My Motivations – Thanks to Nina George

One thing I’ve always struggled with as a writer was the motivations that I have for writing. Coming from a background in Christian ministry, I felt that it was always my responsibility to have some large world-changing reason behind absolutely everything of value I did in life. At the beginning of my deconstruction, I began to flounder without this larger purpose and it led to a very dark time in my life. The church has a way of making you feel like you’re nothing without God and his call on your life, so once I walked away from all of that, I struggled to find anything left to rely on. I felt empty and aimless.

It had been a long time since I’d really lost myself in a novel. I spent so much time reading theology books and studying scriptures that I’d forgotten how much I love getting lost in fictional worlds and being charmed by fictional characters. What was the point in reading for pleasure if I was supposed to be serving God every minute of every day? It was exhausting.

Maybe someday I’ll write a blog post about the severe levels of psychological and emotional damage that occurred as a result of my faith, but that’s not what this is about. After deconstructing, I still had the notion that all of my work had to have a large cosmological meaning that would change the world for the better. I couldn’t just write a story; it had to inspire global change. Needless to say, this motivation was very overwhelming and led to burnout even before I was able to begin.

It wasn’t until I read The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George that I really began to understand the beauty of novels. I wasn’t in the best part of my life. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, and coming out of one of the most challenging places I’ve been personally. I found a home in the romantic streets of Paris and was charmed by the bookseller protagonist on his book barge. I didn’t figure out how to change the world. Nations aren’t being brought to their knees over the words on the pages. But I found myself lost in a beautiful world, cognizant for the first time in years of the power of novels to remind us of the beauty of life and the presence of love. So instead of seeking to change the world, instead I am seeking to bring a little bit of a reprieve to my reader’s lives. Provide an escape from their stressful lives that reminds them of the beauty of life and the prevalence of love. Charm them with words of passion and romance.

I think that’s a noble enough motivation.

Coming Out: The Aftermath

Well, it’s been just short of three weeks since I came out to the world on this blog. I’m sure some of you are wondering what these last three weeks have been like for me. It’s difficult to try and formulate everything into these posts, but I will do my best.

Before I go any further, however, let me put some uneasy minds to rest: my post three weeks ago was not how I came out to most of the people in my life. My family and close friends have all known for a while, but I needed to take that final step of declaring publicly that I am, in fact, gay. In order to help those who are like me and are suffering in silence, I needed to make a public statement. So the post was not intended to tell those closest to me that I was gay, but rather to help them understand a bit of what I’ve been through, as well as to send a message to those who are suffering that they are NOT alone.

So, anyways, back to the purpose of this post.

These three weeks have been a roller coaster. As I said before, most of the people that I encounter on a day to day basis already knew. So what was the big change? What made a difference?

Well, to start off, that post meant that, for better or worse, I was out to the world. There was no taking it back. Years and years of painful repression finally came to an end as I was finally able to open up to those around me and let them know who I am. Who I really am.

You see, up to this point, I have been acting. I’m not an actor in the sense that I would be any good in a play or movie, but I have gotten really good at acting like I am the person that everyone expects me to be. Like I’m the perfect ministry major who is going to graduate in May and go into full time ministry in the Nazarene church and marry the perfect woman and have 2 kids and a dog. This is what I felt I had to be. To do anything else would have been to disappoint those who saw what a beautiful future this could have been. So I became really talented in this particular aspect of acting.

Since coming out, I have been able to hang up my mask and costume and just be myself. Words cannot express the relief that comes from being able to just be yourself.

Let me, once, again, explain before some questions and concerns arise in the back of your minds. I am still me. I still love puns and make way too many Dad jokes. I still watch sitcoms endlessly and, most importantly, I still love Jesus. Ultimately, I am called to ministry. This is something that I can’t deny or avoid and, trust me, I’ve tried. God knew that I would be coming out when He called me to ministry all those years ago, and yet He still called me. Far be it for me or anyone else to presume God was wrong. I have not changed. I am still me. I’m just free to be more myself than I have been in many, many years.

