Be careful what you ask for….

God speaks.

He does.

I’ve learned over the relatively short time I’ve been a believer to be careful what I ask him, because sometimes the answer, while true and right, is not at all what I want to hear.  Or even if it is, it isn’t what I expect most of the time—and sometimes, there’s no audible answer at all.

So I ask again.

               And again.

                      And again.

That is, if it’s something that’s really important to me.  Yet some things I just never took to God—never laid them before Him, never asked for direction, or guidance, or patience, or wisdom.  Things I tried to handle on my own (or not handle, I suppose, as the case may be).  Parts of me I ignored, or denied the need for fulfillment.

Though I am notoriously slow on the uptake in many areas (ask my friends), it eventually became obvious even to me that I could no longer ignore a certain part of me—of my heart—that had been gathering dust for many years.  And that is the need, the God-given desire, to meet a woman that could fulfill the part of my heart not taken up by Jesus—the part of my heart that needed a person on Earth to share it with.

So I did what I should have done long, LONG before.  I finally began to address this need in prayer.  It used to be when I met someone (a woman) I was interested in, I wouldn’t do anything about it.  I would just tiptoe around them carefully, hoping they would either make the first move, or do something to let me know it was OK for me to do it.

I would seldom approach them, and if I did, it was usually in what was probably (to them) a vague and confusing way.  There were many reasons for this, but the truth was that I was simply afraid.  My last experience with a woman had ended not just with the usual wounding, but with the added fun of a betrayal by a close friend, and the ending of said friendship (at least for a time).  My heart was not merely wounded, but felt as if it had been broken on a very large wheel.  Torn to pieces, even.

The end of that relationship, such as it was, sent me into a tailspin that brought me as close as I’ve ever been to the proverbial “edge.”  I probably should not have expected anything different from it, though.  It only occurred to me after it was over that I’d been simply a means to an end for her.  She led me down a very dark path, and I gladly walked it at her side.  My love for her was not healthy, and her love for me was empty and self-serving.

I think since “it” happened (the end of things with the previous situation), I’ve really only asked one person out (in 2006), and was DENIED! I was sort of relieved, to tell you the truth.  While it meant that I would not be going out (at least with that person), it also meant one less opportunity to be hurt.

So after that, I just withdrew into the part of myself that needed someone in that way, and did my best to not think about it.  Which sort of worked.

Except when it didn’t.

What I was doing was denying a part of me that God had also created.  I think we’re made to love–not just Jesus, but other people.  And not just people, but, you know….”the person.”

And eventually, I had what an alcoholic might call a moment of clarity, and I asked God to help me fulfill that part of my life–the part that had been so sorely lacking.  But I left it up to him, and pleaded for his guidance.  There was a woman I’d been emailing with a bit, and she was a nice person, but I didn’t get that little flip in my heart when we spoke.  Or emailed.  She was just someone nice to talk to, and she seemed to like me well enough.

“Lord, I want this in my life,” I told Him.  “I want it.  I want for me what YOU want for me.  But I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how to make it happen.”

Even with God, this was a hard conversation.

“I need you to help me with this.  I want to find the person, the woman you’ve prepared for me.  I don’t think it’s Lisa*, but if it is, God, I really need you to let me know.  Make it very clear for me, Lord.  And for her.  If not Lisa*, then whoever she is.  Help us to recognize each other when we meet.  Help us to connect, whatever the circumstance is.  Help me, God, to create the circumstance, if that’s your will.”

I asked him for a lot that night.  I asked Him to lead me to someone who loved Him the same way I did, who wanted the same things from life as me. I asked him to protect this woman until I found her.  I asked him to speak to her, to prepare her heart for mine.   The last thing I asked Him was that if it wasn’t His will for my life to meet someone, that He prepare my heart for that as well, and help me to find comfort and peace in Him.  

And then I left it up to God. 

I was about to take a vacation to Mexico with some friends, the first real vacation of my life, and I wanted to go with a peaceful heart. 

Turned out to be an awesome vacation, though about as hot and humid as I’ve ever been.  It was beautiful, though, and very relaxing.

That was about all I did on the last couple days of the trip.  I had plenty of time to think, though.  Time to journal, and time to pray.  I had no great spiritual breakthroughs in Akumal, but it was a wonderful time just the same.

