I spent the majority of my childhood in a third-world country in South America where my parents served as missionaries. I remember being taught the truths of the gospel from the time I was a young child, and had my first saving encounter with Jesus Christ when I was 11 while we were on our first furlough back in the States. In the years that followed, my faith grew and developed, sometimes slowly and other times surging forward as I gained an increasing awareness of my need for a Savior.
Through a series of unlikely events, I found myself enrolling as a transfer student at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL) when I was 20 years old. The three years I spent at Moody were the most transformative years of my life. God used the many experiences I had there to focus my energy and passion around the things that really mattered: my relationship with Him, my faith community, and the fallen world around me.
I also met my wife, Sara, while at Moody. We were married a year after we graduated in May, 2004, and our life together has been immeasurably richer and full of blessings ever since. After several years of seminary education, we both earned our masters degrees (an MA in Christian counseling for her, an MDiv for me) and today my wife enjoys seeing clients part-time at her private marriage and family therapy practice while I finish up a PhD program in New Testament. We are the proud parents of two young boys (ages 6 and 4), and are full of gratitude to God for the joys of “family life.”
The Deeper Story
Almost every spiritual journey can be characterized by at least one major theme that shapes and forms an individual’s understanding of his or her life coram Deo, before God. For C. S. Lewis, that theme was joy, and particularly the joy of story. The theme that characterizes my spiritual journey seems to be community.
In Ephesians 4:15-16, the apostle Paul says that “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” One of the lessons these verses teach is that God designed our spiritual lives to develop in the context of relationships with other people. And as I look back on my life, it is easy for me to see how my soul has been impacted by the various communities to which I have belonged. One specific event, however, stands out as particularly paradigmatic of the shape my spiritual journey has taken over the past ten years: the evening at the end of my senior year of college when I shared the story of my experience of same-sex attraction to the members of the bible college men’s choir with whom I had performed, traveled, and lived together for the past three years.
A choir tradition was to give every graduating senior the opportunity to share a devotional thought or two with the rest of the choir at some point during the final tour of the year. As my turn approached, I became increasingly convinced that the parting gift I wanted to leave with that group of guys was the gift of transparency. The relationships I had made while in that choir had formed, for me, a community of safety and grace. When I first joined the choir as a sophomore transfer student, the upperclassmen became examples of wisdom and balance that I desired to emulate. The choir director was also a source of winsome insight and discernment. But what ultimately drew me in was the sense of family and belonging that the director fostered among the members of the choir. As time progressed, my closest college friendships were forged from that group of men.
During those three years, my understanding of how I experienced my sexual identity also changed. When I first joined the choir, it was a closely guarded secret that yielded enormous guilt and shame. By the time I left, however, it had been transformed into an opportunity to rest in the peace and provision offered to me through Christ in the gospel. As young adults, in a seemingly endless search for an answer to the question, “Who am I?” it can be easy to allow any of our many secondary identities (whether sexual or otherwise) to be transformed into an all-encompassing political identity that demands ultimate allegiance. The calling of a Christian, however, is to submit all facets of our lives, including the many ‘hats’ we end up wearing, to our spiritual identity as sons and daughters of the King and to the Kingdom activity for which we were designed. From this perspective, the tension I experienced regarding my sexuality was no different from any other difficulty faced by any particular man in the choir that day. Indeed, my goal was to highlight the breathtaking, if sometimes aching, beauty that a life of transparency could yield if one became open to the possibility of receiving Father’s love through faithful, Christ-centered community.
As I look back on the past 11 years since I graduated from bible college, the significance of that evening of transparency continues to resonate in my life and characterize my spiritual journey today. It reminds me that there is strength, safety, and joy in being known by my Christian brothers and sisters. This sense of strength was very real to my wife and I in the first years of our marriage, and became even more powerful about seven years ago when we made the joint decision to pursue a personal policy of complete openness and transparency about my day-to-day experience of same-sex attraction. It soon became clear that God wanted to use this very personal aspect of my life story in ministry to others, which has only deepened my sense of joy and gratitude to God for his redeeming work in my life.
Life is full of unexpected challenges and difficulties, and God’s solution for all of them almost always involves authentic Christian community of some form. This is what stirs me onward and upward to greater acts of Christ-like love and service to my wife. This is what motivates me to instill in my two young boys and in our family a commitment to honesty and vulnerability. And finally, this is what reminds me to challenge others to lead lives of transparency as I attempt, through the power of the cross, to embody the grace and mercy of Christ to those whom God has entrusted to my spiritual care.