How should a story end? Is it finally getting answers to all of the burning questions? Is it the completion of one mission and the start of the next? Is it destruction of the bad guys and the good guys gaining back what was once theirs?
In the matters of mental health, sexuality, and spirituality, simple answers cannot be given. But a simple conclusion can be. Does a story, or at least the one I am trying to live, draw people closer to a Savior? If it does not, I question if I have lived out the Christian faith I claim to have. I do not attempt to pull people into my specific viewpoint of particular Scripture readings. Instead I hope to challenge people to listen to the Holy Spirit themselves so they can interpret the Scriptures as their Father leads and with input from others in their faith community.
Does a story, or at least the one I am trying to live, draw people closer to a Savior?
Redemptive stories have been put into hiding in fear of offending those who are still hurting or in process. I challenged myself to vocalize my own story. Often seen as too traditional (in regards to sexuality) or too dangerous (in regards to getting off mental health medication) or too charismatic (in regards to spirituality), I hoped to share something, not to encourage others to join my side, but to keep pressing into true freedom.
September 9, 2018. Photos of a prior college classmate marrying his husband flooded my social media. Evergreen trees filled the background of the small ceremony. Both of the men’s faces glowed as they walked down the aisle hand in hand with friends and family cheering them on. Jealousy, frustration, sadness, and a thousand other feelings flooded my heart as I scrolled through each photo. I had no opinion of their specific relationship, but I knew I had been triggered.
That evening, several friends and I met for drinks and desserts at one of their houses. It had gotten late and only four of us stuck around. Without prompting or knowing what had happened that afternoon, Jacob asked if they could pray for me. I thought I would receive a blessing and immediately head home.
This is not what happened. Within moments of being prayed for, I ended up laying on the couch as the Spirit flooded me with images.
Wearing only ripped khaki shorts, each of my limbs were chained to a cement wall. I slouched into myself, kicking the food scraps given to me. Exposed ribs screamed I did not eat in weeks. Jesus walked in and bent down to the bondage at my ankles. In fear, I would kick him away like a scared child trying to escape beatings from the school bully. I kicked Jesus over and over again, and each time, Jesus drew closer until, out of exhaustion, I let him release me from my bondage.
In the physical, I could hear the others pray over me, “It’s okay for you to be loved.” I slowed my breathing until I realized I did not have to be scared of His physical touch.
It’s okay for you to be loved.
Upon my prison release, I began to walk with new confidence straight into a wildfire. My body dripped in sweat from the fire’s heat. Every footstep felt like a thousand years. I knew the pain would be worth it. Jesus walked beside me until we made it to the other side. No part of my skin was damaged, but all of the dirt and grime from the prison burned off. Jesus whispered in my ear, “I know the refiner’s fire is painful, but it is worth it all, warrior.”
New armor appeared on my body as I began to run forward towards the next goal.
Aaron, one of the men praying, spontaneously sang, “He sees all of the times you said, ‘No.’ It will bring you into your ‘Yes.’”
Completely fatigued, I laid on the couch covering my face wondering how many more times I needed to deny myself. In that hour, I mourned what I had given up and what my flesh deeply desired. But I knew one day the hundreds of times I said “No” would become a “Yes.” It would be worth the wait.
He sees all of the times you said, ‘No.’ It will bring you into your ‘Yes.’
Many do not know, but throughout writing this book I have been praying for my spouse. I had to let go of the prideful badge of finding my strength in my singleness. I recognized my need for companionship and realized I am worth being intimately known. I also had to reset unrealistic expectations of having all of the questions figured out before stepping into something.
I still remember the dream and visions of my wife and kids, and yes, I still have visions and dreams of her today. Recently, I had a picture of Jesus walking her down the aisle as I waited underneath a wooden arch to receive my bride. I have had multiple pictures of us dancing at our wedding reception.
Many have wondered why Christians deprive themselves of things humans supposedly deserve. In this thirty-year-or-more process, I realized the Gospel has never been about fulfilling my specific needs or wants for an easy life. Too many Christians act like it is. It’s tempting to think that if Jesus would give me a spouse, a job, or money then I could follow Him easier. Sadly, this is where the Gospel has gotten too mixed up with the American Dream. The true Gospel calls us to lay down our wants, take up the cross, and tell other people of the Good News, especially our own testimonies.
Where there is only comfort, there is no growth.
Deep down, I never wanted a comfortable Christian life. Where there is only comfort, there is no growth. I know this to be true, even in my closest friendships.
The Gospel has been and will always be about redeeming our relationships, and ultimately the world, to the Father because of Jesus. If He can do something like take on the world’s pain and conquer death, I hold onto my visions and dreams with open hands. Even if I do not get married, I still know denying myself has been worth it all.
My story is not about getting married or getting off mental health medications. My story, like all of our stories, is about moving towards wholeness as Jesus redeems it all.