As Time Goes By…

Every Sunday night the local PBS affiliates plays a set of British sit-com classics. The third one is called “As Time Goes By”. According to IMDB, “Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer) and Jean (Judi Dench) were lovers many years ago at the time of the Korean War. They are separated by a misunderstanding but meet again [years later] by chance.” It isn’t the funniest of the four, but its plot is solid. We watch them fall in love again. They had both moved on, many missing years separated them. We watch as they struggle to reconnect in their later years, in a brave new world of the 1990s, and with grown children of their own. Its probably the least funny, going for subtle realism comedy over the slap-stick and puns of the others, but I still watch it week after week.

In this season of Lent, I find myself separated from my love, and in a struggle to reconnect to it.

I was like most of you, just a kid going up in a church with a funny name: Nazarene. The 30-minute drive down Interstate 35 from Overland Park to Olathe takes forever when you are 4 years old. But every Sunday morning and night, then once more on Wednesday, I could be found some where inside Olathe College Church. I did what everyone else my age did. With the exception of winning the pine wood derby contest and a few “big parts” in the children’s musical, I was perfectly ordinary. Homely if you will. I went to “Big Church” with my parents and passed notes the whole time. I was in the Victor just like everyone else at CCN. In junior high I raised money to go on mission trips. I did what I was supposed to do. Some might say, I was literally the poster boy for NYI.

It was at that giant church in Olathe that I fell in love with a Jesus who did counter-cultural things, who taught that forgiveness and peace were better ways to make sense of the world. I fell in love with the Church, and how it ebbed and flowed with the seasons. How it created ways for people to connect to others. I fell in love with being a part of something so much bigger than myself.

Then the winds changed; a dust storm. I was naive enough to think that I could escape the storm unharmed. My expectation did not meet my reality. I was confronted with the reality that the policy trumps people.  I was naive enough to think they would bend the rules for me. That this time it would be different. I wasn’t some outsider. I grew up here. I can show you where I was sitting when I left to go pray at the altar and ask Jesus into my life. Just a few feet away is where I stood when I was given Minister’s License. The chaos of the storm separated me from my Church. I could have converted the entire planet to Christianity, but it would have been meaningless to those in Lenexa because of one issue: my sexual orientation.

Because this issue has been blown out of proportion, I feel like that’s all anyone sees me as, a gay rebel-rouser who should stop complaining because “I knew the rules when I signed up.” In the solitude of Lent, and in the darkness of my personal Gethsemane I ask God questions I am too afraid to speak publicly:

“If Christians see me as terrible, maybe God sees me this way too…”

“Why did You make me gay?”

“Why did I even start this foolish blog?”

“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is sinful to be gay…”

“Am I doing any good for You or the Church? Or am I just like that “reformed” guy but barking on the other side of issues?”

Lent’s introspection has forced me to deal with the spiritual pains of this separation. Will I ever get back to the church of my childhood? Will I find my childlike wonder in a new denomination? Or will I be forever jaded because of this whole experience? It is hard to separate the good from the bad in my memories. Even more difficult is determining what was real and what was fake about my Christianity. Bittersweet memories of a time gone by. There are times when I want to walk away from it all. Those questions circle my thoughts like vultures in the desert. Without a community of support it is harder and harder to fight them off when they land. It’s been 4 years, seems like 40, have we done anything? I’ve spent the last 4 years trying to hold on to a shadow. The dust from the storm settles, and I realize just how far removed I am.

For many gays, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer Christians, it is easy to get stuck here; in the separation. In the emotional rawness of being rejected by people you thought were on your side, but weren’t, or not fully, or are now but not when you needed them. The deeper the cut the longer it takes to heal and so we linger in the separation. But even those of us who once called the Nazarenes their own, need to be reminded that Easter is coming. The pain and hurt won’t last forever.

Like Lionel and Jean were reunited. Things were different between them, years had passed, but their love was still there. When Easter arrives, it heals wounds, eases pain, and helps us forgive. It will look different for everyone. My hope is they will, at their own speed get there. Getting closure doesn’t mean rushing back to the Church of the Nazarene. In fact, it may mean staying very far away. I just worry that some of us won’t get that closure, and will stay in the bitterness. Healing and closure, in all their varied forms, are our destinations.

