Ask anyone on campus how they are doing and the response will inevitably involve something to do about death, hell, or research papers. It is the week before finals at SPU. Third quarter finals—the final finals. I have certainly been feeling the Pull these past couple of weeks. The Pull is the raw gravitational force that constantly tugs at the corners of your mind saying Go to bed. Just go to bed! Wake up in a week. Finals will be done and it will be summer. Oh it will be summer! But the Pull is a lie. Last night I got a solid seven and a half hours of sleep and still I awoke feeling as if God, going for the extra point after a touchdown, had kicked me intending to fly me victoriously through the goal posts but in fact sending me on a beautiful arc ending in the unforgiving track that surrounds the football field. The crowd stops cheering and sits down knowing that their team will lose because of that one lost point.
Tonight I went to a coffee shop that closes at 1:00 am in Capital Hill with some friends to finish off an assignment due tomorrow. Due to the craziness of the day and the week—read the chapters, write the reflection, map out your fourteen-page paper on the Brothers Karamazov that’s due in less than a week, get to a Post Office to drop off the form that was due a week ago, rush back to speak at an admissions panel, go to the Hall council meeting, and try to polish off the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto—I was bordering on an embarrassing meltdown while attempting to read about China’s economic turnaround in the late 20th century.
I unfairly hoped that someone would interrupt me.
I received a package in the mail today from my father. Still in the mailroom, I cut the cardboard box open. After lifting the top flaps, the first thing I saw in it was a new iPhone case. Without investigating further I closed the box and headed back to my dorm room to finish opening it. I always open my packages in my room. I’m not sure why. It is probably a combination of the fear of losing the package’s contents, the desire to cultivate patience and build suspense, habit, and some sort of animal instinct. Find the antelope. Kill the antelope. Drag the bleeding antelope back to the den. Eat the antelope.
For the record, I’m not sure if animals of prey drag their meals back to the den before dining on them. It has been a long time since elementary school.
When I got back to my room I opened the box again and pulled out the cell phone case. Beneath it was hiding a plastic mailing envelope with a grey pair of khaki pants I knew my dad was planning on buying for me. Rolled up in the pants were two books. One is on Christian living; the other is a discussion on matters of belief and disbelief between a well-educated Christian and a well-educated exChristian atheist. After flipping through them, I put them on my shelf, put on the pants, removed the pants’ tags, and opened the cell phone case. At first glance I thought for sure I was getting an OtterBox, but I was relieved to find something less chunky. It is almost as protective as an OtterBox but it doesn’t have the “Your iPhone is Now a Brick” feature. It is black and it comes with a holster. I shouldn’t assume that sending it to me was my dad’s idea—my mom could’ve done it—but given the other contents of the box and my dad’s practical obsession with protective cases, I’ll go ahead and assume. Continue reading
I was wondering when the appropriate time to write this blog would come, and with the recent death of Jadin Bell, I’ve decided it is time enough.
For several years I have kept a journal, and that practice eventually gave birth to this blog. From the start, it has been my desire to openly discuss the trials and joys of my life, finding beauty in the ashes, strength in the fear, and clarity in the confusion. My purpose in doing so is to encourage you who also live with ashes, fear, and confusion. It has been a process of exposing, healing, and ultimately seeing God redeem the irredeemable. I pray frequently that through sharing my story, others—all one hundred of you who will read this—will also be emboldened to open up and feel the freedom I have experienced and the grace I have been shown by my friends, family, and God.
I am gay. I do not “struggle” with homosexuality, but that has not always been the case.
the life story
For a general framework of my life, see this post, written before I went to college my freshman year.
I was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. My mum is a pastor and my dad is an editor of theology books used in higher Christian academics—early Christianity, mainly. I have an older sister, two years and a half my senior. She began ballet dancing at five or six and has never stopped. That same year my parents put a violin in my hands and I have never stopped playing.
