Christianity Didn’t Save Me

If you could ask 12-year-old me what the absolute worst possible thing was, I would have said ‘pornography’.

Let me set the stage: the year is 2006. I’m a month shy of 13. Within the last two years I have discovered first, masturbation, and second, pornography. I have a prolific circle of ‘online’ acquaintances, some Christian, some not. I have no other friends, and in the family and social settings where I am involved I feel overlooked and unseen. I don’t know what the word ‘depression’ means yet–but I am; I question the value of my life. I know something is wrong. I have a feeling in my gut that it has something to do with my new-discovered habits that I don’t even have the vocabulary to describe. The only word that I know is ‘lust’, and lust is bad.

Some of my family used to attend an event called ‘Worship Fest’, a weekend of live Christian music and ‘messages’. Pardon the Christianese. It happened most years, sometime in August. I–a 12-year-old with barely the vocabulary to describe what was happening in my body–spent an entire weekend begging God that if he could just help me stop… you know the line. I remember feeling a feint hope coming home, but mostly just exhausted expectation that nothing was going to change for me. Remember how I said I didn’t know what depression was? I heard Joyce Meyers use that word sometime in the remainder of that same year, and I said ‘That couldn’t be what I have…could it..?’

I did. And it got much worse.

2006 was monumental for me. I learned that God wouldn’t help me. I learned what depression was. The following year I learned some of the vocabulary words that I was lacking, namely, ‘masturbation.’ And I became more–and more–depressed, because I couldn’t get out of what I called a rut. I actually believed that what I was going through was an act of the devil allowed by God to somehow maintain my humility. I actually believed that. And I spoke it to others as truth.

My dad got me a book called ‘Every Man’s Battle’. It was an insightful book. I got both sequels. I don’t recommend it; it didn’t save me. I started an online course–and restarted–and restarted; because you have to be honest to your accountability partner, and they make you start over every time you ‘slip up’. I don’t even mention its name; it didn’t save me, it left me even more hopeless. And when I went to a movie night out and someone put on a steamy rom-com after I had been ‘clean’ cold turkey for a month? It ended me.

I got married. I won’t mention any more to the purposes of this post. I don’t recommend it; it didn’t save me. I grew up, became a well-respected and admired leader in my Church circles. Christianity didn’t save me. But I did stumble partially on the truth when I stopped trying to stop and let myself be.

I’m writing this because there is no other Christian out there who will tell you that Christ will not save you from pornography. I don’t believe there is a Christian out there who will tell you that pornography is not a moral, ethical dilemma to be solved by increased devotion to religion. I don’t believe there is a Christian out there who will tell you that you can stop and not want it again–that there is a satisfaction and an end outside of Christianity for that ugly L-word.

Because I’m here telling you that I’ve reached Christianity’s elusive freedom, and I don’t wrestle with continued craving. From the age of 11 to the age of 26 I craved pornography almost every day of my life. And I’m here telling you that I don’t any more. I’m here, I’ve made it, and I’m going to tell you what few Christians would have ever told me: pornography isn’t the problem.

“Sure,” you say, “I know that; I am the problem.” False. I have over 15 horrible self-defeating years behind me to emphatically tell you that no, you are not the problem, your sexuality is not even the problem. In fact, there is nothing wrong with you.

Sexuality and intimacy are complex. The problem with Christianity is it isn’t prepared to deal with these complexities, and neither are most Christians. I say Christianity didn’t save me because I had to go to ‘secular’ sources to learn that my sexuality is okay–good even. Or that Christianity had silently taught me that I had to suppress my sexuality until marriage (which, by the way, is the reason you are struggling with pornography and masturbation so much: you can’t suppress your sexuality, and you shouldn’t). Here’s how it might happen: you hit puberty, and start experiencing these new changes and feelings; your body starts responding to things in a whole new way. Maybe by this time you’ve already stumbled on something pornographic, but it doesn’t really matter because you’ll be drawn by a deep curiosity in that direction anyway. Maybe you’ve also discovered that you can elicit some very pleasurable sensations by touching yourself, too. If you’ve been brought up in a Christian community you’ll probably already know that this curiosity is “wrong” and that anything of a sexual nature is for marriage only–but this isn’t sex…is it? You may feel gross and shameful especially if you’re a young person who’s looked at pornography, thought it was completely disgusting but for some reason couldn’t stop going back. You might spend some doubtful months or years wondering if what you’re doing is wrong, or you might already know. You try to stop, to control it, but you can’t, and the harder you try, the harder it becomes. No one has much to say to you about it, no way to help you, even after you come out as a self-diagnosed sex addict. The expectation for you is that you just stop doing it. ‘Rely on Jesus,’ some might say, ‘He will satisfy you.’

