Because I Love Myself

I had a realization recently–no, an epiphany – I’m talking a massive download, a persona-defying brainwave. It happened like this:

It started with a simple observation: I finally put my finger on something that has been bothering me for some time–years, really. I was explaining this to a friend, because I needed to put it into words to be able to fully process it. Here’s the thing; it worked. By the end I nearly had myself in tears with the realization (yes, I’m going to use that word a lot in this one) that I was speaking about a wounding I have never validated for myself before, but that I am now honoring with the compassion of simple recognition.

As an important aside, I’ve spent a lot of the last two months in, near or needing the sweet release of tears. If you knew how much, really, it might seem oddly, overtly, vulnerable. And it is. But what I explained to my friend is that I have a very deep appreciation for my own tears. I have a deep appreciation for tears in general, but mine in particular. I have years of tearlessness behind me, days and nights of depressed pressure I would’ve given anything for one tear to give some release of–and nothing. I couldn’t cry–couldn’t let myself cry, irregardless of how much I wanted to. I don’t cry easily. But I’ve shed more tears in the last month than I have in the last decade, easily. And when I do I find that it is often because I’ve touched on something in myself with a compassion I’ve never given myself before.

So when I felt warm tears rising while talking about this wounding, I knew I was dealing with myself differently. And then I had my epiphany: I love myself.

This is a journey I have been on for a year and more, beginning with my introduction to shadow work early last year. Self-love and even self-care used to seem like a vague thing to me, but now I know that it looks like:

Radical self-acceptance–good, ‘bad’ and ugly–and being compassionate enough toward myself to honour even the parts I don’t like with open understanding; having enough of that compassion to allow myself to see the genuine needs behind my ‘bad’ traits  and habits–and finding positive ways to validate and satisfy those needs, without giving in to the guilt of having needs met that I’ve literally been fighting against (because of the misdirection of said ‘bad’ traits/habits); opening my mind to the remote possibility that maybe my sexuality is a good thing, and was even as an early teen trying to snuff out one of the deepest parts of me; letting myself feel – happy, sad, angry, mute, alone – a myriad of emotions each carrying value and significance, and not trying to suppress or change them; making selfish decisions without, again, feeling guilty (because selflessness is a false martyrdom: you need to take care of yourself before you can properly care for anyone else.); honouring all of my thoughts and emotions without stifling anything – my inner world is as expansive as the universe, the only thing more exhausting than Being is trying to keep myself from Being; putting myself to bed early, feeding myself breakfast and packing myself lunch, cleaning the house and making my bed so that I have a rest-inducing place to come home to after a hard day; telling myself,  “I love you in the face of your faults,” – there is still so much of myself that I have a difficult time with, but the truth is I am beautifully divine and divinely beautiful, and I owe it to myself to care, because few enough others will.

Love yourself.

I realized I have a deeper compassion and love for myself today than I ever knew, or even thought I ever would. I knew in one moment I care deeply for myself, with an actual, deeply legitimate, tenderly honest–romantic, even–concern. I could never have imagined feeling this level of care for myself as I do today; I couldn’t be more proud of or happy for myself. And I didn’t see it coming. More tears.

Love Yourself.

Because I Love Myself is the title for a little 15-page sketchbook I am filling this winter with old and happy memories and meaningful faces, as part of Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project Vol. 15. I was already planning the theme of the work going into it when this very apt title presented itself to me while finishing off the opening page. Because I love myself. Why am I doing what I am doing, making the decisions I am making, choosing the people I did to give room to in my very fragile life, being very stringent about requiring anyone who wants anything to do with me to expend some energy for me for once–because I love myself. Because I care for myself, for my well-being, for my safety and security, for my not being used when I am useful and discarded when I am not. I feel a very deep and real sense of comfort and peace. Because I love myself. And I do.

In Defense of the Streams

There used to be a time when I accepted things unquestioningly; the Bible (and Ellen White) say it? It must be true. Simple days. I remember being taught that there was a gap in Orion’s Sword that looked upon heaven; surely even 15 years ago astronomy had already superceded that ‘cloudy gap’ observed a century before by advancements in telescopics, but by golly Joseph Bates and Ellen White said it, it must be so.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about right now, it’s okay. What it comes down to is this: I’ve grown up. I’ve studied conclusions I was taught–and some I wasn’t–and I’ve made my own. I’ve gone from an unquestioning tween with a zealousy to make God so proud He couldn’t possibly overlook me (and perhaps this says something also of my childhood), to a fiery teen with a burning desire to find in a dead religion the source of the glimpses of Spirit I’d seen naturally playing in people not because of the particular sect they were in but because of the people they were. I got frustrated with that one when I went on to become a striving youth eager to put that Spirit back into the religion, not realizing that Spirit doesn’t live in walls made by human hands or precepts. And slowly I became this: a wandering soul. I let the religion, and the walk, slip away. I lost sense of the value of ancient books though I used to study them with a fervent curiosity.