This is the second of two posts about my nickname Spacebags Goat. This one focuses on Goat.
One day close to the end of fall quarter, one of my new freshman friends-someone who has taught me the meaning of “whimsy”-ambled up to me and said, “You are Goat.” That’s really the whole story.
My freshman friends call me Spacebags Goat. Spacebags comes from something I posted on their class’ Facebook page last summer. These pages are where you can ask the important questions like “Who else likes taking picture?!??” and “Does it get cold in Seattle? That’s what I’ve heard :(” and “Am I the only one who LOVES country music here?” These questions bring people together around common interests (photography), common conversation topics (the weather, and Seattle’s lack thereof), and uncommon interests (country music). These questions also give returning students who really don’t belong on the page at all the chance to adopt the role of the mother/father/older sibling who has all of the answers. The sophomores—and some juniors—try to hype the freshman up for their first year away from home. I am the king of this. After months of not-school I was salivating for social interaction. The literal “natural thing to do” would have been to avoid Facebook like undercooked cafeteria meat and instead bloom where I was planted, whatever that means. Instead, I opted for the figuratively speaking “natural thing to do,” which was to join the incoming class’ Facebook group and snort up the their questions like an addict.
Wise sophomore me was eager to pass along his knowledge of adjusting to college life. This peaked in a video that I posted on the page. I was in the midst of packing for Seattle, so I made a video about packing. More specifically, I made a video about a very convenient tool that has simplified my packing life, allowing me to say goodbye to the frustration and anxiety that comes along with it. Let me introduce you to a close personal friend of mine: the Space Bag. Imagine a ziploc bag, but big enough to put a torso in—or seven bulky sweaters. You then suck the air out of it with a vacuum cleaner hose, and ta dah! you can fit everything you need to take with you into your luggage without a hassle. Obviously, I’m quite passionate about the Space Bag. I wanted to impart my secret to a new generation of SPUers, so I made them a 10 minute tutorial on how to properly use Space Bags. If any of them were weirded out by the sophomore obsessed with an As Seen on TV product, they had the decorum to keep on scrolling without saying so.
The first full week of the second quarter of my sophomore year of college is over. And, as it often happens at school, I have gone the week without a post here. Here are a couple of fragments about two strangers I’ve seen in the last week or so.
The first one is something I posted on Facebook while flying back to Seattle a week and a half ago:
There is a bearded old man sitting across the aisle from me in the airplane. So far, he has written a couple stanzas of poetry, the first line of which ended with “solitude,” and ordered the cheese, crackers, and fruit box—he fumbled with the crackers’ wrapper for a solid minute. Now he is on ebay looking through hundreds of antique Persian rugs. When I started writing this status, my intent was to say, “Well isn’t he weird,” but I’ve just realized I might be intruding on the privacy of my future self.
At several times during the flight I felt the strong urge to strike up a conversation with him. I waited for the right moment. Asking a stranger about his solitude poetry seemed inappropriate, but asking to see if he wanted help opening his crackers after watching him struggle for a while might have been a nice gesture. Or, I suppose, it could have made him feel pathetic. After an hour of his persian rug browsing, I considered tapping his shoulder to tell him “I like the pattern on that one” but I didn’t want to make him feel obligated to buy a rug he wasn’t all that interested in. They were at least $150 each, so it would have been an investment.
I didn’t talk to him.
In several days I will be flying back to Seattle. Christmas break will have ended, a month away from Seattle Pacific University will have passed, and I’ll have left behind another year. As I prepare for the new year, starting with Winter Quarter, I have been reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. I began reading it more than a year ago “for fun,” if that expression actually describes the motivation that drove me to buy the book. But school led me away from Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha and into the world of ancient Greece. Before I stopped my attempt to blast through it, I made it approximately a third of the way through.