So coming out has given me freedom. It has allowed me to breathe. It has allowed me to put the buttons that you see in the picture above on my backpack as I go to class and work, showing that I am unashamed of who I am and those who are like me. So it’s made me more comfortable with myself. Given me self respect, something that I haven’t had in a long time.

But even more than that, it revealed to me the pure beauty of the people around me. Coming out in this way was risky to say the least. I could have easily been barraged with micro aggressions or even downright hateful language, but instead I was showered with love, support, and acceptance. At the time of writing this post, my coming out post has gotten 488 views. Sure, some of these are repeats from the same people, but that is still 4 times higher than my next highest view count for any post. Nearly 500 people read this post, and yet I received less than 5 negative responses. Instead, I was showered with comments from friends, loved ones, people I haven’t spoked to in years, and even strangers. Comments such as:

“Thank you so much for sharing this. ❤️ You are a shining light!!!”

‘’You’re going to change the world, Thomas ❤️”

“So proud of you, Thomas! Thank you for being vulnerable and open with us, never stop being you. ♥️”

“You are strong, bold, and inspirational! Thank you for willing to be vulnerable! Love you and praying for you and your future ministry!”

Let this stand as a message of hope to those who might still be suffering in silence: it gets better. There will be those who do not accept you. There will be those who spew uninformed and closed-minded comments your way. But, with any hope at all, there will be those who come beside you and show you love for YOU. Those who not only allow you to express yourself and be comfortable and proud of yourself, but who are proud of you as well and will support you throughout the process. Sometimes, the most unexpected people will provide you with the most support.

One last time, however, I must address some responses to what I have just said. This is MY experience. Even more, this is representing the good parts of my experience. There are aspects of coming out that have been EXTREMELY difficult for me, and have required a lot of healing. This process did not start just three weeks ago for me. Some of these things happened months ago, or even years ago, and I have been able to work through some of them. I still have things to work through.

Don’t expect that everyone is going to have this same experience. I do believe that it will get better for them. I do believe that everyone has someone in their lives who will love and accept them. But PLEASE don’t expect someone who just came out to be as comfortable as I am. This is an extremely difficult time and the stories and experiences are as varied as the people who tell them. So be there for people. Show them love. Let them know they’re not alone.

One final message to those who have suffered or who continue to suffer in similar ways that I have:

You’re not alone. You are loved. The mountains that you face might seem insurmountable, but there are people who will climb it with you. Don’t feel obligated to tell anyone anything, because this is your story. This is your life. You alone get to choose when and how you open up. And whenever that journey begins for you, please do not hesitate to reach out (trfarmer18@gmail.com). I am here for you, and there are so many others who are as well. You can do this. You can breathe. We’re here with you.

Love, Thomas.

(Yes, that was a direct reference to Love, Simon. If you haven’t seen it, then you need to. It’s a life changer for LGBTQ+ and those who love them. That’s all. Have a great day!)

I’m Finally Being Honest

It was a particularly dark night in early October of last year. I had gone for a drive out a long and endless road in the rural countryside of Kankakee County. Everything that had been bottled up inside of me for 10+ years was threatening to break through to the surface. The things that I had been suppressing for so long, the one thing that I had been denying, was finally overwhelming me. I saw no reason to go on. As I instinctively pushed the gas pedal closer to the floor, I thought about what my life would be if ever I were to tell anyone. Surely those closest to me would leave. The people that I loved would say they couldn’t support me. My entire career, the thing I had spent $160,000 of student loans and scholarships to be educated for, would be taken away immediately. I would be utterly alone and useless in a world full of people. With the speedometer nearing 90, one thought passed through my mind.

“I can’t do this.”