The first time I said, “I’m not a Christian any more,” it felt a little extreme. But the truth is, I don’t think I am–certainly not by the standards of many mainstream Christians. It seemed naked at first, walking around without a label. I spent some time looking around to see if I could pick up a new one somewhere else–Buddhism, anyone? If I were forced to frame myself I would say I am currently a Christ-Taoist–and I would point out that I don’t mean ‘Christ’ as in “Jesus the–“. But I have exhausted my interest in frameworks.

What I wish I could make clear to every Christian I know who is currently praying for either the eventual salvation or swift destruction of such outsiders as myself ‘tossed on the waves of reason,’ as it were, are the simple philosophies of Divinity. Philosophies such as God’s love for man and the utter impossibility of his doing anything less than the utmost (and we’re talking omnipotent here, guys) to bring every single molecule of his creation back to himself. Many would call it heresy to suppose that Christ already accomplished this – I believe It Is Finished.

And getting back to that “not ‘Jesus the–‘” business for a moment, I believe in universal Christ: Christ with all, in all, through all, and all with, in and through Christ. A simple Christian philosophy–but also a simple Buddhist philosophy, and Taoist philosophy, and I believe, a Hindu philosophy–and many others–and in fact more universally shared than Christians like to admit, and why? Because Christians are the only ones who call this ‘Christ’, and so believe they have and hold the One True Thing when the One True Thing was meant for All. Christians. Jews. Muslims. Buddhists. Hindu. Taoists, even. Paul quoted the Greeks when he spoke of Universal Christ saying, ‘in him we live and move and have our being,’ and I’d like to think that Paul wasn’t just appropriating the culture to his own devices but actually recognizing the validity of someone else’s experience of the One True Thing by a Different Name. Read that Again. There is another name for Everything.

There is a principle which comes from Confusionism called wu wei – it literally means inexertion–or inaction. Water follows the principle of wu wei: it flows ever-downward, it flows around things, following the course of least resistance, yielding to whatever stands in its way. And it always will return to the bottom, settling completely. It does this effortlessly, and yet water carved the Grand Canyon. The thing about streams is that they all take different routes, but they all have the same destination: below everything – the foundations of life itself. The water of life was not a meaningless analogy. You yourself are, primarily water, and your own energy responds to the world around you primarily as–you guessed it: water. Wu wei. We’re all destined for the same place. Another name for Everything.

Dear You

Dear You,

This is probably weird. I sincerely hope that you aren’t reading this right now – I would feel awkward–maybe even a little embarrassed to be about to say what I’m about to say, and still thinking about you like you meant more than 24 hours can tell. I would hope that if you ever did find yourself here that you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable or creeped out by it. But here I am, I’m listening to your mix-tape, I’m writing again. Thank-you–sincerely–for being the Muse that brought me here.

They always said not to judge a book by its cover, and then someone dared to ask how you would ever pick up any book if you didn’t judge it by the cover. I’ve made some assumptions. But the saying is much less about making your mind up about someone’s appearance, and much more about not letting your experience of that person be biased by that appearance. Everyone is worthy of recognition for their true selves.

I guess I’m here as a contemplative–as a ponderer. I ponder what happens behind your eyes and anxious-but-kind smile. But actually I’m pondering much less about you and much more about me–because you are You and well, contemplating you is your adventure, not mine.

I wonder if you were curious to know the stories you dismissed the covers of–or maybe you didn’t really dismiss them, but just let them overwhelm you with whatever-it-is that they whispered to you. I wonder if you’re more than uncomfortable of them. I wonder if I was too familiar, too comfortable with you, too…much, too fast. I wonder if this says anything about how I interact with people in general…or if it was just the mixture that was Us. I put a lot on the table, I can tell you, and I’d like to say that’s unusual but it’s kind of a pattern with me. Maybe I could learn from the stoics–that’s a philosophy that fits really well with the growth that I’ve experienced in the last year and a half. 

I told you that I wish you well. I do; I meant it–in case there was any doubt. I don’t have an ounce of ill-feeling in my mind about you; I think you’re great and I hope you go on to find yourself more deeply than you could have ever imagined. I’m not really part of your story, anyway – just a ship that passed–kind of literally in the night. You probably don’t (and won’t ever have the chance to) understand what that passing has meant to me, but that’s okay.

