Islands Unto Ourselves

“It’s a wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in everyone of them encloses it’s own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood on ignorance on the shore.” -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

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“It’s a wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.  A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in everyone of them encloses it’s own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!  Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this.  No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all.  No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged.  It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page.  It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood on ignorance on the shore.” -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

I recently finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for two reasons:

1. I love great literature.

2. I aspire to write well.

A Tale of Two Cities is the world-wide #1 best selling, excluding books of faith, such as the Bible or Koran.  With my two reasons in mind, I figured this classic book would be a good read, and I was right, but I’m not going to talk about the book.  This isn’t a book blog; it’s a processing one, and I wish to process this quote in reference.

Chapter 3 of Book 2 speaks of this phenomenon of humans being eternal puzzles, mysteries to be discovered, but never fully known.  Regardless of how long or how intimate you know someone, you’ll never know them fully.  Two people could be married for 50 years, divulging themselves to each other continuously, and there will still be mysteries locked up in the depths of that person.  One can NEVER be fully known.

In another book by Donald Miller, called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald speaks to a friend who recently married. The friend shares how marriage is the oddest of things.  You find yourself waking up to someone you care so much about, yet you will never fully know.

The author coins the phrase “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” in regards to life, and angels driving you through the universe to bring you to where you always belonged–but it doesn’t make the journey any less easy in the moment.

Although the phrase isn’t mine, I’d like to think about it in a completely different light.  No matter how far you travel into someone’s soul or how long your foot has been pushing down on the gas, even if it’s a million miles or a thousand years, you will NEVER discover all their landscapes.

To some, this may be discouraging.  What’s the point of knowing someone?

But it is of the exact opposite nature that this author has been affected by this strain of thought.  I have been encouraged, like never before, to know people intimately, to discover their depths, to explore their shores, knowing full I will never be able to map an atlas of their soul with complete detail.  But isn’t that the joy?  The people around you are infinity.  No matter how long or intensely you dive into their being, there will always be more.

The fathoms stretch before you, there is an eternal horizon, that will never come nearer.

Do we abandon ship, counting our losses, understanding this voyage is doomed never reach conclusion?  Or does that inspire us to let loose the sails, caught up by the winds of destiny and dive headlong into the eternal leagues before us?

These thoughts will forever haunt those fixated on the destination, but in the words of my granola, hiker friends, attempting to comfort me as I heave and moan from the ascent, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.”

|The journey|

Life.  People.  A hike.  It’s all about the journey.  Stop and smell the roses.

Epiphanies in the Perverse

I’m sitting here in my car waiting for a friend outside Five Guys to grab a burger and to speak of friendship and hurt, and as I wait I’m thinking about thoughts I never really allowed myself to mull over. I saw an attractive guy in Whole Foods today. I couldn’t help but lock eyes with him here and there as he passed back and forth through my peripheral vision. Why am I attracted to him? And the answer came in the gentlest of whispers…

You want to be him.

As I analyze the mystery man, I realize how much of this is true. How he’s handsome. How he has a smile in every task he undertakes. He’s dripping with joy while sweeping up trash. How he’s engaging with people on a genuine level.

It’s how I know I can be and should, but why am I not?

The thoughts continued, but now twist and turn into something sexual. Initially, I pulled back, not allowing myself to lust, but then a thought came–let’s allow the thoughts, Landon; let’s analyze this and see what your heart is longing for below all the sex.

And thus began the thought process.

Would I be top or bottom?
Bottom.
Why?
Because I want to be led.
What sex position would I want?
Sitting on his lap facing him as he held me.
Why?
Because I want to feel secure and cherished while looking into his eyes.
What would you want to happen besides sex?
I would want him to hold me close to his chest, to smile at me in approval, to tell me what he thinks of me, to make promises of never leaving me.

What does this say? What’s the root of what I truly want?

I want love. Masculine love.
I want someone to show me the way and how to be a man, to lead me and never leave me, to hold me close and create a sense of security, to be delighted in all that I am, shortfalls and all.
Why? Why do I feel the need for this? Why do I want to be led by a strong masculine man? Why do I want someone to hug me and say they’re not going to leave me? Why is the approval of one person so important, and why does that one person’s opinion mean so much?

When I encounter Jake, my friend online, a phrase he kept saying that brought so much pleasure to my heart was, “You’re absolutely awesome.” He’d say it about my bod, my hair, my personality, my jokes, my deep thoughts. He thought it was all so great. I was intoxicated with his approval. But when I couldn’t reach him in the following days, I thought I would loose my mind.
I do this often–putting all my “eggs in one basket” with someone’s approval. As I look at my life, in every season there was someone who’s opinion meant everything. I could be loved by all I encounter, but if that one person didn’t approve I was a shipwrecked heart.

