Archive for the ‘Gay Life’ Category

In this post, I’m moving beyond sexuality to talk about straddling a fence. Living Between Two Worlds authentically and with integrity is not easy. Attempting to live such a life for a gay person is compounded by a perceived oxymoron—a gay Christian—by both the Christian community and the gay community. (more…)

We have considered a context for our conversation—personal experience–and biblical texts that have been used to address sexual orientation; now let’s look at ethics, knowing right from wrong. My ethics are derived from my theological understanding, which is informed by my relationship with Jesus, my reading of Scripture, and my interpretation of the contemporary sociocultural environment. (more…)

Don’t Be Afraid

Posted: December 16, 2016 in Gay Life
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I Could call this little piece, “Visits From an Angel.” Instead, I choose “Don’t Be Afraid,” the words that were spoken by the angel on four occasions. Fear has been bandied about over the last year, sometimes loosely, sometimes manipulative, sometimes emotionally, and sometimes in earnest. 

As an older gay man, I’ve thought about fear, not so much for my physical safety, not in a life and death way, but in a deeply personal way as you will see when your read on.


Don’t Be Afraid

The angels told Zechariah not to be afraid and told Joseph not to be afraid and told
Mary not to be afraid and the angel told the shepherds not to be afraid. We musn’t fear but face what is before us and rise to the ocassion. The result of such bold faith in the face of genuine, reasonable fear was that they received peace and joy.

Zechariah, a Jewish priest, was old, as was his wife Elizabeth. They were childless and img_0028past child bearing age. One day, while performing his priestly duties—it was the point in the ritual for the incense offering —an angel appeared to the side of the altar of incense. Zachariah was terrified, fear overwhelmed him. The angel said, “Do not be afraid,” and told him that. His wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son.

Joseph was encouraged to not be afraid to continue with his relationship with Mary even though she was pregnant before they had had intimate sexual intercourse. Such a situation was cause for divorcing her and her life would be ruined forever. Because she was pregnant before she and Joseph were married, it was assumed that she had had sex with another man. But the angel told Joseph not to be afraid of public opinion, neither directed toward Mary nor toward him. So, he courageously followed through on the angel’s encouragement. Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God

Mary, a young girl of about 15 years of age, was perplexed when the angel told her she was going to have a baby. The angel went on to say, “Do not be afraid, Mary, because God has favored you.” The angel told her that she would bear a son who would be a king.

While filthy, uneducated shepherds were taking care of their sheep one night, they were terrified when an angel came to them. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I’m bringing you good news. The Jews’ Messiah is born and you can go see him!”

In four different situations surrounding the birth of Jesus, people were told to not be afraid—his uncle was in the middle of religious duty; his dad, faced with the news that his fiancé was pregnant, was gripped with fear of being shamed by her assumed irresponsibility; his mom, told by the angel she was going to give birth to a baby, was perplexed and undoubtedly fearful; and shepherds were taking care of their sheep in an open field in the middle of the night when suddenly there was an angel talking to them. When an angel came to each of them at different times, they all had reasons to be afraid. Yet, each time the angel said, “Dont be afraid.”

An old man, in the middle of religious duty told his wife was to have a baby. A fiancé suddenly turns up pregnant. A teenager told she was going to have a baby who would be a king. Stinky smelly shepherds told to go see the Messiah of royal lineage being born as a baby.

Each of them were told to not be afraid of what lay ahead. Nor were they told to passively sit back and let come what may. Rather they were encouraged to take action, to move into the unknown, scary future, to anticipate its sweet goodness, to great it with joy.

A gay man in the shadows of life’s twilight, yet the brightness of life’s awakening, faces an aging body with a hungry heart. The vagaries of society has dealt a blow that sends a shiver of fear coursing through his body. The fear that life will pass him by without the pleasure of full and complete love gnaws at him. Is there a word from God, an angel to say, “Don’t be afraid; take the next step”?

For the uncle—his prayers would be answered and the angel promised joy for Zechariah and that “many will rejoice at the birth.”

For the dad—his fiancé would be spared humiliation and life-destroying accusations and give birth to a savior.