So it’s not much, but any more I think would feel too much, so for now I’ll just sit back, sip the ginger beer I made this week, and continue to take advantage of your fabulous music tastes.

-Thanks.

 

When the Music Fades

What would you do with the realization that something you have done for many years–long enough to do well without a second thought–is… wrong?

I’ve quit worship-leading. Indefinitely.

This is a decision that comes after several months of processing the question that I one day asked myself: “Is my ‘worship’ leading emotional manipulation?”

I’ve come to the belief that much of contemporary worship music is emotionally manipulative–indeed I’m not sure that we could really say that any music is not emotionally manipulative; after all, music moves us all. But the lines really grey out for me around worship music because there tends to be a heavy emphasis on the worshipper’s experience with God and church, and the worshipleader’s ability to create that experience. I realize this in myself when I begin to think of myself as successful or unsuccessful based upon the outward emotional responses I see both in myself and in those I am leading. Some worship leaders could bring you to tears or have you jumping for joy at the whim of a carefully-selected song list.

To be clear, I’m not condemning worship-leaders. I’m not saying that worship music is wrong. I used to believe that worship-leading was my dream, but I’ve come to the realization that creating art–and particularly music in this case–is a powerful gift much bigger than how we experience church; it truly is how we experience the divine in ourselves and in each other. And with the traditional views of church that I could never quite settle with follow my traditional views of worship-leading, because I do not want to create a church experience. I do not want to tell you through my music how to experience God, and I do not want to base my success or failure on my ability to emotionally woo you into my pre-conceived ideas about experiencing Divine.

I have reasons beyond that: namely that I don’t have time. I love music, but I’ve come to the disappointed realization that I’m not getting to the level I want to achieve at, and I probably will never get there without much more serious focus. I’m losing my vocal range and set variety because I don’t have time to exercise or learn new songs. I’ve never really relished the idea of creating music uncollaboratively, and so I find doing it alone more draining for that reason as well; I would fit well in a supporting role behind someone else’s spotlight, but I don’t have ties to a lot of other musicians because I haven’t taken the time or opportunities to make connections. 

Beyond all that, I’m tired. I don’t want to make music in this chapter of my life–and I certainly don’t want to make music merely because those I do it for tell me I am the best they have. And perhaps now we are really down to it; I’m burned out, and I don’t feel right about being at the head of something potentially–if I’m successful–emotionally charged, because I’ve lost my personal confidence in the ethics of the thing itself.

And so I won’t be leading worship any more. I do hope, one day, that I will find my music niche. But in the mean time I continue to wrestle with the implications of what has been made conscious to me, and I am done robbing energy from ventures more in line with my current vibrations to beat on tired horses; it’s time to go further up, and further in!

Shadow Rescue

A day with you pervades my mind;

I remember.

I had to think about it when it came needling into my mind, because I second-guessed at first; I thought, no that memory couldn’t possibly be you–but it is. 

It is perhaps the only untainted memory I have of you. We were young, so young and so free. And you baffled me, because no one else had ever spent time with me before just for the sake of spending time with me–at least, not very many, and not anyone who knew me. You came in and you were different. You weren’t there when I was written off, you didn’t come from a place where boys were gross. I forgot–if I ever really knew before this moment–how deeply I feel about that day, because I was for a few precious hours no longer on the outside of a clique.

What happened between Then and Now–between Then and Pain–I wish I didn’t know. We became the clique, and it divided us. It wasn’t you and I anymore, because even in a clique I was never really ‘in’–I never really wanted to be, I just craved not being out.

I saw your picture today, and then I remembered what I had so easily left buried for 15 years because the gold in the dark side only hurts when it falls on your head. It hurts in a different kind of way today, because I know my memory has only ever had honour for you, my friend; and today I am healed, and you are redeemed.

Fearless Conversation

A practical update: this is not an excuse, it is a realisation.

I had a wonderful visit on Sunday with a lovely friend. It left me feeling two things: Yes, this is exactly what I’ve been waiting for, and, I need more of this.

You see, I was asked how I felt about having deep conversations, and my first response to that is always an immediate “Yes, please, speak deeply with me!” I’ve been writing to the depths of my shallow soul since I was thirteen, I long for depth.

And so I said “It’s not comfortable, but yes I like deep conversation.”

