There’s an old cliche saying that I still hear all the time: “Do you see the cup as half empty, of half full?” which is generally intended to determine one’s outlook on life as being negative or positive; those who determine the cup to be half empty are generally viewed as having a negative outlook, and those who determine the cup to be half full a positive one. I always respond to this question with, “Neither. My cup is overflowing,” or “My cup runneth over,” as it says in Psalm 23, and that is because I believe that it is running over; it is so full, that there is a surplus to share with others.
But even now, there are times when I, as many others do have to take a “time out” to remember this. A few weeks ago, in the midst of a particularly hectic and stressful week with work and other issues (one of those weeks when my prayers seem to be mostly focused on inquiring of God if there is any way to obtain an extra day or two worth of time in a week, or at the very least the Wisdom and Guidance to utilize what has already been allotted to me most effectively), I got an e-mail from a friend of mine that I had not spoken to for a while who found themselves in a very painful emotional situation. Interestingly enough, although he did not know this at the time he sent the mail, I had personally been through a similar situation at one time in my own life experiences, and had been blessed with the strength and insight to somehow make my way through it. The letter I got from my friend came at one of those times when I had about 10 other things going at once, but it had the effect of a speed bump in my then frenetic path.
I proceeded at that point to call a mental “time out” from what I had allowed myself to become preoccupied with and stressed out about, and push the “shutdown” button on everything else. Even though I had people from work pressuring me on deadlines, errands I needed to run, a lot of things I needed to do, and my brain trying to process some way of balancing everything in the time I was trying to fit everything into, something inside me felt that for the moment, none of these things were really all that important in the grand scheme of things. What was important was that a friend needed me and that from my own experience I could pass along something that might assist him in being able to deal with it more effectively.
I shut down everything I was doing or working on at the time, not being concerned about when or how all of those things were going to get done, and instead took about an hour and penned a long response to him about how I had been through a time not too unlike what he was enduring and offered whatever support and encouragement I could, and talked to him about what was going on. He thanked me and said that what I had shared had helped him to put things into perspective and given some hope and encouragement, which I was glad to hear about. Afterwards, I got back into the other things I had to take care of, one thing at a time, and although it took a lot of hard work, focus and effort, they eventually got done.
I frequently do things like that. There have been times when I have been in the middle of difficult situations or stressful times myself, and yet when someone calls me or writes to me with a request for help-be they a longtime friend or just someone I talk to or see once in a while, if I see an opportunity to somehow pass along something or give something of myself that might be helpful to them, or if they request help, I make the time to do exactly that.
I was relating this incident to someone and they asked me, “Why do you do these things? Even when you go out of your way to help someone, they are not always grateful, sometimes it puts an extra burden on you, and sometimes it takes away from your life!” I responded with what I honestly felt at that moment: “It doesn’t matter if they are grateful or not, even if there are situations that create a perceived burden things always have a way of working out somehow, and it doesn’t take away from my life at all; it has the opposite effect, it adds to it. It’s also my way of showing thanks to God for the times when God has provided help to me in difficult times. I feel that God, and the understanding of God I have found through the spiritual teachings of Christ, has Blessed me so abundantly that my cup is overflowing, and no matter how much I have going on, I have to share that abundance with others. I have to pass it on.”
There seems to be a common understanding among many Christians in the climate of the world right now that the spreading the “Good News” or “sharing God or God’s Love with others” is about predominantly about evangelizing, or sharing our points of view about others in the hopes that they might share them in return. For many Evangelical Christians, this means imposing their own personal and particular interpretation of God and the Bible upon others, and for yet others it seems to be all about preventing LGBT people from having equal rights, calling for mandatory worship in public schools, and being exclusively pro-choice.
But for me sharing God’s Love with others is something a little different: it is not merely sharing my testimony of what God has done for me, by helping me to find peace and acceptance as a Christian who also happens to be actively bisexual in the hopes that it might provide them with hope and developing their own personal relationship with God as they understand God and find more happiness, joy and fulfillment in their own lives. It is also about remembering all that God has Blessed me with and utilizing the gifts I have been given and sharing those things with others, so that God’s Love somehow passes on through my actions or words to them. If one would choose to label that as evangelizing, then so be it. I personally think that God has a specific form of ministry in mind for each of us. God Created and also calls each of us to bring something special and different to the world in our own way, provided we are open to it, keep an open mind and heart, and think outside of what we might normally consider to be ministry.
Often, when we think of the term “ministry” the first thing which comes to mind is the thought of a pastor or a church, and there are definitely those of us who are Christian and LGBT who have chosen to seek to be members of the Clergy or to begin a Church or to develop online Ministries such as Whosoever. Ministry comes in such a diverse multitude of forms, and I have come to the conclusion in my journey that whatever ministry we are individually called to and compelled to pursue is where we are supposed to go.
