Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent, Lentils, and The Gay Man

It's Lent: Let the vegan cooking begin!

It's been a long time since I've posted, as life sometimes brings in the tide, and a lot falls onto your plate, however, in prayer tonight, I realized that maybe this can be a good place for me to get some of these thoughts out.  

It is very difficult at times being gay if you wanna live a life of purity and wholeness.  The culture around just doesn't quite get it, or doesn't really want to get it, I'm not exactly sure which one.   I most certainly would rather not worry about wholeness and healthiness when it comes to what I do with my heart and body, but when you get a taste of the real deal, it's hard to look back and say anything less is satisfactory.   

So, I'm not the biggest fan of fasting for Lent.   For the most part it often involves some sort of indulging, then depraving, followed by indulging.  That's been the common spiritual practice amongst my fellow church members, at least in the mainstream.   How often do you take a trip with your friends to a Brazilian BBQ before, and probably after Lent.  I mean, yeah, I totally get it, but what the hell is the point?   Is lent just a time to start stocking up on margarine, imitation soy-based meat products, and non-dairy creamer??

So the last few years, I stayed away from fasting, and focused more on how I can get myself to live a more moderate and healthy lifestyle all year around, than focusing on depriving myself for 40 days for a particular reason.    

This year is a little different.  With certain changes in relationship status, possibilities begin to open up, and while the heart is not looking, and is rather broken and confused at the moment, the body finds itself looking at ways to feel good, and connect.  I look back a few years, and see the kind of life I was living.   I treated my body like an amusement park, and I'm lucky that I don't have the scars that usually come with that.   While I never practiced anything that could be deemed to risky or unsafe, I put myself in compromising positions with compromising people, and enjoyed the fact that I could get attention by my charm and looks, and readily used it to my advantage.  Many connections were real and authentic, while others were down-right detached and a time waster.   It took an angel to slap me in the face with a few simple words, which woke me up to realize what it was that I truly wanted:  a complete whole experience where heart followed mind, and body followed heart, and all things followed spirit.   

I guess deep down I had begun to lose hope that it was possible to find such people who shared these beliefs in the gay community.   I believed it with my lips, but I thought I was alone, and therefore a part of me had given up. 

You never know what can happen when you're asked to keep your clothes on.   You almost always know what will happen once the clothes come off.

But yes, this angel of mine, whether intentional or not, yet to be determined, re-awakened a value system, that I would most certainly would have admitted to with my lips, but over the course of several years had slowly began to unfold and disintegrate, and I remembered what it was like to be innocent again, and what it meant to unlearn all that I had been taught by people who had no business teaching me.   

In time I began to feel pure again, and whole, mind body and spirit.

Yes, I'm talking, in relationship, I had learned to slow down, and to take things the way they were meant to be.   There's a reason, we as gay men rush to get naked, and it has little to do with feeling good.  We know that once the climax hits, we can detach, (or if it's really good we may unexpectedly get attached, to someone we don't even know), but we know that orgasmic detachment is inconsequential, and less is risked (besides health and safety), but the important stuff is well protected, the stuff inside, the stuff of the heart.     Whether we know it or not, we love sex because it keeps us safe from getting hurt.  I can just think about me, without having to give or open up.    

Of course the irony is that sex is one of the most intimate, vulnerable things one person can give another.

So yes, it was through a gay relationship that I feel my body and heart were redeemed. And of course I see the work of God in all this, as God was ever present, and the gospel was always the undertone for our dealings with each other.

As life goes sometimes, not all things are a straight road, no pun intended, and I find myself in a way not as attached as before, and while I'm still trying to wrap my head around all this, I realize that I most certainly have a green light to revisit old ways.  For sure the mental pathways have been entrenched and a year of good behavior doesn't quite erase the several years that preceded it.     And I'm forced to think, what do I wanna do with all this?    Yes, I'm "free", but free to do what?   

The pressures are unbelievable.   But I remember, I remember what I compromised, and I certainly don't wanna go back.   I experienced some dark stuff, in some dark places.   I know where I come from, and to see where I am today, I don't know how I survived.  It's a slippery slope that you have no idea how far you can fall until it's almost too late.   The scars inside are still there.  It makes me more distrustful of people, it makes me wonder who people really are inside.   I wish I still had an innocent view of who people are or could be.  But if I learned anything, is that even a hardened heart can be redeemed.

