a love letter

Dear one,

Language has tried to possess you. Don’t let it.

You are not defined by the labels which attempt to explain or confine you.

You are the rhythm and cadence of every step your body has ever weathered, the majestic wonder of each syllable of your brave and beautiful name.

You are the fulfillment of every dream your heart has taken hold of – the melody of every song your soul has ever danced to, in both joy and sorrow.

You are light dancing like fire in eyes aglow with hope and merriment and adoration, awakened by the power of human connection and love and divine inspiration.

You are both dawn and dusk – a waking up and a coming to rest.

You are the ocean in its vast and breathtaking wonderment and you are the desert in its burning and terrifying splendor.

You are the immensity of the sky, the elusivity of the wind, the majesty of a cascading waterfall.

Do not crawl into the boxes or hide beneath the labels the world has constructed to keep you from experiencing your fullness, you captivating creature of light.

You are more than language, more than moments, more than the steady pulsing of your body’s own beating drum.

Grow up and into wonder, dear heart. You are braver than you realize and more beautiful than you could ever know.

And amidst the chaos of constructs which seek to capture your senses and keep you from light, may this Love letter find you breathing deeply – basking in the beauty of a Love which both holds and frees you to be all that you are – which fills and floods you until you overflow the earth with joy.

-to all the hearts in mending

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break before we mend (on grieving)

I’m not the best at following rules, but there are some things in life that I wish were a bit more clear-cut. In recent days of watching friends grieve and after a season of much personal sorrow, I’m learning that grief doesn’t play by any rules. And through many failed attempts, I’ve learned that we cannot propel ourselves into any particular emotional or mental state beyond the one in which we most naturally exist, especially in seasons of grieving. 

For those of us who have managed to avoid or outrun the intensity of our emotions for some time, news flash: those bottled up feelings tend to catch up with us by inflicting physical consequences which eventually force us to uncover the source of our emotional – and now physical – strife. This type of reaction may take us by surprise but the reality is, sometimes we aren’t cued into our unprocessed trauma and grief until our body tells us it has had enough.

The hard truth is this: grief does not have a prescription or an expiration date. It can neither be dictated to us or medicated with definitive hows and whys nor given a cut off date. Grief is its own dictator and it dictates the actions and behaviors of so many of us in different seasons of our lives. It is wild and unpredictable and almost always startles us with its raw intensity. 

I have noticed that some people try to comfort those grieving by commenting on how strong or brave they are in the process. But to grieve is not to be strong or brave or heroic; to grieve is merely to be human. 

I used to think strength was the equivalent of never crying and never being emotionally affected by traumatic events. I was wrong. Strength is not measured by our ability or capacity to withhold or suppress emotion but by our willingness to navigate the dark depths of feelings which we feel too weak to endure. And while grief does not necessitate strength, I have found that the toil of grieving almost always produces strength. 

The strength produced through grief is not one which boasts an immunity to pain, but rather, it is a fierce and beautiful inner strength built on a foundation of awareness and recognition of our fragility and emotional sensitivity as humans. And I’m learning that by sitting in that place and giving in to the tears and the fears and in some cases, being rendered motionless by the weight of our aching, we are actually aligning and caring for ourselves in the most healthy way possible. 

So here are just a few things to keep in mind when we are grieving or walking with others who are neck deep in grief:

It is okay to be incapacitated by emotion and sit in the heaviness and pain of it instead of trying to push it down or propel ourselves forward.

It is okay to feel powerless to make even the simplest decisions.

It is okay to put down the phone and not feel guilty about the texts and calls that are adding up because we merely lack the emotional energy necessary to engage with those who are well-intentioned with their words and calls.

It is okay to ask for help and it is okay not to know what to ask for.

It is okay to admit that many of our questions have hollow and empty answers and that life seems far less colorful than before and that we can’t even consider the light at the tunnel without first wading through the long, defeating darkness.

It is okay if our grief consumes us and it is okay if our grief comes in waves – unexpected and blinding and terrifying – and ebs and flows, broken up by happy moments which give us life.

Our ability to experience and express emotion is what distinguishes us from any other living being. There is beauty in the breaking, but we must break before we mend. Mending takes time and the love of dear ones who are willing to sit with us in the hard silences and meet our needs even when we don’t realize what those needs are. Mending is a process and not always a point of arriving and it is so important to have grace with ourselves (when we are the ones grieving) and grace with others (when we are supporting those grieving) as we navigate the messy process.