When I got back, I checked my email, and found that a young woman in Yuma had contacted me in regard to my old myspace page, which in truth, I hadn’t checked out in a very long time.  I’ll call her J. I’d stopped posting on my blog, and no longer kept track of it, or any new “friend” requests.  My two closest friends had gone that direction as well, and had even deleted their profile information.  I hadn’t gotten that far yet–I was much too lazy.

So I glanced at the email this woman wrote, and it intrigued me.  It was brief, but she mentioned that she thought we had many things in common, and when I looked at her information, I could see that she was right.

She was very honest, and the openness of what she wrote made me want to respond, so I wrote her back.

We began to email, and after a while, began to talk on the phone.  I’m not sure how it was for her, but for me I was instantly interested, and felt a very strong “conversational” chemistry right away.  After only a few days, I began to feel like we simply had to meet.  I didn’t express this to her, not right away, but I felt it almost from the very beginning.

Then a circumstance arose where she was able to come to San Diego for a day trip.  We decided to meet at a restaurant in Grossmont Center, and then take her son to the Zoo.  I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and it seemed like it would be both fun to do, and afford us the opportunity to talk in a casual setting. 

I was standing outside of my car when she pulled up and we hugged briefly, and on my part, a little nervously.  She was cute in the pictures on her page, but she was beautiful in person.  She was nice, and funny, and we had a great time walking around, and talking about small things.

After the Zoo, we had an early dinner at the restaurant where we met earlier.  That’s when we got into the deeper stuff, and it occurred to me that we were compatible on even more levels than I originally thought.  I felt that little flip in my guts that I hadn’t felt in years, and looking across the table into her eyes, I knew I was in trouble if she hadn’t felt the same thing. 

I think we were in there for maybe an hour, but by the time we left, I had a particularly strong sense that there was a ton of possibility there, and I wanted to pursue it.  I tried to be as cool as I could on the outside, but on the inside I was

                         really

                                     freaking

                                                 out.

I hadn’t gotten a sense of rightness from anyone to that extent before in my life.  She loaded her son into her car and after she was done, we stood looking at each other briefly, and then hugged again.  And in a crowded parking lot on a mild and sunny September evening, we kissed for the first time.  It was just a small kiss, but to me, it felt electric.

And very exciting.

We’ve spoken every day since then, and the more I talk to J, the more sure I am that she is the person God has prepared for me, and I am the person God prepared for her.  It’s not just about the things we have in common, though those things are many.  What it’s about for me is that thump I get in my heart whenever I see her.

     And when I pray for her it feels right.

           And when I hold her it feels right.

                   And when we worship together it feels right.

                              And when we talk about the future it feels right.

When I ask God for wisdom about our relationship, He gives it to me.

                              And I am listening.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but for the first time in longer than I can remember, I know what I want.

                               Who I want.

The semantics remain to be worked out, of course, and I am not approaching anything wantonly, capriciously, or without consideration and prayer.

                               But I am approaching my future with hope. 

Hope that I have because something has been awakened in me that was long dormant.  And in the energy created by that awakening, I’ve found myself praising more

                               praying more

                                        worshipping more

 and wanting more for my life.  Wanting what I can only find through devotion to the one who created that thing in me

                            that heart

that has now been awakened, that is now growing exponentially.  Growing toward Him more and more daily, but also growing toward J.

This has been a blessing that I do not have words to describe, and I have words for everything.

Blessing upon blessing upon blessing has been coming my way of late.

But it did not begin until I fully surrendered that which was lacking in my life to Jesus.  Nothing changed until I asked for the wheel to be taken from my hands.

Nothing happened until I prayed.

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Wretch

My aunt Cathy gave my mom this bible when I was 11 years old. It had this greenish, imitation leather cover, with my mom’s name inscribed on the cover in gold letters. “Lila Wilkins.”

It was a “Living Bible” translation, and I remember looking at it once or twice and thinking it was odd that it didn’t have all the “thees” and “thous” I was accustomed to hearing when bible verses were mentioned. This one was paraphrased, and in plain, everyday language.

I could understand it, in a sense.

But I didn’t, not really.

I remember my mom reading it from time to time, but as far as I know, she never attended any church, and it wasn’t until shortly before her death that I heard her pray for the first time. That bible sat next to a chair my mom liked for most of my childhood, and would occasionally gather a nice thick coating of dust.

That was the first bible I ever saw in my house growing up, and it did not see much use. Not from any of my siblings, and certainly not from me. And anyway, I didn’t think the bible was something I needed to be concerned with–kids didn’t really need to worry about anything like salvation, or redemption, or really even Grace, for that matter.

