"I will not leave you comfortless:
I will come to you." -- John 14:18
Have you ever been labeled a strange duck? I was going through my bookshelf the other day for inspiration and I came across my old beat-up green-bound original copy of The Living Bible. It's worn, either from being packed and un-packed over decades of moving, or, hopefully, from all that reading and memorizing from my high school days. Uh . . . . huh . . .
My younger sister and I both got a copy for Christmas back in early high school. Most of the young people in our high school youth group had made the green shift and set aside the old KJV for our generation's version of the Bible. This was during the era of the "Jesus Movement" . . . as if He'd never moved before. We were all about Good News and Love Song and . . . well . . . new stuff.
But not everyone was excited and accepting of all the "new" stuff. One weekend we went to visit old middle school friends in the midst of a summer revival in what we might have charitably referred to as a church "set in its ways." The evangelist, making his way down the aisle, paused to shake our hands and welcome us . . . and paused a little longer, his eyes rolling a bit in his head, which was shaking back and forth. He actually developed a momentary twitch and backed away like he was on the verge of a seizure. In the pulpit, he made a shocking announcement that he had just received a new message and proceeded to preach about the "strange ducks" in the sanctuary. That would be me and little sister Sue, clutching our "Living Bibles" and fighting the urge to cluck out loud. Suddenly our green Bibles -- paraphrases, not the real King James -- felt like flashing neon signs in our laps. In our immature defiance, we raised them to our chins so he could see them better, which increased his fervor. Needless to say, we didn't walk the aisle during the invitation, but we did hang around for after-service refreshments.
I had never been a "strange duck" before, and I didn't much like it. It was my first experience at in-church rejection, which felt a lot like out-of-church rejection, which was all too familiar. I was heading back to the comfort of the flock . . . or gaggle . . . or family. Whatever they call a bunch of ducks who stick together.
That was years ago and I've fluctuated between the NIV and NAS and noticed that all the true translations and the paraphrases seem to flock together fairly well these days.
Through the years, it would not be the Bible I carried that gave me the feeling I didn't really belong. It was the burden I carried in my heart. The big secret. The defiance of my younger days yielded to the self-protection of deception. "These things have I hidden in my heart," pertained not to Scripture but to unacceptable thoughts and temptations which crowded out the promises of God to "give me a hope and a future." Occasionally I would hear the recriminations from the pulpit or from teachers and leaders and Christian friends about the place in hell reserved for those who were depraved and unrepentant and I knew I was the one they were talking about because of my evil and uncontrolled desires. I was, in the vernacular of the time, a "homo," though no one knew it but me and God and I was afraid to talk to Him about it based on what I was hearing would be His response. I never entered the lifestyle; I just borrowed from it for personal satisfaction and retreated to the safety of a more acceptable place. Still, the flock, or the gaggle, or the family, was a way of hanging on, even if it meant hiding in plain sight, perfecting deception while prepping for a mighty fall.
Believe me, when I fell, the neon sign flashed brighter and longer and projected further and will be remembered far longer than that silly little Living Bible defiance of decades before. This duck's wings were clipped. That's the danger of a double-life; when the hidden one is revealed, the known one is suddenly reviled as if each moment had been faked for the convenience of the hidden decadence.
Strangers and Aliens
I've been asked a number of times what it is like now for the people in my life to know about my struggles with unwanted same-sex attraction. To have been "outed," after so many years of living a well-established double life -- that of a good man in the church and a confused and struggling man in the lurch. At first, it was a bit like being a dead duck. A stranger. An alien. Like someone had pulled back a rug to find a lurking and threatening rat. "Get the broom . . . or better yet, the shotgun."
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." -- Ephesians 2:19
Those of us who have at times felt like we were visiting a place where we did not belong but so badly wanted to be need to take comfort in Paul's words. When he says "consequently," he is talking about the change in a believer's status. Therefore, those of who are Christians -- though we have struggled -- have a different status as a result, even if we are falling short of the full reality of the positive consequence. Those of us who have openly admitted our sinful conditions are full aware of the value of consequence. We have heaped upon ourselves the negatives.
You Can Fly Now
When Paul says we "are no longer foreigners or aliens," he is saying there is no way to revert. If the change is real, it's real. Take comfort in the reality of realness and accept that you don't have to be an alien anymore. You're a duck, but so is everyone else. If they can fly, you can fly. They cluck; you cluck.
We ARE Fa-mi-ly
What Christ does is abolish the pain of being a stranger. He welcomes us in and says "you're family." From that point on, much of the separation is voluntary on our part, due to our fragility that ties us to our sin which we could exchange for His strength if we would just give in to something different. It's not like we don't know how to give in. Our desire to trust in what we know -- the old familiar and comfortable sin -- instead of Who we know -- the ever-present sin-bearer -- is our downfall.
The downfall is not a simple stumble down a flight of stairs or even a head-long plunge into a canyon. It's a spiral of ups and downs as we reject our sin, seek restoration, strive for perfection, fall into dismay that we are still struggling and spiral down again into bad behaviors and anticipated judgment.
Love is part of being in the family
The gospel of the Bible is that God's love for us is not all about behavior or perfectionism. says God is even willing to forgive murderers . . . like Paul. And . . . oh yes, adulterers, homosexual offenders, gossipers and others who long for the comfort of the forgiven-flock. What you did? That too.
"But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared. He rescued us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy." -- Titus 3:4-5Mercy. So . . . you mean, it's okay to sin?
No . . . and you and I both know that. I am the poster child for the obvious truth that you cannot sin and get away with it. "My sins will find me out," should be written across my forehead because it is so true. The reward for years of deception is wells of emptiness that can only be filled in God's timing. But the good news is that while He fills the well, at His pace, taking into account my ridiculous resistance, I walk among the living and not the dying. Forgiven, graced, transformed . . . no longer an alien. Just a plain old duck.
The bars on my eyes that held my captured soul are down. There is freedom for the prisoner of habitual sin. It doesn't happen overnight for most . . . so don't tell someone that it will because they will hold you to that out of their own lack of understanding. We work on it and we work it out if we never give up.
So don't give up.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,God Bless,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed, -- Luke 4:17-19