When I was in my twenties Banana Republic came out with an ad campaign that, even for back then, pushed the envelope of societal norms. The tagline of their three page photo spread was “My Chosen Family”. Those words highlighted pictures of chiseled, male models holding hands with perky, yet elegant female models. As one turned the page there were guys holding hands with guys and girls following in their same sex steps. Those pages were life to my dead, lonely, closeted soul. It was veritable buffet of emotional porn that the enemy used to entice and ensnare simultaneously. They led me to believe I belonged somewhere.
I don’t know if you are tired of hearing me pine on and on about what life was like back then, but frankly, I don’t care. Today, in a world where modern technology prevents us from being alone on a toilet for more than two seconds, people are still love starved and desperate for meaningful connection. People are still dying of interminable loneliness. I was that kid. I was that teenager. And somedays I am still that adult. A statement came to me last week that reverberated through the last 45 years of my life.
“I’ve never had a moment where I was alone, yet I’ve spent most of my life lonely.”
As I hit the send button on each one of these blogs I feel like a scientist sending messages into outer space, waiting and wondering if I will get a response. There are times I know that I am sending out a literary cure for loneliness. Other times I know that I am letting someone know that Jesus has not forgotten them. That God will never leave them, forget about them or leave them alone. Then there are times that I feel this blog goes up like the Bat Signal performing multiple purposes using just one source of light.
I have been experiencing an awakening my friends. Like the feeling generated when you feel the first gust of a fall breeze or see one tiny, unexpected snowflake delivered by the wind. It has nothing to do with the physical seasons and everything to do with the spiritual season of my heart, my calling, God’s timing.
You may or may not know this, but I was born with a super sensitive heart; a blessing from God; a perceived weakness by some. I have suffered great damage to my heart and that sensitivity at the hands of family and those close to me. I couldn’t choose my real family. So when the idea that I could actually belong to a loving family, a family of my choosing came along, it tripped every sensor in the “YES, PLEASE” portion of my brain.
I have long since forgiven those closest to me for the atrocities, real and perceived, that were perpetrated on me. Moving beyond the hurt feelings and the need for revenge prevented those who hurt me, from damaging me further. On the other side of forgiveness though, I emerged a different man with responses and reactions that had nothing to do with who God created me to be and more to do with the broken man shaped by the world. I spent the biggest part of my life wanting people to see me as smart, attractive, fun and accomplished. And an even bigger part investing so much time in trying to look like I had finally ARRIVED that I quickly lost sight of the journey and the ever changing destinations.
This past week as hurricane Irma devastated island after island and eventually my home state, I was safely tucked away in Oklahoma visiting my father. I was also blessed to connect with one of my oldest college friends. We hadn’t seen each other in 13 years. Our only knowledge of one another were the snippets of info and blurry pictures scattered across social media and the occasional search engine. Sitting down with my oldest friend, I was confronted with just how much life has passed me by. The passage of time revealed to me that neither one of us are the boisterous, boy crazy fools we were at Oklahoma State. I realized that out of every other person in my life, Scotty knows me better than any human on the face of the planet. That is partially because he has known me so long, but mostly because I decided long ago, he could be trusted and I let him in.
There are Sundays that I am feel like I am being more truthful than every other person in church. I can spot BS from a mile away and smell it from 5. I don’t make friends easily. I don’t trust easily either. I feel like someone always has ulterior motives. I imagine that most people as characters in a bad English spy movie. I look for inconsistencies in their stories. Every once in a while the Lord leads me to good people. The Holy Spirit gives me the go ahead and I start a long and meaningful relationship. satan is always stirring up the microscopic seeds of my past to spawn a fresh batch of sh…shtuff. New people who remind us of people in our past, can often trigger old thought patterns, habits and responses. I fight daily to maintain these new relationships with the newly elected members of “my chosen family”.
Different than the people in those Banana Republic ads, the chosen family of my life nowadays are 3 dimensional. They have encountered sickness, heartache, divorce, rape and other atrocities. Some of them have been crushed under the weight of it. Their hearts may never love the same again. But the God we serve is the same yesterday, today and forever. The God we serve will always be by our side, and hold our hand even as He sees fit to allow us to walk through the fires of our everyday Hell.
I do my best to honor my father and mother as the scripture commands, but I will be damned if I will stay silent, keeping a lid on my pain and anguish, because those who have hurt me are now embarrassed by the truths that I share in the open. It is often the victims who suffers fresh, daily death, even after the perpetrators have long since forgotten their crimes.
I wrote a piece of poetry once that dripped with crimson rivers of vengeance. I would never physically harm anyone in real life, but I could murder my foes a thousand times over in my literary ramblings. When I laid down my right to vengeance and asked God for forgiveness and to cleanse my heart from the harm I had wished on my enemies, my chains fell away. For the first time, I could look long and hard into the lives of my tormentors and feel a compassion and an understanding for a life of familiar despair.
God is not my co-pilot as an 80’s bumpersticker once decreed. God is my life support system. Jesus tells me this, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” I sit here in the 2am dark of my Florida living room, praising God not that I found Him or He found me, but instead praising Him because I was never misplaced. Each and every step, each disappointment, each oopsy poopsy was known by my Father in heaven. He saw fit to allow each member of my family and my chosen family to shape, mold, chisel and sculpt the man you see before you today.
I am reminded of a song I used to sing when I was a little boy. “He’s still working on me. To make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be. He’s still working on ME.” I most definitely have not arrived my friends. Some days, I hand out more apologies than accolades. Yet, as I sit here, in the wonderful space of Big Fish Ministry that my Father God provided to me as a refuge, I hear him whisper nightly to “You are My son. You are loved more than you know. You are cared for. You are my precious child. You have not been forgotten. And you will always be MY CHOSEN FAMILY. Love, Dad”