So in relation to Lent, while yes, the green light is there, I'm going to take a time out for now, and I'm going to revisit what this means to be a gay man who is single who follows Jesus, or tries to at least.   I'm not sure where this will lead me, but I know sacrifice is going to be a part of it, it is to make a commitment, even in the short term, to just wait, and put my energies into different things, outside of dating and the like.

At the end of the day, I know parts of my heart are really sad, and there's no quicker way to put a mask on the heart's mouthpiece, than a sloppy knob polish, but I did not experience the last x months to just bring me back to where I started, even if T.S. Eliot does speak the truth, there is forward motion that needs to happen, even if we find ourselves taking 1,2, or 20 steps back, we are always growing.

A friend once told me, it's not about what we give up.  It's about what giving this up does to us inside.  If eating a cheeseburger results in not eating a cheeseburger, then what the crap is the point?   What do we need to give up for Lent.  Is it just dietary?  Certainly not.    The things we give up should lead us into right relationship with God and others.   We look at relationships, friendships, and family bonds: what do we need to give up in order to move towards right relationship with our loved ones?  Is it fear or pride?  It's a lot harder to give up chocolate, than it is to give up our fears or our pride.   What are the things getting in the way of us getting real with ourselves and others, getting in the way of us spending time and energy to serve and love others?



Which is the symbol for lent?
This is WHY I believe that the Coptic Church needs to stop turning her back on us.   When young gay men and women are not given proper guidance from people who have the authority to speak, we learn from those who may not have our best interests in mind.    And let me make it clear, I'm not here trying to argue with anyone about the morality of homosexuality, there are plenty of other posts out there for that.   I know that God can be very much preset in the lives and relationships of gay people as He is with straight people, and it is based on this firm belief that I say these things, the church is causing MORE HARM by leaving us be, without surrounding us with proper love and community.   To give us ultimatums to not be gay, or be gone, is only making matters worse.  Again, I feel redeemed, but it didn't have to be this way.  I could very well have been a statistic.   There are so many brothers and sisters of ours who have to deal with scars of being misguided and extreme.   

But while the church is not doing her part, we as a community need to start doing our part.   We need to remind each other of what is important, and what is true, to call out in each other what it is we truly seek, and what it is that will make us whole.    

That's it for now.   It's nice to be back.

7 comments:

  1. Well said or in Elvish, Mae Govannen!

    I completely agree with you, I think the power is with the people to influence cultural and religious sensibility, because what's a church without people?

    Its often intriguing of the amount of community members one encounters who has a gay friend who they "love to death" but IGNORANTLY "don't agree with that life style" (like its a choice) so they say things like "these people are the people of the world" and "although he/she is my good friend these people are sadly doomed to hell..."

    This is not only hurtful but soo unbelievably un-christian; condemning people purely on the basis of their sexual identity. But i think this comes from indoctrination and lack of information as well as mis-information. These people, I believe, require some real world education.