Where am I now? I’m not sure… I wish I did. Until then, I’ll pray that the Lord will protect me, and those with stories like mine, from bitterness and that I will act in ways that bring the Kingdom of God closer to earth, that’s about all I know to do. For me, when Easter does arrive, it’ll will be a much anticipated reunion.

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8 thoughts on “As Time Goes By…

  1. Ty, Thanks for verbalizing my experience exactly. I have been so hurt and wounded by the church, most people would not even have the courage to feel my pain. I too struggle sometimes with bitterness, primarily because of those righteous ones who have borne false witness against me, utilizing myths and propoganda about the identity of Gay people. I get so tired of my identity only being acknowledged as “that gay guy,” (except they don’t articulate it that benignly). I am so much more than my “God given” sexual orientation, so much more, but yet with my childhood, Nazarene, church friends, that’s all I am. I have been reduced to nothing more than a homosexual, at least in their minds. How do I know this?? I know this because of their words to me, their words to others about me, and their unkind, stereotyping actions towards me. However, I find strenght often in my daily devotionals and prayer time. I find hope in the Lord’s promises and interactions with me. Yes, I do hear His voice on occassions. He has been so faithful to me, when His followers were silent, and worse. I take hope, and joy, and patience in the projects He has inspired me to work on: witnessing of His love to others, writing my first book, supporting righteous projects, caring for His wounded gay sheep, producing my first piano C.D., just to name a few. And yet, I hope for reconcilliation. I hope for affirmation. I hope for love and understanding from those who have been so ignorant, misinformed, and hateful. Thanks Ty, for another very well written piece, which spoke deeply to my pain, experiences, and place in the world. I thank God for you. Keep encouraging us through your writing gift. PTL

  2. I appreciate so much of what you are saying and experiencing. My partner and our 2 adopted 3 year old sons attend the Nazarene Church here in Denver. I find myself asking those same questions. It is then I remember what a friend told me a couple of years ago. We are pioneers in the Church. We are living witnesses that gay people can also be Godly people. Without our leading the way, how will these brothers and sisters ever see the real truth about us? Even though I often feel discouraged, I keep on plugging on because I know it is what the Lord wants us to do. Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2014 22:45:44 +0000 To: chuckford53@hotmail.com

  3. Ty.
    It is with joy that I can testify to you, that healing does come. I have the scars to prove that Jesus Christ is Lord! and that those who put polity above people are in need of repentance. I have an amazing friend, you may know Him. He loves just the way that His father created me. No amount of indoctrination or dogma can chage His love for me. From what I have read this evening–again–has wrenched my heart to remeber why God called me to be a Pastor. I love Church of the Nazarene too, but there is a clearly divorced relationship there. Since I have “lost my religion to find Jesus” I am so excited to love Jesus as He is. He has Risen Indeed!

    Agape Brother,

    Rich

  4. Just so confused here when you talk about “gay Christians”. I would equally be as confused with adulterer Christians, alcoholic Christians, beasteality Christians, etc. To say that God created you this way means that anyone who has ever molested a child or cheated on his wife was created by God to do so. Just because you really want it to be true doesn’t mean it is God’s design or will. I know most likely there is nothing that I will say that you haven’t heard but know this, the Nazarene church that I know and love will never accept Homosexuality as an acceptable and righteous lifestyle. I will stand against anyone who threatens the doctrine of the Nazarene church and seeks to destroy these absolutes our church is built upon. While I do believe that God has given you free choice, your beliefs are not, and will never be welcome in our denomination.

    1. Chris, Friend, I have to take exception to your last line. Why, because Nazarenes are working through the issues of human sexuality. Therefore, to ay never, is the same as saying that God does not give grace, and that as we are to be in fellowship and receive ALL Believers as though we are receiving Jesus Christ Himself is not possible. As a Pastor, I would strongly encourage you to re think your position.

      1. I read the memoir above with a lump in my throat…seems so familiar. The journey can be difficult, confusing, profound, and more. I know that I can’t earn my way into Heaven through good works. This the Bible teaches to be true. It is through the grace and mercy of God and his son that anyone can enter the gates of Heaven. So, if my works can’t save me, how do my works condemn me? No one…not the most righteous Nazarene…is without sin of their heart, mind, or soul. Will God condemn us all to hell, or love us as we loved and accepted our own children when they didn’t live up to the perfect expectations that we had for them? The message of GRACE is a message that the Nazarene church never taught me. I know it now to be true.

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