If I couldn’t tell anyone for fear of losing them, and I couldn’t continue under the weight of this secret, then I simply couldn’t continue living. I looked towards an oncoming tree. It was large enough, surely. My mind had been made up. But then an image flashed in my mind. An image of a cute dog named Wesley. I just adopted him and I couldn’t leave him alone. I had to take care of him for the rest of his life, just as I promised him. I slowed my car back down to 55, and drove safely back to my apartment, embracing the dog that saved my life. I knew my next few months would be difficult, but I knew I could fight for no other reason than to fulfill the promise I made to this dog.

Why did I just share this story? It’s certainly not a happy one, but it’s one that I hope will help you to understand what these past 10-15 years have been like. The weight that I’ve had on my shoulders for as long as I can remember, a secret that could never be revealed but that would kill me if it wasn’t.

You see, the reason that I nearly committed suicide (not just this time, but many times before it), was because I’m gay. Before you flip out or stop reading or immediately comment that I’m overreacting or lying to myself or “going through a phrase,” please just take the time to read this so you can better understand. I’m going to do my best to address the questions that you undoubtedly have in the clearest possible way. All I ask for is patience and an open mind.

I’ve known since I was a child. Obviously, I didn’t know what it was called or what it meant, but I always knew that I liked the boys better and not the girls. I specifically remember watching a show with my family called Smallville, my sister squealing at the TV every time Oliver Queen, played by Justin Hartley, came into the scene. She thought he was cute, and she wanted everyone in the room to know it. Of course, it was okay that she thought he was cute. It was “normal.” What nobody else in the room knew, and what I had resolved to never share with anyone (sorry, past Thomas), was that I also thought he was cute.

Let me get this out of the way before any of you get the wrong impression: I had an AMAZING childhood. There was no trauma, no abuse, nothing that would have caused this in my past. My parents are extremely loving and caring people, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to raise me. They’re my heroes.

But I was also raised in an environment where homosexuality was severely frowned upon. The word “gross” or “disgusting” was occasionally thrown around when talking about certain celebrities that had come out. I don’t blame anyone for this, and I’m not going to say who it was that has said these sorts of things. This is just the way that society has viewed members of the LGBTQ community, and it has become ingrained into the culture and very being of so many people. Until you have a personal reason to wrestle with what you’ve been taught, you will have no reason to change it. But nonetheless, these are the sorts of things that I’ve had to work through.

Words cannot describe the mental, emotional, and even spiritual conflicts that I have had to work through because of this. Indoctrination is a very powerful tool, and it can override even your most basic instincts. This led me, a very closeted gay kid, to become homophobic. I began to reason to myself that if I just preached hard enough that homosexuality is wrong, if I just prayed enough that God would make me normal, if I just dated the right girl, then it would all go away and I could finally be what everyone around me called “normal.” I didn’t ask for this. I certainly didn’t choose this (that’s right- it’s not a choice.) Why would I choose something that could completely unravel my otherwise amazing life? It doesn’t make sense. This is one thing that I won’t concede. BUT I DIGRESS.

Again, the spiritual implications of this attitude are insanely damaging. I began to believe that God hated me even though I had never acted upon my desires. If He loved me, He would’ve saved me from this “abomination.” I must not have had enough faith. I must not have prayed enough. I must not be good enough. God became some spiritual padlock and I needed to find the right combination of words and phrases and song lyrics to unlock the special gift of heterosexuality. Since I was still attracted to men instead of women, then God just must not think I’ve earned it yet. Any first year theology student can tell you that salvation is not something that we earn. And yet, to me, that became the focus of my life. I needed salvation from this part of my life that everyone had told me would send me to Hell. And God was not doing anything to change it, no matter how many times I sang “I Surrender All.”

I decided to try and find my way to heterosexuality through heterosexual relationships. If I just dated the right girl, then eventually my body would figure out what the right way to act is, and everything would be fine. Let me just say this: this was insanely damaging to not just me, but to those I dated. This was way too unhealthy and unrealistic of an expectation to put on anyone, and I could never apologize enough to the people I put through this. It was entirely selfish and I have severe regret. After my last relationship, I realized that I couldn’t keep doing this to people. I either had to figure my own crap out or accept a life alone. I wasn’t going to drag anyone else down with me. So to those from my past: I’m sorry. You deserve so much better. You deserve so much more.