Did they?

I didn’t think so. I did not consider much at all beyond the nose on my face, or my hunger, or need to have fun with my friends.

It seemed OK to just live my life as I wanted to, first as a child, just having fun, going to school, and reading comic books–or even books in general. I wasn’t concerned about anything but being a kid.

And when my mom started to get sick, it seemed like more of an inconvenience than anything else. Of course, I didn’t want her to suffer, or to be in the hospital (which happened quite frequently when I was between 10 and 13). But I didn’t want to do anything to make it easier on her, either.

So I did my own thing.

Whatever I wanted.

And nothing happened, except my mom got sicker for a while. Then she got better, but also only for a while.

And I still did my own thing.

Grace was not a part of my life, nor was Jesus. I knew a couple of my friends went to church, but they didn’t seem any different or better for it. They did what they did as well, and then they went to church. Sometimes we would boost Playboy magazines from this liquor store next to their house, and paper our forts and treehouses with the pictures.

And my mom sat in her chair, missing a big chunk out of her calf muscle, and part of her stomach. Her intestines would bulge against her side, and you could see this huge…pocket of guts.

Her bible gathered dust.

I stole skin magazines with my friends.

The brothers and I struck up this odd friendship with another boy in our class that no one else liked, a kid named David, that had bad eyes, bad clothes, a weird last name, and was a Jehovah’s witness. He caught crap from everyone, almost every day. It was pathetic.

We never would hang out with him at school, but he lived a short distance down Fanita from the Laird brothers, so we would sometimes play football with him in the field next to the brother’s house, or enlist him as a decoy when we needed new “wallpaper.”

David was weird. He didn’t like sports, he didn’t like comics. He didn’t like it when the brothers would occasionally mention God, or their church.

He never mentioned his, except to say how they couldn’t celebrate certain holidays. It seemed like a dumb religion to three boys in the 8th grade.

One night, after replacing the wallpaper in our latest fort with a Suzanne Sommers pictorial, David decided to tell us something that made no sense at all.

He said he liked guys.

Our response was something along the lines of “what the hell are you talking about?”

He repeated it.

Ravi asked him if he was a fag, to which David replied in the affirmative.

We thought he was kidding, of course, but he soon made it abundantly clear he was very serious, repeating his original statement three or four different ways.

We couldn’t believe it.

13. Coming out to people he didn’t know that well. Opening up part of himself to people he probably thought of as his friends, and probably his only friends.

We kicked him out of the fort, hurling sexual epithets at him as he left, and told him he’d better not think about coming anywhere near any of us ever again. I could hear him crying as he crossed the lawn.

The Monday after that happened, we went to school and practically the first thing we did was tell everyone we came across what David had told us.

The three of us went to the vice principal’s office, but did not get in any real trouble. We were made to apologize to David, but nothing of consequence happened to us.

But David was a ghost at that school for the rest of the 8th grade.

13. A ghost.

While I enjoyed the rest of my year before high school, while I walked around Disneyland on the 8th grade trip with my friends, David walked around with one of the chaperones, because no kid wanted to be seen with him.

A ghost.

I didn’t think about my mom’s bible gathering dust, but I knew it was there.

I only spoke to David once more before high school started. I went to his house one day, not really having a clear plan of action. Just feeling like I needed to go there. I had a sense that what we’d done was wrong, very wrong, but I did not really understand why it was wrong.

I just knew it was.

I remember him coming out onto the front porch and kind of standing there. I’d never felt more awkward. “Listen, man.” I said. “About what happened…”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

I left it at that. I knew I should apologize.

But I didn’t.

We stood on a patch of dirt in front of his house that passed for a lawn, and he gestured behind him. “My sister, my brother, and me live in the house.” He pointed behind me. “My parents live there.”

I turned to look at a smallish, bright silver airstream trailer. Parked to the side of the largish front lawn.

His parents lived in a trailer, and their three children lived in the house. It didn’t make sense.

I left a few minutes after that, with a vague feeling of unease that didn’t leave me for hours. I literally never spoke to David outside of school after that day.

I would think about that evening in the fort for years. How we treated him. I would think about the next day at school, and how we told everyone what he’d trusted us with.

I felt like a bastard.

I still do, sometimes.