If you are familiar with The Brothers Karamazov, you might recall when the Elder Zosima relates the story of his life to Alyosha and others as he is reaching his life’s end. He begins with the story of his brother, who, an atheist, became sick and returned to God before dying while still a young man. In the last days of his life, he was consumed with a joy and love that confused his mother, visitors, and doctor, who mistook his fervor for madness. It was this passage that I read on the plane back to Seattle nearly a year ago.
At Quest today, Pastor Eugene asked, “Do people know who you are?” After this he asked why Christians are silent about their faith. While I don’t like shoving things down people’s throats, I guess I would like people to know what I believe.
Last week I turned in a paper for a class (shoutout to Keuss and muh UScholerz). The paper was about the history of my spiritual life—six pages, single spaced. The last page was my personal creed, or what I claim to believe. While it is probably missing a lot, it does say what I believe. Here it is, slightly revised:
I believe in one triune God: the Father/Creator, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
I believe that God became flesh and experienced human life, but remained completely divine.
I believe that Jesus defeated sin and death through resurrection after crucifixion.
I believe that there will be a day of judgment for each of us, but I also believe that on that day we will be astounded by the infinite grace and love of our Father.
I believe in hell, but I have no clue who ends up there or how they get there.
I believe in heaven, but I don’t understand how it is both present and yet to come.
I believe that Jesus can save those who don’t know him by name.
It is Day Two of a three-day weekend. On Friday night a friend and I bussed down to lower Queen Anne to watch Leonard Cohen play at the Key Arena. It was a fitting prelude to what has become the most sedentary few days of this year. Between paragraphs of All the Pretty Horses, I’ve stayed up late watching Doctor Who, played Halo 4 with my 3rd Hill brothers, absconded to a 24-hour breakfast joint, and listened to Christmas albums with friends while sharing the parts of our lives that need a Christmas the most. The skies begin to dim by at least 4:30 pm, making more than half of the day night. Veni, Domine Jesu.
After my friend and I exited the bus at our stop, picked up some Americanos at Caffe Zingaro, and browsed a wonderful used bookstore, we walked a couple blocks to the arena. A cloud of white hair had descended in front of it and was slowly being sucked in. My friend took a final drag of her cigarette and puffed out the smoke before we entered the cloud.
It wasn’t just old people. There were middle-aged people, a few other college students, and we even saw one young family with two kids that had to be under ten. After picking out our tour t-shirts—mine with a sketch of a very haggard looking Leonard, hers with a beautiful bird perched on a branch—we found our seats in the upper ring. Out came the man with his old school backing band, Sharon Robinson, and the Webb sisters. The speakers weren’t blasting like most concerts I’ve attended, and the audience was fairly dead (we clapped in time for one song and most people only sang along in the chorus of Hallelujah, when the sound technician kindly aimed the stage lights at us for a queue.) Continue reading
My first examination of the school year was last week. It covered Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson—both of which I’m fairly sure I’ve mentioned here. The test was two short essays and one long essay. There were several options of what to write on for the long essay. I didn’t write on empathetic suffering in Mariette in Ecstasy, and I partially regret that. Take two.
My personal experience with nuns is minimal. I attended a Catholic elementary school in New Hampshire, but there were only two of them left in the teaching faculty. The sister that taught music retired form teaching during my time there. The other sister was my first grade teacher. The main thing that I remember about her was her love of whoopee pies. I’m not sure if that is how you spell the word for the two chocolate cakelets with cream in the middle, but autocorrect made it that, so I’ll take its word. My Mac is obese.
The lunch table was the central point of middle school life. It was a market of junk food and crude jokes. Cold lunchers like myself eyed the platters of hot lunchers with gut-shriveling envy. On the rare occasion I would slip into the cafeteria area and grab some garlic bread or a plate of pasta after everyone had settled into their place at a table and after my bagged lunch was depleted. I felt a bit foreign approaching the lunch ladies, but they quickly became allies. “Just take it. No one should leave the lunch room hungry.” Continue reading