NOTE: This post was originally presented at the Revoice conference in July 2019. Revoice is a gathering that exists to support and encourage Christians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or same-sex attracted —as well as those who love them—so that everyone in the Church might be empowered to live in gospel unity while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality
My name is Tyler, and I am positively thrilled to be here.
It is a privilege and honor to be able to speak to this room today.
And before we get started, I want to name the elephant in the room. Because I’m sure a not-so-insignificant number of you looking at me and asking: Who is that?
And I don’t blame you one second for contemplating that question.
I don’t have an extensive publication list.
And I’m not particularly interesting to follow on Twitter.
When Mark Yarhouse was publishing Homosexuality and the Christian, I was in
college, quietly journaling about my sexuality in a cheap notebook I bought at a
Borders bookstore. (Anyone remember Borders?)
And when Wes Hill and Ron Belagu launched the Spiritual Friendship blog, I was
working as a Children’s Librarian in a mid-size Indiana city.
In September 2017, when Nate Collins released All But Invisible, I was spending all my
money on tickets to see Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theater in
New York. (I was in the 3rd row).
And when Johanna Finegan gave a breathtaking address at the Spiritual Friendship pre-conference workshop in 2018, I was sitting in my balcony seat crying like everyone else in the room.
I’m nobody special.
And I stand on the shoulders of giants - many of whom are in this room.
I’m just another gay Christian who’s walking the costly path of discipleship - who’s embraced the historic Christian teaching regarding sexuality - who loves Kelly Clarkson, TJ Maxx, and Dolce & Gabanna cologne.
But I’m here this morning with a purpose.
I’m here to tell you something you already know.
I’m here to remind you - and to remind me - of something we all so easily forget.
This morning, my prayer is that God will confirm and impress in the deepest and truest parts of who you are that you are His beloved child.
And that He is absolutely crazy about you.
See, I don’t know about you, but in my journey with Jesus, I’ve spent hour and hour, and I’ve made effort after effort to try - just try - to somehow desire Jesus more.
If my sexual desires couldn’t fit with God’s design, I reasoned, perhaps I could
somehow dial up my desire for Jesus. Perhaps I could will my way into wanting Him more.
If only I could get this right, I thought.
If only I could choose Him first.
If only I could get my desires in order.
Then, my soul would be at rest.
Then, my faith would be real.
Then, perhaps, God might be pleased with me.
But now I see that in those weeks and months and years of focusing so intensely on my own desires, I needed to be reminded that:
The greatest joy in life doesn’t come from what we desire.
It comes from being desired.
In other words: It’s not getting what we want - or changing what we want - that ultimately makes us happy and whole. It’s being wanted.
So often, I've needed someone to tell me that the truest thing about those of us who are in Christ is not that we desire Him, but rather that He desires us.
As the Apostle John - Jesus’s best friend, the one whom He loved - said:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
God’s love for us, not our love for Him. God’s desire for us, not our desire for Him. That’s the undeniable truth that stands at the epicenter of our faith.
That’s what makes Christianity unique among all other religions and worldviews. It’s the never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love of our
Because our God isn’t angry.
And our God isn’t petty or petulant.
Our God - the God of the Bible - is love.
And He loves you. And He loves me.
It’s like Jesus said:
"Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
And that’s exactly what Jesus did to make you His friend - to make you part of His family. He drank a bitter cup, and carried a heavy tree, and forgave while being mocked, and drew His final breath.
Friends, it’s not our love for God but rather God’s love for us that makes Christianity unique.
Many faiths speak of difficult, costly, and radical devotion to a deity.
Only one speaks of a God who gave His life so that His creation could become His friends.
It’s not our desire for God but God’s desire for us that makes the story of Bible
The gospel of Christ was never an announcement that humans finally found a way to please God. It’s always been an unimaginable declaration that God’s love led Him to give His only Son.
As Paul writes:
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
You are loved by God. He desires you.
That is true is true is true is true.
And it’s something, I imagine, that you’ve heard before.
Something, as I said a few moments ago, that you could have articulated as
Christian doctrine when you walked into this room.
