Tuesday, November 29

Fear of Friendship

I'm trying to befriend a guy I recently met - mainly by finding things we have in common... things we can do together. It's not a relationship based on attraction; I just need more friends who are already my colleagues. He's an upstanding guy, and I'm trying to make it work.

Slowly I've felt like maybe I'm making headway... where headway really isn't much... getting a response when I talk with him, or coming up, twice, with something that we could do. It's something... but not much.

So it shouldn't have been surprising when he canceled on me today because he was doing stuff with another friend... and didn't invite me because he wasn't sure if I'd want to come... but surprise isn't the right word. What had been a good day suddenly turned about-face and went downhill from there.

The strange thing is that I know, completely, that to him there isn't a breach in our slowly-growing friendship. Difficulties in communication are totally normal for people when they're learning about each other, and we really don't know each other very well yet. We'll meet up tomorrow, and it'll be like nothing happened on his side. Everything is normal, and there's no need to be concerned. So why do I feel betrayed, frustrated, confused, or whatever it is that's inside my head? This doesn't really make sense.

Looking back, though, I don't think this is an uncommon experience. I don't get close to people very often - especially guys. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm afraid the relationship won't last even if I try. And then, when I actually do try, and the relationship shows any sign of need for improvement, red flags go off in my head instead of just being something to note for the future.

It could be because I've had people disappear on me before, without any notice. Relationships that seemed to be healthy from every aspect I could see that disappeared overnight, without a trace... and that left plenty of evidence that it was somehow my fault. I think the paranoia makes sense on that regard - having friends who move away so they don't see me anymore, others whose last words are that it's too hard to be my friend, and others that simply cut off all communication without explanation are good reasons to be paranoid about any sign that I could be losing another battle.

But does the paranoia, regardless of whether it's self-made or circumstantial, really help? Or is it just shooting me in the foot? For much of today, I've struggled to concentrate on anything for very long. And tomorrow, will it affect me? Is it something that I can even change? And the sheer act of writing a blog post on something so incredibly small makes me think that I have OCD.

I think that maybe this is a sign that I'm expecting too much from my relationships with other people... far too soon. And I guess that makes some sense... based on the friendship patterns that have worked and not worked for me in the past. Most of my friendships just disappear with the circumstances that brought us together. The only real friendships that have lasted a long time have been with God and a few family members. Right now, whenever I need someone to talk with, or consult, or if I have any need at all, I turn to God... and He's always there for me. He's always willing to drop anything to listen, and He will always take the time to understand when I need help. I can work, or go to the gym, or simply sit, and He is there - ready and willing and able to be a friend. My family is the same. And when I'm looking for friends, I guess I'm expecting them to fit that role, and that's what I find myself trying to offer as a friend.

But people don't always want an instant best friend - someone who treats them like family from the first meeting. And some people can't reciprocate, or aren't used to that level of trust... and while I want to be the perfect friend, and completely available to people, sometimes I'm not. I get lost in depression, and so busy that I don't check my phone for hours or my email for days.

That feels like the issue here at hand... and I think what I need to do is just realize what is happening inside my mind and come to grips with what is happening. As I slowly gain friends, they're going to be imperfect. They aren't going to know my thoughts unless I share them. They aren't going to know the frustrations and difficulties I face in life unless I tell them. And even if I do tell them, that doesn't mean that they will understand. They may not always be around for me. They may not ever really empathize or get what I'm facing. But one thing I do know - if I can be a friend to them, at least they will care about me... and they'll be able to slowly help me become a better person. And each person will have the ability to fill at least some small part in my life... and that's good enough.

Will I ever find a mortal someone who really gets me? I don't know. Hopefully, if/when I fall in love, that woman will be able to understand what's happening in my head, and I in hers, but I'm not sure that's very likely. Normal guys have enough trouble communicating and intuiting. :) But I think I'm making headway with the subconscious within me. People are imperfect. Relationships, even if they don't work out, are worthwhile. Don't be afraid to dive in, but remember to give everything and expect nothing in return. That way, everything I receive is a gift.