But it’s not comfortable, because as much as I have lauded deep conversation…I’ve had very, very, very little of it. And I find myself floundering because I can sit at my keyboard for as long as it takes to convey my deepest thoughts to you, but a conversation lives, flows, breathes. It has a heartbeat, it moves, it wanes. If I do not speak immediately what Spirit breathes, the natural rhythm is not honoured.

I know I’m making simple discussion sound lofty and artful–and it is. But what I’m really trying to convey is that I’m unpractised; I’ve had very little practice at any conversation. When I was thirteen and coming out of seclusion I didn’t know how to have a conversation; I made a friend very dear to me but I could not speak audibly to her in the first year of our friendship because I was so frozen at human contact. And the reality is that even though adulthood has forced me into scraping by socially, I have never advanced beyond the point of that thirteen-year-old boy with a lump in my throat and a stop on my voice, and the truth is I have known very few (if any) people who knew how to approach that, or who had the patience to walk for long next to a mute.

It’s not comfortable.

I’ve been in a bit of a slump for several months. I’ve wanted to write here, I’ve wanted to share many things with my close friends, many of whom are not geographically close. I’ve had projects planned, research to complete and write on for my other writing project, I’ve even been toying with some vague ideas around a [possible spoiler alertpodcast. But I don’t, and haven’t, and haven’t the motivation or energy. I sat down at my desk to do one thing and tried that and four or five other things and decided I didn’t want to do any of them before almost begrudgingly opening wordpress because I thought, maybe it’s time to write this out and process it. So here I am.

And I haven’t really had many conversations of much substance in the last….well, I don’t even want to think about how long, because frankly that’s a depressing thought. I haven’t been well-connected to people in a long time–certainly not people with whom I could share deep conversation. And I long for that.

So I may not have much to write here. I may not have much presence on social media at all, because I’d like to make conversation a practice – real conversation, with my voice, out loud. I’d like to hear from my friends in a call, or face to face. I’d like to have deep conversation, until it is comfortable enough that my heart does not start to race leading up to the moment I speak. I would like to be much more authentic by this practice.

I hope to see you around.

They Are All

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

-Hebrews 10:14

I have always had a very difficult time reconciling between the promised perfection of the gospel and the apparent brokenness of the world around me, never mind my own troubled beliefs. What I have come to be at peace with is that the reality of the gospel and the incarnation wins out, because it is true, no matter how many perceptions I or anyone else may hold to discredit it.

At this point, if you haven’t been keeping up with my recent musings you may want to read the precursors to this blog, here and here. They are the backdrop which is my personal experience and story.

My understanding has evolved; I was eleven when I was baptised, and I did so because I feared that my supposed sexual deviation would keep me out of heaven. That is how salvation worked for me, after all; say a prayer, make a declaration, get dunked under water for half a second, and come up a different person.

I was disappointed when it didn’t make me an asexual.

I’ve recounted often of my trouble understanding the whisper of Holy Spirit to me regarding the irrelevance of my purity in regard to His; I could not comprehend at the first hearing how His purity could be greater than my impurity. I tried to convince myself that, after all, He is God: of course He is greater than me. But that is a difficult thing to believe when you believe you are the blot of black ink on what otherwise would have been a perfectly white garment.

The reality, as I began to unfold in my last blog, is that my assumed impurity was no more real than the possibility that being dunked in a lake could secure my passage to heaven–as if I hadn’t ever done that before on any other hot summer. And even where it remotely real, His truly is greater than mine, and my life is found in His.

It is a difficult–perhaps impossible–thought for the church at large to receive, taught as we have been for so long of the existence and prevalence of evil in the nature of humanity. In a discussion regarding those who have recently come into the church who may practice manipulating tactics and grabs for power and attention–the usual repertoire of sins such as substance and sexual uses and abuses not to be wholly forgotten–I found myself wondering whether the issue was not more about our being able to discern the needs of these people behind the acting out of their shadows. Had I been mentored by someone in my teen years able to perceive the legitimate and desperate needs of my sexuality, who could have helped me to understand that the struggle I was perceiving was not a contest between sin and righteousness but my own Self trying to be known by me, how much better could I now know and accept myself?

My surprise then was, how can you blindly call these things ‘sinful’ or ‘problematic’ and not have the discernment to see the genuine need of the person? 

Because I don’t see ‘sin’, or ‘sinful habits’, anymore. I see brokenness. I see the authenticity in people severed in so many ways and the hopeless attempts of the subconscious to counterbalance. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind attention-seeking, and grabbing for power and control. I see the genuine need–and wound–behind much addiction. I have interacted with many people who willingly harm their bodies to the point of serious danger in many, many ways because they have a wound within that they cannot find any way to reconcile. The very small amount I do perceive should break the heart of the church–it does mine.