For the mother—she would be the mother of a special baby called Son of God.

For the shepherds—they were able to be of the first to worship the Jews’ long-awaite Messiah who would bring peace to the earth.

For the gay man—will he have days with full and complete love given and received?

The uncle, a religious leader, who blessed an apparent illegitimate birth—received joy.

The dad, in fear of humiliation—received peace.

The mother, a young teenager in the unsettledness of beginning adulthood—received joy.

The shepherds, on the fringe of polite society—received joy.

The gay man, fearful on the cultural fringe of society—will receive _______ .

Don’t be afraid.

Embrace the future

You will find peace and joy.


Fear is worthy of our contemplation this Christmas season. These thoughts on fear  come from meditating on a study guided by my pastor during mid-week Bible study. The study prompted me to think about fears we face.

Is your fear that you might lose your job, that you can’t find a job and your retirement funds are almost depleted, that you’ll never be able to walk again, that your mom or dad or sister or brother or child may never speak to your again, that ___________ (put your fear in the blank)?

One of my fears that strongly stends out in the hours of my days is my fear that I will never have mutual and reciprocal love. This fear is accentuated by the brevity of life and quickly fleeting time. I fear ending life without the comfort, peace, and joy of having experienced such love. (This in no way detracts from the love I shared with Barbara my wife with whom I lived for 45 years. That is another blog post I’m working on. Stay tuned.)

I need community. I am not alone. Rural and small town areas of our nation are replete with stories of community. The proverb—from a hard to verify source—that states “it takes a village to raise a child” is a pithy example of the value of community. Strong bonds of friendship develop on college campuses. Fraternal organizations are often cemented with comradely feelings. Faithful congregants in religious communities describe their connections with one another as family and many sing about being in “the family of God.” Even people who are bent on destruction and mayhem find brotherly camaraderie in the pursuit of evil.

I am defining community as a social, religious, occupational, educational, or other group that shares characteristics in common and is perceived or perceives itself distinct from the larger society around it. A community can be of any size and the common characteristics are felt deeply so as to create a strong bond. The size of the community is not as important as the vitality of connection between members of the community.

Each of us find community in different sectors of society, and are most often members of more than one community. In fact, participation in multiple communities promulgates healthy life balance. The narrow focus of a single community creates energy and purpose but is devoid of healthy perspective and requires constant recalibration from sources external to that community. If these external influences are not strong enough to bring needed correction, personal commitments to only one community result in a life that becomes unhealthy for the individual and, by extension, the community, and the world immediately outside of the community.

This submission to a single community often happens when fanaticism and radicalism take hold and fundamentalist ideologies overpower the autonomy of the individual. This phenomenon is observed in political climates regardless of the niche in the structure of society: government, philosophy, education, religion, entertainment, or science.

Someone may take umbrage with my position. I’m thinking of people who are so strongly committed to one ideology that they feel every one should share their life’s single purpose. This is true in every segment of society and can be documented with a plethora of examples. Consider the politics of government, or religious faith traditions, or the philosophical underpinnings of any human endeavor.

But I digress. Back to my initial statement that I need community. Upon the death of my wife Barbara, I was faced with how much I had grown to depend on her over the 45 years of our marriage. This was particularly true when I examined how she had become my entrée to community, particularly those communities with a social component. My introverted personality depended heavily on her. When I was left to negotiate the serpentine ways of entering into and engaging components of a community, I floundered. But I desperately needed what communities afford: belonging, affirmation, support, purpose, and social opportunities. I persisted in my effort to engage communities in which I had relationships.

Members of my communities were unaware of how isolated I felt in the hollowness of Barbara’s leaving, even while engaged in relational activities among them. I was a master at pretense and masked the difficulty I had in entering new communities. However, I persisted in my attempts because I felt community was critical for healthy living.

The reality of my need for genuine community became vividly real when I began the process of bringing people into a fuller understanding of who I am as a gay man (click here for a post about my coming to terms with my sexuality). I knew from the beginning of this kaleidoscopic journey toward authenticity, toward living a life of integrity, that former communities might disappear and new ones would hopefully emerge. I was not blind to what I was doing. I was cognizant of the real possibility of losing friends and even entire communities in which I had enjoyed the accoutrements of belonging. A huge question mark was superimposed on my communities when I began informing people that I am gay. Would some disappear? Would some grow stronger?