Friday, November 25

10,000 Reasons I'm Grateful to Be a (Gay) Mormon Guy

1. The Thanksgiving holiday in my family is simple - we have a turkey bowl, dinner, and other traditions, but for the most part it's just an opportunity to spend time with each other and share the things we are thankful for.

2. Thanksgiving is way less stressful when I don't have to plan around the schedule of my wife's parents and extended family - just my own.

3. The Church teaches that we need to love everyone, in every lesson, every talk, and every manual. There's no better place to find myself.

4. The people in the Church are horribly imperfect. I can see examples on both sides of the scale - from people with obvious pride and superiority complexes, to people with hidden pride and addiction, and know that I'm just one of many striving to get better.

5. The Book of Mormon gives me peace whenever I need it, and even when I don't think I do.

6. God reminds me that I need to read the Book of Mormon each day, even if it's 2:00 in the morning when I've slowed down enough to be listening.

7. I can always find people in the Church who will love me unconditionally. Sometimes it takes prayer and work, but I can find them.

8. Through priesthood power, my family can be together forever.

9. The gospel gives perspective and peace to the otherwise irreconcilable events of the world.

10-100. A personal relationship with God, promises in my patriarchal blessing, silent words of encouragement in the temple, and messages hidden in the mundane events of everyday remind me that all of my hundreds of righteous dreams and the promises that God has made to me will all come true... in the Lord's time and in His way.

101. I have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I can claim it as my own. Who doesn't love MoTab?

102. I somehow landed in a unique, uncovetable spot in the political world - experiences that preserve me from the overwhelming pressures of both sides of the field, and at the same time make me an interesting anomaly for both.

103. The perspective of the gospel opens my heart to people, and gives me the ability to know what I need to do to help them heal their hearts and save their souls.

104-118. I have a living prophet, and apostles, who care about me and plead with the Lord in my behalf... and teach me what I can do to be a better disciple and friend.

119-300. Church music. I have real, honest, good Church music that inspires emotion in me - bringing tears, opening my heart, inspiring change, pushing me to repentance, compelling me to action, overcoming depression, drawing me closer to God... And that music seems to follow me and play accompaniment to the events of my life.

301-1040. I had the blessing to serve for two years as a missionary, standing as a witness of God at all times and in all places, and learning what it meant to literally take the name of Christ upon me and act in His name... fall in love with people and language, and come closer to God as I worked to help others make changes in their lives.

1041-5000. All the people that I've met throughout the world - members of the Church who all faithfully sacrifice to come closer to God and live His commandments. Somehow, I've been blessed to meet many, many people... and to somehow break through the initial veneer to hear about their lives and hopes and dreams. Knowing them, personally, has blessed my life and made me a better man.

5001-9999. The people I've never met in person, but who have touched my life through the Church and its union with technology - from members of the Seventy who speak in Conference to anonymous commenters here on (G)MG from Thailand, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. Thousands of people who continue to touch and change my life.

10000+. Ten thousand more people to meet, ten thousand more promises to see to fruition, a hundred million blessings from heaven, and at least that many more steps in getting a little bit closer to perfect. The gospel has no ceiling to progression. And the LOrd never tires in helping me grow.

Sunday, November 20

The Tenth Leper

Luke 17
12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

What does it mean to be "made whole," and how is it different from being cleansed? Is it just the spiritual equivalent of being cleansed? It required considerable faith for the ten lepers to be healed of leprosy... does that mean that being made whole requires even greater faith? And how does this apply to my life?

If Christ came to me today, and offered to take away all of my physical trials, I'd be like one of the ten lepers - calling to Him from afar off and asking for His intervention on my behalf. If He healed me, I'm sure I'd be grateful, as the other 9 lepers most definitely were. What made the tenth leper so different? Was it just that He returned to give thanks? Is gratitude such a big part of repentance that our becoming whole is contingent on our ability to give thanks and give the glory to God? And if the true meaning of the parable is the importance of being whole - not simply cleansed - what does that mean to me?

