What is the Christ Year?
What started as a clever idea for a long-term blog theme is quickly turning into an existential interpersonal inquiry that has the potential to be either liberating of devastating.
I realize that as my own life journey brings me to the age milestone of the age when Christ achieved the purpose for His incarnation on Earth…I don’t really know Him. At least not like I thought I did.
The Christ Year. I had aspired to explore how I might be more like Christ. Possibly how I might achieve some great potential, accomplish something great. He did something great when He was my age; maybe there was something special about being 32, 33, 34. If He did such great things, then why shouldn’t I?
If He did such great things, then if I am His follower, then mustn’t I do great things?
I over shot. I have paralyzing questions to resolve before I move any further along.
Who is Jesus?
Where is He?
How do I find Him? See Him? Hear from Him?
If I’m the one fighting to be in the relationship, without any perceived reciprocation, then what kind of faith/devotion/relationship is that?
This is coming on the heels of an active study of human attachment. This field is generally humanistically driven and tends to be very clinical. I started reading The Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel for a class I was teaching. Along the way, I reviewed the theories of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth about how infants attach to their parents. The parental level of attunement to the infant’s internal emotional experience is crucially formative in how infants grow into children, then adults who must then relate to other people.
More study is warranted, but I’ve begun to believe that I emerged form childhood avoidantly attached. The implications are that I long for Human companionship, yet generally find myself more comfortable with work project and pleasurable distractions. People are tiring; purposes are invigorating. Being still with myself or with another person is excruciating.
If I’m ever to have a meaningful connection with a Divine Figure, this seems like something I’ll need to resolve.
If that weren’t enough, this same week of Lent when I chose to begin chronicling my Christ Year is also the month that Dr. Brad Harper and his son Drew Harper released their long awaited memoir Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and his Gay Son.
To say this is a good book would be a true but thoroughly inadequate description. The book is exquisite in its writing and style and daring in its content. Father and Son are ferociously vulnerable is how they related to each other and to Christ during the process of Drew growing up, coming out, and working through his own questions and believes about Christ and sexuality.
Their story is exquisitely painful to read. Still near to my heart are memories from my story that are similar to Drew’s. Growing up lonely, misunderstood, forgotten, having so much to offer, being so diligent in seeking to please Christ.
Our resolutions upon reaching adulthood are different. He chose to live outside the Evangelical faith and embrace living as an openly gay man. I chose to stay in my childhood faith tradition and marry a woman. For as different as our choices were, we have both experienced great pain as a result.
This is something I still don’t understand. Why is sexuality such a big deal? Why is spirituality so difficult and contestable for individuals outside the heteronormative framework?
We have to fight for every scrap of everything we have, including an active relationship with Christ. We have to fight in ways that our heterosexual counterparts don’t because every time we approach the Throne of God, we have in the back of our minds the voices saying that a deep part of us is in perpetual sin an is an inescapable abomination that we cannot help but bring into the presence of God.
After thirty-two and a half years of life, I understand why a great many Queer and Trans individuals opt out of the Christian faith. Constantly having to negotiate values around how you relate to people is draining.
Reading Brad and Drew’s story, particularly Drew’s, I’ve been re-thinking my growing up, the pain and loneliness I experienced as a closeted home-schooled hyper-religious kid. I marvel that I’m still pursuing the faith that really didn’t nurture me very well. I wonder why I’m still here.
This is the part of the Christ Year that scares me with its devastating potential. At thirty-two and a half, I’m feeling vulnerable. I have many blessings, many privileges, many resources and many people who love me, but everything feels bound together by a fragile and fraying collection of threads.
I want to follow Christ. But I can’t continue as I have been.
At this point, my limited insight presents me with approximately two courses.
1. Disentangle myself from the faith of my childhood entirely
2. Once and for all, finally yield to His calling and purpose or me.
Obstacles: I don’t know what that calling is.
More Obstacles: I only know how to do more spiritual behaviors. And if I feel closer to God only after doing more behaviors, then I fear I have fallen in love, again, with a God of my own making.
And what kind of faith is that?
I want Him to make the first move.
Addendum: This process is not meant as an ultimatum. Putting God to the test is arrogant and foolhardy. He has already shown Himself to be faithful. At this point, I question more the sincerity of my own convictions. If anyone is being put to the test here, it’s me.