“God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.” – William Shakespeare
“Where are you going?!”
These words were the last words I thought I’d hear from my wife. I shut the car door, breathed, and turned on the engine. My mind was racing with thoughts of being a disappointment. Faces appeared in my vision. People shaking their heads once they knew. I couldn’t just let it go anymore. There was a monster at the end of my book, and I couldn’t let my readers turn to that final page. The book must be destroyed. Living in crippling criticism, degrading disappointment, and a frustrating future was not a path I wanted for me and those in my life. If I was gone, then they could move on, and I wouldn’t be a burden on their soul. Tears are temporary, but disappointment is a debilitating future.
My mind was made up. The song “Monster” from the musical Frozen screamed in my head – “I’m making my world colder/ How long can it survive?/ Is everyone in danger/ As long as I’m alive?”
“I already have burdened friends and embarrassed my family by being disabled. They won’t be able to handle the weight of me being same-sex attracted.” Kill the monster, and they will be free.
I pulled out into traffic, and I chose the lane with traffic heading towards me.
THE FIGHT OF CONCEALING
Elsa, Grover, and me
The three of us share a battle many fight. We all try to conceal and not let people close enough to see what we are hiding. In Grover’s book, The Monster at the End of This Book, he tried everything he could to keep the readers from seeing the monster on the last page. Elsa, in Disney’s Frozen, wore gloves and kept people at a distance so she wouldn’t harm them. I tried for years to conceal my secrets. If someone found out, I would burn that bridge. If people knew the real me, then I would never be wanted, and my life would fall apart.
Each of us are like Elsa and Grover. We have something we hide. We have a secret that if anyone ever knew, the consequences would be severe. We even hide it from God lest he remove his love and blessings from our life. Our energy is spent building walls, wearing our gloves, warning people, and at the end of the day we sit in the stillness of night alone.
“Monster! Freak! Burden!” Our secret screams at us. The fight is never ending. On Sundays, if there is a call forward, we dare not go forward lest we reveal our true self. We find addictions to cover up the truth from ourselves and others. We do not have pain to numb, but we have a secret to keep quiet.
How many of us, honestly, are there?
God of the monsters
Does God love us even with our secrets? Even being monsters?
Sometimes, we look around our churches and see how good everyone is. We see their list of leading a Sunday School class, raising their hands in worship, talking about victories in their life, etc. We think, “I wish I was like them. I wish I did…”
Did you know Jesus condemns this? He doesn’t want people of lists. He wants the “monsters.” In Luke 18:9-14, we see a Pharisee listing off all he does and does not do, and we see a tax collector who can’t even look towards heaven. The one who was forgiven and walked away justified wasn’t the one with the list. It was the one who thought he was a monster. Jesus was known as the friend of sinners by the Pharisees and religious leaders. Sinners were the outcasts, the “monsters,” of society. Yet, Jesus wanted them. He went to find them (Mark 5:1-20), and he wanted to be touched by them (Mark 5:25-34).
But, does he understand my secret? Let’s change that question. Does God not know about your secret? Psalm 139 would suggest he does. God is not surprised. He is the one who wrote down all your days, who knows all your thoughts, and he still loves you. Does God create garbage? Then why do we call ourselves a monster? It is the world around us (and sometimes in the church) where we have learned to refer to ourselves by another name. Truthfully, God has called you from birth to be who he made you to be. He knows us intimately. He has a plan filled to the brim with hope for us (Jeremiah 1:5; Jeremiah 29:11).
Yet, how many times have I rolled my eyes at those verses? How could God love me? How could God not see me as a monster? My thoughts were not shaped in the image of God. They were shaped in man’s image of God. I got so caught up in the voices of other’s preaching God’s Word that I forgot to listen to God’s Word for myself. God loves me. He loves the disabled, same-sex attracted Stephen Field.
When we get to the end of Grover’s book, we find the monster was Grover all along. What changes Elsa’s heart and calm the fear of herself? Love.
We see a monster inside of us. We keep it hidden under the floorboards, keep people from seeing it, and we even give into addictions in order to keep ourselves from seeing it in the mirror. Guess what? God does not see a monster. He sees his beautiful creation downtrodden by people who want an image over love.
It is only when we can accept ourselves can we begin to see the love of Jesus. See, inside of us is a melody that God composed that is far better than any composition ever written on earth. Once we see and experience the love of Jesus the curse break and our song can be sung.
God created us to be who we are. Yet, we try to create another face so we are not rejected. We have painted, sculpted, and silenced ourselves in order for others to love us on their term. However, we never love people on God’s term – unconditional. We do not even love ourselves on his term.
There is a prince or princess under the mask we wear. There is not a monster at the end of the book. There is a beautiful human made in the image of God with a melody ready to burst forth.
The beautiful creation of me
“I am a monster.”
The monster in me had to die. A yellow pickup truck with huge wheels came barreling around the curve. This was it. I pressed the gas a bit harder, yet something in me jerked. My car slid over to the correct lane as a horn blared, and the yellow truck disappeared behind me. Panting, I pulled into a parking lot.
March 2020. The darkest month in my life started a journey of accepting myself with all the pieces God gifted me. Being same-sex attracted is not a curse. God tells me his grace is sufficient for everything (II Corinthians 12:8-10). I begged God for years to take it away. I loathed myself to the point where I literally began to cut myself to get it out of my life. Yet, isn’t God in the business of making everything beautiful in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11)? I am same-sex attracted. Can’t God use that? I am disabled, walk with a limp, and have bathroom issues which could be written into Saturday Night Live skits. Does that make me a freak? No. I accept who I am. I truly believe God is going to us all of this. Even if it means I have the faith of a mustard seed, I know God will do the rest.
Elsa, Grover, and I have a lot in common. So do you. Hiding and preventing others from seeing the truth takes a lot of work. For me, it led to a decision which I never want to go back to. Being ourselves in full honesty before God is so much better than trying fake ourselves like the Pharisees. If he loves me for the way I am, then I can too.
William Shakespeare said, “If we are true to ourselves, we cannot be false to anyone.” Why should I should lock myself to the chains of concealment to please a person who is not my creator nor my savior? As a close friend, who has never let go even at my worst, said, “Don’t let the means of freedom become chains that hold you back.” Hold me back from what? Being who God made me to be and being used by him each step of the way.
Elsa, Grover, and us…
What is our decision? Do we still look at ourselves the way others want us to? Or do we see ourselves as God sees us?
No more self-hatred, no more hiding the truth with addictions. Self-acceptance is the starting point. Since accepting myself, I have been off of my high dosage of antidepressant for three weeks with no side effects. I am fast approaching six months of walking in progressive victory over my depression and suicidal thinking. Why? Because I came out of the closet? No. It is because I embraced who God made me to be and began to have faith he will make me even more beautiful in his timing.