I want to address something that I have wrestled with for quite some time: the letter of 1 John. 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

-1 John 1

I believe the majority of the teaching and preaching I have heard which references 1st John carries this message: don’t fool yourself; You are hopelessly bad.

I have seen it used as definite proof against the idea that anyone could be sinless because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross–in effect, a defence against Universalism, the completed work of the cross and any suggestion that a christian doesn’t need to continue to repent for their sins.

The theme of the book is quite simple: John lays out, ‘this is the nature of God, therefore anything contrary to this is not Godly. This is what light is, this is what dark is. It is starkly black and white.

But direct your attention to the introduction, particularly, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Is it too bold to wonder why John and his fellows would consider a condemning message joyful? But condemnation is not the reality here, the reality is that God is sovereign, and we share fellowship with Him. We ARE in the Light. This is what our lives look like because of that truth. John is writing black-and-white truth absolutely–the reality of the Risen Christ and a world bound to His fate. I understand why he is writing so that his joy may be full because it brings me the same joy to share with others the reality of who they are in Christ–light, love, righteousness, sinless…perfect. You are in Christ–and in Christ is no darkness at all; it is a declaration of exactly the reality of the Last Adam.

There is an image which is an underlying theme on my mind tonight; it is a theme in the movie The Last Samurai; after his capture Nathan Algren meets Katsumoto, the samurai leader responsible for his imprisonment. On approaching a cherry tree, Katsumoto tells Algren, “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.” By the end of the movie Algren and Katsumoto are inseparable brothers, and Katsumoto, dying in the arms of Algren observes with his last breaths, “Perfect. They… are all… perfect…”

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I’m not asking for a redefinition of sin. I’m not asking to change the Bible–on the contrary, I am asking that the truth of the Bible be honoured as it is given. They are all perfect, by one sacrifice by the glorious plan of the Incarnation. They are all perfect, and they are all in the Great Dance of Father, Son, and Spirit–and me.

I have to ask myself–because I do not see with eyes not my own–if I have discovered the holiness and righteousness and authenticity of something I once deemed sinful and abominable, why should I not expect the same experience to be possible in others? Why would I ever need to resort to assuming sin in a person when the sin I presumed in myself was a false perception? It is not so hard any more to reconcile what goes on in the world in light of the reality of the gospel when I now understand much more of the wrong I did myself in believing I was anything less than perfect. The question changes from ‘who can I save,’ to ‘who will share my joy with me?’

 

The Untold

I was eleven–or ten-going-on.

I remember certain details of the day clearly; I remember that it was probably the last time I ever cut the legs off my jeans (because that’s just what you did when your knees wore out).

I wonder if my older siblings remember; most of the family was out for the evening somewhere and the rest of us sat down to watch Along Came Polly. I was eleven–or ten-going-on, and the question was briefly queried as to whether I should be watching such a movie with them, but without any action taken. It seems silly now, it was a strictly PG-13 all-under-the-covers rom-com, but it was the first sex scene I’d ever seen.

And it caused something to stir within me.

After the movie that night, I wanted more than anything to explore this mystery, to know it and be known by it. Being the imaginative and artistic young soul, I sallied several attempts to fill in the blanks on paper, to capture the essence somehow of the longing I was experiencing. I had no inkling of what was taking place–what I could make take place–in my body, but I was keen to explore it. My sexuality had awoken.

I’d only ever heard the term pornography used once. Upon asking what pornography was, I was told that it was pictures of people naked. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to have their picture taken naked, nor why it would be at all interesting to have a ‘porn stash’ under your mattress, as the initial joke insinuated. But as my curiosity and desire grew, and after a misspelled web address faced me with a page with a link entitled simply ‘Pornography’, one quiet evening I decided to finally uncover the mystery for myself.

I was surprised–and disgusted–by what I saw. To the credit of my own innocence I did not understand intellectually that looking at pornography might be wrong–even though I might have jumped at the slightest noise anywhere in the rest of the house–it was simply a matter of discovery and understanding for me. But pornography was too great a substance, an overload to my shrouded understanding. I felt dirty, and deep gui lt, or shame. I don’t recall what brought me back after that initial click, but this isn’t really about pornography.

