The young man, Joshua, about whom this post was written, has read it and signed off on it's content. As my old pastor and friend, Joe Saragusa, used to say, the most important thing is "doing life together." I couldn't agree more. This post is a little longer than my other blogs, but I believe you'll find it well worth the read. As always, please keep me, Joshua and our other guys in prayer. We are constantly under attack from satan and those who would sequester the truth of the gospel. Enjoy! Last night around 4 am, I covertly sneaked out the back door of the house. There was no plan to secretly wreak havoc on the neighborhood. I just didn’t want to wake the roomies with a clackety clack garage door a squeaky front door. By the way, it was the Holy Spirit’s idea. For an hour, I walked the neighborhood and prayed. I returned around 5 am, finally ready for bed. This must have been what it was like for Adam to walk in the garden with God. Recklessly abandoned in God’s presence. It was cool, quiet and peaceful. Precious times these are to me. I need them more often. One of my forever friends, Kathy, exhorted me that I am a missionary now. It is absolutely my job to pray consistently and get alone with God.
Yesterday, I was led to pray after seeing a friend’s Facebook post. Now it wasn’t horrible, but satan has a way of spinning things out of control, kind of like the Kardashians or a Democratically controlled senate. What matters most is that my friend, Joshua, undeniably loves Jesus, but he’s still kind of dabbling in worldly things. A wave of palpable sadness and confusion washed over me as I read his post. I prayed, surrendering that feeling to God. Prayer opened my heart to a desire to get alone with God ASAP. Thus my 4 am stroll, 12 hours later. Yes, my day was that busy. As I walked, I prayed over many guys; three specifically. I don’t know about you, but I fight trusting that God knows what He is doing in other people’s lives, especially when I see them headed down destructive paths. I gotta remember; Faith in the Father, not Faith in the Faltering.
A few months ago, I realized that God was orchestrating a shift. The delicate bubble I had strategically constructed around my ministry was dying a slow and painful, perhaps necessary death. It was my first text from Joshua that alerted me to God’s shenanigans. In our first correspondence, He informed me that he loved Jesus, but he wasn’t interested in walking out of homosexuality just yet. In the past I would have bristled a bit in my mind, listened graciously and began the strategic process of furthering my well-meaning agenda in his life. My initial ‘crisis response’ was averted by a whisper from the Holy Spirit.
At our first meeting, I sat and listened to Joshua’s amazing story. On our walk from the restaurant where we’d had lunch, to a coffee shop, the Holy Spirit told me to be open to learning from him. Holy Ghost say what? I was stricken with acute and immediate mental paralysis. Learn from him? What could I possibly learn from him? He was lost, right? He wasn’t interested in following the same chaste path as me. Talk about a train wreck in the brainwork. What on earth would I have to learn from him?
5 hours later, I was overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit at that meeting. It was like God installed a fiber optic cable between my brain and His heart. I was also overwhelmed at the presence of the Holy Spirit in Joshua’s life and the level of communication he had with our Father. As the minutes ticked by, it was increasingly evident, that God was writing an amazing love letter to Joshua.
My emotional, roller coaster ride with Joshua continues. It’s a new level of interaction for me. We have some very honest dialogue. I feel challenged by him. I have apologized a million times and look forward to a million more. I am indeed, learning from him as the Holy Spirit said I would. My core beliefs haven’t changed, but I am learning, through Joshua, how to better love the men and women of the gay community.
The foundations of my relationship with Joshua were shaky in the beginning. There were times I’d think he was finished talking with me for good. There were times I felt I was through talking with him for good. God always encouraged me to maintain the connection. Eventually, Joshua needed a new place to live; a place of refuge. I always refer to my house as “a place of refuge”, but there was no way I could let someone stay there who was actively gay. We live according to a strict set of rules. He didn’t want to live under those rules. I found myself being ‘that Christian’. I said something to the effect of,
“That’s a tough situation. I will pray that you. You can’t come live with me, but I’ll help you find another place., I will pray for you.”
