When We Find Our Resilient Selves

Man walking among sunflowers

I’m not ready.


Words I’ve said too many times over my lifetime. I’m not ready for adulthood and responsibility. I’m not ready to risk rejection within community. I’m not ready to pursue my ambitions because maybe I don’t have what it takes.


I spent five years after college waiting for some spark of bravery to ignite my life and burn away all the fetters that kept me from moving forward into adulthood. I would start a goal and panic when the struggle became too intense. I learned to run from my problems and retreat within an inner prison where no one could reach me or know me.


Blogging became one of my first steps out of the shadows. I wanted connection with the Gay Christian subculture, and if I could befriend the writers and speakers who represented it, then maybe I’d finally be someone. Maybe my voice could matter. Many established Gay Christians did become aware of my existence and then moved on. I doubt their disinterest was personal, but I took it as another crushing reminder that I wasn’t good enough—that I would never be good enough for any community.


I’d write a post and sink into depression for weeks because I had no idea what I was doing. Clearly I wasn’t ready to write publicly and connect to readers and other writers. Most of my life I’ve convinced myself I’m trash: useless, worthless, and undesirable. The more I spoke, the more I revealed how pathetic I was. I just wanted to quit and go back to my invisible life.


But then I’d write again and slowly my posts became less about obtaining the attention I’d never possessed, and more about the art form. I began to feel life through my story. I experienced moments of growth as I took another step of faith through one more blog post, one more vulnerable conversation, one more deep breath.


Every month I cycled through depression, refinement, and redemption.


Studying under Dr. Mark Yarhouse had been my dream since transferring to Bryan College to study psychology in 2008. I intended to apply to the clinical psychology program every year since graduating, and every year I would tell myself I wasn’t ready. But blogging changed something in me; it provided a sense of courage I’d never known. Surviving a year of blogging had taught me readiness would never come. I could only try and wait for God to make the next step clear.


And then to my delight and terror, Regent accepted my application.


Like blogging, I arrived in Virginia Beach with many unrealistic hopes. I thought I’d left my depression back in Alabama because now I had purpose. I was out as a gay man in a Christian academic community that valued diversity and I even found quick support in my new church. I would belong, God would fix all my issues, and everything would be perfect for the rest of the semester.


Not so much.


It didn’t take long for my doctoral studies to overwhelm me. When I freak out I shut down, and when I shut down I isolate myself from others, and when I isolate myself I begin to self-destruct. The melancholy would sink in every Thursday evening after classes ended for the week. I would spend my weekends in bed, weighed down by anxiety and sadness because I wasn’t connecting. I’d worry if the loneliness would define the rest of my life and maybe I’d just made a stupid, super expensive mistake. I started turning in homework late and I declined offers to hangout with others. By midterms I ruminated about dropping out. I had set my ambitions too high; I’d flown too close to the sun.


I am trash. I am nothing. I am invisible.


The week after midterms I initiated a meeting with one of my professors about my late work. She empathized with my pain and fears, but also challenged me with compassion to receive the help I needed to continue moving forward.


Find your most resilient self, Seth.


An old friend from Bryan encouraged me to open up to a few people in my cohort. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t want them to see me as unstable or to further alienate myself if I somehow managed to survive the semester. But I finally brought my depression, anxiety and other self-destructive tendencies into the light to a few cohort mates and upperclassmen. I learned telling people I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m out of the closet—emotionally I’m still there. But by lowering my walls just a bit I could receive my friends’ grace and lay the foundation to meaningful relationships that provided the support I needed.


The first night I knew I would be okay happened as I went out for drinks with a few cohort mates. We walked across the street to a club and I danced for my first time in public as the music blared. I mimicked the other dancers and laughed at my terrible dance moves. I didn’t feel like the depressed, crazy guy for one night. I was with friends and I was wanted and I was okay.


Redemption happens in unexpected places. God is everywhere, even on a dance floor.


I found my first moment of purpose towards the end of the semester transcribing an interview of a sexual minority student at a Christian university. The interview reminded me how grateful I am for this honor to tell our collective story—even statistics and research data reveal an art form; themes that resonate and unite our individual narratives. I love moments when I feel part of this beautiful and diverse community of sexual and gender minorities—a community who has so much to offer the body of Christ. I needed this reminder. There’s a reason why God wants me at Regent and it’s worth the stress, tears, all-nighters, loans, and five year commitment to fulfill this calling.


