Sounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I miss the sound of The Tongan Congregation of Kahuku United Methodist Church. Once a week, you could hear them practicing and their voices would carry on the wind to our front yard. Once a month, we would have combined services for communion and although I could never understand what they were saying, I could feel it. It was powerful and so full of conviction. I have not heard them for a very long time and I miss it. I left the Methodist Church soon after my grandmother passed away and so did my family. I didn’t belong to a place of Worship for over a decade. Though my parents and siblings found new congregations, I chose to attend the church of myself. It’s common for most individuals to spend some part of their life, living for themselves. I know I am not the only one. My church was a bar, a night club, a social event, my apartment, any place that made me feel good. I worshipped different spirits. I spent a good amount of time paying my respects to Vodka, Midori, sometimes Rum, Crown, Wine, Hypnotiq, Bud Light – well, I guess I worshipped many idols. It all depended on how I felt at the time, clear liquor was more calming and brown liquor brought out some aggression. I did cut back on brown liquor though. In church we would break the bread in remembrance of Christ but in the church of self, I broke open my body for the indulgence of the flesh and drank from the cup of pleasure. It was fun, I am not going to lie.

 

I made a different sound during this time of my life. It was loud and upbeat, it served its purpose of attracting others along for the ride. It was great, but it wasn’t meant for me, forever. You can only last so long, making a loud sound, before you lose your breath and start to fall apart. In the church of self, there is only one person trying to do it all. It is incredibly tiring, but I didn’t want anyone’s help, I was independent, I was living life on my terms, I was free from the constraints of religion and I was living my truth. As an individual it was important that my sound was heard above everything else, I was entitled to it. Anything else, would be discrimination. My individual sound was more important than yours. Yet, it wasn’t sustainable. I see people I knew when I was living the way I did, and some are still in it. I have no room to judge them, but I can see the exhaustion in their face, on their hands and deep within their eyes. The embrace of addiction, lust, pride and selfishness creates a false sense of security that all is well, that you are maintaining your sound but in fact, it’s killing you. We were not made to worship in the church of self, to live as a one-man or one-woman congregation. We may fill our lives with other people but still we stand alone because our sound, we want our sound to be heard above anything else. I have been there. My offense led me there, but my pride set roots in it. It is like being a tree in the desert, trying to survive every day and hoping to attract people in search of water but being unable to provide a drop of it when they arrive. We are not meant to live that way. We were created to thrive, to love and encourage others to thrive with us. We can’t give what we don’t have, because it’s tied up in proving who we are.

I couldn’t do it any more, I had no sound left but I tried to fight it. I tried to maintain my place in the desert because although it didn’t look good, it felt good. We thrive on feelings. I found myself in my mid 30’s moving back home with my parents and it felt like I was mourning. I had this deep sense of loss because I thought I failed and I was ashamed. I was humbled. Then I heard a sound and it echoed through the empty recesses of my wounded spirit. It flowed harmoniously through this half empty Public School cafeteria and it started to revive my true sound, the sound I was created to make. It came from a mother and her three children, each individually packaged but collaboratively executed. The very first day I walked into that church, I didn’t know what to expect. I went because my family did and if I was going to live here, I needed to participate. Funny how things happen. On my second visit, I almost didn’t make it. I was out late the night before worshipping other spirits at a small bar in Kaneohe. Everyone had left, and I had two choices to make. Continue to sit there in my hangover or get up, get ready and walk. I did the latter and there was this weird feeling, an otherworldly presence walking me to church that morning. It felt like my grandmother, we had walked these dusty roads many times together growing up.  It was comfortable. That was the day, the sound made a way in me and I found my place of worship. Towards the end of her set, I struggled standing with my arms wide open and as their melodies flowed over me something overwhelmed me and took me down.  I started to find my real sound again. I lived a life like a tree in the desert for so long and now there was a feeling of “foundness”. I was found, but it wasn’t by people it was like flowing waters of life met me where I was, as I was and began to produce life again. I was no longer on my own, I was found, I was a part of something greater. My natural sound started to become super natural.