Having exhausted both spiritual and relational efforts to make myself “normal,” I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to change. For one reason or another, this is what my life was. This acceptance came about around the time that I almost wrapped my car around a tree. I hope you can understand the gravity of the situation.

After that night of deciding that I had to keep my promise to Wesley, I knew that I had to begin to accept this part of myself and come out. My two choices were coming out or committing suicide. I believe that I’ve made the right decision.

So I slowly began to come out to people. First, my best friend. Then, more of my friends. Eventually, I was able to come out to my parents and some family members. My sister and one of my cousins ended up being some of the most helpful people through this process. I told some professors and some coworkers. I buried myself in intensive theological study through books, podcasts, articles, and conversations with those much wiser than I. The conclusions I have come to may not be popular, but I assure you that they are only my conclusions after an honest and intense study and prayerful experience.

I’m fully affirming. Basically, this means that I believe that God is not condemnatory of monogamous, same-sex relationships if they are celebrated within the confines of marriage. It is not within the responsibility of the people of God to condemn, no matter what they believe. Certainly, if there is something that someone is doing that is obviously contrary to the will of God, you can lovingly approach them as a brother or sister in Christ and bring it to their attention, but leave it to God to convict and correct. And don’t even try to approach someone about their sins (or what you perceive to be sins) if you don’t have that personal relationship with them. The theology of why I believe what I do is something that will have to go in another blog post. I’m always willing to discuss it, but conversations over Facebook never end well. If you would like to ask me how I came to this conclusion, then let’s go out to coffee sometime. I might even pay (don’t hold me to that- I’m a senior in college who is about to be paying back a LOT of loans).

So why am I writing this now? What does it even matter? Why does it need to go on my blog?

Here’s why: I’m not alone. Without a doubt, there are numerous people who are reading this who are going through the same things or have been through the same things. Everyone’s story is different and beautiful, but there are sure to be similarities. So let me say this:

If you are someone who has felt trapped by repressing your sexuality, if you are someone who has felt the need to lie to those closest to you for fear of the repercussions, if you are someone who feels that God does not love you because you don’t fit into the mold that the Church has created out of their own fear of diversity:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

This is not something you have to fight alone.

YOU ARE LOVED.

By me, by those who love you (even if they don’t know), and by THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

So, please, if you think suicide is your only solution, of if you think that there is no reason to go on because the thought of opening up to those around you scares you more than anything else in life, please talk to me. Talk to someone. I promise you full and complete discretion. Nothing that you reveal to me (unless you, like, killed someone or something), will EVER be told to another living soul. I know how delicate these situations are. I know what it’s like to hold a secret so dark that you will do anything in your power to keep it from coming to the light.

So send me a message. Send me an email (trfarmer18@gmail.com). If you have my phone number, shoot me a text (sorry, I’m not putting my phone number online, I have to maintain some sort of internet security). But TALK TO SOMEONE.

It’s hard enough navigating this world of bigotry and misunderstanding. I’m tired of keeping quiet to preserve my own safety and reputation. I do not exaggerate when I say that lives of people you love are on the line. I can guarantee you that someone you know and love is struggling with something similar to this. So before you make an offhand comment, before you joke around and call someone a faggot (I hate that word), remember that you NEVER know what someone is going through. Show love to everyone because, like I was, some of them might be right on the brink of ending their life over something that they think nobody will understand.

I’m open for any and all questions. I will not tolerate any form of hate speech or uninformed blanket statements. Please respect those who might be facing similar issues with your comments on Facebook or WordPress. You never know who might be reading it.

One last thing:

The sanctity of human life surpasses all agendas. Don’t for one second think that it’s better to take one’s own life than to open up about those things such as these.

YOUR LIFE IS WORTH SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE.

I’m here for you. You’re never alone.