The speculation continues as I analyze roots and wounds.
I was abandoned by my best friends in my deepest hours of need. I thought there was something wrong with me to chase the away. Instead of being chased I had to do the chasing, and I’m tired of it.
My dad never showed me how to be a man. He never inspired me with masculinity, saying, “Follow me; I know the way.” He never believed in me and sent me out to conquer and succeed. As a result, I don’t feel like I can succeed as a man, and I need someone to show me the way.

I need someone to show me the way.

I process; I ponder. My mind wrestles and wanders. But ultimately I know the answer, and it’s a lot more simple than I care to imagine, and more cliché than an aspiring writing finds taste for.

The love of God.

As I was driving to meet my friend, abraded with pilfering thought processes, the phrase “daddy’s boy,” came to mind, and it warmed my heart like hot chocolate. I’m daddy’s boy. Why does this mantra mean so much?
It’s interesting to note, that the three years of homosexual abstancy, we’re also the three years a potently powerful truth was swallowed into the depths of my being: you are God’s son, and He is your loving Father. This is also the number one way Jesus chose to relate to God: as His Father.

What if the the cure all was simply bathing in this knowledge?
The cure for homosexuality.
The cure for sexual promiscuity.
The cure for loneliness.
The cure for contempt.
The cure for pride.
The cure for every bereavement and curse of the soul.

Too simple? Maybe so. But it did work at one point in this author’s life. Maybe I’ve simply complicated things. Why don’t I just come back to that simple truth, and keep it just that—simple.

Country Roads

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Country Roads…

I’m currently in West Virginia–home of the “Wild and Wonderful” Appalachians, hillbillies, moonshine and this author’s wonderful girlfriend.

Wait.
Hold up.
This guy has a girlfriend?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this hormonally confused guy does, in fact, have a girlfriend, and I’ll be with her and her family for a week come Thursday. This far, it’s been incredibly hard.

Just because a heterosexual life is the one I choose, doesn’t mean this is easy. The days have been roller coasters, full of ups and downs, moment by moment. In one moment, I’m so glad I’m here, gazing into her lovely green eyes. In the next, I want to wake up in my own bed. In yet another, I want to be engaging in sexual acts with another dude. In still another, I want to end this relationship to date another girl I can’t stop thinking about.

It’s a messy situation to say the least.

In the furious longings of God by Brennan Manning, he says, “The rest of Brennan Manning is a bundle of paradoxes and contradictions… I love and I hate. I feel better about feeling good. I feel guilty if I don’t feel guilty. I’m wide open, I’m locked in. I’m trusting and suspicious. I’m honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I’m a rational animal. But I’m not. That’s some of the rest of Brennan Manning.”

I’m right there with Brennan… A bundle of paradoxes and contradictions.

I love God, but I flirt with sin. I’m longing for a life with a woman, yet lust for men. I’m here in West Virginia, while my heart wanders to a girl in Nashville. I’m pure in His sight, yet soiled with “sin dirt.” I’m happy; I’m discontent. I’m real, and I’m fake.

…I’m confused.

If there is one defining term to envelop the rest, it simply comes down to that–confusion… about life as a whole.

Back when I was a young lad, I dreamed of romancing a girl, of sweeping her off of her feet and running into the sunset. You know, Disney stuff. Well, Disney lied, and I’m left reeling with feelings of devastated disillusionment. I’ve been conned… Or this is not how it should be.

On the drive back from Virginia, after witnessing a wedding with my girlfriend, we sat silently, and all I could think about was how this relationship needs to end. I need to talk to her. This needs to stop.

Why do I feel the need to leave?
Because I’m wrestling with homosexual thoughts.
Because I want to date another girl.
Because I feel broken and inadequate.
Because this is awkward, and we haven’t spoken for an hour!
Because I feel this relationship isn’t spiritual enough.
Because I simply want to run.
Because I’m afraid I’ll break her heart.

Why do I stay?
Because I’m scared.
Because I actually do like her.
Because of the way she laughs and the sparkle in her “bedazzled” eyes.
Because of how she loves and cares for every child of God she encounters.
Because I’m uncertain.
Because I simply want to stay.
Because I’m afraid I’ll break her heart.

What will I do?
I don’t know.
It changes minute by minute, because I’m a contradiction and a bundle of paradoxes.

The song “Country Roads,” sung by John Denver sings, “Country roads, take me home to the place I belong, West Virginia, Mountain Mama take me home, country roads.”

I think that’s ultimately it–I don’t feel at home with her, not yet anyway.

Should I wait this out, hoping the sense of home will arise? Or should I keep searching? Country roads, leading to the place I belong, to the home of the heart, where are you? Where is that rugged asphalt, and where does it begin, that I may traverse its winding road, leading me to its unknown destination. Country roads, lead me home! … wherever that is.

on a dirt mountain road underneath the blazing stars…

It’s been hard to say the least.

Since re-entering America, I’ve had the hardest of times. I’m Martha burnt out in the kitchen. I’m the church of Ephesus in Revelation, robbed of its romance. I’m done.
The past several days the cry of my heart has been, “Jesus, just come find me.”
I have so many questions…
A resurgence has erupted in the bowels of my chest, a wound uncared for, now festering and gangrene…

Homosexuality… It’s a bitch.

