Merry Christmas 2012! Well, we survived the “end of the world”; what next? Well, today was Christmas and I was blessed to be able to spend it with my parents and my little brother. Tonight, as the day is calming down, I wanted to give you all a last minute Christmas present. This is my “Voices of Hope” playlist. Of course, you’ve seen me write about “Voices of Hope”, but this playlist is something a little different. Whereas the Voice(s) of Hope website and the book are particularly about same-sex attraction, this playlist is just a series of songs that give me hope. In my struggles and experiences with same-sex attraction, that’s why most of these songs are on this playlist. However, this playlist also gives me hope in my other struggles (be it annoying coworkers, a fender bender (which happened to me yesterday, sadly), or being alone in your apartment for a week, which also happened to me this week). Anyway, here we go…
One of the points I wanted to get across the most in my original SSA post was that I don’t want my SSA to define who I am. Yes, it has become a very prominent part of my life; especially in the past couple months since my “coming out”. But no, it does not define me. As I’ve mentioned before, I am so much more than my SSA. I am a brother. I am an uncle. I am a writer. I am a returned missionary. I am a student. I am a friend. I am a member of the Lord’s true church. Most importantly, I am a child of God. I love this song by Casting Crowns because it so clearly says to me that no matter how much I do and how much I am, without Him, I am nothing. So, who am I? I am a child of God… and I am His.
This song by Switchfoot is one that sends me into a lot of introspection. It makes me look back at the past day, week, month, year, and lifetime. What do I regret? What don’t I regret? What can I do to make the second category more prominent? Who do I want to be? King Benjamin counseled his people to watch their thoughts, deeds, and words because that is who they would become. This is a song about repentance. Who do I want to be and what changes do I need to make in my life to become him?
This song has given me an impression (similar to “This is Your Life”) of introspection. What do you like? What don’t you like? Take what you like about yourself. Take your strengths, take your good qualities, and leave the negative ones behind. Move on and press forward, away from the negative. When you make a mistake, own up to it and move on. There is and never will be a point in brooding over what we’ve done wrong. Learn from it, and continue marching on.
Another Switchfoot song (you’ll see a pattern of that in this post… I like Switchfoot). This song has had a lot of meaning to me lately, as I’ve felt stuck in one place at times. At times, my mistakes and my imperfections overwhelm me. However, like the very first lines to this song say, welcome to mortality. Everyone has their stuff to deal with. However, it is our choice to move on and dare ourselves to take the step out of our comfort zones to where we will stretch and maybe hurt, but ultimately grow. Like the previous two songs, this song invites me to take a good look at who I am and who I want to be. Like “Marching On”, it motivates me to action to leave the past behind and become a better disciple of Christ and child of God.
This has been one of the funnest songs for me since being in the cast of the Hill Cumorah Pageant in 2009. I even wrote a blog post about it last year. Especially in regards to my SSA, I can see how my struggles have made me look at myself and become a better man. Honestly, one of the blessings of having SSA is that it forces me to be humble. However, although consciously I know my struggles will make me stronger, in the midst of temptation and hardship, my SSA (and other trials) can be more like Shang is when he tells Mulan to go home (2:24 mark in the video). However, that’s the moment that matters the most. I am the most hurt. I am the lowest. I can’t go any longer. And yet, something inside me pushes forward and instead of giving up, I become a better man because I chose to take on my struggles head-on.
A couple days ago this song really described how I felt. I was in emotional crisis mode (in regards to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, I was being told by Shang to go home). I felt empty and I felt apathetic to everything around me. However, thanks to a couple of friends (you know who you are), I was able to break out of that mindset and begin to care for my emotional wellbeing again. Saying goodbye to my apathy opened the floodgates for my negative emotions too… but I actually felt grateful for that, because I felt the motivation to keep going and to (going back to the Mulan analogy) retrieve that arrow from the top of the pole. Honestly, I’m still working toward the top, but I won’t give up on making it there.
In the world, I feel as though people with SSA are told to just live a gay lifestyle and “be true to themselves”. However, that’s not who I am. Instead, I choose to stand up against their words and stand up for the truth, for the gospel, for the church, which has been attacked by the LGBT community in the past. DISCLAIMER: I am not meaning to bash on any people who live a gay lifestyle. However, I am choosing to “side” with my faith, not my sexuality. This decision to live a life of faith can be difficult. I have heard stories of Josh and Lolly Weed and Ty and Danielle Mansfield being the recipients of persecution because they choose to support the church. I stand with them. I stand with my Savior, no matter how unpopular that decision may be. Back to the song… “nobody in all of Oz, no wizard that there is or was, is ever gonna bring me down.”
This song is a favorite of my friend “John” (in fact he wanted to use it as part of his Voices of Hope video). Today I was asked by one of my readers if I’ve been happier since I “came out”. I told him that I have no always been happier, but I do not regret the decision to “come out”. Like this song says, I am better, so much better now. I can see the light of the Son and I refuse to run away from what He has asked me to do. I feel a pull to be a missionary, even if it’s in a very unusual sense. I believe it’s what the Lord has called me to do, because His children need a voice of hope. I will continue to follow Him throughout the rest of my life.
After all of those power songs, I want to slow down a little… Yes, I have felt the call. Yes, I am committed to the gospel. Yes, I even enjoy my SSA sometimes. However, that doesn’t change how hard it is sometimes. It’s hard to be in elders’ quorum and have a lesson on dating. Sometimes it’s hard to see happy couples around BYU’s campus and not feel jealous or lonely. Honestly, it’s hard for me to see Garrett, my best friend, with his girlfriend at times. Do I want them to break up? HECK NO! But it can be hard. Even though I have felt attracted to women before, it’s hard. However, I know that as I “keep holding on” to the iron rod, I will be okay and He will give me strength and carry me through the parts of life that I can’t handle on my own.
Like “Defying Gravity”, to me this song talks about living above the status quo. Just because the world says something is okay doesn’t mean that it is. Honestly, sometimes, like this song says, “I guess I’m looking for a miracle” and “we can be who we want to be.” In the simplest sense, this song is about living above the way of the world. We are a peculiar people. We are meant to be set apart and different from the rest of the world, because we know better. We are meant to be that example of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Bringing it back down again… Switchfoot, being a Christian rock band, is one of my favorites because they do stuff like this. As much as I want to help others and as much as I want my friends to help me, I recognize that the true source of hope and only lasting hope comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. As much as I love talking about the Voices of Hope project, I want to reiterate what Steven Frei said at the North Star Christmas fireside: “Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph knocked. Now, Christ knocks at our door. He is our true Voice of hope.” When you look at the Voices of Hope logo, note that it actually says “Voice(s) of Hope” with the “s” in parenthesis. The book and the website have “Voices of Hope” but even more importantly, each of those voices (of which mine will soon be a part) testifies of the true and living Voice of hope, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
I want to close off with a question for you. What song(s) would be on your Voices of Hope playlist, whether you struggle with SSA, addiction, self-esteem, bad grades, or whatever? What brings hope to you and helps you to remember the Atonement?
As always, I want to end with my testimony of the Atonement… I know that Jesus Christ, the Baby of Bethlehem, was born to atone for me, for you, and for all of us. He paid the price that we couldn’t and I will forever be grateful for His sacrifice that brings me everlasting hope. As I always say, it is through the Atonement that we can gain hope and that it gets better. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.