P.S. To those I have hurt or put down because they had the bravery to come out before myself, I am entirely sorry. Please know that such things were said out of fear of myself rather than anger towards another. I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I humbly ask it. Just know that I often think of how my words in the past have affected the lives of those around me. I only wish I could take them back. You ALL deserve so much better.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Dead End (The Short Film)

Those of you who are familiar with my blog might know of my flash fiction Dead End and its sequel Remembering the Dead End. If not, you can follow the links on the titles to read them.

These two short stories have just been made into a short film, thanks to my amazing friend Jarrett. If you have read the stories (or even if you haven’t), you should check out this short film adaptation (and maybe subscribe to Jarrett’s YouTube channel…). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Tithing: The Dreaded Topic

“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 NASB

Oh no, not another person telling me to tithe! Why can’t I get away from it?

Ummm… maybe God is telling you something. Just saying.

This past Sunday, my Pastor preached on the importance of tithing. This message is not one that is often well received. In fact, there have been multiple occasions when a congregation member has taken it upon themselves to ask the Pastor to never preach that sermon again (not necessarily at my church- just in general). Who wants to hear that the grace we so often preach on comes from a God that wants to take away at least 10% of the money we worked so hard to get?

It’s hard to come to terms with this at first. Isn’t grace free and unconditional?

Well, yes.

But God is asking that we give Him credit where credit is due. After all, this is the same God that sacrificed His Only Son for generation after generation of selfish, rebellious, and ungrateful humans who consistently abuse His grace and essentially spit in His face. He let His Son die- at our hands- and all He is asking is that we give something back to Him for His work on Earth. That 10% isn’t going to break the bank. I know that for sure.

Stay with me- it gets better.

There are a couple of aspects of tithing that I would like to address. So let’s break this up into some cool heading things.

The Misconceptions: The Prosperity Gospel

The verse I put at the beginning of the post is so often misused to present an argument for the “Prosperity Gospel.” The main theme of this incorrect theology is that if we give our 10% and do what God wants us to do, then He will bless us with prosperity- money, big houses, expensive cars, and even affluence. God is going to ensure we are well liked by everyone, right?

Wrong. So very very wrong.

In fact, there are many verses in the Bible that contradict every one of those claims. First of all, Jesus Himself, the very Model of Christianity we are called to follow, had “no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). So if Jesus didn’t have a fancy mansion with the best vineyard in all of Jerusalem, then why should we expect to?

According to Scripture, we are not going to be living the high life. We are not going to be loved by everyone. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that the result of our complete obedience to God’s leading and calling on our lives will result in us being hated by the world (Matthew 10:22). His plan is counter cultural and radical to everything we are being conditioned to think.

But what about that verse? If I sow generously by following God’s calling and giving over and above 10%, won’t I reap generously?

Yes. But not in the way that has become so popular.

Sidebar: It’s so much better.

The Much Better Harvest

What do you consider a blessing in your life?

Your house?

Your car?

Your mobility?

Your freedom?

All of these are blessings. All of these are gifts from God that we so often claim as our own. We don’t often realize it, but the very breath in our lungs is a gift from God. We are alive because He allows us to be. Because He has work for us. So what blessings are we sowing?

I’m going to be honest. I have never really been a good tither (is that a word?). I have a job with at least some sort of income every month. It’s not much, but so far I’ve been able to survive. Going into this summer break, I had big plans to work all the time and make lots of money that would carry me through the school year and pay for my mission trip to Burkina Faso next summer. With these plans in mind, I made the decision that I would consistently tithe at least 10%. I knew that as a Local Minister at my church, I was further obligated to do so.

Unfortunately (or was it?), I was not able to secure a steady job for the summer. It has been a really rough summer financially. My bills haven’t gone down at all (do they ever?) but my income has gone down to about a third of what it once was (life of a tutor during the summer). I have certainly struggled to make ends meet this summer- even with the blessing of my parents giving me a place to sleep and some good food. So I strongly considered not tithing.

