friendship

Expectations... or loneliness...

Expectations... or loneliness...

Feeling drawn in by a person's smile or eyes or affinity for dark chocolate or knowledge of Natalie Weiss doesn't make us best friends.

It doesn't make up for the time it takes to find yourself on the other's couch crying silently when there aren't words to describe your sadness.

It doesn't account for having those knock down, drag out fights where you both scream and say mean things and have to learn to forgive.

It doesn't mean that you like each other, much less that you love each other.

It doesn't mean you know each other. 

Alone...

Alone...

...I wish I were good at being alone, at feeling comfortable only in my own presence. But that is when the void of my loneliness, inadequacy, and insecurity is most present, tangible, palpable. I feel more and more like the authentic me, and it's hard to celebrate the goodness there when my mind sees the cracks, the flaws, the shame and the pain. 

Ashes 4: Pure delight...

Ashes 4: Pure delight...

I think about God resting God's hand on those parts of my body that I hate. I imagine the look on God's face while touching me, and I envision God having this sweet, subtle smile, one that says, "I am yours and you are mine. You bring me pleasure, and I love you just as you are." God sees the tears that come into my eyes as I let this message sink in. It may not be solidified. God might have to say it several dozen times more before I wholeheartedly believe it. But in that instant, it is the only truth I need.

Unexpected Gifts: betraying community...

Unexpected Gifts: betraying community...

Betrayal is one of those realities of life that can be hard to wrap our heads around, mostly because it almost always catches us off guard. We don't see it coming. We can't predict its culprit. We can't prepare for our response. We don't know the intentions of our betrayer. And in those cases where the betrayal is our doing, sometimes it can feel as if we are watching from outside our bodies as we get caught up in the forward momentum of whatever is happening.

Unexpected Gifts: transition...

Unexpected Gifts: transition...

I hate leaving. I hate feeling as if I'm losing a relationship, as if someone I love dearly is abandoning me. This is what transition can feel like for many people. This reality makes it necessary for the transition process to be handled with care, offering space for both grief and celebration. Without room for all the emotions that become tangled up in transitions, the shifts that individuals and communities face can lead to excessive pain, bitterness, resentment, and much more.

Laying down arms...

Laying down arms...

In two of my classes last week, the topic of sexuality came up. One professor, an ordained United Methodist Elder, openly shared his belief that the denomination's stance against ordaining partnered queer persons and celebrating their unions is absolutely and completely wrong. Still vulnerable and weakened from events of recent weeks, I nearly lost it. I crossed my arms, avoided eye contact, and retreated internally. One of my classmates, an ordination candidate in the United Church of Christ, pointed out three categories of people involved in this controversy.

Those who feel called to stay and who do so...

Those who feel called to leave and who do so...

Those who feel called to stay, but for whom the burden of that call is so unbearable that they leave...

Morning on the mountain...

My relationship with God has not been easy to maintain lately. I've struggled with a slew of difficult questions about my future, my beliefs, and my faith, most of which have not come accompanied by answers. I've battled against anger and bitterness. I came to conference hoping to release some of these feelings, and nearly 3,000 feet off the ground this morning, I was able to release some.

But I have to, don't I...

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Sin

It's a short word that comes with a multitude of definitions, interpretations, and responses. It's riddled with dogma and doctrine, and more often than not, is spoken with a certain harshness. It's a word that, most of the time, I don't enjoy speaking. I avoid it. I feel as if the impact of its being spoken to me and at me has done more harm than good, caused more harm than redemption. Yet it's a word that sometimes needs to be used to explain the presence and existence of certain phenomena in our world.

Sitting down for lunch (read breakfast) with Andrew Marin, creator of The Marin Foundation, my field placement for this academic year, we talked about many things. We talked about his decision to offer no definitive answer when asked for his personal stance on the issue of homosexuality. We talked about relationships. We talked about my recent decision to leave my denomination to pursue ordination elsewhere. We talked about our marriages and circles of friends, what made for healthy friendships, and what made for broken ones. We talked about God. We talked about love.

One topic in particular came up, and after sharing my insights with him, Andrew asked if I'd be willing to write a post rehashing them, and so here I am, listening to some Shane & Shane, drinking coffee while my cats scamper around the apartment, thinking about and writing about this topic

Accountability

As a gay man who has spent most of my life in a Baptist church of one branch or another, the words sin and accountability have been spoken at me many times, specifically pertaining to my sexual orientation. Former friends and church members have spoken of their "responsibility" and "obligation" to hold me accountable for my sin, spouting off any number of scriptures that give them the right to do so. A significant number of individuals who took on this role, well, they didn't know me, at least not very well. They'd taken little to  no time getting to know my heart, my interests, or my passions outside of their Sunday morning interactions with me. These people believed that their identity as a "Christian" obliged them to point out, admonish against, and correct the sins they witnessed in other Christ-followers, regardless of their relationship status with those persons. Based on their interpretation, it's hard to argue with them.

There was and often is something missing though that I believe is a key component to effective and holy accountability: mutuality. There are struggles I face from time to time that I want to overcome. More often than not, I recognize ability to win those battles alone. And so what do I do? I turn to someone I know, someone I love, and someone I trust to hold me accountable. This is the key.

Accountability has to be welcomed by the one being held accountable.

Yes, there are times when someone we love might be faltering and not asking for our input, but in those cases, the relationship that already exists often grants a certain level of permission. When you've built a relationship with someone that centers around love, respect, and mutuality, then sure, hold those friends accountable, but only so far as they allow you to do so. When that permission is revoked, then you no longer have that right.

Holding someone accountable to anything without relationship runs the risk of damaging that person in a deeply intimate way. Furthermore, holding someone accountable to a standard with which they disagree stands a chance of doing more harm than good. We're all called out to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Even Peter is given a vision in which he's told not to call profane what God has called clean (Acts 10:15). When it comes down to the wire, sin does have grey areas. Some things are sinful for some and acceptable for others. And once a person has worked out and wrestled with certain parts of their life, we are only entitled to hold them accountable insofar as they allow us. Anything beyond that, and we're no longer truly acting out of love and grace. Anything beyond that, and we're no longer living out the true Gospel message.