“God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go.”
– Tony Evans
“Stephen, I hate you. I hate your disability, and I hate you being same-sex attracted. You are just a burden. Everyone only sees your struggles. Sure, they say you have a big heart, but all you’re known for are your struggles.”
These words have haunted my mind late at night. These thoughts have forced tears out of my eyes.
“Was it not enough for God to make me disabled? He also had to give me the struggle of same-sex attraction?”
I see my reflection in the mirror – a freak. Bullied for walking with a limp. Mocked for having bathroom issues. Family and friends reject me for being same-sex attracted. Some days, I feel like an outcast avoiding to be seen, yet wanting a kind hand to reach out.
“I never chose these struggles. I never chose any of this.”
How many of us have that one thing in our life we despise at times, because we did not choose it. We constantly give it to God, make spiritual decisions regarding it, and yet, we can’t unchain ourselves from it.
These things cause deep depression and tumultuous thoughts. “God, forgive me again. God help me. Please!” Our prayers turn into drunken pleas.
Yet, lately a passage has given me an exit to this maze of mirrors.
It is a passage I have read and memorized many times. I have heard countless sermons on turning from your sins, picking up the cross of the Christian life, and following Jesus.
However, I am wrong. This passage holds a treasure to relooking at those things I did not choose.
The first part of the verse Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way…” Interestingly, there is no mention of sin. If we want to be his follower, then we must give up our own way. What is our own way? It is anything we want to spearhead. It is the path we decide to take, because we think it is the best.
How many books have I read on topics regarding my struggles? How much money have I spent? How much money have you spent figuring out answers to your questions? There are days I flee to Barnes and Noble’s Christian Living Section looking for answers. I peruse each title hoping the next one I purchase will have the answer tucked away like a hidden gem in a cave.
With Jesus, I need to give up my search for the answers. I must give up hunting the gem I think I need. This is what it means to give up my own way. Yes, I am disabled and same-sex attracted. Yes, I have spent hundreds of dollars trying to find the answers to stop hating myself over these things. All of it was my own way. Disappointed sighs breathe out frustration leading to another bout with depression. All because this is my own way of dealing with the issue.
Jesus calls me to stop pursuing my own way. He says, “Stephen, I know you’re hurting. I know you want answers. I know this is all confusing. But, stop. Stop following your own way. This is the only way to become my follower. Stop following the next book, the next author, the next speaker.”
Have we stopped our pursuit of our answers and paused?
In all the chaos of our struggles, Jesus calls us to stop. Then he says, “Take up your cross.”
Many Christians claim Jesus is calling us to take up the hardships of the Christian faith. What about the word, “Your”? It is an individual cross. – some thing in our life we find to be a symbol of death. Being disabled brings money issues. Every month it seems to be the death of our budget. Also, due to my disability my wife and I may never have children. One of the most difficult things a husband can go through is knowing you cannot give your wife the gift of motherhood. Being same-sex attracted makes you a freak or a pervert to others. My family rejected me over it. My own father told me he did not believe I was a Christian due to having this struggle. In March 2020, it almost became the literal death of me.
A cross is not something pretty. Especially the crosses in our life. Each of us know that symbol of death hanging over our head. We know the consequences it brings. Yet, Christ does not say to just identify your cross. He says to take it up. This is a term of acceptance. Accept this symbol of death is in your life. It may be the death of your physical body or social life or image. But, Jesus says take it up. Claim it as your own. He already knows it’s buried under the floor boards. So, pick it up and accept it.
The things we did not choose (which seem like a symbol of death) are the things Jesus tells us to accept.
The last part Jesus tells us to do is to follow him. No destination given, no road map. Just, “Follow me.”
Often, when it comes to my struggles, I want to know how people see me. I want to control the outcome and my image. My control is pursuing my own way.
Following Jesus is a mystery. It is a path with many unknowns and haunted with questions – What will people think if they find out? What will happen to me? What if I lose everything? On and on our brain tries to solve the mystery. All Jesus says is, “Stephen, put down the book trying to solve this on your own. Pick up what you are hiding. Accept it. Follow me.”
Being his follower means I must accept the mystery of his path. What does it look like to be a Christian with a disability? Honestly, I do not know. I just need to follow Jesus. What does it look like to be a Christian with same-sex attraction? I do not know. I just need to follow Jesus. It is in the mystery of his path I find the humility of surrender and the peace of his providence.
A Promise To Calm My Fears
I did not choose to be disabled. I did not choose to be same-sex attracted. If you said I did, I would respond with, “Yes, I chose these things, because they just always fill me with joy.” My eyes might even roll so hard it would count as a cardio workout.
Yet, the truth remains. I did not choose these things. There are days I hate myself. I would rather punch my reflection in a mirror than keep looking at it.
The cacophony of thoughts crowd out the truth. Jesus cuts through that noise. He calmly tells me to stop pursuing my own way. Accept my cross. Then, follow him as he leads me down a path. Even though I protest, debating him about why I need to continue to find the answers and fix my issues, he takes my face in his hands. He looks me in the eyes gently speaking these words:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
The result of stopping, accepting, and following is rest. No more striving. No more hiding. No more anxiety. It is in this promise we see the revelation of Jesus as our shepherd who restores our soul (Psalm 23).
These past two weeks, I have struggled with self-hatred. I looked on myself with disgust. Yet, each day is an invitation to stop pursuing my own solutions, accept my struggles, and follow Jesus into life’s greatest mystery.
When anxiety controls me over being disabled and being same-sex attracted, then depression down casts my soul. Yet, I must remember to stop, accept myself as God made me, and follow him.
It is when I follow Jesus I find the things I did not choose becoming the things most beautiful in my life.