 

Creatures great and small find their sound according to nature and the roles they fulfill. Whales can send low frequencies that travel far across the open ocean and birds can change their sounds according to the season. As a human being, we also find our sound according to our nature- the sin nature. It sounds so evil, but we are shaped by the choices we make, in fact, we are also shaped by the choices our fathers made, our mothers, our neighbors, someone in another country, another time, another fruit. Everything we experience continues to mold the brass, or add the strings, enlarge the valves or hollow out the drum, creating our own sound. But we cannot maintain our sound on our own. We need direction, we need composure, we need breaks and we need collaboration. We were not created to serve in the church of self as a lone instrument. We are called to a great body, a great orchestra. We are called to harmonies, crescendos, tempos and rhythms that work in conjunction with the sound of others in unity.

 

The church is not a place, it is not a building- it is a living organism of varying sounds. It was the sounds I heard in my place of worship that reactivated a desire to work in harmony, as an ecosystem, an orchestra of divinely crafted instruments. See, the woman who leads our worship team and her children do not hoard their sound for the sake of self. They boldly share and give of it with the invitation of participation by those who hear it, so together, we can create a great movement of sound. A vibration that calls heaven down. We develop our sound over time and it is shaped by the struggle that an atmosphere of sin creates. We will stand alone in that sound, no matter how hard we try to mask it. We will feel good but bare no fruit. My sound was shaped by my struggles, by my choices, the choices of humanity, culture and societal pressures. But my sound was remade, it was recreated, it was made sustainable. My sound went from one that operated in the self, to one that operated in unity with others as one body. One orchestra.

I got to know my worship leader very well in the past year and a half. She was so close to shutting down many times before I stepped into that public school cafeteria, but she knew her sound. It makes an impact to this day not because of her talents but because of the struggle that shaped it and the God that refined it. If she gave in to rejection. If she gave in to fear. If she gave into self-consciousness. If she kept it for herself. If she gave into the opinions of others I would have never heard the sound I needed to hear that day. The sound that was shaped by this world, sanctified by a father and shared with an open invitation so that I could live again. But she held her position in the orchestra, the body of Christ, that is made of many colors, many languages, many denominations and many varying instruments. We are all called to bring a different sound to this world, not one person has the same. We can choose to let it serve ourselves and be cut off. It might be a painful sound, a mournful sound, an upbeat, fast paced sound, even a joyful sound but the moment we surrender ourselves to the one who made the ultimate sound, the sound that penetrates the ages, it becomes something new. It no longer works alone, of its own accord. It was created out of sin but it was refined by the fire for a purpose that glorifies the Grand Conductor. You were created to work in harmony, to establish a kingdom in a world of individuality. Play your part, no matter how small or great for each is grand in the eyes of God and serves a combined purpose. Only through Jesus, by a sound of surrender, can the nature of sin which shaped all our lives be overcome and made anew. May the sound I make, according to the role I play set a tone in you of everlasting change.

Roy G Biv

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually my time at the shoreline came to an end. I no longer needed to run from myself, from the abomination – as it was called. A handful of family members now knew about this part of me. I had a foot out of the closet. Something was welling up inside of me and I knew I would be okay. That’s when I met Roy G Biv.

 

If Pinocchio had Jiminy Cricket, I had Roy. G Biv. I will use the “he” pronoun but he was neither female or male. He was this very attractive, colorful, vibrant and loud being. Fearless and carefree. He was the opposite of who I was. He pulled me out of the closet and helped me accept the fact, that the abomination was nothing to be afraid of. It was just a part of me and it made me special. I started to come out to my friends. I started to become louder and more colorful just like him. I wasn’t afraid of self- expression or ashamed of the new friends I had begun to make, some of whom were more colorful than myself. Roy G Biv was the Sasha Fierce to my Beyonce. He gave me a beat, he brought out my rhythm and I found my groove. My last two years of high school was a blast, considering I was a gay boy in a predominantly Mormon community. Still, I could not wait to get out and finally show my true colors to the world.

 

A 1 ½ half hour drive is all it takes to get from Kahuku to Manoa, on a good day. Manoa is about 40 miles away, which is not very far to most people. But to me, a small town and very sheltered boy, this was epic. This was the city and it was the furthest from my family and smaller-minded people that I could get at that moment( no offense). I listed my major as biology, I moved into my dorm and everyone thought I was going to become a successful college graduate. Honestly, I just wanted to be free. Roy could not stand the town I grew up in. It was offensive. I was out to some people, but not my parents. Parents knew, I was sure, but I never spoke it. It was easier to just be far away, on the other side of the island. I needed to breathe! So, I exhaled the biggest sigh of relief, the day I moved in to the dormitory.