At first it was innocent enough; I figured out how to reproduce what I had first experienced, and continued to do so regularly. And then doubts began to filter in; what if this is wrong? How could it be? But in my mind I decided that what I termed ‘simulated sex,’ was at least borderline. What if I am sinning? At my age and level of understanding, sexuality was nowhere near being on the sin-spectrum taught in Sabbath-school class, but I still began to beg and plead with God to forgive me every time, assuring him even with tears at times that I was sorry, and that it would be the last time.

And so I began to banish and demonise my sexuality. I built the belief around me that I had to find the off-switch and turn it off until I was older, married and ready to be sexual; then I could turn it on, and everything would be fine because I would be married. 

If you’ve followed my writing for long, you know the rest of the story: I wrote my first testimony outlining my ‘lust problem’  and depression in the spring of 2007 when I was twelve and had fought to repress my sexuality for over a year. I became spiritual–and it was a genuine, albeit immature spirituality–to further fight my ‘lust’ and growing depression. I remember going to a conference in 2006 and vowing to God there, ‘I’m never going to give in to my lust again.’ Of course I failed my expectations. One day I found the recounting of Paul’s thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 and I adopted it as my own struggle against my sexuality–this is just a messenger of Satan, something to keep me lowly and humble, to let God be strong for me.

I want to tell you how wrong I was.

I want to tell you that I mourn the day I began to think that my sexuality was unacceptable. I want to tell you that because I repressed my sexuality, and in combination with desensitising myself with a regular porn habit, when I did get married and figured I was in the free and clear finally, I didn’t find sex exciting, or good, or intimate because by then I had buried my sexuality so deeply that I didn’t know how to get it back, and the shame I felt in my sexuality kept me from wanting it back.

But I want to tell you something even more important: I’ve come to the understanding that because I repressed my sexuality, my sexuality acted out. Because I outlawed all sexual expression, my sexual expression became uncontrollable. My sexuality is and always has been an integral part of me, because I am a human, created to be a sexual being. I thought it was all about being pure and not doing anything deemed by the church and society as gross, unacceptable and sinful, but in pursuit of purity I disowned part of me. I’ve never been fully able to wrap my brain around the wording Jesus whispered to me years ago saying, ‘It’s not about your purity, son, it’s about Mine,’ but they burn in my mind now with the understanding that growing up whole was more important than any person’s idea about purity. am his purity, there is nothing so foolish as for me to think I could have tarnished his image by sexual expression.

Pornography is another story, but as I said; this isn’t really about pornography. It began as purely biological curiosity for me, but became simply another device by which my ever-constricted sexuality dared to be known by me. I have always been your friend. 

I mourn the intrigue I taught myself to distrust; I mourn the discovering I never allowed myself to take properly, and the mess that came of trying to disown Myself. I mourn not being able to experience the wonder of sexuality after repressing my sensitivities and blaming it on pornographic saturation. I mourn the years spent believing myself a monster, and the countless nights in moral and ethical despair; it’s no wonder to me now, understanding just what I was doing to myself, why I was deeply depressed. I mourn never knowing boyhood sexuality as a wonderful and beautiful thing to be celebrated and explored.

And now you know the story as it has never been known before. I did not know it myself until just recently when a dam somewhere way back in my subconscious broke and it all came flooding out with an all-but-forgotten memory of the first sex scene I ever saw. My sexuality is no longer a problem. Pornography is no longer a moral issue but an intimacy issue. I now understand why not fighting my sexuality’s pornographic outlet actually helped me to need it less, and why trying to stop was actually a hopeless attempt to thwart the Genuine Me, my own Beloved. I now understand–albeit only a little more than before–Myself.

The Hid [A Shadow Narrative]

I was a boy when the stranger appeared. It came as a veiled mystery, beauty and passion emanating through the folds of an only almost opaque cloak. I was instantly intrigued; I set out to Know the mystery, and she began to take vague form beneath the pen of my imagination, teased by glimpses through the veil.

I experimented, searching out ways to awaken her, to coax her from her divine mystery, but one day I cheated; I approached the veil and took hold of her folds; I parted the veil, just ever so slightly–and found myself dazzlingly blind. I reached in my hand, and jerked it back again at the pricking of wicked thorns against my fingers.

I left her there for a time; I was bewildered by the enmity of the thorns so that I forgot the beauty and had only the image of needle-sharp spears. But my ears were attuning themselves to her song, and so I returned.

I went deeper the next time–ignoring the scratches of the thorns, for I told myself that was all they were, determined as I was to caress the Mystery. Yet I still could not reach her, and the wonder was so unrelievedly great that eventually I had to retract my reach for hopelessness.

