This is the third part of my series, “Soul Wounds of the Queer Christian.” Check out my previous posts, “Defining the Soul Wounds of the Queer Christian” and “Uncovering the Soul Wound of my Sexuality.”

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Continuing this series on “soul wounds,” I realized I’d hit a roadblock for this third entry. I knew I wanted to tackle my relationship with masculinity, but in opening that box I unleashed a torrent of emotions that completely overwhelmed me. Narrowing my focus was difficult, if not impossible.

And so I sat on the ideas which I had thus far written, trusting God to lead me to write whatever I was supposed to. After some time away from my usual environment, I finally realized why this topic of masculinity is such a hard thing to unpack.

In my efforts to understand my soul wound of masculinity, I unknowingly uncovered not one, but several soul wounds, each pertaining to a different aspect of masculinity. As I delve deeper into the realm of soul wounds, I will explore several different ones relating to masculinity in my life: masculine leadership, masculine identity, and masculine intimacy.

For this first entry on masculinity, I want to share my experiences with masculine leadership, including how the lack of positive, consistent examples of masculine leadership has affected how I interact with and think about the men who are supposed to lead me.

When it comes to finding examples of masculine leaders in my life, I realize this has been an area of great difficulty. To start with my dad, I am beyond blessed for his presence and provision for our family. Not having the easiest life, my dad has worked tirelessly so that his children would have a better life than he had.

Unfortunately, the flip-side of this coin was his often absence in working. That combined with his nonexistent relationship with his own father meant that I didn’t have the best of emotional bonds with him. Likewise, he wasn’t the spiritual head of our household; my mom took that responsibility in his stead.

Although I knew my dad loved, provided for, and cared about me, I didn’t come out to him until I was already an adult. This left a void in my life with masculine leadership, specifically in my spiritual life. As I grew up in the church, I looked to the men in leadership to teach me the ways of God from His Word, and how to apply those teachings to my life.

Unfortunately, there was much to be desired from the male leadership at my church.

Most of my Sunday school teachers changed every year, making it difficult to find consistency with the men leading and teaching me. By the time I reached middle school and high school, the number of pastors who’d come through our student ministry was too many to count. It was a revolving door of people who seemed to be more concerned with moving up the spiritual ladder of positions rather than committing to the students under their care.

Deep down, this seemed to grow a seed of distrust, even frustration, with the men entrusted to lead me.

Is this just another pastor who will only be here for a year or two before he moves on? Will this person actually stay and pour into us? Does he even really care about us?

This distrust further solidified when two student ministry leaders — both of whom I respected — failed to care for me in my struggles with same-sex attraction. As I wrote in my previous post, they were my Bible study leader and another pastor I worked alongside — the former blamed “the gays” for the downfall of society, and the latter told me to remain silent rather than help me after my Bible study confession about gay lust.

Although I acknowledge that both leaders were ill-equipped to help me through those circumstances, that didn’t excuse how they responded in my time of need and confusion. Their response put a barrier between me and trusting church leadership, especially when it came to being vulnerable about my life.

Some men, however, did redeem my view of masculine leadership in small ways — specifically, my late grandfather, Opa, and my one youth pastor who did pour into his students, Jedds. Opa was always intentional about teaching his grandkids Scripture and all about Jesus. I even spent many summers as a young man working with Opa at his carpentry business. He taught me a wide range of skills, both practical and spiritual. Although he was stern at times, I knew he cared for me and wanted to see me grow closer to the Lord.

Likewise, Jedds wasn’t like the other pastors who came through my church. He related to the students more and sought to instill in us valuable lessons. I’ll never forget a biblical apologetics class he taught to me and a number of fellow high school students. We deeply studied Scripture throughout this class, and this was more impactful than any other Bible study I’d experienced. I still have that class notebook to this day.

Unlike the other youth pastors who left, Jedds’ departure was, if my memory is correct, more from being asked to leave — which devastated me. He was my last high school pastor with whom I felt deeply connected.

Despite my lack of human, masculine leadership, the Lord had my best interests at heart, there for me even in my darkest hours. I learned very early on to lean upon Him as my comforter and strength, as no man had proved to me that he would be present and walk me through the storms of life. I clung to many verses from Scripture as I longed for a mentor or leader; one that my Opa taught me has been permanently fixed into my heart:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

This verse has comforted me when no other human could, reminding me of God’s enduring presence no matter the circumstance. I knew that my Creator, my Heavenly Father, wasn’t going to abandon me like all those other pastors and leaders had. He was here to stay, and I could take comfort in that promise.

This promise became even more apparent through my college years, when the Lord challenged me to take ownership of my faith and my relationship with Him. As I wrote in my previous post, the Lord proved His love and concern for me when my fellow student ministry leaders pushed me to the edge of my faith. In that crucial moment, the Lord swooped in and saved me from falling prey to despair or even walking away from the Church:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5b-6 (ESV)

Following college, I moved to California, where I found myself seeking a new church — one where I could find both family and growth in my faith. Deep down, I knew I still longed for a mentor, someone to disciple me in my faith. Part of me also longed for a pastor I could trust — someone who’d be interested in investing in me.

God knew these desires and brought Pastor Steve into my life.

Unlike the pastors of my youth, Steve wasn’t afraid to sit with me as I processed all the stuff that had built up in my life. He made sure he was present, walking me through incredibly difficult areas like my sexuality, unforgiveness, and church hurt.

Pastor Steve has been instrumental in helping bring down my walls of caution and distrust, built to keep myself safe from being hurt again.

As the years have passed, and as God has worked with me and begun to heal this soul wound of masculine leadership, many aspects still make me skeptical of masculine leaders. Despite having a wealth of male leaders in my current church, part of me remains cautious of them, mainly due to their emphasis on being a “biblical man” (and all the stereotypes those entail).

While I understand their focus and emphasis, I have always felt that I never fit the mold or expectations of masculinity for which they advocate. I know these leaders care for me and have sought to work with me and pray over my life, but I can’t shake several questions that sow doubt into my heart.

What is it that scares me about being vulnerable with these men? Is it a fear of being rejected again because of my struggles with my sexuality? Do I fear not being accepted as “one of the guys”? Am I man enough for them to invest in me?

Some men whom God has brought into my life recently have been healing examples of male leadership. Men like Pastor Tim. He leads the church that hosts our local “Side B” support group, and he’s a straight man who has dedicated himself to sitting with those who wrestle with faith and sexuality, doing so with grace and compassion. In addition, men like Greg and Paolo demonstrate such deep concern for those in their care, having led the same group for the last several years.

These masculine leaders have helped me feel like family within the body of Christ, especially while I walk a path of singleness in which I hope my church family can truly embody that word — family.

What I’ve learned most while digging into this hard area of my life is that God himself, my Creator, has shown up as my true father. This much He has promised over and over in Scripture, telling His people the importance of His status as their Heavenly Father:

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalm 68:5-6 (ESV)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:18 (ESV)

And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.

2 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV)

This soul wound of masculine leadership is still being cared for by the Lord, and I must daily turn to Him, trusting that He will continue to care for me, even when other men fall short of leading me well. By looking back and seeing His faithfulness, I am pointed back to His promises over my life, that He is my Heavenly Father who will never leave me or forsake me.

Have you struggled with trusting masculine leadership in your life, and have you ever felt “left behind” while other guys were given attention or discipled? Have you experienced the pain of being let down by the men in your life, be they fathers, pastors, or other masculine leaders, and how can you invite God into those wounds?

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