Nearly every night I’ve been on my iPad scouring the Internet for moral contraband. Hardcore porn. Miscellaneous webcams. Craigslist rendezvous’s. It’s been a mess. Just today I laid in bed till 3 in the afternoon. Laid out in the wake of hours wasted on the Internet. This doesn’t satisfy.
The catalyst of my near abandonment to the plight I find myself in occurred a few days ago in an alternative gay chat roulette. I met a 22 year old with the same story as my own.
Raised a Christian. Held church leadership positions. Has a serious relationship with a girl.
AND YET, he’s dabbling in “the sin unspeakable.” We both are.
Multiple times throughout our conversation as we divulged our stories, the comment “TWIN” became a consistent occurrence. We’re even identical in our strategies as to how we hid our “heinous” acts.
We talked for hours when, initially, all we wanted was to gaze upon each other’s penises. In the end, we exposed our private parts briefly, making the comment, “Well, we should probably do what we came on here to do in the first place,” but it’s not what we wanted.
Since then, I’ve been manically internally digesting whether or not I should just abandon it all, including my Jesus, in order to fall madly into these “dark desires,” as Mumford puts it, letting them clutch me in their dark vice-grip claws.

I’m at a loss. Rather, I am lost… In desperate need of being found.

I came out to the mountains tonight. It’s currently 1:24 am. Underneath the stars I beg the question of God: where are you? Where are you in this? Why do I feel so alone? What do I do?
Prior, all sorts of questions abraded my mind. Do I throw myself into this completely, becoming the “Prodigal?” Do I “give myself over to Satan for the sifting of my soul?” What about my girlfriend? Do I end that relationship? Do I tell her?
Truth be told, I’m tired of fighting. I’ve given in. When temptation comes, I thrust myself into it headlong. Luckily, my demons haven’t flung me into any “physical encounters.”

And this is where the shift happened.

Immediately before running up into the mountains, I headed downtown. Hungering to satisfy my lusts, I “happened upon” the location of a local gay bar. I drove by, intending to simply pass… That’s not what happened.
A block passes by. I pull over and park. I get out, walking the block I just passed. I stand outside the heavy metal door, music blaring within. That was when it dawned on me—I don’t want gay sex. I simply want intimacy.
Now, out in the mountains, I’m talking to my Jesus. There’s always been a stronger connection to Him while the blazing infernos millions of miles away gaze down upon me. I ask, “What’s happened to us? We’ve fallen out like all my other relationships. Where did I go wrong? Where was the wrong turn, many miles ago?” I heaved and moaned, as the things locked up in my chest oozed to the surface. It felt like a vomit of soul.

It was there, in my ranting and raving, I heard Him.

“We’ve already been through the ringer, Brandon. This relationship, like all true relationships, has been tested with fire. This is no different, and I’m not intimidated by it. Come back to me. Don’t worry about the “sin.” I just want you to know me, and I you. I’m not trying to make you “good.” I’m trying to show you you’re loved. It’s what I’ve been trying to do since the beginning.”

Tonight, before the stop in downtown and the trek to the mountains, I spent the day with two great friends. We watched “The Kings of Summer.” It was there that the idea of friendship being the deep desire of my heart, rather than sodomy, or other male-on-male actions for that matter, dawned on me. I never had what these boys had—a beautiful, adventurous, unadulterated love through the bond of pure friendship. We catch a glance of this love in other movies as well—”The Goonies,” “Lean on Me” and “Super 8.” The coming of age movies that remind me of what I missed. Or the epics—”Braveheart,” “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings.” A beautiful love that has nothing to do with sex, but intimacy, of accepting and fighting for the one you love, of being brothers.

This is the desire of my heart.

While talking to Jake, my roulette encountered friend, we both asked, “Why do we do this?” I think this is the answer—our hearts long for something beautiful, intimate, real. Something directly out of the heart of God. A verse that actually comes to mind is Ecclesiastes 4:11—the verse about two lying together to keep warm. Many a time I’ve shared a bed or patch of grass with another man, and it had NOTHING to do with sex. It was two friends keeping each other warm in heart and body. Some of my favorite moments have been lying next to a friend I love. No sex. No lust. Just love in brotherhood.
What’s wrong with that?
Deep down I know the cry of my heart is not gay sex. It’s true unadulterated friendship, and it all starts with a friendship with The Friend—the origin and its author. That’s what io tend to do, to drink of the fountain that will truly quench my soul’s thirsting.

Father, return me to Your heart. Return me to Your Love. Plunge me deep into Your rivers of grace, and wash over me anew with Your ferocious AGAPE. Woo me. Undo me. Flirt with my soul and romance my heart. I guess, what I’m actually asking is, would You be my friend, for You are its definition. Void our relationship of moral duty, and in its place institute desire.

Sincerely,
Your friend…