Better Questions

I read online today that Tim Cook—CEO of Apple since Steve Jobs passed away—came out as being gay recently. He said something to effect of he was “proud to be gay.”

Good for him. Even with today’s much more relaxed morality and tolerance for most things and lifestyles, that’s still a pretty ballsy move. Privately, people already knew, but being publicly anything is always a big step.

It made me think, though, and some questions came to mind:

Why does it seem the arbiters of political correctness in this day and age only allow people belonging to one minority group or another to be proud of it?

Proud to be gay, or African-American, or Green Party, or Latino, or whatever it happens to be rather than the majority.

So if a person can be proud to be in the minority—any minority—is the converse also true? Must someone else be ashamed to be a majority?

In other words, should I feel as if I cannot be proud to be who I am if that someone happens to be caucasian, middle-class, straight, and Christian?

I don’t know.

It seems like whenever someone comes out as any of those things, or espouses any of the views that seem to go along with membership in any of those groups, there are some who will automatically assume that means they’re hiding a noose under the white bedsheet they’re wearing.

The words “hate speech” have become so ubiquitous they’ve lost all their power.

For my own part, I am caucasian. I am male. I am straight. I am a Christian. Does that mean I am particularly proud of myself for being any of those things? I don’t know that it does, because to my way of thinking, that is just part of who I am, and whether or not I admit it is secondary to the truth I already know, which is that with God came awareness of my identity.

Pride doesn’t really fit with that.

While humility is something any human being probably struggles with, I guess I would say the parts of myself I am proud of are the things I worked at, rather than the things I can’t help being.

I am proud to be a college graduate, even if it took me until middle age. It was hard, and expensive, and I struggled at it. It doesn’t mean I have animosity toward anyone without a degree. It just means I worked my ass off to get mine.

I am proud to be the husband of my wife, and the father of my children. Marriage and parenthood are a grand freaking struggle sometimes, but I have never given up and I never will. It doesn’t mean I hate single people. It just means I love my family—who would not be in my life without God.

I am proud to be an American, because even with the struggles our country goes through on a daily basis—and we all know what they are—the fact that our country remains in the face of all the assaults crashing on her, the freedoms our citizens are allowed are pretty extraordinary. You can fly your flag upside-down, or even burn it. The constitution protects you.

Am I proud of my faith? That’s actually hard to answer. Not because I don’t have it, or because I question it, but because my faith is grounded in humility, and service. Not being served. I guess what I am proud of regarding faith is that he chose me. Who would choose me? I wouldn’t. I would pick my frail and self-serving ass dead freaking last, if at all. While there is some pride there, I am also daily humbled by my savior.

Yet.

I am proud to be chosen, and to have my name written in the book of life. I’m proud I was chosen to share that with people. These are my convictions, and I am certainly not saying I expect yours to be the same. Please do me the same courtesy. In Much Ado About Nothing, the character John the Bastard says something to the effect of “Let me be as I am, and seek not to alter me.”

It doesn’t matter that I’m white, or straight, or any of those other things. While membership in those categories doesn’t necessarily mean I should be proud of them, I also don’t need to be ashamed. Yet political correctness seems to demand I hang my head because of something I had no part in determining. So if you don’t want me to try and alter you, let me be as I am. We need to respect each other more than we do. And it goes “both” ways. All ways.

Yet.

If I cannot or should not be proud of being things I can’t help but be, then why is it different to be proud of different skin tone, or language, or which gender I feel called to be with sexually?

It may not be intentional, but it is without question a double standard. And it confuses me.

Oddly, just now I thought of this:

Earlier in the movie, Eminem loses a battle when he chokes out after being mocked and ridiculed by his opponent for a handful or inarguable truths his opponent throws up in his face to embarrass and humiliate him. It works. In the above scene, he does a couple of different things. One, he grows a thicker skin. Two, he realizes if he admits that which he knows to be true about himself, he takes away the power of that truth to hurt him. Also, he finds out some truth about his opponent which causes him to choke.

My point?

Maybe, if we all were just able to be truthful and open about who we are, opposing words would lose the power to hurt us?

I don’t know. I’m just a white, straight, bald, semi-conservative male who likes show tunes AND heavy metal. I’m a big ball of confusion.

And I have better questions than I have answers. So maybe we can figure this out together.

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I’m Gomer

Let’s talk about Hosea.

Yes, I said that. Not an Old Testament book I’ve read much—or at all, really—beyond hearing a sermon here or there. Nonetheless, I was looking at it over the weekend, and I was surprised by how relevant it seemed to me.

For those unfamiliar with Hosea and his life, he prophesied at a time when the people of Israel were pretty far off from God, and many worshipped idols more than anything else, or other gods, such as Baal.

They had turned away from God.

So Hosea is preaching a very unpopular message, and letting Israel know what awaits should they not turn from their ways and back to God.

But, like people do, they don’t listen.

During this time, God tells Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman—Gomer. Perhaps not a prostitute, but from the little we can tell—not very far off, either. Out of faith to God, Hosea does as commanded.

He marries her, and she bears him children, each symbolic of an aspect of Hosea’s prophecy and God’s word toward the fallen away people of Israel.

They’re in pretty big trouble.

Yet at its essence, Hosea is a story of love. God’s love toward his people of Israel, told symbolically through Hosea’s love for Gomer, and his faithfulness to God.

