Fence

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.

But, then again, I’m a country boy.

Clearing the air…kinda.

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.

Simply…amazing!

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.

Kinda.

-Trevor

Pain

Pain.

Pain in the moment.

A song to sing, a story to tell.

A sojourner’s heart to bind and heal.

Pain.

Pain in the memory.

That should be my happy wife.

That should be my faith community.

Pain.

Opportunity lost in the moments and the memories.

In the constant.

In the change.

My companion.

Pain.

And I should care…why??

Because, to be honest, it hurts.

Deeply.

So, why should I care so much?

Why should I care about the Church?
Why should I care about having a “conversation” with the Church?
Why should I care when the motivators for and feeders of healthy conversation are ignored and I find myself, instead, swimming in a sea of negativity?
Why should I care when the church kills the conversation?

Why should I care so much?

Why should I care about the church and the meaningful ministry it can have in the LGBTQ community?

Why should Trevor care??

Why should I care when it was at the hands of “good church people” that I was sexually abused?
Because, it was also at the hands of other good Church people that I was shown love and concern.

Why should I care when it was at the hands of “good church people” that I was placed in even more frightening vulnerable situations?
Because, it was at the hands of other good Church people that I was shown the proper attention and care.

Why should I care about the church lumping my gay sexual orientation in with pedophiles and rapists?
Because, it was at the hands of heterosexual men that I was abused, and the message needs to be shared that straight men may be just as risky as gay men.

Why should I care when it was at the hands of “good church people” that I was introduced to pornography, specifically gay porn?
Because, it was at the hands of other good Church people that I was shown what it meant to live a holy, circumspect life.

Why should I care when it was at the hands of “good church people” that I was bullied because I was a skinny and somewhat effeminate boy growing up?
Because, it was at the hands of other good Church people that I was shown full acceptance and value.

Why should I care when I try to offer some new vocabulary to the church, and in response they just tell me with great contempt that I’m being “politically correct?”

Why should I care when I am told by my specific faith family that I just need to move on because I don’t totally agree with their stance?

Why should I care so much about the Church?

Why??

Deep roots.

-Trevor

Conversation Feeders

Yesterday I wrote about Conversation Killers. Yes, it was a tough one to write. It was a little messy and very emotional. It was more reactive than proactive. I was venting. But I had to get it off my chest…I had been brooding on it for days.

Today, I want to turn more proactive and offer some simple steps that will get a healthy conversation going between the Church and the LGBTQ community.

Invite the story. Sit back, relax, stay quiet and just listen. Let the individual’s story come out of them and envelope you. Soak it in. Hear the struggle…the pain…the loss…the joy…the delight…the failure…the success. Hear it all. Ask open-ended questions that allow for more of the story to be revealed so that you can discover and learn more about your friend. Avoid leading questions or questions that assume a “correct” answer. Don’t be in a rush. Most likely, it’s a long one. The story of the discovery and acceptance of my sexual identity is a story that spans over 40 years. It’s impossible for that story to be told in one or even a few brief encounters. Let the process take just as long as it needs to take.

Don’t force a new story line. The person’s story is just that…their story. Don’t try to reinterpret it, don’t try to make it yours, and don’t try to make it a story about the sorry state of society or the “gay agenda” from Hollywood. And, don’t even try to make it a story about God at this point. It is only the story of the storyteller and it is that person’s to own and give away as they see fit. Be prepared for terminology that may make you uncomfortable or offend your senses. Let it be. Don’t try to clean up the story or make it sound more “presentable” for your world. Let it flow. If a christian gay man like me tells you that he’s gay, don’t insist that he say that he’s “same-sex attracted.” Doing so is offensive. There are some people in my circle of influence who have recently embraced a man who is ministering in this area. He is a strong communicator with a compelling story. However, there are some who are telling me that I need to express myself like he expresses himself by not using the word “gay,” but “same-sex attracted” instead; by not talking about “homosexuality,” but instead use the term “holy sexuality” in its place. Newsflash friends and family – he is gay! He is simply using terminology that is more agreeable to your tastes so that he can continue to minister in your congregations. Don’t try to make me translate my story to sound like his.

Think before you speak. It should go without saying that we should first consider our words and how they will be received by the listener. Knowing how to frame our words in such a way so that they are received with respect is a skill that too few in the church have acquired. I’m not saying avoid speaking truth into someone’s life; I’m saying be careful how you do that. The example I vented about yesterday is a perfect example of how not to communicate ideas.

Exist in humility. Don’t approach the conversation in such a way as to communicate that you have all the answers. Forget all the Bible passages that you have memorized to prove that homosexual sex is sinful. Be transparent with your storyteller that you are also on a journey and are still learning about what your own life and faith should look like. Communicate both verbally and non-verbally that you want to get to know them better. By doing so, you will show them that you are willing to link arms with them and be a sojourner with them. People aren’t looking for spectators who will watch for the wins and losses and keep track of each one; instead, they are looking for companionship. Humility is the fertile soil in which companionship grows.

Be safe. Keep the story to yourself. If you can’t do that, then don’t even start the conversation. Don’t condemn. If you can’t do that, then don’t even start the conversation. Don’t prescribe some “fix.” If you can’t do that, then don’t even start the conversation. Yes, I know I repeated that phrase “If you can’t do that, then don’t even start the conversation.” (You should get the point by now…) This is not a story to be flippantly observed, but one that is held near and dear by the storyteller. Recognize the high value the person places on it as they share. Assure your friend that you are safe…then prove it. Otherwise, just move on and let someone more capable have the conversation with them.

Everyone has their own idea of what will kill or feed a conversation with them. These are some key items for me.

Ready?

-Trevor

PS – I’d love to have a good conversation right here about this topic. I know you and others will have more and better ideas than myself. So, if you would share this in other formats, that would be awesome! Thanks!! šŸ™‚

Conversation Killer

Following a series of chats an acquaintance of mine and I hadĀ over the last few weeks regarding my sexual orientation, he postedĀ this little tidbit on Facebook the other day:Ā “When sexuality moved from being a verb (what you DO) to a noun (who you ARE), it was a ā€Ŗ#ā€Žbadmoveā€¬, the aftershocks of which continue to decimate.”

It’s too bad he didn’t have the guts to just reach out and slap me across the face when he had the chance while we were sittingĀ in Panera Bread talking the other day.

That’s the effect his statement had on me when I read it.

Of course, he was talking about every other sexual orientation except anything considered straight. But, I wonder, if he would embrace this same mentality for his own personal sexual orientation. It would go something like this – that he isn’t heterosexual, he just has heterosexual sex. I seriously doubt it.

Here’s the thing. He was one of the people I thought I could trust in beginning “the conversation” that I’ve written about lately. He’s a leader in the church. I really didn’t expect him to embrace all that I was telling him, but I thought he had enough intestinal fortitude to respect me. I anticipated that he would have a mind and heart to listen and hear me out. Turns out, that he must have been a million miles away while I was pouring my heart out to him.

I’m really sick of this. I’m sick of hearing this from the church. I’m sick of religious folk being so damn blissfully happy in their ignorance. I’m sickĀ of the church considering LGBTQ people substandard…subhuman…(to use his word) “decimated.”

This, my friend – if you happen to read this blog post – is the reason you and the church cannot get a conversation started with the LGBTQ community.

Wake up!

-Trevor