It took a few days for me to realize just how self-preserving and pompous those words were. My words were completely blocking a move of God and putting Him in the box of my intellect, prejudice and fear. As the words dripped from my lips, my stomach soured a little. I had pledged my life in service to Jesus first and in service to others second, to love them as myself, but…
“Was there anything more that I could do?”
The question danced about on the surface of my brain, like a random butterfly amongst the flowers, defying capture, inspiring wonder. It was all that God needed for a new journey began.
A few days later, Joshua began texting a slew of angry and sad texts tinged with frustration and angst. He said that he felt like God was saying the answer to his problems was to come and live at my house. As I read his texts from the “ivory tower” of my heart, I knew that he wasn’t truly surrendering to God, but instead succumbing to the pressures of life. I read them and began a quiet celebration broke out in my head. God had finally brought Him to the end of himself, but something wasn’t right. I didn’t feel 100% okay with the circumstances. The Holy Spirit led me to question my attitude. Honest dialogue broke out again between Joshua and I. In his honesty, he carefully laid a few more tender pieces of his heart on the table. Even though I had no idea what to do, I knew the Holy Spirit was calling me to listen and be present. No longer could I blindly say, ‘I’d love to help’, to the safe people my choosing. God was calling me to put actions to my words. I was scared to death.
I met Joshua for lunch. I shared my “house rules” with him. As I shared the rules and cost of rent with him, I saw his countenance fill with more anger and frustration. I wasn’t helping him. I was doing more damage; subjecting him to emotion and spiritual castration. It was almost as if I was saying, “Ha, Ha! I have a house and you don’t. Jump through these flaming hoops and recite this pledge and we’ll see what we can do.” Don’t get me wrong. Rules have a place, but when we put a price on what God freely offers, we commercialize the gospel and drain it of its power. Our actions keep those who desperately need God distanced from His true heart for them. It’s like telling a critically wounded patient to wait outside the emergency room until their wounds have healed.
The sermon at church the next day was all about forgiveness and coming to the Father freely. The Holy Spirit asked me that day,
“How many hoops did I ask you to jump through before you came to live “in my house”? ((Insert Serial Gut Punching Sequence…HERE!))
He was right. I wasn’t helping Joshua draw closer to Jesus. I was piling obstacles in his path and doubling the weight of his burden. With tears flowing down my cheeks I repented of what I had done to this young man. I stayed in a spirit of prayer that entire day. That afternoon, I began the process of tweaking the rules to keep the guys already in the house safe, while providing a place of refuge for another one of God’s broken sons.
Later that night, my roommate and I humbled ourselves before Joshua, who was hurting and broken. We washed his feet and hands. We anointed him with oil. We granted him forgiveness and repented on behalf of Christians who have hurt him. Ultimately, we prayed over him and welcomed him in as our brother. A week later, he moved in and the bubble of self-protection that I, not God had tried to sustain ceremoniously burst. To say the least, I am like a newborn deer in this new place with God; wobbly, uncertain but staying close.
It hasn’t been an easy walk. Not because Joshua is bad, but because it’s a new journey for me. Joshua has actually made the transition fairly easy. God speaks pretty clearly to me regarding Joshua. One morning, I awoke to God saying, “He’s not yours. He’s mine.” I would find out later that this young man’s parents had prayed those same words over him when He was younger, “He’s not ours God, He’s Yours.” Wha What? I told you, FIBER OPTIC connection.
I am both encouraged and challenged by my relationship with Joshua and his knowledge and love for the Lord. When I opened Big Fish ministry 5 years ago, I thought I was simply going to minister to men with unwanted same sex attractions. God knew it was going to be so much more than that. I just missed that memo. What it boils down to is simply this: trusting God, being obedient and having a heart for people. God can be trusted to lead the way and fill in the blanks.