Let’s Talk About This

When people talk about sins, there’s always varying degrees of the severity of the sin. Like murder or theft are worse than lying or disobeying your parents. Anything to do with sex is automatically terrible and taboo and we don’t talk about it. The world is too broken, so confused about what is up and down, right and wrong. We, as the church, have the instruction manual on how to navigate the craziness and we refuse to have real conversations about life and death and what God has for His children. We feel so backward and scared about what people will do or say or think that we don’t even bother to care what God thinks. We don’t even consider that His cost is higher than anything the world would ask of us, and His cost is so much more worth it! His burden is so easy and His yoke is so light. But we forget our responsibility to His kingdom, the call on our lives, the demand the cross makes of us. We forget the cost He paid to get us back, to bring us out of the pit.

And so we walk around with our label makers, slapping every single person in our path with what we can see on the outside, what we esteem them as, while we sit on our high pedestal of “better than you’s” and “at least I’m not like her” self sufficiency. We cannot even fathom how much we have destroyed our own trustworthiness and validity by attempting to decide who is “worthy” of Christ. No one is!! Who the hell are we to think that we get to decide who can fall at the feet of the Savior?

I used to think I was somehow the worst Christian ever because I was still attracted to women. I couldn’t help it. I tried not to be, I am married to a man I adore and even have children with him. But I still had the desires and attraction to other women. Then one day my pastor shared a video of a pastor, a pastor, sharing his same struggle. He explained that, same-sex attraction was just like any other sinful desire. We cannot control the desires but we can fight them. We can choose not to partake. We can overcome. That was the moment that I knew I needed to admit my struggle and begin to fight against it. And I also began to realize that I had a unique opportunity to help other people who struggle with the same desires, to fight against them. I have a powerful story, but only because Christ has made it so.

The Church is full of redeemed sinners, just people, all with struggles and hangups, striving to honor Christ. At least that is what it is supposed to be. There are many churches that are anything but. They don’t talk about the sin, the struggles, they just talk about the love of God, the great plans He has to prosper you and make life happy. But Christ, Himself, told us we would have struggles, and being imperfect people, we are gonna screw things up at least a couple of times a minute. The awesome thing about admitting that you have struggles is that you are free from judgment. Not judgement from other people, necessarily, but freedom from casting judgement on others. You are free to look at another person with love and compassion in your heart because, you know, they are just as broken as you are. That is the power of Christ’s grace and forgiveness. When we can accept it for ourselves, we can’t help but share it with others.

I don’t know where you are as you read this. You may have deep hurts that you aren’t ready to let go of. You may have been struggling with your particular struggle for so long, you can’t possibly imagine being free from it. Maybe you know you are living in a manner opposite of what God has called you to, but you just don’t know how to get out of it, and worse, you don’t know how to own up to it without fear of rejection and ridicule.

The Bible gives us an account in John, chapter 8 verses 1 through 11, of a woman. We don’t know much about her, other than that she was caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to the temple courts where Jesus was teaching, by Pharisees, who wished to test Jesus. We don’t know if this was something she did often or if it was a one time occurrence. I think it must have been a recurring sin for her, how else did the Pharisees catch her in the act? There is no indication that she wished for forgiveness. I am sure she fully expected to be stoned to death, as the law required. But Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees, and He passed judgement like only He could.

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The Bible says they left, one by one, the older ones leaving first, until they were all gone and it was just her and Jesus. He asked her where her accusers had gone, if anyone had condemned her. She answered that there was no one.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Any one of us could stand in her place. Each and every sin is worthy of death and each and every one of us has sinned. But our story doesn’t end with accusation and condemnation, it ends with forgiveness and a command. We don’t know what happened to the woman, if she did indeed leave her life of sin. But we do know what our lives look like. We know our deepest struggle and we try to put on our best face, even though it hurts like hell. We also have a choice. We can choose to keep walking in the direction we are, and keep falling into the sinkholes along the way. Or we can choose to turn around and walk with Jesus. Walk with those who know our struggles and still love us because they know the love of Jesus and have to share it.