But I knew that God would take care of me. The Bible says so, and I know that the Bible never lies.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect God to drop some money in my lap with no effort on my part. In fact, I worked really hard to get the money that I did. However, I gave God that 10% and He provided. Every time I prayed for God’s help, I was given the opportunity to work. I was given a job.

Have you ever considered your job to be a blessing? Because it definitely is.

I worked with a guy that has a tree removal business, I cleaned my church, I mowed lawns,I sold crochet orders, etc. Most importantly? I learned the nature of God’s blessings. I know it’s cliché, but God is not going to do something for us that we can do ourselves. We need to pray for His leading and His provision, but as my Mamaw says, we have to put feet to our prayers. We can’t just ask for money to fall into our laps. We have to be willing to work for it.

And the opportunities that God is giving us to work for it are the blessings that we are promised.

I’m not trying to sound self-righteous or promote my spirituality. Let me tell you: I am so far from where I should be. But God is working on me.

There are obviously more blessings than just the opportunity to work. If I were to list every blessing we have ever received, I would probably break the internet. Not to mention, this post would never be done and nobody would ever see it.

So it would be pointless.

But I know that if we think really hard, we can name some blessings in our lives. For me?

God has blessed me with parents who are a wonderful model for marriage- 25 years and still going strong.
God had blessed me with the opportunity to attend the greatest university ever. Go ONU Tigers!
God has blessed me with a roof over my head and food on my plate.
God has blessed me with the most amazing friends both at home and at school.
God has blessed me with a calling to full time ministry.
God has blessed me with purpose.

So the abundant harvest that we will reap as a result of our abundant sowing isn’t necessarily earthly riches.

But we will certainly be rich in another way.

One More Thing: Be a Good Steward

I for one struggle the most with this. The Bible is clear on the need for us to be wise with that which God has given us. If God is trusting us with our finances, isn’t it important for us to use them wisely? If we are struggling to make our bills, it would not be wise to eat at a fancy restaurant every night. If we have an abundance of funds, it would not be wise to waste it on worldly pleasures.

There are those that are blessed with monetary wealth. Did you know this is a spiritual gift? If God has given you the means to offer up resources for those that are suffering, then He expects you to use those means to do so. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should live under a bridge so you can donate your entire paycheck to a homeless shelter, but God definitely deserves enough dedication for us to live beneath our means. Instead of buying a third car, why not give the money to the homeless so they can afford a third meal? It’s interesting when we realize that the people with the least are often the most generous (Mark 12:41-44).

Leave a large tip for your waiter or waitress so they can afford to feed their children.

Give that beggar you see all the time some money so he can afford food or maybe even a room for the night.

Be generous. Be Christ.

In Conclusion…

The Bible is very clear about the need to tithe. It’s not a fun topic and it’s certainly not a popular one. But it is so very important for us to do. It allows God to work through our churches, our para-church ministries, our food pantries, our missionaries, and so much more. Our tithe doesn’t just bless us. It blesses our community. Our world. My shrimpy paycheck does not result in a big, beefy tithe check. But I know that God will use that money in ways that I never thought imaginable. If we give 10%, we know that God will multiply it to the Kingdom. If we give more, we are just praising God all that much more.

 

Revival

You may have seen my last post. It was an admission of defeat. I was overcome. Numb. Tired of fighting. It’s funny how quickly things can change.

As a student at a Christian University, I have the opportunity to attend Revival at the Nazarene church on campus every semester. I’ve gone to most of the revival services since I started here, and have attended revival services my entire life. During my first semester last year, a professor told me something that I had never heard before: Revival is for the Church.

I mean, sure, it is an extremely powerful time for saints and sinners alike, but the entire purpose of revival is to revive our relationship with Christ. And man, did God come through this week.

I didn’t want to go to the service tonight. I was defeated, my head was pounding, I was exhausted, and I had tons of homework to do. Basically everyday for college students.

However, I had committed over the weekend to greet at every evening revival service- no matter how I was feeling. So I went.

I am so amazingly glad I did.

