Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
People aren’t who you think they are.
I recently had a conversation with my father. It was actually a very good conversation that I was very thankful for, and it left me feeling very grateful for him and his love for me. I say that up front, because what I’m now going to focus on will make it seem as if I have negative feelings towards my father regarding that conversation: I do not. I’m instead choosing to focus on a particular facet of what happened to make a point. I’m not disappointed that I saw what I did, nor am I disappointed with my dad for being human. (Also, in case you ever read this Dad, I also did not discount what you had to say because of this. As you yourself often have told me to do, I chewed the meat and spit out the bones.)
Among many ideas shared in that conversation, my dad outlined a few key things:
1) that I am attempting to force God to make a deal in the arena of accepting my sexuality,
2) that I am the embodiment of the C.S. Lewis analogy of a small child clinging to a mud pie because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea,
3) that my reading and studying of the Bible, articles, and blogs are to arm myself with information in an attempt to justify – to both myself and others- my interpretation of a Christian faith in which my sexuality is accepted, and…
4) that, as we have discussed previously, there is a call on my life to be a pastor, and that he believes it is a call I utterly reject.
Again, to be clear, these are not “bones to pick” with my father. He is a wise man, and sees much that I do not. Often, I’ve found, I don’t realize just how clearly he saw things until several years have gone by. I acknowledge fully that there may be much in what he said that I may not be seeing at all. In which case, I may be attempting to communicate something that I feel to be true through a completely false medium. I don’t think that’s the case, but hey, just leaving a little wiggle room for when I read this again someday as an older, wiser me.
The point I intend to make is this: my father, who knows me thoroughly and much more intimately than most, was wrong about all four of those things. He was wrong about who I was, at the very core of me, and how I felt about them. Extremely well intended and loaded with wisdom, but wrong. The evidence that he has seen that led him to these conclusions was right and true, but ultimately he pieced together a canvas that doesn’t convey the truth.
And it’s not his fault.
It’s not that he doesn’t pay enough attention to me, or that we don’t talk enough, or anything else you may come up with. The real problem is this:
People. Are not. Who you think. They are.
Instead, people were who you think they are. Once. But in all probability, they aren’t that person anymore.
See, my father arrived at those four conclusions from meditating on some very specific evidence: familiarity with my reading material, familiarity with me, and – most importantly- from direct quotes of things that I have communicated to him before. Yep, you read that right: me. My words, coming from the overflow of my heart. You would think, with those three things, that my father would hit the nail directly on the head. He should know me, he should know me thoroughly. No surprises.
Well, surprise. The truth about the four points?
1) I’m not trying to force God into a deal. God and I are at complete peace in regards to my sexuality. It took over a decade of intense struggle, but I now sit convinced- as convinced as I am that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things and that he has purposed to restore, reclaim, and renew all things through the blood of Jesus the Christ- that there is no condemnation for me in this area. I am at total peace.[Please note, I’m not saying I’m at peace with living however I want as a result of this. I am, however, saying that I am at peace with being a creation of the Everlasting that is – on purpose – a man who is attracted to men. Spiritually, emotionally, physically. Where we go from there? Well, I’m less certain about that. I have a pretty good hunch, but that conversation is for another day.]
2) Well really, see what’s written above for #1. As an extension I will add that this is the weakest of my responses, because if I am indeed at a loss to understand a holiday at the sea, how would I know it? Still, though, I feel reasonably confident that I am not clinging to a mud pie. I perhaps may never be able to convince others of that, but I know (and the Spirit of the Living God knows) the struggle, over many years, of the Father asking for that particular mud pie, and the extremity that was involved in surrendering it. I don’t need you to be convinced, because, quite frankly, it isn’t you to whom I am accountable at the end of all days.
3) Well, mash together the answers to #1 and #2. I don’t need to justify it. There was a point in which justification was my singular intent when reading the Bible, but that time was long ago. I keep myself updated on the current conversations going around the blogosphere, and I certainly don’t mind sitting down and talking semantics with anyone about any of it. But attempting to justify it? No, that’s not where I am and that’s never where I will be again.
4) I kind of actually love the idea of being a pastor… I just think that it will look a lot different than the picture of a North American Evangelical pastor that we’re used to. I’m still fleshing that one out, and I really don’t think it will happen any time in the near future at all, but I really do think it will happen at some time.
So there we go: my real heart on those four points. Notice how far removed they are from where my father concluded my heart was.
Let me stress this again: I am not upset with my father, or what he said. I am not trying to play the misunderstood victim. My father’s intel was, as I said before, unquestionable. He had knowledge, intimate knowledge, that led him to where he landed. He even had my very own words. Words that probably left no doubt as to what my heart was. I’m sure I was very clear. I don’t think he was remembering incorrectly.
But here’s the kicker. Here’s the point of all that I’ve written tonight: all that evidence, even direct quotes from me, did not give my father a clear view of my heart.
They gave my father a clear view of what part of my heart was at one time.
Because my friends, the human heart is fickle. The truth is that I often tell people where my heart is and what I firmly believe only to question those things again in the very next breath I take. I think that may be part of being human.
My dad missed the mark not because of faulty intel, but because of old intel. He had an accurate snapshot, but it was terribly outdated. And that’s not his fault.
There are other factors at work, as well. I recognize that no small part of my dad’s failure was because of my failure to communicate with him. It may be fickle information that changes like the wind, but how can he possibly hope to know what a more recent version of my heart is unless I honestly communicate it to him?
