I have searched for Your will in all of this. I read, I have studied, I have prayed, I have discussed. It has been a long and difficult process and sometimes I worry that I have not progressed toward a greater understanding but slipped away from one. But everything You've shown me so far is that I must accept my orientation as one part of Your plan for my life. And so that is what I will do. I have asked those around me to approach this with an open heart and an open mind and so I have tried to do the same thing. If you have other plans for me, let me know; I am still listening.
Thus was the prayer I offered during my sophomore year in college at USC. I had only recently come out, after many years of struggling to find what was right. It took years for me to move from a place that saw all gay relationships (if not gay people) as sinful to a place that embraced the diversity of God's creation and recognized the value which gay and trans people have and the blessings that their relationships can bring. But even then, it was not an easy road.
I came out but had only a tentative understanding for what that meant to my life as a Christian. To be honest, I took a break, for all intents and purposes, from faith communities. I had grown up in an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, immersed in YoungLife, and (occasionally) attending Campus Crusade with friends. Being gay didn't fit in any of those places and I wasn't sure where to go.
I realized that Christian faith had played such a formative role in my life that I simply couldn't abandon it and I slowly began to walk back towards it, attempting to piece together everything I thought I knew and believed.
Senior year of college I had been dating Pat, a guy I met through my former roommate Frank, for about six weeks when Chase Edler died in a skateboarding accident. I'd only met Chase once but he was close friends with many of my good friends and the roommate of one of my best friends. It was unexpected and it hit me hard. I could not wait any longer to figure out who God was or to determine my relationship to the Creator. As my (straight) roommate Sean would later put it: "Nice guy, things were going great. But then Brian freaked out."
I ended the relationship and immediately began to question whether I had been living authentically for the past three years. Is this really what God wanted? For awhile, I thought I had made a tragic mistake. I launched back into small group, started going back to church regularly, and made it a habit to study the Word.
This time I was sure: God didn't create in me a capacity to love so that I might deny it.
Equality Ride only cemented my understanding that anti-gay teachings are thoroughly misguided. No matter how dressed up with smiles the teachings may be, they lack a cogent Scriptural basis and wreck havoc upon the lives they reach. Bad fruits if I've ever tasted them. Soulforce reminds us--gay, straight, Christian, atheist, condemning, affirming--that one must not chose one or the other. Interactions save lives and restore faiths.
I have been blessed with Marble Collegiate Church, a beautiful church community, since moving to New York City. I have also been challenged to grow in my faith in greater ways than ever before. Sometimes I can feel the growing pains as my soul stretches. And as Lent approaches, I'm preparing for even more growth. Growing up Protestant, Lent is not a time of year that is often focused on, and this will be my first year observing it. I am excited to set aside the upcoming 40 days and call them holy, to use them to grow in my understanding of my faith, and to appreciate the ultimate sacrifice which Jesus of Nazareth made on our behalf.
And yet, I can't say that I am not nervous. Sometimes, when I go to sleep I wonder if those growing pains are my soul aching to return to a Truth I've been missing. When Lent comes, when my comforts are stripped away, when I am left face to face with God; what will I find? My sophomore year prayer is in my head and in my heart every day. I take it with me wherever I go. I'm still listening, but will I be strong enough to change if I hear something different this time? Will I be confident enough to lay it to rest if the challenge I face is continued advocacy or even greater sacrifice for justice? On this year's Mardi Gras I'm left wondering if I didn't skip out on Lent because it was "too constructed by humans" but rather because it was too inspired by God.
Lent approaches and I am nervous, but I am ready.