I know I’ve heard about God’s love my entire life.
Since the day my parents made the best purchase of their lives - adopting me at
birth - I’ve been told about our big God’s big love for me.
About the ways I am precious to Him.
About the ways He delights in me.
And yet, somehow, I feel like I’m always the first to forget it.
When I sin - when I lie, or lash out, or lust - I forget God’s desire for me. My knowledge of it evaporates. I all too easily convince myself that God is disgusted by me, disappointed in me, determined to let me have it for what I’ve done.
But then I think of friends and family I’ve hurt.
I think of people I’ve let down at the worst times in the worst ways.
I think of people I’ve wronged, and wronged deeply.
And their graciousness in the response to my stupidity, their kindness to my incredible selfishness, their compassion even to my cruelty - it all points me once more to the unrelenting love of God, who drew heavy breaths to promise a thief a place in paradise, and who would rather leave the 99 to find the one that wandered away.
Radical love from real people has given me a deeper and truer understanding of the love of my Heavenly Father.
Because it’s precisely this recentering on God’s love - and not a narrow focus
on our own desires - that ultimately transforms us.
To be clear: I am not saying that there aren’t commands to be obeyed or costly discipleship to be embraced for those who are in Christ. Nor am I saying that it’s unwise to embrace time-tested spiritual disciplines, or to seek spiritual counsel and direction to help cultivate godly habits and character.
I’m just saying that in the midst of those goals - in our practical and results-oriented age - we must always remember that it never has been and never will be our obedience that makes us part of God’s family.
We are daughters and sons of the living God only because God lavished His love on us.
It’s what He’s done. Not what you’ve done or not done that makes all the difference.
And He loves you.
That fact needs to dwell at the center of our faith.
You know, all this talk of love and it’s transforming power reminds this retired
Children’s Librarian of The Velveteen Rabbit - that century old story of a stuffed
animal, who desperately desires to be Real.
In a stunning conversation that unfolds between the rabbit, and Skin Horse - the
oldest and wisest stuff animal in the nursery - Skin Horse tells the Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.
“Does it happen all at once?” the Rabbit wondered.
“Oh, it doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I said at the outset of our brief time together that I am positively thrilled to be here this morning. That it is a privilege and honor to be able to speak to this room today. And the reason it is such an honor is not because this is a room of people who have mastered their desires.
The reason it is such a privilege is not because this is a room of people who have somehow figured out how to gut their way through costly obedience and thereby make themselves more acceptable or lovely to Jesus.
It is a privilege to speak to this room, because I know that this sacred space is filled
with people who are Real.
Who are as Real as Real gets.
And it hasn’t happened all at once.
It’s something you’ve become, and are becoming.
And it’s taken a long time. And there’s a long obedience ahead.
And as it’s happened, I’m sure it’s hurt.
But you are being made Real.
You have been and are being formed in Christlikeness.
You’ve become beautiful, Jesus honoring, self sacrificing, life-laying-down people because of God’s great love for you.
And I know God’s undeniable love has not been easy to embrace - in part, because it’s difficult for any sinner to imagine that a perfect God loves them. And in part, because of the common stories of shame and rejection that so many of us share.
But hear this: God’s love for you is Real.
And He is making you Real - making you like Him - day by day by day.
You are the Beloved of God. If you are in Christ, you are His child.
You are united with Him, and He cannot disown Himself.
So will you do one thing for me, Revoice?
I know we just met. And you don’t owe me anything.
But, in the midst of this busy day.
As you’re selecting workshops, and planning lunches, and sharing stories, and taking way too many photos, because you look cute today. You really do.
Will you join me in a simple prayer?
Will find some quiet space today - or tonight - and will ask God in tender silence to remind you of His great love for you.
Perhaps your prayer might start like this:
“Lord, remind me of Your love for Me.”
Would you pose that question to your Heavenly Father?
And would you listen to whatever He says in response?
I’m convinced, God wants us all to have a renewed sense of His love for us.
Of His love that does not depend on us doing or not doing anything.
Of His love that He’s simply chosen to extend our way because it brings Him such joy.
His Love that has made You His Beloved.