God has already enabled me with the ability to pursue my calling. I will never be ready until I step out in faith, fail, and pick myself back up. I’m still learning how to be human; it’s an awkward, painful growing experience. I’m a man lost and thirsty in the wilderness, but like Hagar, I’m finding my salvation in El-Roi—the God who sees me. Not seen as trash, but as a beloved child. Transformation is happening, and slowly I’m becoming the man God is shaping me to be. Slowly I’m allowing people to touch my life.


Resilience only requires one step at a time.

Romans 12


 photo by Krist Adams at creationswap


My name is Seth. And I have no idea how to begin this introduction.

I have lived my entire life in a war ravaged country.  I didn’t grow up in the chaos of the Middle East or Africa, but in the state of Alabama in the heart of the Bible belt and SEC football. I was born into the sub-subculture of a Christian denomination with an incredibly unfortunate name (fingers crossed, but that’s probably not changing in my lifetime…). I viewed the world around me from a sheltered lens. My parents home schooled me from first grade to my high school graduation. We went to a small church filled with mostly older members–I didn’t really have a friend beside my four younger siblings until I was in my late teens. I lived in a bubble. But eventually puberty hit and changed everything I knew.

I suddenly felt attraction toward other guys. I had never heard this narrative. I never knew it was possible for a guy to feels things for another guy. I had never comprehended words like homosexuality or gay.

God wove through the first threads of my memories, a relationship as real as my parents. I came to know Him through Bible stories, A capella hymns, and sovereign grace sermons-my head lying against soft, but firm upholstered pews as the preacher spoke about words that glided over my comprehension. Or I would draw with Crayons, listening and imagining. I would sometimes pretend to preach sermons about Noah and Jesus to my stuffed animals, all lined up in their invisible pews. I publicly became a Christian when I was six years old. I walked down the aisle at the preacher’s invitation with my four year old sister. We told the church we believed in Jesus and wanted to become members of the church. I was so innocent and oblivious. That six-year-old little boy had no clue the struggle he would experience years later. He would come to learn about shame, secrets, and isolation. He would come to know the monsters of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. 

I have now lived more years post-puberty than before my experience with same-sex attraction. The journey has been long and painful. But there have been moments of beauty revealing God’s faithfulness and unfailing, tender compassion. I am often asked why I am still a Christian through everything I have endured. I often feel like Peter when Jesus asked the apostles if they too would leave Him like the multitudes who couldn’t bear his difficult teachings. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). My experience with God and the church has been tumultuous, broken, and bitter. I have been hurt and hurt others. And while scripture often feels like a bazooka that preachers wield to intimidate and shame, there are many times I’m reminded that this ancient text is God’s love letter to me.

So yes, I am a gay man. I am also a devout Christian. When I place these two identity labels side-by-side, I feel defensive. I feel the need to prove my faith as if this were a courtroom. Some will say I lost faith in God’s miraculous abilities. Others who have heard about ex-gay or reparative therapy may think I gave up too soon. I’m not saying either are necessarily wrong, but my attempt through this blog is to be open about my faith journey. This is where I’m at. This is an invitation for you to walk with me through the questions, through the loneliness, through the grief, but also through incandescent joy and persevering hope.

I don’t know where this will lead. This may be a major flop. But I have lived so much of my life invisible and silent.  It’s time to be brave. It’s time to take a risk, to dream. If I fail, I fail a stronger man than I was before.

I stand in a battlefield that has been raging long before I was born. I’m building bridges. I’m indebted to Andrew Marin for this imagery. He refers to it a lot in his work at the Marin Foundation, a peace-making organization that works with LGBTs and the conservative church. If you asked him, I know he would agree that when you build in the middle of a vehement ideological war, you will get shot sometimes. I anticipate tough criticism. I expect people will doubt my faith. But if I can help a gay teenager find hope in her despair, if I can help a straight Christian learn how to love his buddy who has just shook his paradigm, it will all be worth it.

So regardless where you stand, I’ll close with this thought from Sarah Bessey:

“Let’s sit here in hard truth and easy beauty, in the tensions of the Now and Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, and let us discover how we can disagree beautifully.”¹

¹Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women (New York: Howard Books, 2013), 2.