Life is a funny melting pot of depths and heights. Sometimes we are the broken-hearted. And sometimes we are the ones who have the privilege and honor of loving broken hearts back to life. But in either case, grief is a messy and scary experience and connection and love and grace are the only things worthy of sustaining us through the seemingly never-ending and always present darkness.

Sometimes: permission to let go

If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past two years, it’s that sometimes you have to call a time-out on a life and make a commitment to stop being so damn hard on yourself. To stop running yourself ragged with rules and impossible expectations.

Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to feel all the things. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to take a break from feeling all the things.

Sometimes you have to take 2 years off from a lifetime of going to church on a regular basis to re-discover why you even cared about it in the first place. Sometimes you have to move away from spaces of striving in order to create sacred spaces of healing.

Sometimes you get to choose your family and you learn that unconditional love looks a lot like curling up on the couch with a roll of toilet paper and your best friends and then crashing on that couch (way more than once) because they feel like home and sleeping under their roof makes you feel safe.

Sometimes you have to let go of people you love and draw boundary lines to keep those who have repeatedly hurt you and demeaned your humanity from hurting you any further. Even if you still love them. Even if you wish things were different.

Sometimes you have to stay in bed for three days straight because it physically hurts to breathe – to be alive.

Sometimes you fall in love and feel weightless and breathless and hopeful and like you are finally home. And a whole new compartment of your heart awakens and you completely re-discover yourself in the process of discovering another person.

Sometimes you fall into a darkness so deep that you wish the night would swallow you up whole and never again release you to daylight.

And sometimes you find your way back from the abyss and grow strong and whole under sunlit summer skies after the longest winter and a hopeful, yet timid, spring.

Sometimes you decide to stop trying. And you curse more. And you don’t try to suppress your anger or bottle up your tears because that is what you have been doing for years and your body is breaking beneath the weight of every pent up hurt, fear, doubt, and injustice.

Sometimes your body reacts to the stress and torment of secrets and shame and silence and you show up to work with hives all over your body for an entire week. And people ask if you are allergic to certain foods but you know that really, you are just allergic to the pain of rejection and to the expectation that a lifelong love will never be an option for you.

Sometimes you deconstruct your faith and build it back with a stronger foundation, a deeper empathy, a greater degree of compassion, and less of a concern for being right in an argument or debate.

Sometimes you smile, tearfully, at the words “Love Wins” because that is exactly what it does – it wins.

Love wins us back from the darkest, cruelest, most painful night.

Love wins us towards a hope more compelling than any longing we have ever dared to dream of or imagine.

Love wins us into community and acceptance and gratitude and joy and healing and wholeness and life abundant.

Love wins us back from the places which Fear abducted us into – stealing from the very fabric of our souls  – and Love wins back the resolve and strength we thought we had lost forever.

Love wins us back our daring, our dreaming, our desire to radically care for others.

Love wins us into a place of believing in and seeing ourselves for the divinely inspired creatures of glory that we are.

Sometimes you have to relax your white-knuckled fists and loosen your grip on the things you have always held so tightly in order to discover what pieces are actually worth keeping – to see what parts of our hearts and lives remain when we stop trying so damn hard to keep everything together.

Fear never wins. It only holds us hostage to the terrifying abstractions of our fragile minds which tell us lies….lies that we are unworthy…that we are only what we do…that we are unlovable…that if we stopped striving, it would all fall apart.

And sometimes you have to let it fall apart – brick by brick – in order to find out what actually held you together all along.

one day, eden

Eden, they told me, was a vision of something I had not the eyes to see. A beauty I was too scarred to behold, a perfection I was too broken to realize.

Eden, they said, was a state of being which envy and strife and fear could not inhabit. A consciousness which invited in the heavenly realms and barred the fiery gates of hell and all its demons.

Eden was a place of peace, of contentment, of faith in an unseen hand of constant provision. Eden was a world where shame was never realized, guilt was never felt, and jealousy never imagined.

Eden was not only a garden of perpetual abundance and fruitfulness, but also a safe haven where the lion could lay with the lamb and man and beast could coexist by quiet waters with no threat of provocation towards violence.

Eden was a perpetual song, so they say. An unbroken melody sustained by a chorus of angels. There was a rhythm which every living being felt deep inside their souls. There was a cadence which held them all together in mysterious harmony.

Eden was the heartbeat of God, and life sprung up from the bosom of the Creator. And he held every living thing there in the chambers of his heart.

But then one day, the chamber of God’s very heart cracked open, splitting in two, and the cadence of Eden faltered into an unpredictable, chaotic rhythm.