I invite you to walk with me. Let’s have a conversation, and keep having it. Let’s talk about the things we struggle with that no one wants to talk about, without fear. You are loved and welcome. And you don’t have to walk alone.

My Story: Part Two

The following is a part of my story. While I try to be truthful without being explicit, there are things in my story which cannot, and should not, be altered for a softer read. Please feel free to comment with your own story or ask any questions you may have. Let’s start a conversation.

After I graduated high school, I was desperate for things to start getting better. But the thing this angry teenager learned is, things don’t just magically fix themselves when you become an adult-especially when you don’t do anything to improve them. Rapidly growing into an angry young adult, I began to try pretty much anything that wasn’t God to try and heal.

Like most baby adults, I made many poor choices. I started smoking, which actually did help with my anxiety, though never for very long. I stopped going to church. I did many really, really reckless things while driving, often risking others lives as well as my own-usually without care or concern.

Against my mom’s advice to enroll in a trade school, I decided to apply to a four-year college. Because my ACT scores were good, I had the option to live in the “Honors Dorm” as they called it. It required me to take a certain amount of honors level classes each semester, and there were slightly stricter conduct rules than the rest of the dorms. Keep in mind, I had never taken an honors class in my life and, very honestly, I was in no place emotionally to deal with living in a co-ed dorm. I didn’t last the first week of school. I got myself kicked out and barely completed the rest of the semester. I didn’t even go to one of my finals. So, as per the rule of my dad’s house-you either go to school or you get a job-I went out and got a job.

By June of 2003, I had gotten myself two, part-time, jobs: one at a donut shop and the other at a wing restaurant. It felt good to work. I have always enjoyed serving people and I am a fairly quick learner when I can be hands-on (Mom was, of course, right). My boss at the wing place really liked my work ethic and as the majority of his employees were high school kids, he was really interested in making me a manager. I was finally starting to get the hang of working both jobs, and the money was really good, but the promotion required that I quit my other job. I think it took me about a day to decide to take the position. I had dated one of the dough cutters, who was about twenty years older than me, and it hadn’t ended well. Plus, my boss at the donut shop was kind of a jerk, so I was ready for a less toxic environment.

Over the next few months, things seemed to be getting better. I was loving my new job, and I had begun coming to terms with the traumas I had experienced and uncovered. My parents began going to a new church and asked if I would go with them one Sunday. I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t as angry with God anymore, so I agreed. From the first Sunday, I was hooked. You see, they had a choir, and not just a choir, a good choir. It must have been around September or October, because they announced that Sunday that they were going to be beginning rehearsals for their Christmas program. I hadn’t been in a choir since high school and I was so excited to be able to be a part of one again. This church also had a college ministry. I wasn’t in college, but I was college-age, so it worked for me.

I began to slowly work my way back into the realm of Christianity, the Bible and believing in a God I wasn’t sure I was ready to trust again. I also was pretty convinced I was in no condition to be loved by Him. Trepidatiously, I began going to small groups, meeting with a few of the leadership girls one-on-one, and going back to counseling; trying to figure out what the condition of my emotional, mental and, most importantly, spiritual health was. In the midst of all of this, I began to wrestle with the fact of where my sexual attraction was. To my counselor, the facts were simple: I had been abused by men, from an early age, so it made sense that I would be attracted to women. But that, frustratingly, didn’t align with the truth I knew in the Bible. Nevertheless, I decided I would quietly pursue a homosexual lifestyle. Not that I had a clue what that meant or how I would even go about finding someone to date. I only told my brother and a few of my coworkers. As far as anyone knew at church, I was just wrestling and trying to work through these desires and feelings.

It was around this time that we hired a new guy at work. He was older than our typical employee, probably in his late thirties, early forties. I knew from the first time I met him, he was going to cause me a lot of grief. Every time I worked with him, he seemed to be trying to flirt with me. He would make little comments here and there, nothing you don’t hear in a restaurant kitchen, though. Really, at first, it didn’t bother me as I had no interest in him and I figured he was just testing the waters since he was new. But as the weeks wore on, I could tell he was really trying to let me know, he was interested. One night, as I was counting down the register for the night, he asked if I wanted to go to a club for some drinks with him. First, I told him I wasn’t old enough to go to a club. He responded that he knew the guy that owned it and he could get me in. I then told him I didn’t like clubs as they were too noisy and I didn’t enjoy dancing. So, he just straight up asked me over to his place. I finally just told him that I didn’t date men and I wasn’t interested in hanging out with him at his place. He seemed to take it in stride and left, but I would later find out, he wasn’t very good at taking no for an answer.

