For Men, friendship, Life, Love, Manhood, Ponderings, Thoughts

be brave with yourself

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with trying to figure myself out emotionally. As a man, I feel like I have a very unique and, sadly, widely stereotypically unacceptable personality type. I’m an emotionally expressive being. I get insecure, angry, hurt, heartbroken, joyful, excited, anxious, depressed, stressed, affectionate, and just about anything else you can imagine. And whatever emotion I’m feeling is expressed through my facial expressions, actions, and words.

I’m the type of person who loves to show the people I care about that I care about them. So, naturally, I do that in ways that I’m familiar with. For me, that’s straight up telling them or looking to spend time with them. (My love language is equal parts words of affirmation and quality time.)

But lately I’ve been feeling like I’m supposed to change myself. Like I’m too clingy or emotionally attached to the people I care about. So today I practiced being more withdrawn, distant, cold with my friends because I thought that’s what they wanted. You see, every morning I send my friends a message that reads exactly this: “good morning fam.” But yesterday morning I didn’t. Why? Because I was silencing myself. I thought, I’m too loud. I need to tone myself down a bit. 

I wanted to be more like the other guys, like my best (guy) friend, more even-keeled, laid back, someone who couldn’t care one way or the other if his friends loved him or not. I thought that’s who I was supposed to be, who everyone wanted me to be. So I tried. And I failed.

Because one of my friends noticed when I didn’t send that good morning text. They noticed when I silenced myself. And we had a long conversation about it and at the end I just asked them straight up, “Do you think I’m too clingy? Does it bother you? Or do you just think that my personality is more emotionally expressive than most guys’ and, because you love me, it doesn’t bother you?” And their response was the latter.

This week I learned an important lesson, I think. One that’s been a long time coming. And that is that, yes, I have an atypical personality type. Yes, I’m a more emotionally expressive being. Yes, I have no problem and actually thrive on showing and receiving affection. No, I’m not less of a man. I am completely, wonderfully, irrevocably myself.

Guys, we have got to learn to be brave with ourselves. We have got to stop trying to please everyone because, in the end, that will please no one. If the people around you really love you then they’re not going to care if you’re clingy or if you’re laid back. All they’re going to care about is if you are completely and utterly the rawest, truest version of yourself that you could ever be.

That’s the you they fell in love with.

You know, when I tried to distance myself (which was, honestly, a defense mechanism; I was feeling insecure so I thought forcibly detaching myself would spare me the pain that comes from loving another person) I felt like I was dying. I felt so out of it all day. I felt like a part of me was missing, like I was suffocating the truth inside my soul. All because I thought that’s what the people who loved me wanted, all because I thought that I could force the insecurities to go away if I just stopped caring.

But you know what? I’m proud of the fact that I am emotionally expressive. Because, in my eyes, that means that the people I care the most about will never have to go a day thinking that I don’t love them. Because they’ve seen how I show love and they’ve seen who I am in soul.

Is love terrifying? Yes. Is it painful? Heck, yeah. Love is vulnerability. Love is attachment. Love is expression. Love is learning what ways those you love best receive the expression of your affection. Love is choosing to give your friends and family what they need to feel love, even if it’s different than what you need.

Love is real, and it is raw, and it is torn, and it is agonizing, and it is true, and it is brave.

So be brave with yourself. Because the people who deserve you aren’t looking for a cheap replica. They’re here for you – all of you; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Life, Love, Thoughts

i’m getting better

I realized today that the ups and downs of my mind aren’t as hard for me as they used to be. The insecurities aren’t as hard to overcome. The hurt and the wounds aren’t as hard to forget. The offense isn’t as hard to forgive. I’m getting better.

Yesterday, I was put off for a minute by a couple of my best friends. They, who happen to be the young adults group leaders in my church, were talking about how they had invited a couple of newcomers over to their dinner…. And they didn’t invite me. Now, at first I was confused because I didn’t understand why I wouldn’t be invited. And my mind, as it often will, immediately races to conclusions like: “they don’t want me around anymore” or “they’ve found new best friends now” or “this is it – this is the moment I fade away again, the moment I stop being important.” 

