faith

laugh louder. cry harder.

laugh louder. cry harder.

January has always been a difficult month for me, sometimes for specific reasons, sometimes not, and this year is no different. Maybe it's part of that whole seasonal affective disorder thing. I wouldn't be surprised, given that Minnesota becomes a frozen hell for a couple months every year, and yet so many of us still live here.

This particular January, I've been considering more in depth how my word of the year, Abide, applies to all the different things we might experience in a given calendar year, including that odd "winter blues" sensation that tends to come around when the temperatures drop and the days get shorter. What I've been pondering is how maybe these valleys we find ourselves descending into are just another place God challenges us to remain in for a time. Maybe you're supposed to be in this low point for a while, and maybe that's okay.

just wanting to live

Sometimes you just reach a breaking point. It’s not that you don’t care anymore or even that it’s not important anymore, but sometimes you just grow weary of the constant tension, the constant sensation of being “always on.” Because why wouldn’t that be exhausting? That’s sort of how I feel right now when it comes to Christian LGBTQ things and LGBTQ things in general, the dialogues, the conversations, the controversies, the debates, the activism, all of it. I feel burned out if I’m being completely honest.

 

And it’s gotten pretty darn close to the point of cynicism when it comes to these things now. Maybe it’s because I’ve already had 4 years to think about and process all my own thoughts and conflicts. Maybe it’s because I’m already out to my friends, family, and whoever else might care to know. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had to deal with many of the harsher realities of what this life and what this identity means for some people recently. Maybe, like Taylor Swift, it’s been a case of overexposure over the course of the last few years, with all the writing, rambling, and rallying I’ve been a part of.

 

I feel burned out if I'm being completely honest.

 

But maybe it’s also just a natural part of the ups and downs and cyclical nature of life itself. Maybe feelings and sensations like this come and go in waves. Maybe in a few weeks, months, or a year I’ll be back on the activism train and maybe even working in a position that would require that. That seems logical to me. It’s burned into my heart and soul after all, and there’s no running away from this existence, from this life that I’ve been living and will continue to live until the Lord decides my time is up.

 

For now though, I just want to live. And maybe this is a pipe dream or a symptom of some sort of privilege I didn’t quite realize I had, but I just want to be able to live my life without having to continually defend my own existence, my own convictions, my own identity, my own choices. I just want to be able to live my life without endlessly needing to explain why I think a certain way or why I’ve reconciled my identity with my faith and the rest of my life. That’s all really. I just want to live. I just want to be, and I long for the day when people can look at me, another anomaly among many (read: LGBTQ Christians), and others like me and just accept it at face value, without needing a long, drawn-out explanation or a theological argument to satisfy their own inner nagging curiosities or bouncer-to-the-Kingdom mentality.

 

I just want to be able to live my life without having to continually defend my own existence.

 

I just want to live, to wake up in the morning and go to work, to go to dinner with my friends every once in a while, to love the people I love, to hold someone’s hand, to talk about the future, and to be able to go to bed at night not feeling like I stick out in the church pews with a neon sign above my head just by virtue of being here on this earth.

 

And maybe one of the ways to fulfill that longing to just be, to just live is take a step back and do it. Obviously, this is always going to be something kindling in the depths of my heart and spirit, but I think I’m also willing to go with the ebb and flow.

 

So, who knows? Maybe now that I’m starting to get settled at work and having a functional computer again (long, strange story…haha) I’ll be back to writing here semi-frequently, but maybe I’ll also just lie low for a while to try this whole “just being” and “just living” thing. I have no idea. That’s where I’m at, and I’m going with the flow.

when you run out of plans

At any given point in life, there's bound to be quite a bit going on (or maybe that's just my life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that's not the case). And I suppose "quite a bit going on" can be taken to mean a myriad of things, but rightfully so. It could be difficult things. It could be wonderful things you've been waiting for. Or it could just be things in general that aren't necessarily good or bad, just things that happen that add another dimension to your daily existence, for better or worse. Honestly, I was almost hoping that my life would go the route of becoming one of those boring adult lives where nothing really happens over the course of several months and you just go to work, go home, occasionally see friends, and everything remains stable for the foreseeable future. But that hasn't really happened yet. For the time being, it seems like there's still a number of random events and "life things" cropping up at every twist and turn, and that's been a struggle as of late. At the same time, something I've been seeing is that with so many new things around every corner, old songs have started taking on new meanings for me.

For the majority of our lives, I think we have most things nicely planned out for us, with a set structure that allows us to know what to expect from life for the most part. Up until the moment we graduate from college (or perhaps high school for some), we have a plan we can fall back on it, because life tends to follow a linear pattern. But after that, I think many of us are taken off guard by the fact that a lot of that structure evaporates once we enter what so many millennials affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) call "the real world."

At that point, things become a lot less certain, because the more or less straight line that's been painted on the ground for us to follow usually ends there. We emerge in this big world without a clear sense of what to do, or at least I feel like I did, and we're forced to rely on God more than we perhaps ever needed to before arriving at that place.

Because of that new reliance, I've found that the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) has really begun to hit a lot closer to home. Maybe it's just because we don't necessarily take worship songs for what they mean a lot of the time, but I feel like I didn't quite understand what the song was really saying until just recently in my life. And it's saying a lot of scary things that are hard to actually mean when you sing the song I think.