My shift on June 5th, 2004 had started out pretty well. I was working the closing shift and we had a good crew that night, so I was ready for a good night. I had worked with “Mr. Pushy” a couple of times since our conversation and he had seemed to be good with where things stood, keeping things mostly work related. This night was different. About half way through the shift, as I was getting ready to drop some wings into the fryer, and he whispered in my ear. “I know you want this big snake of mine.” He was directly behind me, so all I could do was drop the chicken into the fryer and start the timer. I stepped to the side and walked to the front where the cashier was. I told her what he had said to me and she asked if I wanted her to stay until close so I could send him home. The cashiers usually left a couple of hours before the rest of the crew as the night usually slowed down by then. I told her no, I could handle it and I walked out back to smoke a cigarette and gather my thoughts. I was the manager that night, so it was my call on who to send home. I decided I would just have a talk with him and see if he would agree to straighten up or be sent home. So, the three of us had a chat and he apologized and agreed to be cool the rest of the night.

When ten o’clock came around, I sent the cashier home and the night continued to go smoothly. When it came time to lock up, everyone had gone to their cars and I did my final walkthrough. By the time I walked out the back door, everyone had already left. Except “Mr. Pushy”. He was sitting in his car with the windows down, drinking a large can of Budwiser. I locked the door and walked over to his car. I urged him to go ahead and leave, as I was responsible for making sure everyone at least left the premises before I could leave. He asked if I would join him in his car. I told him I would not and that we both really needed to head out. I walked to my truck, got in and lit a cigarette, rolling the windows down. I sat there waiting for him to leave, thumbing through my cd collection, looking for some music to calm me down on my way home. I hadn’t heard him get out of his car, so the next thing I knew he was leaning into my truck, kissing me on the mouth and trying to shove his hand down my pants. As I pulled away as best I could he just chuckled and walked around to the other side of my truck. As he got in, I began hyperventilating, remembering my experience in high school. I couldn’t speak, fight back, I could barely breathe as he pulled me over to the passenger seat and raped me.

When he finished, he just chuckled again and got out and drove away. I was screaming in my head, but the rest of me was numb. I dressed myself and tried to drive myself home. But I couldn’t see through the tears. I called the cashier who had been working that night and told her what happened. She and her boyfriend came and picked me up and I spent the night-not sleeping-at her parent’s house. I got up the next day and went to my appointment with my counselor. At first I wasn’t sure if I could tell her what had happened. But I managed to get it out and she insisted I report it to the police. We had talked about how I hadn’t been able to tell anyone what happened to me when I was a ten year old, and nothing was done about the incident in high school. This was my chance to not only say something, but to have something be done about it! So, I agreed to tell the police. An officer came to her office and I told him what happened. He kept asking me if I had said, no to Mr. Pushy and I kept telling him that I couldn’t say anything. Finally, when I had finished telling him what happened, he said he wasn’t sure if they would be able to press charges because I hadn’t outright refused. I was still so numb and defeated, I don’t know that I even really understood what he was saying at the time. We went to the hospital so I could have a rape kit done and I had to go over the whole story again. I was exhausted by this point. My friend, the cashier, had met me at the counselor’s office to drive me to the hospital and back to her house when they were done. When we got back to her place I fell asleep, finally. I woke up to it being dark and my parents were there. I don’t remember them saying much and I just went back to sleep as they drove me home.