 

Making friends over night was the best feeling in the world. It was so easy now that I embraced all that Roy G Biv brought to my life. I didn’t have to come out to anyone, they just knew the moment they called me friend. It was the greatest and most gratifying feeling in the world. I was finally so alive. It happened very quickly, from the start of my freshmen year in college to the point I lost interest in school. Class was in session, but it wasn’t Algebra or English 100. I wanted to learn and experience as much as I could about who I was. I was so naïve and incredibly fresh to this world. Roy, I thought was the angel on my shoulder telling me to push the limits and try new things. So I did.

 

When I was 17 years old, I had a major moment with God alone. I knew that according to the bible, the lifestyle I would live was not in alignment to His will. He was always my first love and it felt like I was going to say Good bye. I promised to Him, to keep my virginity until I met someone worth marrying even if it wasn’t allowed. It was the most I could do for Him. It was always my plan and my agreement. It was inspired by choices I knew or at least thought, my mother made before marrying my dad. I didn’t understand why he would allow me to be this way if it was against his will, but I would try and honor Him as much as possible.

 

Everyone wants love, right? My friends were shacking up with their boyfriends or girlfriends. People got married and I would often listen to the stories of other people’s sexual encounters. Almost everyone had a story, except for me. I didn’t even make it up to bat yet, much less hit a homerun. I had no intention of running all the bases, like I said. So here I was, at 18 years old and carrying on with a gentleman I met online. I was so naïve, I thought this was love. Our first encounter in person unwrapped so quickly that I didn’t even know what was going on. Roy was there pushing me on. You only live once Josh! First base, check. Second base, check. Third base, okay. Sliding into home base, NO! Stop!

 

The moment you feel your innocence leave your body forcefully is painful.

 

I was able to stop him from continuing and I left immediately. But it was to late. I drove to my dormitory heaving inside. I could not stop crying. I felt so dirty. I jumped into the shower, I brushed my teeth 3 times. I gargled with Listerine until my mouth was on fire. I grabbed my bible and I went to the roof top where I just unloaded every bit of liquid I had left in my tear ducts. This was not what I imagined. My friends found me, they figured out that something had happened by the way I ran pass them downstairs. They knew where I went and when I came back looking the way I did, they knew it wasn’t right. Roy G Biv was nowhere to be seen. There was no hoorah in this moment. One of my girl friends found my phone while I was trying to gather myself and called the guy I had just met. She threatened to call the police, but we didn’t. He texted me the day after and apologized, saying he didn’t realize he went too far. I just deleted his text and his number from my life. For a long time, I couldn’t tell if it was me or it was him. I made the decision to go forward with it. I did say stop, but maybe I didn’t say it loud enough? Somethings are easier to just block out.

 

This was where a love and hate relationship manifested with Roy. I didn’t even plan to write about this moment in my life, I guess the truth does reveal itself and set you free. It took a blog and over a decade to finally revisit something that I couldn’t face. This is me taking back my power. This is me walking into restoration. This is me, healed. A line was crossed that day and it was not my fault. Neither, is it yours.

 

 I will have to continue another day as I unpack my relationship with Roy and how he brought me to life so often yet left me in moments of humiliation. He couldn’t co-exist with humility, brought on by difficulty. I will take this moment to say how grateful I am that LGBTQ issues are being discussed openly in schools, homes and churches. I know that many of my Christian peers and fellow believers feel incredibly uncomfortable by the fact that homosexuality is widely accepted. I ask you to look at it differently. To see the beauty that lies within a group of people who have been left in the darkness for so long. Little gay boys and girls now have examples to look up to. They have access to information and safety measures that will help them navigate the changes they are going through. Children don’t have to grow up gay in secret, all alone so their only way of learning or coming to grips with it, is by encounters with strangers. I blame no one for what happened to me, except the person involved. But I thank God that children today will not have to learn on their own, thru trial and error- subjecting themselves to a life of secret rendezvous. The light cannot shine on what is in the dark unless we take the light into the darkness or bring what is within it, to the light. Now that we are coming into the light, we have hope. There now stands an opportunity to express your faithfulness to Jesus Christ by how you love those that you couldn’t see before. You can see them now, for a reason.

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