When I removed my hand from the folds it was torn and bleeding bright red. I felt the ardour of mystery; I had never seen my own blood before, warm and metallic on my skin. But the aroma was immediately nauseating, and my stomach was in knots with it. My innocence had surfaced and I could not undo it.

The next time I tried to part the thorns with both hands, still determined to her mystery, but when I attempted to retrieve my reach the thorns became barbs and tore gaping wounds.

And I could not help but return.

After only a few trespassed visits her brilliance became dark to me. The light pulsed deeper and deeper within, brighter and brighter, but more distant with every visit. The thorns became dark claws which first drug me in, and then regurgitated me, cut and bleeding back without the veil. I blamed her for seducing me to her beauty and mystery, and she became a demon, black as death within the veil. I cried for deliverance from this foe but deliverance came not, and now I wore her like a blood-soaked cloak, her barbs sinking ever deeper.

I heard a voice that intimated friendship with her, but what I believed I heard was merely a distant promise that her power would be wrested from me if I could only last that long. I held a hindering hope, and maintained my animosity.

I fought against her for what seemed lifetimes; and she fought back for mere survival and recognition. But my vision was filled with only monsters and demons, black terrors in the night which engulfed and ravaged me. I banished her to the very depths, but found that I lived in the depths with her–but for rare moments when I found myself rising the great stair to a life without her, only to stumble in the middle and find myself back in the dark and slime of the depths again.

I survived only by continually defining myself intentionally as her opposite, and by emphasising our separateness, and she survived by the thorns she lay in my flesh, and the blood which issued from each fresh wound. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I wailed endlessly. How will I ever be the same again?

I feared her always, reaching out as she did from behind her black shrouds. You’re dead to me, I would scream, Remain in your grave, foul fiend! Often I would tire, and she would cloud my mind in despair.

And then one day I stopped fighting. I thought that I had truly won, for when I stopped fighting, she ceased to grow stronger, and was contented to the shadows. I saw less of her, and when I did her fury was less vile and shorter-lived. My mind was no longer filled with her, and the wounds and scars covering my body began to heal and fade faster than the fresh ones were appearing. But she was not finished with me yet.

You see, I awoke one day, and I found that there was no mystery where I knew there had been. There was no longer tender discovery, but only dried decrepit vines and sword-like thorns. I knew then that I had lost the mystery, desensitised in my trespass, and because I no longer saw her mystery, I no longer tasted her wonder or smelled the scents of discovery.

And I mourned. I mourned the death of wonder, my ignorant vanquishing of mystery.

And then I heard a whisper: Always has she been your truest friend.

Tomorrowland and the Kingdom of Heaven

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.    – 1 John 1:1-3

Moments ago I finished re-watching a movie which has jetted its way into my top favorites; Tomorrowland. If you haven’t watched Tomorrowland, it comes with my highest recommendation:

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.  -IMDb

Tomorrowland.

You’re probably wondering what an obscure imagined dimension called “Tomorrowland” and the adventures of our two protagonists to find it have to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll tell you, but first a little synopsis:

Frank Walker–the former boy-genius–grew up in Tomorrowland after being invited in on account of being a dreamer. Later he would be exiled back to the ‘normal world’ where he would live on in cynicism and regret for a device he had created.

Casey Newton–the bursting teen–is chosen by Athena, an AI (in body a fifteen-year-old girl) once tasked to recruiting dreamers to Tomorrowland and incidentally the very AI who recruited and was befriended by Frank Walker years before. Athena slips Casey a special pin, which when Casey discovers and touches, launches her into an immersive ‘commercial’ for Tomorrowland; she finds herself in a vast field of golden grass and a shining city in the distance. She is filled with an insatiable desire to find out what this place is, and where this mysterious pin came from.

Athena leads Casey to Frank who is living as a recluse locked away in his house in the back of beyond. Oh, and did I mention robots are chasing her? Through a series of comical events, Frank, Casey and Athena all wind up together, out to save the world.

Spoiler Alert.

The trouble with the world is that it’s going to end in 58 days, as predicted by Frank Walker’s device. The device acts like a massive radio antenna tuning into the future. The device is now in the hands of the stern Governor Nix who is intent on the apocalypse. Casey hypothesizes that Frank’s device isn’t merely ‘receiving’ the future but broadcasting it to the entire world, feeding humanity visions of their apocalyptic future and essentially becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. They explain this discovery to Governor Nix, but it is now that they realize he doesn’t want to save the world anymore–in fact, he is deliberately allowing the device to continue.