At the beginning of today, when I posted my previous blog entitled Numb, I had given up. Not on life. But on feeling anything. I had resigned myself to being a desert- because to allow any feelings into my life was to allow the possibility of depression to drag me down once again. I couldn’t face that possibility. So I chose apathy.

Then God revived me.

From the very beginning of Dr. David Busic’s message, I knew God was going to speak to me. The text used was Psalm 22. It’s a Psalm of lament. It’s not everyday that you hear a sermon preached on lament. Every word that Dr. Busic spoke as he read the psalm tore deep through my apathy into the emotion that I had tried so hard to abandon.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer.

I am a worm and not a man.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

The Psalmist- presumably David- is crying out to God. Asking him why. Why did you abandon me? Why do I not feel you? Why am I alone?

Dr. Busic made a point of saying that 70% of Psalms are of pain and not praise. Lamenting is a good thing. Being honest with God is a good thing.

And you know what?

The Psalms of Pain always come before the Psalms of Praise.

I could feel my sorrows come rushing back to me. Everything that had weighed me down over the last 7 years came to the surface at once. I had to lament. I had to ask God why.

Why? Why was lamenting to the God that for some reason I blamed for my pain a good idea?

Because lament is a result of a faith in a God that is present in the darkness- in the pain- in the sorrow.

God listened. He loves.

The desert of numbess that I had created for myself was suddenly inundated with refreshing, painful, amazing, scary, and wonderful water.

I am relying on Him. I am choosing life. I am choosing revival.

I am choosing to feel again.

Praise God.

Prayer

As I sit here working on my very first sermon coming up in the next month or so, I am beginning to realize how important of a theme prayer is in the Bible. I mean, everything good that happened to the followers of God in the Bible seemed to come after someone prayed.

Solomon prayed for wisdom. He got it.

Adam and God had a conversation, the very first prayer mentioned in the Bible, by the way, right after he sinned and the Fall of Man happened. God forgave him.

You know what prayer seems to stick out to me the most, though? Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here he was, facing the most painful torture that was known to man, with death an unavoidable ending, begging God for another way. He knew there wasn’t another way, He went through with it. His prayer to God gave him strength. God heard his prayer. He knew that in order to save the rest of humanity from our stupidity and sinfulness that His only Son had to die in the most terrible way possible. Jesus prayed, and God said no.

That happens. God sometimes says no. But you know what?

He says no because, even though at the moment we are facing storms and drowning in life’s problems, He knows that our endurance will lead to a better and closer relationship with Him.

Jesus didn’t want to be crucified. But he trusted God and did it anyways.

And Easter came.

Pray. Just pray.

Convictions

We all have convictions. Whether it’s an unwavering belief in a certain political issue, or an adamant belief in a Higher Being, we all have convictions. It’s what we do with them that matters.

I know in my own life, convictions are important. Or, at least, I like to think they’re important. I can walk around every day and say, “Oh yeah, God is real. I know He is. Every fiber of my being believes it to be true.” But what if that is as far as my convictions go?

Let’s say something difficult happens in my life. It’s not too hard to imagine. I mean, let’s be honest, I’m a 20 year old college student with Major Depressive Disorder- among other things. So in the wake of this hypothetical difficulty, I can do one of two things- I can stick to my convictions and rely on God, or I can run away and retreat into myself. More often than not, I’m afraid, I am prone to the latter. The thought of relying on anything- even the One who created all things and loves me with a love that I will never comprehend- seems too much to handle. In the midst of this hypothetical hard time, my mind goes straight to self preservation. That means that I close myself off and try to minimize the damage. Does that mean I abandoned my convictions? Or am I simply holding on to the only thing that I know to be true- myself?

