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.