It’s kind of like trying to keep up with new versions of Apple products, really.
Another factor, one that I’m barely going to touch because it still blows my mind to tiny pieces, is that it is impossible to authentically know someone’s heart because… you are you. Only two beings can know my heart. Me, and the Living God. You cannot stop being you in order to fully experience being me. It just isn’t going to happen. You can only know me through your perception of me.
We have, at best, highly questionable beliefs about who others are.
We have – at best – highly questionable beliefs about who others are.
So what do I do with that? I resolve to stop judging. Stop predicting. Stop assuming. Stop forcing people back into a snapshot of them that I put together years ago.
I’m going to start listening. Start extending grace. Start loving.
I’m going to pray for God to show me how to better love through the transformative power of the Spirit.
God isn’t who you think God is.
In my experience, I’ve often found that people attribute to God only what they can conceive Him to be. By that I mean, they let the reality of what they can feel or allow become a limit that they place on God. The problem with that, of course, is that God is the Eternal, not bound or defined by anything that we can come up with. God says, “I Am that I Am.”
What that means, then, is that God isn’t the construct that you relate to him as. William Paul Young, author of the best-selling novel The Shack, writes about this idea (from God’s perspective) and puts it like this:
“The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best versions of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then calling that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I’m not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think.”
The powerful thing about this is that most Christians that I’ve known – which is a lot – have never entertained the idea that maybe, just maybe, God is a little bit bigger than they might imagine.
So what does that mean for us?
It means that we as believers really probably ought to think about not playing God.
I have eight siblings, ranging from age 28 to age 9. I’ve noticed that with not only myself, but a few of my other siblings around my age, we often interact with the youngest ones as if WE were their parents. I’ve noticed lately that this is something that I really need to stop doing, because at the end of the day… I am NOT my 9 year old brother’s dad or mom. I tell him no ice cream, and they tell him sure, he can have ice cream. I tell him this, they tell him that. I decide that this is good for him, they have the power and authority – the only real power and authority in the situation – to re-write my ideas or dismiss them entirely.
It is not up to me to raise my brother. I am not my parents, and the more I try to be the more of a mess I create. I can now begin to see the confusion, chaos, and resentment that this practice breeds not only in family dynamics, but in the heart of my youngest siblings. The solution for me? Be a brother, not a father.
Likewise in my dealings with brothers and sisters in the faith: be a brother, not their God.
To take that thought into our relationship with God, there’s a scene on the sitcom Will & Grace in which the character of Jack, obsessed with Cher, comes face-to-face with Cher in a restaurant. Jack is amused that the person he sees looks so much like Cher, but he’s convinced that she is only a look-alike, since she doesn’t perform her trademark expressions and moves the way that Jack has decided they need to be performed. He dismisses her as a fraud, never realizing that he has actually met his idol.
I think you can connect the dots: if we don’t allow for God to be bigger than what we can conceive, we may not recognize Him when He shows up in our lives. And to not recognize the Creator in our lives, well, quite frankly that’s the definition of tragic.
My name is Ethan Mark Thomas. That name personifies evil and deceit for some while bringing feelings of utmost love and respect for others, along with a wide variety of everything in between for the rest who know me or have known me.
It is true, I have been a con artist. I have been a thief. I have a been a lying, greedy reprobate viewing human beings as means to an end.
It is true, I have been a humanitarian. I have been a role model. I have been a loving, passionate, genuine bringer of peace, comfort and harmony to many.
I am both. I have been both. I hope to be far more of the latter than the former in the future. But either way, full disclosure. I have been many things, I have done much, and been many places. The vast majority of my past has been using considerable talents for twisted versions of good that only benefit myself and a short-term perspective. So, yeah, you can say that I’ve used my powers for evil. Because I did, and even worse: I did so often while under the name of my master: the Most High, the Everlasting, Jesus the Christ.
That was my past. Remnants of that life still ripple through my daily life, but through the prayers of my community of believers and help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the hold that those behaviors had on me grows less influential every passing day. And now, now I’m something new.
I’m an agent of the Most High, a chosen vessel of the renewal of the Kingdom of God.
That’s what this blog is about – the life I have left to live, and how I will live it and process it as an agent of the Kingdom, dedicated to infusing the will of the Father into life in every area that I touch.
This blog is a place for me to think things out, to process things. I know that eventually people may stumble across this, so that’s why this post is even being written. To let you know who I am, and to arm you with the knowledge that I am not claiming to be someone that should be listened to.
James talks about the tongue being a restless evil, full of deadly poison. I think very few people can fully appreciate that as much as I can. So if you’re going to go ahead a read this, know that what I write here is as a man who was exceptionally gifted as using my tongue to deceive and manipulate many people, to con them and make them feel safe and secure to use them in some way, before eventually ripping their hearts out by vanishing and letting them fall back to reality. Know that right now, so that you can’t be astonished or surprised if you find it out later.
To bring some closure to this lurid past that I’ve spoken of, let me say this: I have been haunted by my actions. They were wicked. I am grateful for the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, who paid the terribly high price for my duplicity and betrayals. Through him, I am reconciled and redeemed. I now walk a path in which the Spirit of the Living God transforms me from the inside out, to the glory of the Father. It’s not about me, even a little bit. And that, quite frankly, is refreshing.
Well, that’s about it for now.