Monday, January 27, 2014

Preface: I'm A Giant Mess

I'm a mess. Let's just start there. Anything I may have to say in this blog, or anywhere for that matter, that may attempt to sound authoritative in any way should be heard through the filter of "This guy is a giant mess and is just trying to find his way." That's where the blog name "Stumbling Free" comes from. I'm just another schmuck trying to find his happy place-- trying to be free. Falling over myself the entire way.

I am the gay, Buddhist son of parents instrumental in co-founding the Christian Coalition. My dad was Pat Robertson's marketing guy for a time (among numerous other "Christian leadership" posts) and is an ordained evangelical leader. If I had to compare, I'd say my mom is even more into their evangelicalism than my dad. Two people with tremendous intentions.

As a result of where I come from and who I am, I've spent most of my life standing half-heartedly near the edge. Meaning I grew up understanding myself through the lens of the political church. In my case specifically, that literally meant that I understood myself as "an abomination to God." And to this day, there is no shortage of people from within that community who will smile at me, put their arms around me and act like they're doing me a tremendous and holy favor when they declare to me that they "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." Which sounds to me not a little bit like "Hate the left-handedness, not the left-handed." And that edge I've been standing near, despite this insane "Christian" message of wanting to sort of cut me off at the waist, is the edge I've just never quite gone all the way over, though very nearly. Quite a number of times if I'm to be totally honest. And man, I've tried to be honest.

"You're not going to break me of it," I've tried to explain to my very well-meaning mother. And I've not said that to her to be harsh, but because she's been a bit… stubborn… in not wanting to let go of the son she thought she'd raised. And I do get needing to mourn the loss of that fantasy child. But he was never real, and in the meantime, I nearly did pitch myself over that not-always-entirely-proverbial edge.

After years of ex-gay groups and the books that accompany that brand of emotional masochism, and my mother reminding me all the while that "That sweet Kellie Storm is still single, you know," and eliciting my dozenth round of "coming out to mom" and providing her with a definition of "gay" just one more time, a definition that, sadly, only includes Kellie Storm as a potential gal pal… I think I'm finally over the drama of most of that story. It was once incredibly heavy and sad for me, but then it eventually just sort of became more numbing than anything. And now, finally, it is even a bit funny. As some of my favorite spiritual teachers have said (and finally gotten through to me), 'What anyone else thinks of me is none of my business.'

The trouble inherent in all of this, though, was that I loved God. Or what I thought I knew about God. Based on what these well-meaning but more than marginally hateful people were teaching me-- and I don't actually mean my parents necessarily. My parents loved me. Or who they thought I was. I actually mean the "Bible-believing Christian community" that reared me, from my Christian grade school to my Christian university and the myriad evangelical churches in between. But I was also headstrong. And my well-meaning teachers and parents all told me to research the Bible and 'my' faith on my own. "Look into it for yourself. Don't just take my word for it. Your faith has to be real to you."

So in a very real way, I did take them at their word. I spent years "looking into it." Ultimately, that included studying with some of the best theological minds evangelicalism has to offer in the form of my theology professors at Wheaton College. And in the end, I just couldn't find compelling enough reason to believe this energy I called God belonged to Christians any more than it did Hindus or Muslims or even atheists. For a time, I pretended to throw God overboard. For a time there, I decided I'd "be agnostic." That's the hat I'd march around wearing.

But it just didn't fit. And my experience of the divine is part of my skin and I've finally had to admit that and express that. I can no more be truly agnostic than I can be someone who's never eaten chocolate. It's already happened and I can't un-know what I've tasted. I can't pretend I don't have skin. But I also can't go backwards and pretend that same baldly mean-spirited political church has some kind of ownership of that divinity I feel I've touched either. And I guess it's kind of funny in a way because it turns out, in the end, that by telling me to think for myself, all those well-meaning Bible-believers taught me to be that headstrong kid. I DID think for myself. In the face of a lot of messaging from the same places that clearly articulated I ought to "take it by faith" and that the Bible is "the inerrant Word of God," etc. And you know what? I appreciate the gift of that headstrong determination to think for myself. It kept me alive. Quite literally.

But it's left me with scars, for sure. It has impacted the way I see pretty much everything. There are challenges and gifts inherent in that broken sight. But regardless, my strong suspicion is that these broken eyes are probably it. From here on in. This is what I've got to work with and it's unlikely to change in any foundational way.

As I've spent years and years now during which I've meditated with the best of them, I've read, I've undergone a somewhat massive amount of therapy, I've detoxed-- physically and otherwise-- and the truth is I'm still a giant mess. The only real difference being that I'm now aware of it. Which is certainly valuable.

But really, I'm just another guy looking for a little peace. I don't really know anything other than what I've sort of bashed my own head against and the best I can do is show you the scars and the mended fractures and the bruises and describe how I got them. And how they eventually healed in some cases. Or how I'm still trying to heal them in many cases.

But that's why I'm writing. Why I'm making music and art. Because I figure that's not nothing. There's value in the shared journey. Not because I'm the sage guru with a lesson to impart. God knows that's just not true. I'm a guy learning life lessons in what is, frankly, the stupidest possible way-- by the seat of my pants. And maybe you're smarter than that.

So as I continue to describe the process of tripping over myself, my hope is that maybe it's useful to someone else too. Because I do genuinely wish for you what I continue to also wish for myself: joy and peace and freedom.