I could probably go on for hours about what a rotten person I’d been various times in my life. I’d treated my mother badly when she was sick, and scared, and even crying.

I had not heard a friend’s cry for help, and he’d taken a leap he couldn’t come back from.

I had been a bad brother, and uncle, cousin, and friend.

I’d stolen, and lied, and treated women as objects. I’d helped someone end their marriage, instead of working to save it.

I’d done many things I was ashamed of, that I knew displeased God.

But here’s the thing.

I was a wretch–always had been.

But I was saved, by the blood of Jesus.

By Amazing Grace…

It has only been recently that I’ve begun to see myself even a fraction of the way Jesus sees me, which is not as a wretch.

Rather, he sees me as his son. Made perfect and beautiful by His Son, by the blood of the lamb.

He sees me as a reflection of Himself.

Child.

Son.

Redeemed.

Forgiven.

Part of me will regret the way I treated David (and my mom), for the rest of my life. But I have learned now the need to love above all other things.

“by this, all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another…”

I still struggle with Grace for people at times. I probably always will. But I do my best to treat them with respect, and love them the best I can.

The interesting thing is that ever since my encounter with David back in 1982, God has continuously sent a stream of gay men and women into my life, or perhaps more accurately, sent me into theirs.

I see the opportunity to love them where they have only received condemnation before.

I see they need God just as much as anyone else does, and condemning them for who they choose to sleep with does not show them Jesus in any way. And it isn’t mine to do.

I see they are loved as much as me.

They were died for by the same Jesus I was.

I think about that all the time, and I try to let that guide the way I treat them, or anyone, for that matter.

I still have my mom’s bible, by the way. It sits on my bookshelf as I type this, within arm’s reach.

I do not let it gather dust.

Wretch

My aunt Cathy gave my mom this bible when I was 11 years old.  It had this greenish, imitation leather cover, with my mom’s name inscribed on the cover in gold letters. “Lila Wilkins.” 

It was a “Living Bible” translation, and I remember looking at it once or twice and thinking it was odd that it didn’t have all the “thees” and “thous” I was accustomed to hearing when bible verses were mentioned.  This one was paraphrased, and in plain, everyday language. 

I could understand it, in a sense.

But I didn’t, not really. 

I remember my mom reading it from time to time, but as far as I know, she never attended any church, and it wasn’t until shortly before her death that I heard her pray for the first time.  That bible sat next to a chair my mom liked for most of my childhood, and would occasionally gather a nice thick coating of dust.

That was the first bible I ever saw in my house growing up, and it did not see much use.   Not from any of my siblings, and certainly not from me. And anyway, I didn’t think the bible was something I needed to be concerned with–kids didn’t really need to worry about anything like salvation, or redemption, or really even Grace, for that matter. 

Did they?

 I didn’t think so.  I did not consider much at all beyond the nose on my face, or my hunger, or need to have fun with my friends.

It seemed OK to just live my life as I wanted to, first as a child, just having fun, going to school, and reading comic books–or even books in general.  I wasn’t concerned about anything but being a kid.

And when my mom started to get sick, it seemed like more of an inconvenience than anything else.  Of course, I didn’t want her to suffer, or to be in the hospital (which happened quite frequently when I was between 10 and 13).  But I didn’t want to do anything to make it easier on her, either.

So I did my own thing.

Whatever I wanted.

And nothing happened, except my mom got sicker for a while.  Then she got better, but also only for a while. 

And I still did my own thing.

Grace was not a part of my life, nor was Jesus.  I knew a couple of my friends went to church, but they didn’t seem any different or better for it.  They did what they did as well, and then they went to church.  Sometimes we would boost Playboy magazines from this liquor store next to their house, and paper our forts and treehouses with the pictures.

And my mom sat in her chair, missing a big chunk out of her calf muscle, and part of her stomach.  Her intestines would bulge against her side, and you could see this huge…pocket of guts.

Her bible gathered dust.

I stole skin magazines with my friends.

The brothers and I struck up this odd friendship with another boy in our class that no one else liked, a kid named David, that had bad eyes, bad clothes, a weird last name, and was a Jehovah’s witness.  He caught crap from everyone, almost every day.  It was pathetic.

We never would hang out with him at school, but he lived a short distance down Fanita from the Laird brothers, so we would sometimes play football with him in the field next to the brother’s house, or enlist him as a decoy when we needed new “wallpaper.” 