What Christianity and, I think many people at large, have misunderstood is that addiction is often a symptom only. We want to call it a disease and treat the symptom, but it comes from deeper roots. I began to understand this when my draw toward porn shifted toward people on live cam. They didn’t even have to be doing anything, it was canned intimacy. But also it is a symptom of the fact that at 12 I was begging God to help me suppress my own sexuality–a very real, fundamental part of who I am. You can’t suppress sexuality, it is too powerful, too prevalent in your being. Instead it will crop up in uncontrollable urges–addictions (and these will not stop at just action against your own body but will go on to ripple out to others as you grow and reach positions of power)–because your sexuality wants to be known by you. I didn’t learn this from Christianity, I learned it from psychology–a study Christianity I think often gives too little credit to. You need to integrate. This is the last time I will say it because my focus is not simply on what Christianity has done wrong or failed to do, but Christianity has spent so long veering away and avoiding sexuality and keeping it behind closed doors that it doesn’t know how to help a 12-year-old boy integrate his blossoming sexuality; the answer is ‘suppress’ and ‘repress’. And honestly I don’t think this problem stops at Christianity, because I look around at a culture that is so detached from its sexuality.

I wish I had time to say it all. It would take a book; maybe one day I will write it. But for now I want to speak to that 12-year-old who is now 17–18–23– and is still living defeated by their sexuality: let go. You are not gross or disgusting. You’re not a monster, but you are doing monstrous things to your development right now. The reality is your sexuality is not defeating you, you are defeating yourself. You have to accept your sexuality, because if you don’t you will never be free of this burden. Your sexuality is complex but it is not the all-powerful force for evil you may have been made to believe; it is beautiful, it is powerful, it is a doorway to an intimacy you will never know with another person if you do not stop trying to block it off. Instead you will know shame, guilt, disgust and self-loathing. It’s okay if you don’t believe pornography or masturbation are morally right, but you can’t keep repressing your body’s only known way of sexual expression and expect it to be okay, or to learn how to be sexually healthy and complete. You need to let go of the stigma you keep supporting so that you can meet and accept yourself as a sexual being with legitimate sexual needs to be met.

The problem is, there aren’t a lot of answers, especially within Christianity–yet. We are blazing a trail here for our younger generations, for our children–I’ll be damned if my sons and daughters grow up believing their sexuality is a sin. But I know that there are answers, I know there are ways to address the complexities of sexuality because I’ve done it. And those of you who know me personally might say ‘Well of course you have, but you’re in a sexual relationship.’ Yes, I am. But I was married before and it didn’t save me, remember? It isn’t as simple as just getting married, or just getting to have sex finally, because I was married, and I had sex, and I still needed porn and masturbation and girls on live cams because I did not know how to meet my own sexuality and intimacy needs even in marriage and sex. My unhealthy marriage was absolutely a factor–or rather, my inability to meet my own sexuality and intimacy needs were a huge factor in my unhealthy marriage; a relationship–even a good one–will not take the onus off of you to know yourself and know how to meet your deep inner needs, and because you are dealing now with the deep inner needs of two people instead of just yourself, the symptom will grow to your relationship. I’m telling you, you have to deal with your sexuality as a good and highly critical–and huge–part of who you are. Meet yourself.

There are a lot of things in my past history I used to care about that I don’t carry forward anymore–a lot of fights and arguments that I championed. Most of them don’t matter any more. But this one? This one I’m not quitting on because it’s personal to me to see peers toting the typical Christian lines about sexuality that I used to, and knowing that their picture is only a small portion. I wish I’d known back then what I do now, it would have changed my life. Let’s talk about it. Please let’s talk about it, let’s dare to reconsider and reshape the way we think about sexuality, for the sake of our wholeness, for the sake of our relationships, and for the sake of our children.

[Anti]Heroes and Villains

I saw Suicide Squad when it first came out, and it concerned me. I didn’t believe that bad people should be cast on the good guys’ team. I have a history of being black-and-white to a fault.

We’ve seen a lot of these types in pop-culture recently, from Suicide Squad to Deadpool, Maleficent to less obviously candidates such as Dark Phoenix. Dark, tortured souls, identifiable and dangerously relatable.

“It’s irresponsible to make villains relatable,” was what I was thinking to myself on the way out of Suicide Squad. Dangerous and irresponsible. And for a short time following Suicide Squad, across social media there was raised interest particularly in that infamous [abusive]power-couple, Joker and Harley, and the sentiment was largely shared that these dynamics were not relationship-worthy goals. But of course that wouldn’t stop young impressionable girls from idolizing Harley and normalizing her abusive situation.

