Fear. Glad. Angry. Hurt. Shame.
I’m working on a message (so far it’s just in my head) for a men’s conference in February. I’ve been asked to speak about “Men and Sex.” Here is the session description:
Men and Sex
Passion. Lust. Desire. Guilt. Powerful. Integrity. Pornography. Purity. Addiction. Discouragement. Shame. Raging. Longing. Helpless. Hopeless. Pressure. Secrecy. Dangerous. Scared. Lonely. Hopeful. This session is for every man who wants to be the same person in private as he is in public . . . who wants to be the same on Friday and Saturday as he is on Sunday.
Wrestling in my heart and mind about this enormous issue. Feeling fear as I imagine myself standing in front of a room full guys and opening my mouth on the subject. My strength will be my willingness to talk about my own life and to identify the elephants in the room. My weakness will be . . . well, the likelihood that much of what is in my heart and mind won’t make it into coherent words that come out of my mouth.
I don’t want to talk about this the tired way I’ve always heard it discussed. I feel anger when I read most of what is written about this subject and more anger when I hear people speak about it. The approaches are mostly external and shaming. Threatening and defeating. Full of self-will and light on surrender. Full of religious jargon and light on the admission of just how tangled up we all are when it comes to our sexuality. Whereas I believe the journey out of shackles of any sexual struggle and/or an ongoing healthy sexuality begins with honesty (me with me, me with you, me with God), I have seen few Christian settings (only two in my lifetime – neither of which was in a church) where honesty and vulnerability were met with the empathy, grace, and hope that would invite that kind of honesty and self-disclosure.
Where am I? Glad I said yes to addressing this topic because I’m "wanting" for the men who will be there . . . as "wanting" as I am for me because I’ll be there too and I believe God has something He wants for me in this. But I’m also wondering why I didn’t choose a home run topic I could deliver in my sleep and not need to feel fear (and trust God for) these next several weeks. I’ve already told them they cannot record the message.
Sitting here in the Portland airport on my way back home to Anchorage. Just spent a couple hours with some really good friends on the back end of a work trip. One friend is a young friend. By young I mean our friendship is relatively new in the scope of my almost 49 years. He loves me and I know it. I am grateful God has brought him and his family into my life.
The other friend, I’ve known closer to ten years but he’s the kind of friend who because of the “life” we’ve shared, when I’m with him I think this is what it must feel like to have had a buddy you carry with you from the fifth grade. Our ten years feel like 30. He’s a friend who has dreamed big kingdom dreams with me. He’s a friend who has held me in his arms when I was in so much internal pain I thought I could not live. He is a friend who stood next to me at a cost when some were running like rats on the sinking ship that was my life at the time. He’s one of the most brilliant and gifted men I’ve ever known but that’s not what draws me to him. He’s also a friend who has experienced great loss in his life. Buried his first wife and triplets. Been diagnosed with cancer. Walked with his second wife through a grueling battle with breast cancer. Sat in courts fighting for a daughter. Helped build orphanages in developing countries. Been kicked in the gut by good men. Held babies with AIDS in his arms and dreamed of a better world.
We live thousands of miles from each other. Sometimes we don’t talk for long stretches of time (I feel shame about this). But when I am with him, a little boy smile shows up on my face from somewhere in the heart of an 11 year old boy . . . and the loneliness I feel when I look at my watch and realize I have a plane to catch reminds me where I am, reminds me who I am, and makes me wish I had a family member who worked in the airline industry so visits like this could happen more often.