Some of the most treacherous stretches of road to drive in winter span between Chicago and West Michigan. Lake effect snow is unpredictable and can quickly turn from light falling flakes into a blizzard.
A number of years ago, I journeyed from Chicagoland to Grand Rapids to return home for the holidays. By all accounts it was to be a gray day, nothing more. As I reached the Indiana border, however, it started to sleet and freeze. I discovered then that my wiper fluid was frozen and I couldn’t easily clear my windshield without the assistance of semi-trucks splashing significant moisture on the front of my car. My field of vision shrank to a small square immediately above my dashboard.
So I hunkered down and drove on.
As I moved into Michigan, the sleet turned to snow then into a storm. In a whiteout, everything slows and people find faith through blind obedience to taillights. Wherever those two red eyes go, you follow.
So I clutched the steering wheel and followed.
Thirty miles into Michigan the highway divides taking drivers north along the lake to Grand Rapids or inland toward Detroit. It’s a critical decision point as whiteouts sometimes trace the lakeshore while other times they jump over the shore and settle more inland. I had no Siri to consult, just Jesus and my gut.
So I whispered a prayer and headed inland.
Less than an hour later, a miracle. Like the lifting of a sheet, I emerged from the storm into a periwinkle sky. Even as my shoulders settled, however, my bladder raised a ruckus. Thankfully, Burger King held out his scepter.
After concluding business with the king, I returned to my car to discover further emptying—my back left tire was rapidly deflating.
So I limped the vehicle to the gas station next door.
I put quarters in the air pump and left the nail in the tread hoping I could make the 60 miles home without calling in the spare. Raising the hose to the tire, I discovered it was cracked and then I cracked saying aloud: I knew you were against me.
Wait, where did that voice come from?
And, then, like a sheet of snow lifting, I saw clearly. The true me had spoken for the first time in my life. How long had I believed that about God? Why did I believe that about God?“The true me had spoken for the first time in my life.”
From that moment to today, I have been on a different journey. Not one between Midwestern states, but from a place of unconsciousness to consciousness. I’ve discovered it’s an even scarier route than traveling Interstate 94. There are hard truths, like bumps in the road. There are flat days with no hope of a spare. There is a lot of driving in whiteouts.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned along the way: something of that against-ness I felt from God has to do with my sexuality. Growing up as a gay person in a conservative church is hard. Perhaps being different, in general, is hard. It’s an intangible heaviness that sits in the center of your chest. I think this weight is a human condition, but a particularly large load when you don’t fit within a norm.
For me, perhaps ironically, I have found that heaviness most present in my lack of embodiment. I was taught in my Protestant church to fear the body (or, at least, seriously distrust it). I wasn’t given any direction concerning what the body is for (let alone what genitals are for). It’s challenging to navigate puberty in such a space, and all the more so when you find your body behaving differently from what you, your parents, and others expect. If heterosexual bodies are bad or dangerous, then gay (or transgender or intersex) bodies are anathema.“I was taught in my Protestant church … If heterosexual bodies are bad or dangerous, then gay (or transgender or intersex) bodies are anathema.”
It’s difficult as a young person to make sense of this—to not internalize some level of God’s against-ness in the fact that you first have a body and then that your body is not rightly attracted to other bodies. And it feels hopeless because there is no way out of your body (this is why suicide seems like such an attractive alternative).
In my journey, however, I have begun to discover that perhaps the way out is in.
I put air in my tire (holding the hose just so). I put myself in my car. I put my car in traffic. I began the journey home. And, by God’s grace, I’m slowly making it. For me, traveling home has meant traveling back to my body. I have no idea if this will mean engagement in same-sex sexual intercourse at some point. That’s the destination both the world and the church are fixated on. I’m far more interested in learning how to drive well in this good body the Lord has given me, to move from self-hatred into self-marvel, and to travel deeper into the Body of Christ (which is also my body).
Slowly, I’m making my way to myself. Slowly, I’m finding peace in a God who is for me and in me.