My mind has changed.

Actually it isn’t so much that my mind has changed but that I have met my mind. I spent much of the last two years hesitantly allowing the forgotten shadows in my own head to come back into the light – I shared some of the results of this shadow-work regarding my sexuality in a previous post, and have continued to speak to it either directly or in allusion in some of my writing since. With the help of a very informative book, I began to take a more compassionate look at my own villains–and to ask them what their needs were. And, to my surprise… some of them answered.

Not long ago I went to see Joker, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was raw. And I’m beginning to understand that perhaps this trend of unseemly characters on the big screen is actually much more connected to the movement I’m beginning to see taking place among my peers: people are waking up to themselves. I’ve spoken to a number of people recently who also speak of learning to love and care for themselves–in the face of their shadows–one or two of which also have noticed this awakening trend. It excites me immensely to see this happening, because it is the dream I’ve nursed for a decade or more.

So how do anti-heroes and villains fit in?

I used to believe, as a christian, that the problem with us today is that we are aware. We’ve still got the residue of the knowledge of good and evil on our lips, sewn into our sinews. I used to believe that to live sinless, that transcendence would require a return to pre-fall ignorance. Maybe that’s a logical-but-child-ish view of the matter. Certainly the notion of sin needs to change; too many young people have grown up under the oppression of guilt and shame for what old men believed ‘sinful’ and shameful. This won’t do in a religion with a claim to a divine action that ended sin some 2,000 years ago. I’ve got news for you: if you believe in the cross, the events in Revelation have at least largely already taken place. I used to bawk like the best of them at people who minimized sinful behavior, who wanted to thrive on the goodness and grace and not think about their supposed incurably immoral nature. I used to believe as much as anyone that that kind of thinking was greasy–as if there were any real danger in letting people follow their own self-defined concept of ‘good’. According to that oh-so-loved book, giving people back their good nature (as if they had ever truly lost it in their dis-ease) was kind of the whole point, so why is it that Christians don’t trust anyone to behave to their personal prescription of right?

Could it possibly be that the Christian prescription of ‘right’ doesn’t actually match the inherent ‘right’ we were created with? But back to villains.

The thing about many villains is that the more you understand them, the less villainous they seem. You see motives, mental illnesses, tragedy. You begin to feel sympathy, empathy, emotions deeper than yourself over the story of someone who is supposed to be unquestioningly evil. Dangerous thinking, indeed. Anti-heroes become misunderstood, villains become broken people taking wrong-but-nearly-justifiable action against very real wrongs done them. And we walk out of the theater second-guessing the good guy for not doing better, or being more aware of the problem. The brute-force battle heroes of the world are still wrapped in glorification, but in the face of the villain backstory their actions are becoming more and more tainted. We begin to wonder, if only something different could have been done, if only these encounters had gone differently. We switch sides and fall in love with the villain.

And the real question is, “Why not?”

Why not feel empathy for the villains? Isn’t that what a man named Yeshua taught before he was brutally killed by his? ‘Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you.’ The ways of the world are changing.

The reality is we’re much closer to them than we realize with our fragmented selves half hidden in subconscious shadow. We misunderstand the deep things of ourselves and so misunderstand the deep things of others. We maintain flawless personas and scapegoat our undesirable, unacceptable traits onto others and these Others become our villains because we refuse to empathize for our own wounds and so cannot care for our projections on them. It is too convenient to blind yourself to your own narcissism by railing against the narcissism you see in others–but a narcissist by definition will see narcissism in others because they themselves can never be wrong; it must always be others with the problem.

I welcome the anti-heroes and villains into pop-culture, into our homes and living-rooms and minds. I gratefully accept the challenge of empathy, realizing that empathy of itself is a powerful and all-too-rare commodity in this life. I kindly remember the villain-characters of my own subconscious I have honored and allowed to reveal my deep needs to me, which they have always fought for. I cry for every horrible event that has brought those characters into misguided action in the lives of others under the genuine motive of self-preservation, and in so doing created our villains. The world ought not to be this way.

And I don’t know anything else but love. There is nothing else that can bring us back into wholeness. Love–compassion, empathy, mercy, the ‘softer’ sentiments. But there is nothing ‘soft’ about choosing to look your enemy in the face and say, “I love you,”–and mean it. There is nothing ‘soft’ about looking at a criminal and saying, “I honor your experience,” and mean it. There is nothing ‘soft’ about love; it is hard, gripping, it will break your heart into a thousand pieces a thousand times. It will break yours and it will break theirs and maybe it will be the fire from which a phoenix will arise. Love your villains.

 

 

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.