One of my favorite worship songs…
As a follower of Jesus, I cling to the cross and the hope of the empty tomb.
This week, Jeff Chu’s book “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” came out. It includes a chapter about me and my story — including my sin, my failure, my fall from ministry.
It has been an ongoing journey for me since all that happened. To be honest, it doesn’t seem like 4 years ago… it seems just like yesterday. If I am not careful, I can still allow those events to define me. To be clear, they don’t. But remembering that is something else.
Jeff interviewed me for the book over two years ago. At that point, I was two years removed from what had happened. What Jeff gets is a snapshot of where I was at that time.
I was in a good place two years ago. The crisis had past, I had connected with a great church in Hartford, I was clear about my identity in Christ and how my sexual orientation impacted that. I had moved on from counseling and was now regularly seeing a spiritual director. My relationship with Christ was strong, intimate, growing, vibrant. But the wounds were still very raw. I still wrestled with what it meant to be gay and Christian. Very few relationships from the church had been repaired. I was healing, but the wounds were just beginning to scab over — still raw, still sensitive, and still painful when they got bumped.
Two years later… and four years after what happened… I am in a very different — and better — place. I honestly feel that many relationships have been restored. While I have not been back to the church for a service, I have been back in the building, seen some of the changes, etc. I have been able to help them with some things and, have to say, there is no one more excited and optimistic about what God is doing in that community of faith than I am.
I am also increasingly comfortable with who I am — and increasingly uncomfortable with my own sin. This is a good thing. As I mature in Christ, I am increasingly aware of how my sins of omission so often are greater than my sins of commission. I struggle to love my enemies. I talk a good game about loving the poor, the least, the lost — but struggle to translate that into practical acts of service. I am still more comfortable serving on a Board, raising money and writing polices to help the homeless and under-resourced, than I am sitting over a meal and sharing fellowship together. I am quick to judge and rarely extend the same grace to others that I desire for myself. My thoughts tend towards the useless and the profane too often.
Some would say that these are no big deal. Maybe. But as Ignatius teaches in his spiritual exercises, as we follow Jesus as His disciples, we should become both more aware and disturbed by our sin, brokenness. An examination of conscience.
But, I also feel more free, joyful, centered and in love with Jesus every day. I have learned that hiding and pretending leads to spiritual death. As does indulging every desire, longing, lust or whim. The Way of Life — the Way of Jesus — is found on neither path. Abundant life is found in intimacy with our Savior. And that intimacy sets us free to be real, authentic, transparent.
So not only have I experienced great reconciliation with people, and with Christ — but also, and perhaps as importantly, with self.
Jesus loves me, this I know. But now I also love myself and can see myself through the eyes of my creator.
And all of this is (only) possible by the power of the cross of Jesus.
Friday is Good Indeed! And we know, on this side of history, that while it is Friday, Sunday is coming… and has already come… for HE IS RISEN AND ALIVE!
Happy Easter everyone!
I had the privilege of preaching on Palm Sunday at Riverfront Family Church this past Sunday. The title of the message is “The Gospel According to Jesus”. Feel free to listen, check it out, and let me know your thoughts.
My copy of Jeff Chu’s new book arrived yesterday and I just had a chance to read the chapter that tells my story. I have to tell you, it is a bit weird to read your story in a book like that.
Jeff did a great job telling the story. It is accurate, and he demonstrates a lot of insight in how he tells the story.
Reading it was hard. Much of it covers a part of my life that I am not proud of. It really looks at one of the lowest times in my life. This is no hero story. Not by a long shot.
But it is my story. It is a real story.
I am also glad that my chapter is in the book. I lived for 17 years with a very big lie. Hiding was a soul-killing experience. So much so that I ended up in a total train wreck. I survived… and today I would say I have thrived — relationally, spiritually, and just about every way that you could. But 17 years is a long time to live with a lie. That is why I have embraced a discipline of transparency.
This chapter is a very open, raw, real look inside a very private window. Having it out there makes me feel vulnerable. It means I can’t side-step what happened or try and spin it away.
And that is a good thing.
A lot has changed in the two years since Jeff interviewed me. And a lot has changed over the past four years as well.
I will blog more about how things have changed and where I am at today over the next few weeks — but for now, I hope you read the (whole) book… and let me know what you think.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
During this Holy Week, these verses are what I am meditating on. And they are prayer both for myself and you.
God Bless during this Holy Week — and may you Christ more and more every day!
Below is an excerpt from Jeff Chu’s new book, “Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in American”. The book is being released March 26th and is available for pre-order now here. The book also includes a chapter about me and my journey. You should definitely check it out!
This is a powerful testimony that I found posted on redletterchristian.org, about living in the closet as a gay Christian. Read it here and listen to the pain, plea, hurt. Then pray and ask, what can I do? What can my church do to change this dynamic?
My prayer is that people like this author can come to understand that they are loved and beloved and need to be in a community of faith where they can be open, honest and authentic about who they are. Anything short of that will lead to self-loathing, pain, hurt and both spiritual and relational death.