As the day wore on, I meditated on why this was so upsetting to me. My friends were only doing what they felt led to do as young adult leaders – connecting with new young adults and building that relationship. And I realized: these are my best friends, but I’m not supporting the position that God has placed them in. What kind of friend does that make me?

Once I realized this I realized how selfish I tend to be when I get insecure. So I immediately apologized to my friends and told them that I want to be a support to them in their ministry; not a burden.

But, you see, what’s awesome is that a month ago I would’ve been stubborn. I would have refused to acknowledge my own selfishness. I would’ve thrown myself a pity party. Me me me. 

But if I really, truly love my best friends – and I do – then I need to set myself aside and throw water on the seed that God has given them. Water and not fire. 

I’m getting better, I am. Because God is refining me. It hurts, but the conviction and the process makes me feel connected to Him. And I crave this connection. 

Even as I write this whilst feeling miserable and gross thanks to this unexpected cold… It’s good to be alive.

Because life is good and I’m getting better.

friendship, Life, Love, Thoughts

you don’t see me

Have you ever been so afraid of something that you can actually feel that fear deep inside of you, clawing its way into a space in which it doesn’t belong? Well, I have. I am afraid that one day, I will become invisible. Again.

By now, I’m sure you know my story. You know the heartbreak and the betrayal, but you also know the healing and the redemption. What you don’t know is the things I still feel.

I’ve been very insecure lately. We can blame it on the fact that for some reason my mind felt it prudent to drudge up old memories I would prefer to erase entirely. Memories of former friends (J.J. and O.R.) that haunt me still. I would much rather forget, but apparently that is not an option for me. Instead, the memories get to do what they can to try to destroy any ability to have a healthy relationship with someone. Those memories mixed with other insecurities brought on by my past struggles with my sexual identity make me constantly feel insecure in my relationship with one of my newfound friends. I hate it. I wish it would go away, but as with must fears it chooses instead to cling to the back of my neck like a incorrigible chimp and gnaw at my cranium. Such is life.

There are moments, lapses in reality that occur inside of my head. They destroy me. One minute I’m sitting with my friends, enjoying their fellowship, their love, their acceptance, their familiarity and comfort, and the next… I’m inside my own head about something he said or did or didn’t say or do. And the fact that I’m insecure makes me insecure about this idea that my insecurities are going to chase him off and, once again, I will lose my last hope of maintaining a healthy relationship with another guy.

The biggest thing for me, I think, is that he’s so introverted and quiet and I’m a person whose love language is words of affirmation and quality time. And I get frustrated because I feel like I maintain 90% of any conversation I have with him, yet am denied a response or reaction of any significant kind. The part of me that is selfless and graceful reminds me that it’s merely his personality type, but the irrational part of me tells me that I am a nuisance and I am a bother and I’m not really wanted here and he may be my best friend, but he doesn’t really care about me. If somebody else comes along, he’ll forget about me. He won’t see me anymore. I will fade into the background yet again, rejected, forgotten, alone, unloved… worthless. I feel that I am waiting with baited breath for that moment when everything will fall apart again.

This is what goes on in my head. You have a front row seat to the freakshow of the broken spirit.

I feel that I will fade, that I will become nothing just as I once was. And I try so hard to “fake it until I make it,” but when does the process end?

There’s this automatic voice in my head that goes off every time I develop a relationship that says, “You don’t see me.” Is it true? Maybe not. But my spirit is broken and the memories tell me otherwise. I just want the voice to go away. I want to be able to enjoy my friends without this wondering, this expectation of inevitable doom that I feel will somehow be my fault. I want to stop questioning the things I say and do. I want to stop feeling like he’ll forget about me one day and I will be nothing more than a blip in his long life like I was for all those others.

I want the voices to stop. Healing is on its way, I know. Someday. But for today, I suppose I will keep faking it because I love my friends and I don’t want to lose them. But the pain is real and I still feel it and it won’t go away and I don’t know why or how to respond. All I know to do right now is exist and attempt to tune out that voice that says, “You don’t see me.” All I know is to keep my insecurities to myself because I don’t want them to destroy my friendships. All I know is how to exist.

And I don’t want to simply exist. I want to live.

Life, Love, Ponderings, Thoughts

f.r.i.e.n.d.s.