    much respect x

    ~Gabe

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  2. I too am a copt trying to follow the road of christ. I'm not gay, but have committed similar violations of the faith - married a muslim, baptized my children in the coptic church, catholic church and in the mosque (it's equivalent). Similar to yourself, i often questioned the relevance of lent, and the respective sacrifices prescribed by the faith. For my first 21 years of life, i generally went no where near fasting (or church for that matter). Then came the dark period in my family - my god fearing church going proper copts basically refocused from white trash to arab trash...and believe me, we made white trash look good. At this point in my desperation, i turned to god and said, i don't know if this lent thing works or is necessary, but if i have to do this for you to help me, then i'm in. For a series of months, the situation seemed to get better, and finally resolved. Fasting mission accomplished! Then as I kept thinking the situation through, i kept concluding that my relationship with God is not of convenience, and i can't only turn to him when i need him. Shortly thereafter, came the August fast - and out of commitment and maintaining my honor with god, i fasted. As you know, then comes Christmas, and the cycle resets itself. 18 years later, i have never missed a formal lenting period - and not for church reasons, but for relationship with god reasons. Oddly - I still have not set foot in church. Now the question: Does god really give a horses ass if you fast, and don't try and live the righteous life...my only conclusion - HELL NO! This got me on yet another walk with Christ. An internal commitment to never do something i personally believe to be wrong. Doesn't mean you need to agree with me, or that society says it's ok. It means that i believe in my heart that it is the right path - To Thy Own Self Be True. Maybe in my mind, but i have lived the most charmed life since this spiritual awakening. He always protects me.
    Relevance to lent: I don't think the specifics are necessary (what or how long), but for me, it serves as a consistent reminder and commitment of my faith, relationship and walk with Christ (god - one in the same). I suggest you think of it the same way. Whether you fast, give up chocolate, or sex doesn't matter. It is more about an activity or action that rights your path. Something that compels you to self-evaluate consistently and along a path to correction. Correction not of sexual predisposition or morality, rather, correction to live the life you believe to be correct.

    Much more than you asked for in a comment, but i have never related more to another copt, than to your post. In my mind, whether gay, marrying out of faith or otherwise, in the eyes of the church is found to be repugnant. It is this repugnance that makes me feel sorry for them. Who is the sinner - us or them? To Thy Own Self Be True!!!!!!!

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  3. Thank you for the post, very well expressed and I really needed to read this today - thank you

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  4. God bless you. There are areas of Church teachings that I just can't accept but I also believe she has great wisdom. Our secular society has nothing that compares to fasting and turning toward God...

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  5. Hey, I am a copt aswell, and really enjoyed reading your blog! You seem so full of life and positivity and clearly wisdom. There is so much learning we have to do everyday, so much we can gain from others around us and so much we can potentially do wrong as well. So everyday, as christians, we are faced with the challenge of deciding which path to take - do we take that exceedingly difficult path to god - that narrow road, comparable to threading a camel through the eye of a needle? Or do we take the easy, wide path to the world, and the lusts of the world.

    Although i admire that you are so confident and strong about being gay - and god loves each one of us equally - gay or not, thats not to say being gay is something you were born with. You developed this, from all the influences in your life, and although i do not know you, I know that something in your life has made you think this - and again, God loves us all the same.

    I'm not sure how to find the words to say this, I don't in anyway want to offend you, or make you think I'm homophobic - but instead I'm going to pray for you, and I ask you pray for me too - as I'm sure your pure heart receives much attention from the Lord, much more than i could ever get.

    Before you accept that this is something you are born with, think hard and long about God, about our lord and saviour, about his sacrifice - his own life - and about how much he loves you, because you might start to realise that whatever god's path for you, you have to hold onto him tight, to find it.

    I hope some of this makes sense! Take care, and i look forward to reading much more about you.

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  6. To Anonymous on April 4, 2012--dude, this blog is a safe space for ALL, created by the author to express his own ideas and emotions about his personal experiences with the church. I know this is coming two years later, but back the fuck off and don't make sweeping generalizations or statements about which you a) have no experience with, and b) couldn't be bothered to drop any peer-reviewed articles from reputable journals on the topic. It's enough, c'est assez, with the self-righteous BS. If you were truly interested in opening a dialogue with the blogger, then you could have messaged him privately on the subject.

    Just a Dude, you're great. You write so eloquently and I love this blog. Please keep posting.

    I have actually come to detest the fast for some of the reasons you do. In addition though, I have never tolerated legumes well (I love ful, but have had to cut it out of my diet), and I'm sure God would rather that we eat nutrient-rich foods instead of toxic, lab-made dairy alternatives (Coffee Rich, anyone?) and fast from our true addictions--sweets, large portions, excess screen time, gossip, etc. I suppose food is the lowest common denominator in every culture, so that was the simplest and most efficient way to go. I struggle with this, though, because I constantly feel as though I'm doing something wrong by rebelling against tradition. I can't help but think that going vegan MUST have been good? Must have been effective, and brought about meaning?

    I pray that this lent brings you meaningful changes, realizations, and new hopes.

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