What about when we have a certain conviction against something? Say, for example, that I have an issue with drugs (I do, as a matter of fact, have a problem with drugs. I think they’re dumb and illegal for a good reason). Now let’s say that someone we are close to not only doesn’t have the same conviction, but actually acts in a way that contradicts our conviction. In this case, we will say one of my close friends has a problem with drugs- and doesn’t see it as a problem (remember- this is hypothetical). Do I stick to my convictions and approach them about it? According to the very definition of a conviction, this is something that I believe very strongly against, and for me to attempt to ignore that would only create friction in the future. But at the same time, what if it didn’t? What if I was able to simply live and let live? Sure, the argument could be made that this was going against my convictions, but what effect does it have on me if someone I know is doing drugs? As long as they keep me out of it and do it to where I won’t notice, what does it matter?

But I will still know. This hypothetical situation can be put off for an indefinite amount of time, but at some point I am going to realize that it does in fact bother me. This person that I have a close relationship with is doing something that I feel very strongly against, and because of this I feel that they do not support my conviction. I’m not being close minded, I just know that at some point, the way that they are living is going to mess with my convictions. So once again, I must abandon my convictions or else communicate my discomfort with my friend.

I’m not saying that every conviction is going to set us apart from our friends. Religious beliefs (or lack thereof), while being some of the strongest convictions, can, for example, easily be diverse among a group of friends and not create an issue. It’s the other convictions- the ones based on habits or actions- that can create issues. These can set us apart. So do we let them? Do we let our convictions separate us from those around us?

It’s easy to say live and let live. But can we really do it without abandoning our convictions?

The Zoo

Art by Silvia Colombo “Hello, hello, welcome ladies and gentlemen, dear children as well, what a fine day, fine, fine, very fine. Welcome to the zoo, now isn’t it a marvellous day, we have some very fine specimen. Look at this cage, for example, but be careful not to come close. This is a depressed […]

https://sladescave.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/the-zoo/

Recovery

As many of you know, I struggle with depression. In fact, I have struggled with it for so long that I hardly know what life is like without it.

It’s become a part of me.

This year has been especially rough. I have not been my usual self. My friends began to worry about me and my family began to notice a change in me. Every day I thought about the futility of my life and felt completely alone. I overthought everything from jokes to quick glances. Everything somebody said or did was, in my depression soaked brain, a statement of their disdain towards me. I worried that every relationship I have ever had was just a superficial relationship out of mere obligation and pity. I had become susceptible to the idea that I was worthless.

That’s what it’s like to deal with depression. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. There is no trigger, nothing to indicate when it will hit me. Most of the time I am overcome with loneliness, doubt, and self loathing. I doubted my faith and felt abandoned by my God. That alone threw me even deeper into the pit of depression.

At least, that’s what it was like before.

4 weeks ago, I started attending therapy through the Counseling and Health Services offered by my university. 4 weeks ago I was in utter despair and lost in my depression to the point of thinking I would never see happiness and joy again. I spent more time collapsing in on myself than anything else, and I was pretty much at the end of my road. Remember, this was just 4 weeks ago- 4 sessions with my therapist.

I am not ashamed to admit that I need therapy or that I am depressed or that I don’t have all the answers. God created us to rely on Him. As a ministry major, I have always had this idea that I need to have my life together all of the time and never waver or struggle, and if I do I could certainly never show it. My job- my entire future- depends on helping others through this very same storm that has been plaguing me for so long. It is through that storm that I am growing into the minister that God intends for me to be.

4 weeks. 4 weeks ago I was broken, battered, bruised. I had no hope, no ambition, my entire life was full of apathy. Today, I am writing this with the joy of being able to say that I am in recovery.

This does not mean I am cured. I still have dark moments, dark days, and crippling thoughts. But I am once again able to experience hope, joy, ambition, life. I can finally see the end of this road I have been traveling for so long. I don’t know how much longer I will be struggling with this, but I am finally able to say that my struggle is turning into strength. It’s a long, arduous journey, and it’s one that we can’t travel alone.

If you are struggling with these same issues or any like it, please let me or someone else know. You can’t recover on your own. We weren’t created to do this alone. We are creatures of community.

It’s a long road. Don’t do it alone.

I love you guys. May God grant you all peace and joy. Thanks for your continuing prayers.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10