Man and beast became enemies. Man and woman grew distrustful of one another. And their faith in the outstretched hand of God wavered.

Shame flooded into the safe haven which was once Eden, and to preserve what was left of the beautiful, the divine, mankind was shut out of Eden.

Eden was beautiful, so they say. I hope to see it one day. Something deep within my soul seems to remember echoes of Eden. Perhaps I was born there – in the chambers of the heart of God, where man and beast dwell together in peace.

Perhaps the cadence of Eden will return to its natural rhythm one day. Maybe then we can return.

Maybe Eden is what our hearts have been searching for all along. And perhaps Heaven is just a homecoming – returning back to the place we were meant for all along.

I’ll be seeing you, Eden. When I’m unbroken once again.

God of the Outcasts: musings of a gay Christian

I wrote this as a journal entry this past October as I was finally putting words to the tension I had been feeling as I tried to reconcile my faith and sexuality. And in the struggle, I experienced the heart of Jesus like never before. I will share more of my story soon. But for now, I hope these revelations encourage you in some way, dear reader.

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I started believing the Bible wasn’t for me because I felt disqualified. I felt disqualified as a reader because I felt disqualified as an ambassador. I felt disqualified as an ambassador because I felt disqualified as a saint. And I felt disqualified as a saint because I was certain that giving voice to my story was the mechanism by which I traded in my title of “redeemed” for the title of “sinner.” 

The condemnation I felt from those who feared my process led to a shame which kept me from believing in my worthiness to read the Greatest Love Letter ever written. Feeling condemned and disqualified made me believe I was unloved, because it seemed I had only been loved conditionally. So I was determined to keep myself apart from those who didn’t love me by keeping my distance from the God in whose name they revoked their love. I went from being on the inner circle and feasting with the righteous to begging for scraps on the margins with all of the other outcasts. But then, when I looked around, I realized Jesus was wandering on the margins too. He was among the outcasts. 

And my deconstructed faith began to be rebuilt, piece by piece, taking on a different form than before. Because once I realized that Jesus was never in the inner circle, the entire construct and conduit through which I had practiced my faith for nearly two decades began to crumble. And in its place arose a raw, unpolished vessel for my faith called Love. 

I had heard of Love before. How it summoned tax collectors out of their criminal lifestyles and compelled them to give back what had been taken, beckoned fishermen to abandon their trade and wander as nomads through new towns, rescued prostitutes from lives of secrecy and shame, inspired friends to carve a hole in someone else’s roof to lower down their sick friend to be healed. I had heard how Love had sustained a man who lost everything he ever cared about, strengthened prisoners who were tortured to near death, and awakened cold and murderous hearts of stone and transformed them into compassionate hearts of flesh. 

But I hadn’t felt love from the pulpit or pews after coming out as gay. I felt fear, loathing, condemnation, pity, and shame. 

Yet there on the margins, hungering for acceptance and worthiness, I found Love in the person of a falsely accused criminal – a radical teacher whose ideas were mocked and ridiculed by religious leaders. I found Love in the person of a King in rags – with the rough hands of a carpenter and the fiery eyes of a revolutionary. I found Love in the weathered face of a Middle-Eastern Jew who remained silent when beaten, falsely accused, and murdered. 

I found comfort in the presence of a man who lived simply and without much fanfare so that I could live wholly. And I knew I could trust him. Because he wasn’t like those on the inside who declared me unworthy. He was a friend of the outcasts and he invited himself to my home for dinner, not to change me, but to show me that Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And Love is not afraid of being misunderstood. Because Love knows no fear. And Love has nothing to prove. And Love whispers while fear shouts. And Love enters into our story and breaks bread at our table and shows us that we are worthy, even when we feel unseen. Because Love cares less about conforming to systems and more about what is within us. 

Love never speaks death but always Life. Love heals instead of wounding. Love builds bridges instead of walls. Love speaks with authority and humility rather than self-righteousness and pride. Love is gentle, love is kind. Love is patient and does not boast. Love binds up the broken-hearted and encircles the forgotten and whispers, “You are remembered. You are found. You are seen.” 

So now I am learning to lean into Love instead of letting fear keep me from Love. We are safe on the margins. We are seen, we are accepted, we are made to feel welcome. And home is in our midst because Love is here to stay.

lazarus

had to shout to

be heard

because the fear was loud

among a whitewashed crowd

condescending

from their privilege

love it weeps

when humanity sleeps

while its own soul dies

too much self to despise

wake up, lazarus

death don’t die

we might be covered in ashes

but humanity:

rise.