If you think about it, what does it really mean to say, "Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you might call me?"

That's a crazy thing to say, especially when so many of us, and especially myself, like to have that clear cut certainty about where our lives our going and what our next step is. And perhaps this is even scarier and more powerful when God has already revealed to us what that next step is supposed to be or where our lives are going, but the seeming reality of the world and our life circumstances makes that seem so daunting or unrealistic. It's easy to sing that line, but it's a lot harder to take a hard look at life when our trust in God is reaching our borders and say "Okay, God, I'm here at the edge of my comfort zone. I don't know where I'm going or how You're going to make this work, but I trust you to let me walk upon the water to where you're calling me."

That's crazy. That's scary. That's not easy, especially when we hit harder points and start to sink into the water a little. Suddenly, it's not just a line in a song anymore; it's real life and we have to really mean what we're saying, which is something I think a lot of us aren't prepared for, to really ask God for that faith. At least, I know that I wasn't prepared for it when I reached this point of life, and maybe that's why this song suddenly seems so real.

Some Saturday reflections for you...

Being Gay at Bethel: Revisited

Here's a piece I wrote back in the spring about some good changes and things I see happening back at my alma mater (that sounds weird to say...). Bethel is one of my favorite places, and I'm thankful for the ways God is moving there, especially in the sense that LGBTQ students are starting to feel safer and that the atmosphere is shifting for the better. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.

setting sail from ephesus

I feel like this is probably a super millennial thing to say, but the transition to the adult world has been pretty jarring over the past few weeks. My college student body isn’t used to getting up at 6am to make it to work at 7:45am and then going to bed early to do it all over again, and my mind isn’t accustomed to all the new routines and mental switches I have to make during the day. All of that being said, it hasn’t been too rough yet, but I think one of the hardest things for me was also one of the more cliche things you could probably say about leaving college and starting to work full time: I honestly miss Bethel so much, and not necessarily specific friends or specific people at Bethel (though I definitely do miss all my friends and everything SO much; don’t get that mixed up, haha). But it’s more the sense that Bethel really did become my second home over the course of my three years there and it was so bittersweet to graduate and leave. I actually applied to a couple jobs at Bethel as graduation was coming up just to see if I could stick around a little longer, and as my job search got longer and more tedious over the summer, I actually started to get upset about the fact that I wouldn’t be going back (now that fall has rolled around, it’s more like tears and a lot of emotions, lol).  

Currently, I work in the office at a charter school in St. Paul, and even though I do really like it, there’s still a large part of my heart and soul that misses Bethel and aches to be back there this fall, coupled with the fact that so many of my closest friends are still seniors there. At the same time, I wholeheartedly believe that wherever we happen to find ourselves at any given moment is exactly where God wants us to be for that season of life. That’s something that was hard for me to accept, being in a place where I maybe didn’t want to be, and something that I’m still working on and through during this period of so much change and adaptation to a different world, a different schedule, a different mindset, and a different group of people that I find myself spending the majority of my days with now. But I still cling to the promise that God never has us walk through specific corridors of life in vain, and right now, as much as I might not like it, I know that where I am is exactly where He wants me to be.

 

But at the same time, maybe just as an encouragement to me (today was the first day of school at work, and it was a crazy, hectic, draining day), God seems to have reaffirmed that eventually my desire to return to Bethel will be fulfilled at some point in the not too distant future, prompting some ugly tears from me in my bedroom circa 8:30pm tonight. This promise came through a section of Acts 18 I was reading. In it, Paul has been moving all over, preaching and teaching in various cities as the Spirit led him. Right around verses 20 & 21, he’s leaving Ephesus and it says that the people asked him to stay with them a little longer but that he declined because he felt the Lord calling him to continue traveling and ministering elsewhere at that point in his life.

 

However, it also says this: But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. – Acts 18:21

 

In all of my weariness and also maybe bitterness about not being back at Bethel this fall, I think this was probably one of the gentlest ways that God could’ve encouraged me and told me to keep at it for this stage of life. And maybe that promise seems like a stretch, but I also think that’s the way that God tends to operate and maybe what He meant when He promised that His word would always be relevant to us, over the course of all of time.

 

Throughout my time at Bethel, Ephesians was always a go-to book for me, and it was also the first time in my life I could actually say I had a favorite book of the Bible. I still want a tattoo eventually to commemorate two of my favorite verses from it (v. 20-21 also super not coincidentally, because that’s how God likes to roll), and it quickly became a home base of sorts in the Bible, just like Bethel became a second home to me, mentally, relationally, spiritually, and physically. So, it seems just like God to sneak this reminder and promise into my day just before bed after a day where I honestly questioned whether I’d be able to make it through the whole year working at this school where every day just seems to suck all the energy right out of me. It’s seriously mind blowing how God does that, how He speaks to us when we’re at our lowest that bring tears to our eyes and an nodding affirmation as we wipe them away that yes, we can do this, but only because He’ll be walking by our side the whole way.

 

I’m not exactly sure when God will bring me back to Bethel, and whether that’ll be in the distant future or whether it’ll be a little sooner, but I’ll be anxiously awaiting that day while simultaneously asking Him for the strength and grace to get through this season that He’s brought me to. I want to love and serve as much as I can right now, right here where I am, but look out, Bethel, because I’m coming back for you someday, and I’ll probably be crying buckets when I finally make my way back.