Those are the questions going through my mind as I read this account. I think Christ was trying to illustrate the importance of striving to become whole - spiritually whole - instead of simply asking for relief from the difficulties of life... focusing on the spiritual aspects of imperfection in mortality. And I think that here He shares an interesting message - how key gratitude is in being saved. Being "whole" is often similar in root to being "perfect" - complete, unspotted, righteous in every way. The woman with an issue of blood was declared whole after she put her faith in Christ, as was the tenth leper, and the man who received his sight. All of them did something more than just have the faith to receive physical miracles in their behalf; they had the faith to receive unseen spiritual miracles that far surpassed what could be seen on the surface.

I think that's the miracle that I should always be praying for - not to be freed from trials or tribulations, but the miracle of being able to live and keep the commandments in any situation. Being willing to date, and learning to enjoy it, even though I'm not attracted to women. Coping with attraction to guys and finding ways to ensure the positive side of interactions with them. And being willing to live life and keep moving forward no matter what happens - even if I spend the rest of life alone - and learning to be happy in those circumstances.

I used to think that happiness came as a byproduct of completing a given set of to-do's, among which were finding an eternal companion, having a family, etc... Now I realize that happiness isn't something that comes at the end of mortality or even after I have weathered my trials. It is available today, and tomorrow, and the next day. And I don't have to downgrade my morals to find it. It's available through God.

I obviously can't really talk about what went through their minds without it being conjecture, but I think that's what made the tenth leper different. I think that, if he hadn't been healed, he would have continued to believe in Christ and praise God - and maybe that is what made the difference. He had already found happiness in doing what was right within his ability, and the outward miracle of healing was just that - an outward manifestation to match a greater inward change... and Christ's miracle was an opportunity to invite me, and all those present, to exercise the same faith to be made whole.

Thursday, November 17

When Faith Endures

A friend asked me how my dating life is going. That question always leaves me smiling - if only because it usually means the asker hasn't been on a date in two weeks and wants advice. Inside, it leaves me smiling because, while my dating life definitely isn't going anywhere soon, it gives the Lord a chance to remind me that someday, I'll be the person I need to be, and somehow find and fall in love with a girl. And, in the meantime, dating serves as an opportunity to make friends and do missionary work, send girls on missions, help them identify traits to look for in husbands...

Sometimes dating, or even survival, seems like it's far too hard to deal with in life. But then I realize that, while my life may be hard, I have the gospel. I have God at my side. I have the power of the priesthood and temple ordinances and family and prophets and scriptures and Primary songs that play in my head at night. I have generations of ancestors who prayed for blessings for their posterity, from Abraham down through today... and, most of all, I have the promise that, if I just keep moving forward, I will make it. It will be enough. I will find true love and happiness and fulfil the plan that God created for me. And all I have to do, today, is live today. And then, when tomorrow comes, I'll turn to God and ask for strength to live tomorrow.

I think that is what the Lord was trying to teach the Israelites when He sent manna in the desert. If I look at the desert of life, standing before me, and try to imagine living endless eternity with the strength I currently have (alone, without many friends, and living with same-sex attraction) it will only lead to fear and depression and a sick feeling in my stomach... But if I look at just today, I have enough strength to live and grow and thrive. And I can have the faith to believe that He will be there for me tomorrow. When the Israelites looked at the desert sands, their fear of the future overwhelmed their faith. They didn't believe that God would do another miracle... and that lack of faith left only crawling worms and a sick feeling in their stomachs.

The strength the Lord gives me today, is for today. I can use it all and it will be enough. And then the true choice, a choice that I and everyone make each and every day, is whether I will have the faith through the night and into the storm that He will be there again at my side... that He has never left me at all... to send peace and hope and strength from Heaven in the moment that I need it.