Eventually, Gomer and Hosea are apart from one another, seemingly due to a divorce. Gomer ends up either selling herself into slavery to pay a debt, or perhaps she is just taken into slavery.

Hosea goes to her, and in essence pays everything he has to get her back—to secure her freedom.

As God gave everything to secure the freedom of Israel, through Jesus Christ.

He obtained our freedom the same way.

I wish I could read that story and think of myself as the ever-faithful Hosea, obeying God and keeping his commands. Always remaining faithful.

Except I am not faithful at all—certainly not as much as I would like to be.

I’m not Hosea at all. I’m Gomer. I look anywhere—everywhere—but where I need to be looking.

So many things become idols. My stuff. Stuff I have, and stuff I want. Places I want to go. People become idols. I don’t look at God or to God at all.

Sometimes I feel I truly have sold myself into slavery, and I need to be rescued. I need my freedom purchased.

I need to be saved from myself.

It’s then I remember this has already been done. It was done a little more than 2,000 years ago, when an itinerant rabbi cried out “It is finished” and died on a roughly hewn cross.

Hosea pleaded for Israel’s repentance. It didn’t come when he wanted it to, and as he prophesied, Israel fell—for many years.

Yet Hosea was faithful.

So many have entreated Jesus for on my behalf—for my freedom and repentance. Or perhaps repentance and freedom would be better said.

Jesus went one better—he died for me.

And came back for me.

When I am feeling like all of my words fall on deaf ears, when it feels like there’s no point in being faithful because no one else is, when it seems like all is lost (and all might even be lost for a time), I need to remember that even when I am at my least faithful, he isn’t going anywhere.

He came back for me.

The Pearl

In my prior life in San Diego, I was part of a ministry that saw a fair amount of people who suffered from PTSD due to abuse or sexual trauma of one kind or another, and it surprised me because I had no idea how widespread that kind of ‘thing’ was because outside of that ministry I had heard very few people talk about abuse of any sort, especially men. This is likely for reasons specific to each person, but from what I experienced in my four + years as an intercessor, shame was the chief reason most people kept silent.
Shame.
To varying degrees, many of the people I prayed with and for felt blame for what they’d been made to endure. The beauty of this ministry was that in most cases, those same people were able to find God’s truth about where the blame lie, and encounter Jesus in such a way they were able to find at least a measure of healing. Also the knowledge that healing was a process, and it was OK if it took some time. It certainly did with me.

I became a frequent intercessor for these types of sessions, and it eventually became clear that God had gifted me in such a way, and used me in such a way that I was often able to help these people by protecting them while those leading the session were able to do their own work.

Sometimes, though, I would need to step away a little bit, because I could feel myself moving away from what needed to be done and start thinking about things like how much dental reconstruction that piece of crap would need if I was able to go back in time and get hold of him.

That’s what rapists and molesters and people like them were to me, and what they remain. I need to remind myself constantly every person has worth to the one who made them. It is not up to me to assign value to them, and judge them for whatever they may have done, as appealing as that option might be to the part of me that hates injustice.

Especially when it is directed toward women or girls. When I hear about that stuff, immediate retribution always sounds like the best option, because screw rapists and other assorted creepers.

It isn’t up to me, though. But the man in me—the husband and brother and friend–wishes it was sometimes. The part of me that loves and respects women as beautiful creations of a loving God wants to choke rapists until they turn blue for making so many women think otherwise. For making them think they are unclean, and ruined, and to blame for what happened to them.

A while back I saw this picture:

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And it made me think about that stuff again.

To rapists: while my personal belief is that you are crap on a cracker, I know in my heart that like the women, men, girls or boys your actions do permanent harm to, you are beloved by God. Deep in your sin, where your heart seems so far away from anything loving, you are loved. You know what you’ve done. Seek forgiveness. It can be yours.

To victims: my heart breaks for you as it always has. Know this, and hold it in your heart like the precious truth it is. You are loved. What you feel makes you unworthy is something you had no control over. What you feel makes you dirty is something you did not ask for, no matter what they tell you. This dirt is created by lies, and truth can set you free of them. God’s truth.

You are loved and loved and loved, in spite of what ‘they’ tell you and in spite of what you might think of yourself. Let those words fall away like broken chains. You are precious to the one who made you. He sees no blemish, or stain.

Try to imagine an oyster, fresh from the sea bottom. The oyster is held in a pair of hands–the sure and strong hands of the carpenter. You can hardly see the pads of scar tissue on his wrists. A small knife with a sharp blade appears in one of his hands and he deftly pops open the shell. With the blade he lifts the connecting tissue and extracts a small, slimy ball.

He begins to wipe away the slime, dirt and sediment that has been accumulated by years. Everything falls away at his touch, and he is eventually left with what was there all along; a shining and perfect pearl.

Know this as well: to Jesus, you are that pearl. You are no longer a victim. You are beautiful, and clean, and made righteous.

I want you to know that you are not alone in your pain. The hands that made you wait to hold you.

I want you to know and believe in your heart that you are not to blame.

I want you to know that it’s ok to let out what you feel.

I want you to know that healing is available—and your heart can be made whole again.

My words are failing me now and I will end with what I said before.

You are loved.

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