I’ll be there for you when the rain starts to pour. I’ll be there for you like I’ve been there before. I’ll be there for you ’cause you’re there for me too.

Let’s talk about friends. They’re great. They really are. It’s such an amazing, miraculous, beautiful thing to find such connection with a group of people who you once considered strangers. Like, how does that happen? You just look at somebody and say, “They’re cool. I like them. I want to be their best friend.” When you think about it, it’s crazy. But it happens every day. Every moment of every day, one door to a new relationship is opened. Maybe it starts with a date or a church event or a common interest. Whatever it is, there’s this one thing that irrevocably connects you to this complete stranger. It’s crazy beautiful.

Most of you know my story because I’m unashamedly vocal about it. I’ve felt the sting of betrayal from people I considered best friends. I’ve felt it. I still feel it. But in the year since those things occur, the ruins of relationship in my life have been transformed.

God stepped into my ruin. He reached into the rubble and He built something new and exciting and scary and beautiful. He did what only He could do; He brought the people I didn’t know I needed into my life – my best friends. And I am so so so thankful for them. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them. They are the definition of what friends should be. Friends….

F – Fight for you

R – Respect you

I – Include you

E – Encourage you

N – Need you

D – Deserve you

S – Stand by you

And most of all, they love you. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my friends love me with the kind of love that only God can cultivate.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Friends are such a special thing… I grew up with this desire to have a small circle of friends like Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Monica, and Ross from Friends – the kind where we’re all deeply involved in each others’ lives, where we’re a key player in their process, a main character in their story. And I’ve found that. Thank God, I’ve found that.

To end, I want to honor my best friends and just turn the spotlight to them with some photos taken in moments I’ll never forget. Here are my friends:

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Letters, Letters to My Future Soulmate, Life, Living, Love, Poetry, spirituality, Thoughts

letters to my future soulmate // the third

Mon amour,

Where are you? I’m waiting. Waiting for you to arrive. Waiting for that moment when you walk into the room and I know – just know  – this is it, this is the woman I’ve been waiting for. I’ve finally found you. I wait because when that moment comes, I want to remember exactly what it felt like. I want the moment I fell in love to be indelibly written upon on my heart. So that for the rest of our lives when we go through the hard times and the painful times and the dry times I can hold onto that feeling of first loves and it will carry us through.

Where are you? I’m floating. People tell me I need to learn to be happy loving myself first. That I need to figure myself out first. That maybe God’s going to make me wait longer so that I can keep growing. I’ve dreamt since before I can remember that I would find you and we would marry young. The same age my parents were when they married, in fact – 21. Well, here I am at 21 and you’re nowhere in sight. People tell me that maybe God’s going to make me wait. Three, five, ten more years. I’m not okay with that. Because I’m floating. My life is great. I have a great family and amazing friends. But my life isn’t moving. I’ve paused. And I’m frustrated because I can’t see my future. I can’t see you anywhere. I can’t see the family I’ve always wanted. All I can see is the lonely nights. And all I can hear is people telling me to trust God and I’m trying, but how do I do that when that means letting go of you. At least for now. Because there’s an empty place in my heart where my future belongs.

I don’t understand. Why does this generational curse linger upon me? Why am I forced into the stereotype by the millennial generation? They tell me, “You millennials are getting married older anyway. It’s okay.” No, it’s not okay. I’m different. I always have been. And I’m my own person. I don’t deserve to be confined by a group of people who are known for being lost. That’s not me. I know what I want. But I’m forced into waiting by a God who apparently thinks I’m not ready and I’m just supposed to be okay with that.

I’m angry and I’m learning to let go of you, to trust God. Because apparently that’s what I’m supposed to do. I know God hears my prayers, and sees my tears, and He feels the lonely nights. I know He wants to see me grow stronger. I don’t doubt that. But why does He have to crush me to do it? Why does He have to take the one dream I’ve always had and crush it?

I can only hope He knows what He’s doing. I can only hope He doesn’t forget me in the chaos. I can only hope whatever it is He’s making me wait for, it’s good. And I can only hope that I learn to trust Him in time.

But for now, I wait.

With love,

Yours

Life, Love, spirituality, Stories, Thoughts

a mind that is stretched

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”


In the last year-and-a-half, I’ve changed a lot. I am no longer who I was.