Wednesday, November 16


It began in passing. I had dropped in to see a friend who was attending a performance, and the musician on stage began to play his guitar and sing. The melody was catchy, but the words cut to the core, speaking of leaving family, friends, life, problems, and pain behind... and encouraging onlookers to not judge for what they couldn't see. The words drew tears for me, thinking about people I knew and memories of my own life... I looked around at the audience members and wondered how many of them really understood what he was singing about - how many really understood how fragile life can be, even in someone who seems to have everything put together? Did they really understand? The performance met with rousing applause, when I would have given silence instead. That was my answer. And that began the first of my recent recollections on life and death.

It happened again in music, again a song I hadn't heard before, sung by an acquaintance onstage. And again the lyrics echoed pain and sorrow, suffering and frustration. She belted it, and inside I realized that, to her, the song was just a song. Music with a catchy beat and rhyming words, not a glimpse into the reality that stalks people who stand by us today and may not tomorrow.

The topic showed up in the news, was mentioned in conversations, and became a sudden centerpiece for discussions as people talked with me. It's not something I almost ever talk about... but it came up, over, and over, and over again. And so it's my topic now... and hopefully it will help someone here.

I used to want to die. For years I wanted to die. I felt alone, outcast, depressed, isolated, different, friendless, worthless, cursed, evil... and I felt like I had nothing good to offer the world. I believed, honestly, that while some people might have cared about me, they would truly be better off without me in their lives. They only cared because they cared about everyone... or because they had to... and if they really knew the true me, complete with sin and addiction and imperfections, even they would turn away.

Taking my own life was never an option, because I knew that it was wrong, it would devastate my family, and it would have eternal consequences (I think that was one of the most vital things I learned in Primary - suicide is a major sin that will keep you from salvation. That knowledge kept me alive. Really.). So I would curl up in a ball and cry and pray that somehow I wouldn't have to wake up in the morning and face the world again. I spent many nights simply crying for that... but it obviously never happened.

No one knew. Not my parents, or the people at school, or the people at Church, or even the people who tried to be closest to me. On the outside, I was perfect. Perfect in everything, happy, a shining example of whatever it was you needed an example for. But inside I was a wreck.

The only solace I ever found was in my personal relationship with God... but even that took time to develop, time to encourage, time to truly understand. Late at night, when the world was falling in on me and nothing could lift my hopes, I learned to turn to God and pour out my tears to Him... and He listened.

The Lord never came to me in person to dry my tears. He didn't send angels from Heaven. But every time I turned to Him and asked to know if He loved me, He found a way to tell me that He did. Sometimes it was in the wind, sometimes in the rain. Sometimes in the sun, or the clouds, or the scriptures, or a talk in Church or a message from someone in my life. No matter what has happened, I have always known that God loves me... and, for me, that makes living my life worthwhile. God loves me. He created me, and gave me everything I can't control to learn to be happy and grow to become the man He sees in me. And with Him at my side, I can do anything.

Today, suicide is still not an option. But it tugs at the back of my mind when days are dark and I wonder if I'm doing anything worthwhile, or if I'm ruining the Plan Father has for me.

To all of you who understand - who have felt pain and sorrow so intense that it seems better to give up - I share my love... and I say that you are important in the eyes of God and the eyes of the people in your life. You're important because once you smiled at the bus driver and it helped him to have a better day. You're important because you live by morals that others watch, silently and in the shadows, and because your example inspires them to change the world. You're important because people care about you, pray for you, think about you, and want you to be a greater part of their lives. And you're important because you have a story and a gift that only you have - a place in God's Plan to save His children and bring them happiness that no one else can ever fill... and that comes from your life, your struggles, your faith, your falterings, and your relationship with God. You are amazing, and you are a literal spirit child of the God of the Universe. He did not send you here to fail... which means that, no matter what has happened, He stands at your side, ready to help you move forward and find the hope and peace and happiness you need.

Hope is shining brightly on a cold November night
The moon is gone, the stars are dark, and yet there still is light
Because beneath the wind and through my pain a whisper sounds...
"My Son, I love you. And it will be alright."

A talk by Elder Ballard: Suicide: Some things we know, and some things we do not know.