I am on the other side of those initial steps into sharing the truth and reality of who I am as a gay man. I am now able to begin evaluating my world of communities. There are some of my past relationships who may or may not have received this recent revelation about me. I have not, nor at this time do I plan to bring them into the circumference of this knowledge for I have not had a strong connection with them for over 20 years. Nor does it concern me should they hear from some source that I am gay. Truth is not something to fear.

There is still a question mark hovering over some communities in which I have enjoyed relationships in more recent years, though I am not currently active within their circles. In some cases there are community members who now have a more complete knowledge of who I am, but the community at large may be uninformed.

The primary community of family and close relatives has been affirming and I am most grateful for their acceptance. Some of them accept me without affirming, and that’s okay. Each must come into their own understandings in their own way. My children in particular have been wonderful. Their love has not diminished and their acceptance is unwavering. This family community is a source of comfort, affirmation, acceptance and pride for which I am deeply and fully thankful.

There are other communities in which I circulate. For instance, my church is a significant community for me. As such, it was the first one in which I began opening my life. Not the entire church, but valued members with whom I already had a warm relationship. I might characterize these friends as a community within a community. Each time I have opened myself to someone in the church, I have received no condemnation, no negative reaction, only love and gratitude for being considered a close friend with whom I could be authentic. My church community, not in whole but in a large part, is a place where I feel safe, receive affirmation, support, and can live my life with transparency.

Another community is the condominium where I live. I have discovered an enlarging group of friends who have warmly accepted me as a gay man. Some of them are gay while others are not. An interesting thing about this community is that almost all of them could be either my kids or even my grandkids! I am grateful for them, their affirmation, their support and the social opportunities they afford me.

I live in a downtown neighborhood not unlike a neighborhood anywhere in the country—rural, small town, or suburban. I know the store owners, restaurant servers and even cooks, policemen, street sweepers, mail carriers, and homeless people. Many, though not all, know I am gay and, because of my transparency, my relationship with them has even been strengthened.

I am a “member” of a community of people who habituate a coffee shop. We greet each other warmly, call each other by name, and all of us enjoy coffee. A member of this community stopped me on the street today to ask if I had made my trip to Dallas yet. I hadn’t seen him for several weeks yet he was interested in me and showed that interest by mentioning something specific about my life. And so it was when a friend entered the coffee shop today and I encouraged him to tell our friend the barista what happened in his life over the weekend: he had gotten engaged to a wonderful girl. This is another example of a community of people in my life.

I have not gotten involved in a “gay community,” though I’m not averse to doing so. Because so many people, gay and straight, have affirmed and encouraged me, I have not felt the strong necessity for such a single purpose community, which has been a felt need for many gay people. I have participated in a few activities with some of these communities and do not feel as awkward doing so now as I did when I first began revealing my gay sexual identity. I have yet to feel the need to depend on them as once I thought I would.

There are times when I identify with certain communities for specific purposes. As an example, the mass murders in Orlando, Florida brought me into the gay community emotionally and spiritually. I feel a kinship with the survivors of that awful atrocity. Though not organically so, I am a member of the community and feel the loss. This is not unlike when I was an international missionary in Southeast Asia and heard of the accidental death of a missionary in another part of the world. Even though I had not known the one who was killed, I felt a part of me had been injured and I grieved. So I offer prayer and tears for my gay community in Orlando.

I need community, but not just one community, a variety of communities. These communities provide perspective to keep my life in balance. My communities increasingly enrich my life and fill it up with novelty and growth, with spirituality and courage, with peace and contentment. I need community and am finding it in many places. You are reading my blog and I count you as a member of this virtual community. Please leave a comment below to spark community conversation, drop me a note in the “Let’s Talk” tab, or can click the “Follow Life’s Design” button at the top left of the page to receive an e-mail alert for the next post. Let’s build this community together in this space.