In the last year-and-a-half I’ve experienced far more of the world than I ever thought possible. Certainly, I still have much more that I need to experience (Burning Man, first tattoo, publishing contract, etc…)

But the things I have experienced, they have irrevocably altered my existence. I can never go back to my old dimensions.

I am changed. So who am I now?

Somebody told me, once, that I would “change the way people see the world.” Apparently, in order to do that, God has to change the way I see the world first. And, boy, is He ever doing that.

I used to avidly argue that I would “never write contemporary.” Sci-fi/fantasy was the “only genre for me.” And, yet, in the last year I have gravitated away from that genre and have been compelled by stories with a contemporary depth and richness to them that matters and is sorely underrated. Stories about suicide, tragedy, romance, cancer, depression, oppression, bias, heartbreak – these are the stories that matter because these are the stories we need. Why? Because humans have an inherent desire to know that they are not alone. And stories like these – stories that so often say what we could never seem to articulate – tell us that we are not alone.

I used to be that person who would tell people struggling with their sexuality that prayer and abstinence are key to spiritual success.

What did I know?

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In the last two weeks, though, I’ve learned that there’s more to it than that. It is, truly and deeply, possible to have genuine romantic affection for someone of the same sex. In fact, it really is no different than that feeling of falling love with someone of the opposite sex.

The religious world, though, is so disillusioned to this. They legitimately think that “pray the gay away” is a viable option for someone going through what I and thousands of others like me are going through.

So maybe I’m meant to change the way religious people see my world? Maybe I’m meant to be a catalyst which leads to the stretching of the Church into new dimensions.

That being said, I have a story.

It’s deep and it’s raw and it’s unfiltered and it’ll hurt.

But I truly believe that, if I were to endeavor to fertilize this story, it would blossom into something inevitably magnificent, a monument to both the religious and the secular world of altered perspective – of new dimensions of thought and spirituality.

But the thought terrifies me. Because this story would be my story. It wouldn’t be an objective tale – it would be purely subjective, raw and sewn to the fibers of my soul. How do I write a story where two guys fall in love and eventually kiss and redeem that for both the religious and secular communities? Why is it that religious folks are only okay with talking about the hard things as long as it’s not homosexuality? Why is it that entertainment companies like PureFlix can release stories about atheists and smokers and alcoholics and depression, but they remain silent when it comes to a struggle of identity that has existed since the before the rise of the Roman Empire? Why is it that homosexuality is one of the “untouchable” themes when it comes religious fiction? Why?

I’ve decided I am not satisfied with this. The world needs more than this from us. The LGBT community – or even Christians who struggle with their own identity like myself – need to know that we are not pariahs. We have souls, we have struggles, we have needs, and we need a voice.

I’ve decided that I will push the edge of these man-made boundaries and I will write what matters.

Because that’s what the world needs.

That’s what I need.

Life, Love, spirituality, Thoughts

i am a captive

I have a crush on another boy.

There, I said it.

It’s out there, now.

There’s no taking it back.

It’s real, now. It exists. It’s true.

And I can’t change it. I can’t erase how I feel. I can’t act like it doesn’t exist. I can’t pretend I don’t feel a certain way toward him.

I won’t say that I’m right, or that it’s right, or that it’s okay, or that it’s natural, or that it’s normal.

I won’t try to argue for permission to give into my heart. I won’t provide a list of reasons I should be able to love anyone who’s willing to love me. I won’t try to twist the Bible to fit my current yearnings. I won’t tell you that I’m wrong for feeling this way. I won’t admit that it’s just a phase.

I’m not gonna lie.

I have a crush on another boy.

That’s the truth of the matter.

That’s the reality in which I exist.

That’s the yoke I bear.

That’s the hell I’m in.

avoid love

I won’t lie and say I’m confused. I know how my heart feels. The only confusion here is in trying to figure out how to move forward.

How can I move forward?

How can I bear this?

How can I live a normal life when things like this will constantly happen? How can I get married and expect a stable, healthy relationship when my wife and I would always know that my heart is not solely defined by attraction to one gender? How can I move on when my heart is pulled in the direction of the first boy who smiles at me just right, or takes the time to talk with me? How can I have friendships with guys without thinking that they feel weird around me. How can I break past this?