After a few days passed, I tried to go back to work, but I couldn’t handle it. I decided to quit and for a couple of months I just didn’t work. I spent a lot of time sleeping and on the computer. They had been unable to press charges, and I just felt totally defeated. I was depressed, angry, and exhausted. Continuing to attend church and see my counselor was the only thing that kept me going, I think. I definitely had thoughts of suicide, but I knew that God had something more for me than that. I wasn’t angry at Him this time; I honestly felt that He had allowed this to happen to me to wake me up and turn me away from the sin of homosexuality. So, I decided I would no longer try and explore those desires. It was very hard to walk away from though. I had felt that the only people I could really talk to about everything was the women in the lesbian chat room I had been a part of. My dad found out about the chat room and was super livid. He canceled my email account and forbid me from talking to them again. I felt lost. Out of place. But I knew he was right in his own way. I hated him for it, but I knew he was right. He also decided that after a few months of not working, it was time to get another job. No freeloaders in his house. I think he also felt I needed a reason to get out of the house instead of sleeping and ruminating in my room all day. I’m not sure he knew how to say that, of course, so I just felt he was being mean.

So, I went out and looked for another job. They were building a new Walmart, so I got on as part of a small crew that stayed behind in the old building and broke down the old store. We got to goof off a lot and had a lot of fun. It was the perfect job to kind of get me back into a routine, and it was a completely different environment than working in a restaurant.

I was finally beginning to start healing. But my journey to wholeness was still a long way coming.

Reflections on St. Patrick’s Day

Two days ago was St. Patrick’s day. I usually just let the holiday go by like any other over-commercialized, not sure why we celebrate it, just another day to have a party and don’t forget about the parade, holiday. But two days ago also marked 15 years.

Fifteen years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I tried to kill myself. I was a senior in high school and I was tired. I was physically tired, mentally tired, and emotionally tired. I was done with no one understanding, no one seemingly being on my side. I couldn’t handle the unexplainable nightmares, the panic attacks, the exhaustion and I just didn’t care anymore. Looking back, I probably didn’t truly want to die or I probably would have made a better attempt than a bottle of ibuprofen. But in the moment, I just knew I needed to do something drastic, something that would make sure someone knew I needed more help than I was getting. My parents knew something was going on with me because they had started sending me to a therapist. But I didn’t like her. I felt like she was a bit patronizing and I never felt comfortable talking to her. I remember my mom being super mad at her for not alerting her to how bad off I was. But it really wasn’t her fault; I never really opened up too much to her.

Turns out, I was a pretty messed up teenager. Really, I was just wrestling with things I was not emotionally prepared to deal with. I had been assaulted by a boy at school earlier that year and it affected me very deeply. I hadn’t been able to talk about it and I had reached the breaking point. Finally talking about it opened up a mental and emotional can of worms that I still use as fishing bait to this day. I spent five weeks attending an outpatient day program for adolescents who were struggling with all kinds of things, from drug abuse to mental health issues. One of those weeks I spent on the impatient unit because sometimes, things get worse before they get better. I began to uncover a lot of things about myself, some good, most terrifying and awful. With the help of the therapists, I began to try and decipher the flashbacks I had been having. Turns out, I had been assaulted before-and much worse. I still can’t put together all of the pieces and most days I’d rather not try. I still grieve for my ten year old self, even though I don’t really have a lot of memory of my childhood. I feel sad for the pain and burden she was asked to carry so young.

Looking back, 15 years later, there are still a lot of things I am dealing with. But I am no longer an angry, emotional teenager, and I have a much deeper and more trusting relationship with my Heavenly Father. I have very dear and trustworthy friends who listen to me to be able to help me instead of using my pain against me. I am strong in my fight against depression and anxiety, even though they plague me more often than not. I go months between panic attacks rather than days. But most of all, I know that God has a plan for my story. He has set my life on the path it is on for His greater purpose and glory. I know that my story may be unique, but my trials and tragedies are not. There are other voices in the world who cannot speak because of fear or shame and I have been called to awaken in their spirit a confidence and knowledge that they are not alone in their fight. Childhood sexual assault is an ugly reality for many. Too many. Depression and anxiety afflict more and more every day. Flashbacks, PTSD, childhood trauma and abuse, being a Christian who struggles with homosexuality, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, cutting and self-harm; all of these things are things I have and do fight with. But healing can be obtained. Hang around and I’ll share with you my story.