David was weird.  He didn’t like sports, he didn’t like comics.  He didn’t like it when the brothers would occasionally mention God, or their church.

He never mentioned his, except to say how they couldn’t celebrate certain holidays.  It seemed like a dumb religion to three boys in the 8th grade.

One night, after replacing the wallpaper in our latest fort with a Suzanne Sommers pictorial, David decided to tell us something that made no sense at all.

He said he liked guys.

Our response was something along the lines of “what the hell are you talking about?”

He repeated it.

Ravi asked him if he was a fag, to which David replied in the affirmative. 

We thought he was kidding, of course, but he soon made it abundantly clear he was very serious, repeating his original statement three or four different ways.

We couldn’t believe it.

13.  Coming out to people he didn’t know that well.  Opening up part of himself to people he probably thought of as his friends, and probably his only friends.

We kicked him out of the fort, hurling sexual epithets at him as he left, and told him he’d better not think about coming anywhere near any of us ever again.  I could hear him crying as he crossed the lawn.

The Monday after that happened, we went to school and practically the first thing we did was tell everyone we came across what David had told us.

The three of us went to the vice principal’s office, but did not get in any real trouble.  We were made to apologize to David, but nothing of consequence happened to us.

But David was a ghost at that school for the rest of the 8th grade.

13.  A ghost.

While I enjoyed the rest of my year before high school, while I walked around Disneyland on the 8th grade trip with my friends, David walked around with one of the chaperones, because no kid wanted to be seen with him.

A ghost.

I didn’t think about my mom’s bible gathering dust, but I knew it was there.

I only spoke to David once more before high school started.  I went to his house one day, not really having a clear plan of action.  Just feeling like I needed to go there.  I had a sense that what we’d done was wrong, very wrong, but I did not really understand why it was wrong.

I just knew it was.

I remember him coming out onto the front porch and kind of standing there.  I’d never felt more awkward.  “Listen, man.” I said.  “About what happened…”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

I left it at that.  I knew I should apologize. 

But I didn’t.

We stood on a patch of dirt in front of his house that passed for a lawn, and he gestured behind him.  “My sister, my brother, and me live in the house.”  He pointed behind me.  “My parents live there.”

I turned to look at a smallish, bright silver airstream trailer. Parked to the side of the largish front lawn.

His parents lived in a trailer, and their three children lived in the house.  It didn’t make sense.

I left a few minutes after that, with a vague feeling of unease that didn’t leave me for hours.  I literally never spoke to David outside of school after that day.

I would think about that evening in the fort for years.  How we treated him.  I would think about the next day at school, and how we told everyone what he’d trusted us with.

I felt like a bastard.

I still do, sometimes.

I could probably go on for hours about what a rotten person I’d been various times in my life.  I’d treated my mother badly when she was sick, and scared, and even crying.

I had not heard a friend’s cry for help, and he’d taken a leap he couldn’t come back from.

I had been a bad brother, and uncle, cousin, and friend.

I’d stolen, and lied, and treated women as objects.  I’d helped someone end their marriage, instead of working to save it.

I’d done many things I was ashamed of, that I knew displeased God.

But here’s the thing.

I was a wretch–always had been.

But I was saved, by the blood of Jesus.

By Amazing Grace…

It has only been recently that I’ve begun to see myself even a fraction of the way Jesus sees me, which is not as a wretch.

Rather, he sees me as his son.  Made perfect and beautiful by His Son, by the blood of the lamb.

He sees me as a reflection of Himself.

Child.

Son.

Redeemed.

Forgiven.

Part of me will regret the way I treated David (and my mom), for the rest of my life.  But I have learned now the need to love above all other things.

“by this, all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another…”

I still struggle with Grace for people at times.  I probably always will.  But I do my best to treat them with respect, and love them the best I can.

The interesting thing is that ever since my encounter with David back in 1982, God has continuously sent a stream of gay men and women into my life, or perhaps more accurately, sent me into theirs.

I see the opportunity to love them where they have only received condemnation before.

I see they need God just as much as anyone else does, and condemning them for who they choose to sleep with does not show them Jesus in any way. And it isn’t mine to do.

I see they are loved as much as me.

They were died for by the same Jesus I was.

I think about that all the time, and I try to let that guide the way I treat them, or anyone, for that matter.

I still have my mom’s bible, by the way.  It sits on my bookshelf as I type this, within arm’s reach.

I do not let it gather dust.