I want to jump ahead a little bit, because it’s the scene at the end of the movie that blew everything out of the water for me. The entire story is being retold by Casey and Frank to a new generation of dreamer-seeking AI as they embark into the world. The final scenes show a variety of selected dreamers finding their pins; as soon as they touch them, they wake up together in the vast golden plain, a shining Tomorrowland in the distance.

tomorrowland_whiskytree_vfx_03

(I don’t mean to spoil the ending for you, but you can take in the full experience of the moment in this video)

And that’s when I saw the Kingdom.

If you asked me what I’ve been learning in the last couple years, I would give you a swirling mural of the true gospel, the kingdom of heaven and the image of “I AM” in and over all life–especially in those routine and mundane moments religion so quickly writes off as secular. Tomorrowland sums up so much of what has gone without words to describe.

Tomorrowland is the Kingdom. It is a place unseen by the world at large, but an ever-present reality. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” the prophet cried two millennia ago–

But the sad narrative is that the keepers of the kingdom, the Governor Nixes of the world–indeed, religion itself–did not truly believe him, or the King who declared the same of His kingdom. The Governor Nixes see a doomed world, but they believed that the solution was to show the world how bad it really was–to broadcast their impending doom so that they could do something about it. The religious Governor Nixes refuse Tomorrowland to the world because they believe that to let ‘bad’ people in will corrupt the kingdom–the irony being that in all of Tomorrowland we literally only see one living resident: Governor Nix, himself.

And Governor Nix’s plan is self-defeating because to immerse a person in their future doom is to bring their doom upon them. The world receives his subliminal broadcast of the future and the apocalypse culture rises; people embrace and welcome doom because, as he explains: they want a future that they don’t have to do anything for today. And so Governor Nix is no longer interested in saving the world but purging it in and by its own fate.

But the Kingdom of Heaven is here. It isn’t even as far as another dimension, it is right here, all around us. “The kingdom of Heaven is here–and here.” Balian’s father tells him, pointing to his mind, and his heart [The Kingdom of Heaven]. 2000 years ago it was proclaimed; it was declared even before the gospel, and the gospel has come! But the religious Nixes live in a paradox of being ‘in’ the Kingdom but unable to see the Kingdom. They are like the disciples in a way, expecting to see Jesus rise up with a sword and an army on the earth to destroy the reign of the Romans; “Well nothing spectacular has happened yet,” they say, “We haven’t seen Jesus on the clouds of glory; how can His kingdom be here yet?” They justify their disappointments and long-harbored resentment at the apparent slowness of His coming with the explanation that something which God declares to be ‘at hand in this present generation’ can really be thousands of years (or more) away, and they have missed the Kingdom reality.

It is the dreamers who are waking up in the golden field with the Kingdom before them. True, what they have seen is only a preview, but the reality is all around them to be discovered, unseen but not without experience. You experience the Kingdom in your mind, and in your heart. You experience the Kingdom in your family, in your friends, in your dealings with the people you meet on a daily basis. In your art, your music, your baseball and babies and cookouts. Not everyone knows about the Kingdom in that they do not know that they live in and experience it, but none have been left outside of it.

You see, the Good News that John wrote about–That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– “It’s here!”, he says, “We’ve experienced it, and we want you to know about it so that you can experience it, too!”

But O religion, O Church. You broadcast to the world not the wonder of Tomorrowland, but a perceived imminent doom. You’ve become the cynical Governor Nix, first showing the world the extent of its danger with the intention of frightening people straight into the Kingdom. It worked for a while, but it created a false image of the King, and when people decided that they didn’t like the image you gave them, you became fixated, disillusioned, embittered with a world you essentially created–an apocalyptic self-fulfilling prophecy.

I know a young man in whom I see desire for the Kingdom. He does not realize it, but the deep passions he is cultivating are Kingdom passions. He does not realize that the nature he was born with is Kingdom nature–and of course religion will not tell him so; religion will tell him that he must at the very least have his nature changed so that he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven; “Get saved.” What Governor Nix doesn’t understand is that he is already saved. Remember the good news? Jesus did that 2000 years ago on the cross. And the ‘getting saved’ part was only the drop in the bucket: what Jesus really did in his incarnation was to bring this young man into God himself, and to bring God himself into this young man–and indeed, into everyone. That’s right; everyone belongs to Tomorrowland already!

The gospel–the good news–is about letting others know. Validating the I AM in people. It is about showing people that they already live with the Kingdom all around them, that they experience it, and that their experiences of it are valid. They may not realize that what they experience is indeed Kingdom; in a world permeated by the Govenor Nixes, you may not, either. But the reality is all around us; we are all dreamers, and our Tomorrowland is at hand.