Out of the Closet, Out of Control

Last week I got to talk about the idea of The Outcast and the beautiful thing it can be for those who choose to engage the idea. This week’s post probably highlights a bit more of the dark side to being on the fringes of something. If you’ve not read before, this blog’s content hinges on the idea that I sense my life is straddling two, often opposed boundaries. I came out to the majority of the world back in December, then somewhat a second time via this blog the following June. From this point, I walked far out of the proverbial religious and gay closets that I’d so comfortably made my home.

Instead of acknowledging my insecurities (i.e. the core issue), I tend to make well intentioned actions based on the weakest of motives: control.

Unfortunately, as evidenced by the existence of this blog, leaving that season of hiding from my communities didn’t mean that a new, comfortable season was/is immediately available to me. Like most gay people in my position, my feelings about sitting in this chasm between closeted and “out” span the gamut—from exhilaration to aggravation with a little bit of terrified in the mix.

Throughout the process, I’ve experienced so many positive and negative feelings with this change in my life. Today was one of the moments I came to a less than happy realization. I was sorting through some anxious feelings that I couldn't figure out.  Then, in a split second, I suddenly understood what was wrong. I have this undying urge to want to control my circumstances during this awkward, in-between phase of life.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that it’s always seems to be these in-between seasons when I get this urge to attempt to control everything. That is, when life feels like it’s out of my hands, my only focus is to restore my sense of order in any way possible. Trust me, that hasn't led to positive decisions in my life. What’s more interesting is that control really isn’t the core issue. When I feel a need for control, I realize that my deepest insecurities are usually playing out at their worst. However, this control usually looks way more healthy and noble than it actually is.

Instead of acknowledging my insecurities (i.e. the core issue), I tend to make well intentioned actions based on the weakest of motives: control.

  • I vacuum and wipe down my house until it’s nearly surgery-grade spotless to make my life look less out of control than it feels.
  • I mandate needless routines for myself and rigidly hold myself to them for just to prove that I can be self-disciplined.
  • I entertain shame as I seek to fix everything I hate about myself all rooted in out-of-control self-loathing.
  • I needlessly examine my relationship in some twisted hope that I’ll find something wrong that I can scrutinize and then blame myself for, just so I can attempt to do something about it. My partner appreciates this insecurity about as much as he appreciates being kicked in the face.
  • Worst of all, I sit and ponder the issues in my life in hopes that I’ll come to some single, grand conclusion that will thrust me into the next season of life. You know, that next season where I feel as if life is fully stable and in control.

Do you blame me?

While there are literally hundreds of flaws in my thinking, this one flaw is much darker than the rest: Truly gaining control will only get me the results that I predict.

That is, if I can control my life, then the outcome I hope for will actually happen. The weird thing with this idea is that I actually think this can be true at times! However, I can see two issues with this belief:

  1. When I find myself seeking to control my outcomes, the outcome I’m hoping for is usually less than an ideal one. More simply, I'm a bit of a pessimist at times, so the outcomes that I predict aren't always that awesome!
  2. Even when I have control of my circumstances, I still worry that what I have is at risk of being out of control. I cling on to my circumstances for dear life all because I’m absolutely scared out of my mind that I’ll lose it. 

I can never have enough control!

I’m learning that giving up the notion for control in this weird in-between season will allow me find something a lot better than what I could create for myself.

An even Bigger Question

So, if giving up control is good for me on an individual level, it makes me wonder: What would the Gay and Christian dialog look like if the need for control wasn’t at the core of our desires?

What we know about control is that the need for it almost always is a mask for fear—usually the fear that we’ll get hurt. Our jobs, our relationships, our friendships, and everything else: seeking unhealthy control in these areas is done solely to create an [imaginary] assurance that we won’t be hurt by life.

I know many Christians who feel threatened by gays in their churches. Therefore, they attempt to control the situation by not allowing gays to serve in their churches, disregarding the people group as a whole or, at their worst, disallow gays to attend their church altogether.

Control will only get Christians the outcome they predict. Their fear-based control will work perfectly, so long as their desired outcome is to not have any gay people in their lives. I’m no expert in the nature of God, but I’m not sure this is the kind of outcome He is hoping His people would seek.

What would the Gay and Christian dialog look like if the need for control wasn’t at the core of our desires?

Similarly, I know gays who allow their deepest frustrations to hinge on the fact that society hasn’t accepted them. Without ignoring the very real human rights injustices that our community has been marginalized by, it’s very easy to see that the urge to regain control exists in the gay community too.

Driven by fear that they won’t be noticed or that they won’t continue to make progress, they seek to cling to their sexuality at the expense of anything. They defensively fight the Church and all other people groups who, just like them, are restlessly trying to figure out how to re-calibrate their hearts and minds toward lifestyles different than their own.

Just the same, control will only get gay people the outcomes they predict. Their control over their attitude will get them exactly what they desire, so long as that desire is to remain a voice of contention rather than be a voice of unity to the world around them.

What if, instead of clinging on to our desired outcomes, we simply joined the conversation together realizing that we don’t need control in the discussion? I’m curious what this would do for the Gay Community and for the Christian Church.

I wonder what letting go of this need for control will do. I wonder if our worst fears really will come to fruition or if we’ll be surprised instead. Honestly, I'm not really sure what would happen. 

What I Am Sure of is Two Things:

  1. I’m sure that allowing fear-control to drive my personal life will destroy my finances, my friendships, my job, and my relationship—my whole life. 
  2. I know that I choose to believe in a God who’s bigger than our worst fears that drive our need for control.

With these in view for my personal life, I can only conclude that control will destroy any chance of true community between Christians and gays too.

I think I'll just loosen my grip on life and believe that the best will happen.