If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;
If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?Proverbs 24:11-12, KJV
Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost (Lk 19:10). He defined his mission with these words and additionally contrasted the fact that he came to give life and life in abundance with that of the thief who comes only to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). As the Wise Son he has been appointed over God’s house (Heb. 3:6).
Since I have written on this thread of “Missio Argo” sub-blog, more than four and half years have passed. My brother’s house from which I last wrote has been sold and he is living in a new home. I moved to a new home within Fukushima, then I left Fukushima in 2017, to intern at a non-denominational church in Kansas City as part of the missions, prayer, and justice movement with which I was seeking a greater degree of covering, alignment, and relationship. I started with homecoming in Wisconsin for a four-month sabbatical.
Two years in Kansas City brought great difficulty as well as great depth of friendship and significant pivotal moments for growth in my life. I came to the church in KC to first seek inner and heart healing in the context of a spiritual family I was led to. I was met with a heavy-handed skepticism from some of the leadership that was shocking, and I think borderline spiritually abusive. Despite that, I submitted as much as I could with a broken heart, believing the promise that this was the family I was supposed to be with. Good friends grew up around me, godly men and women generations above me and near me who were able to speak prophetically into my heart.
Between a Living Waters group program and a Healing for the Nations retreat, as well as time in the prayer room at the church, and the experience of losing my car and phone while driving through the Iowa countryside, God spoke profound, life altering revelation into my life. Let me give some snapshots of the heart and vocational journey over these years:
- Healing and deliverance from deeply embedded shame and childhood wounds began to free me from the way shame coated my sexuality and inner child. Within this freedom I could see that my path to holiness/wholeness meant integration of my homosexually oriented sexuality and inner child with my adult self and with my faith and relationship with the Lord. I did not need to manicure a “holy enough” version of myself that was rooted in my own work but freed in Christ and the love of the Father I knew I was empowered to walk the path of integration and given permission to live the question of what all of this means and how I should live.
- The need to surrender the work of healing my heart to the Lord. It’s not my work, it’s my heart but Jesus is the healer, the master physician and he is the only one who can in fact bring healing.
- I was building my life on a foundation of technology and knowledge. These empower the old man, or the false self. The picture is me sitting in a command center at the panels of a supercomputer. The seat with me in it represents the rule of reason/knowledge/intellect and the use of technology to aid the shaping of self and my world.
- God was replacing that paradigm with a new one: “the coracle is sonship.” The coracle refers to a kind of sail boat driven by the wind and is a picture of a Spirit lead lifestyle. Sonship refers to the life in the Spirit by which God is my Father and Jesus my elder brother. God has always been, and profoundly through this revelation, inviting me into a new and living way by which I plan, strategize, and make decisions with the Father and under his wise council and leadership as a son rather than as an orphan in my own command center. I am still shifting into this reality, but it has been tremendously life giving.
- Caught up within this paradigm shift was how to live the question of my sexuality. I needed to not rely on my own insight, knowledge, and understanding nor on the knowledge of experts but trust the voice of the Spirit to lead me through the darkness of unknowing.
- This nexus of foundational repentance brought great freedom. Freedom from shame, freedom from needing to figure things out, and freedom from the lies that I am solely responsible; I have to be on top of things; I have to have it together in any way that exalts the self, up, over, and against the Lord’s role to be responsible to and for me. To let the Lord be my covering, and to be the Word from the Father that defines and calls me into being.
- As I began to live this repentance in the context of my church family, I found good, caring, and compassionate friends who got to know me and who I in turn got to know. I was somewhat anxious to get accepted into the internship in which I was invited into and had subsequently been disinvited into. This put a little bit of the devil’s schemes into the walking out of these new revelations. In my relationship with the Father I grew in sonship and belonging. In my relationship with the church I fell into performance and continually struggled with belonging.
- I had hoped to live out the question of my sexuality together with my spiritual family. In some ways this occurred, but in many ways the process seemed frustrated. I was also eager, probably too eager, to make it through the hoops to get through the internship, seminary study, and leadership development so that I could get back to Japan and dear friends and relationships I had built during my three years in Fukushima.
- My trust in the leadership had been rocky from the initial rejection and performance dynamic that built but as the story kept changing about when I might be resent to Japan, I began to grow uncomfortable with the alignment.
- In the summer and fall of last year I felt increasing tug from the Lord to give voice to my experience as a sexual minority which culminated in me coming out as a queer, celibate Christian. From what I knew about the theological/ethical boundaries of the movement I was coming into, I thought I was within them. I had shared openly about my sexuality and how to speak to it with leadership and thought it was safe. It was NOT. Immediately I began to be treated with anger and accusation for doing something wrong. Something that was so hard and yet so freeing for me to speak, which was an act of living in the light and living with greater integrity was met with judgement and anger. It was the anger that scared me most. I began to feel unsafe in the company of certain leadership and when I attended worship, I began to have experiences of trauma. This wasn’t just an experience of offense, but I was actually having a racing heart, hyperventilating and feeling extreme panic. I stopped attending worship at that church but stayed involved in the courses and small group I was helping start.
- I hardly began to look for ways to go back for Japan but there was a remarkable open door that came through ELCA Global Mission and I was in a process of discerning a call immediately. This avenue out of Kansas City and to Japan is, I am convinced, the good pastoring of the Lord to deliver me from a place where I was not being pastored well.
I move home in December. My spiritual son and friend who is closer than a brother came from Japan to visit me in Kansas City, and then my family in Wisconsin, and New Mexico. I accepted the call to Japan with the ELCA in December and started orientation in February. I was sent at the end of March and started working at a Lutheran junior and senior high school about as soon as I got here as well as work in congregational mission which I am still just getting aligned with. My pastors of the Lutheran church in my hometown have been a literal lifeline as I almost gave up hope of belonging in any kind of “church.” Not only have they always been a prophetic voice of welcome, they have championed me in the upward call of God. I am incredibly grateful for them.
I love my church family in Kansas City as well. I met some of the most beautiful, loving people there. I also love the leaders. Some are close friends. There is pain but leaving for me was something God did to rescue and re-place me in his purposes, not a permanent farewell. I don’t know if, how, or when I will rejoin my friends from that movement. I was kicked out of the leadership pathway because of my professed sexual orientation. That has been a deep, and grievous bludgeon against my soul but I am hopeful for change, for reconciliation, and for us to grow in brotherly love and affection through whatever comes next.
Jesus sought me out when I was lost in the rejection and judgement of those given over me. Jesus is healing and giving me life as I walk in the way of the cross. Jesus is protecting me from the way the thief has tried to kill my walk with God, steal my destiny, and destroy the dreams God has put in my heart. I am growing in my identity of a son in God’s house both in relationship to God and to the Church which is full of sinners of which I am one. God’s love came through the bloody cross of Christ and I am learning obedience through suffering in various junctures in my relationship with the church. I am encouraged by this because I read it as a sign that I am a legitimate son who is chastised because I am loved.
And so, as I continue to write on this platform about mission and life as a missionary, I want you to know a little about more about who I am and where I am coming from. As I am eager in the joy of the Lord to share the good news of the reconciling love of God, of his generous welcome into the house, not only to receive the bread of life but to do the work of the Kingdom as co-agents of a glorious redemption. As I do so, I remember I can still be lost, I am still broken, I am still holding questions and living them. I don’t give pretense to hold the answers but I know there is something about this man, about the way he loves me, about the way he holds out his hand that I can say with confidence to those around me, have you heard of this man who can save you from death, and sin, and hell? Far be it from me to to abandon the work of reconciliation to which God has given me.
Pray for me. The love of God be with you.