You may think it’s a complex. You may say I just feel this way because of dysfunctional male relationships in my life. And maybe it’s true. Maybe it stems from a desire for male companionship. Maybe I don’t know what a healthy, intimate, godly relationship with another man looks like. Maybe my past – failed relationships and broken hearts – has wrecked me forever.

Or maybe, I can never have a healthy relationship with a guy because I’m the only “straight, Christian” guy who thinks this way, who desires to be close to other guys, who actually enjoys deep conversation with other guys, who actually enjoys the company of men who actually enjoy my company too. Maybe I’m weird. Maybe I’m the odd man out. Maybe that’s why I’m “confused.” Maybe that’s why I desire “unhealthy” relationships with men.

Maybe.

maybe….

Or maybe we have it all wrong when we say, “Love is a choice.” Maybe we have it wrong when we tell the “fags” in our Christian communities to simply “abstain” or “ignore” their feelings. Maybe we have it wrong when we try to “pray the gay away.”

maybe…

I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

don't think

I can’t answer any of it. I know in my head that what I feel is wrong, it’s dirty, it’s unclean, it’s perverse. I’m bound, I’m lost, I’m a captive. But my heart still cries, “Can’t love just be love?”

The truth is, I am dirty. I am unclean. I am perverse. I am bound. I am lost. I am a captive.

I am bound by these things. They define me. I am an outcast, untouchable. I am a captive.

I am a captive in need of a Savior.

Did I really think that Jesus’ blood wasn’t enough? Did I really think that He died only to save the clean or even the semi-clean? No.

He came for the dirty, the unclean, the untouchables, the captives. He came for them.

He came for me.

So let me wrestle with this.

Let me wrestle with this idea that my chains have been unbound and all I need to do is cast them aside and run for the hills.

Let me figure this out. Because it doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense that this love could be wrong. It feels so innocent. It feels so good. It feels so real. It feels so normal. How can something so good be so wrong?

But, then, that was Eve’s question, wasn’t it?

How could this Tree be bad? How could this fruit bring death?

Much like Eve saw the smooth, glimmering skin of the fruit and longed to taste the sweet fruit hidden behind the shell, I see him and I find myself drawn to him. I can’t stop thinking about him; he hides in the back of my mind, unaware that I long to be close to him. I anticipate the moments when he passes me and offers a smile. I hope to catch just a glimpse of him as he works inside his workstation just a few paces away from my own. I am filled with longing, a torment which has become increasingly difficult to ignore.

And maybe it will pass.

no fairytale

But what if I’m meant to live with these feelings for the rest of my life?

I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy quite like him – someone who pays so much attention to me, who seeks me out for conversation, who notices me.

If I’m being honest, I feel somewhat invisible when he’s not around. And maybe that’s weird. Maybe that’s obsessive. Maybe I’m just compensating for the existence of very few deep, male relationships in my life (excluding my father). Maybe I’m compensating for the hurt I experienced at the hands of some of my closest friends. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

maybe…

But how do I know? How do I know what a healthy male relationship looks like?

How can I know why I feel this way? How can I know why these feelings, this desire, exists inside the pit of my stomach? How can I know why I have to suffer with this?

I know nothing, I realize. I see through a glass darkly. I am blinded, perhaps, by desire, by confusion, by the sweat that pours into my eyes as I continue to climb this mountain.

But I press on. I press on because I have no other choice.

I can’t give in, can I? Down what road would that lead?

I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to cope with my faith and my heart on this one. I’m still wrestling with it. And I hate that I’m wrestling with this. I hate myself for it. I feel like a freak and an outsider, I feel like I have to keep myself secret.

Maybe I’ll have to spend the rest of my life with this burden. Maybe it’ll go away. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I’m spiraling out-of-control with the first situation that exists outside the realm of my control.

I don’t know.

My head knows what I need. My heart knows what it wants. My soul cries for release from the burden of choice.

what's left of me

I guess this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Deny yourself.”

I’m just thankful I serve a God who can empathize with me. (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15)

I don’t know if I can handle this. All I know is that I’m going to try.

I’m no longer a slave. So I’m going to stop acting like it.