But with this concept comes a key point, and one that I have dealt with in the past: how can we, as LGBT Christians, be more effective at whatever it is that God calls us to do for others in this world? What of those of us who are not yet fully aware of all that God has done for us, or incorrectly feel that we ourselves are not deserving of God’s Love – how can we begin to share that love and abundance with others? If we have the incorrect perception that God is not blessing us or had not blessed us with abundance, and that the cup is half empty or not full enough, how can we view the cup God has given us as overflowing, and let those blessings flow over into the lives of those around us?
There are a great many of us who are Christian and LGBT who have already come to the joyous realization and understanding that God Created us as we are and Loves us unconditionally just as we are, and this epiphany alone has been enough to fill and overflow a thousand cups over and over again. Many of us have long since been able to develop a personal relationship with God and move on into a happier life than we might have known either before we knew or acknowledged the Divine Presence or held fearful misperceptions about God which were taught to us about others. Even those of us who have felt misunderstood by nearly everyone around us feel a sense of peace and belonging and purpose that can only come from the faith that God Loves us as we are and is there for each and every one of us, rather than just a chosen few.
Many of us have long since abandoned the concept of a God who deems us as unworthy or inferior due to the nature of who we are (our sexuality, sexual orientation, or non traditional/non-legalistic understandings of Scripture and Doctrines), that of a God who seeks to be a harsh punitive judge and mete out punishments for every infraction, or a God who turns a deaf ear to our prayers and has no concern for our needs if they are incongruent to certain dogmas, and so forth. None of these are healthy or positive ideas about God in my opinion.
LGBT Christians and heterosexual Christians who may not be of the Biblical Literalism mindset may be able to relate to this. Those of us who were in Legalistic Christianity in the past have usually been continually conditioned to believe that we are “sinners” because of who we are, or sometimes take Romans 3:23 (“all have fallen short of the Glory of God”) in the wrong way and create barriers that prevent us from being fully open to God’s Grace. I have seen this verse incorrectly used to create a sense of guilt, low self esteem and a feeling of being undeserving in people.
But think on this for a moment: that does not mean we are sinners because of our sexual orientation or sexuality ,or who we are, or that we are somehow flawed and unacceptable to a God who “tolerates” us and keeps us on close watch while claiming to love us. All I interpret that verse to mean is simply that we’re not perfect, and no matter how we try, we do sometimes screw up when it comes to following the Great Commandment of Christ to Love our neighbor as ourselves. I’m guilty of it at times if I become angry, stressed out, or frustrated and when I find myself acting in an unloving way out of anger or fear, I call on God and the teachings of Christ to help myself get centered again.
Being able to put away old and spiritually damaging ideas about being unworthy of God’s Love is in and of itself an incredible blessing and a miracle for those of us who might have struggled with those feelings in the past. But it is not always an easy task. For those of us who may have had a perception of God in the past which was skewed and obscured by fear, the healing process can be a long and difficult one. Often when we may have previously held a toxic, false and fearful perception of God, shadows linger and scars remain for a while and heal slowly until they finally fade, even when we strive for and have begun to attain a healthier spiritual outlook. Even if we have let go of the idea of a God of conditional love or punishment, sometimes we ourselves allow it to be replaced by something else.
In the absence of the concept of a punitive God, we tragically sometimes compensate for it by subconsciously assuming that imagined role and end up punishing ourselves. I have seen many who do this; some through measures as extreme as drug and alcohol abuse or self injury, and others through less extreme but still rather harmful measures. Those who allow themselves to remain in abusive relationships out of an inner feeling of poor self esteem, and the illusion that “I don’t deserve any better.” Those who have goals, dreams, and desires of their heart but who think to themselves, “It will never happen for me, I’m not deserving” and choose to abandon those dreams and allow them to perish rather than pursue them with faith, hope, love and courage. Those who settle for less than what they desire to be happy, and remain content with “This has to be as good as it gets.” Those who allow themselves to be emotionally abused by others and allow it to devalue their sense of self worth and worth to God. Perhaps worst of all are the situations I have seen where people have said when things were not working out even as they made efforts-and in fact, often had the very answers to what it was they were seeking directly in front of them ready to be accepted and embraced fully – that “God must not want me to have that” or worse, “God is out to get me.”
These are all barriers that I have seen others put up to allowing God’s Abundant Love to flow into their lives, even when they have long since abandoned negative ideas about God. I’m not being judgmental of anyone who does any of the above, as at one time in my life, I have found myself guilty in some form of them all in the past and I did so for many years-that was, until others who had been through similar experiences but who had since found peace in God chose to share that with me. At one time in my life, I not only could not see the cup as overflowing, half full, or even half empty; I was suffering the illusion that it was bone dry. This was due to the fact that I feared that I was unworthy of God’s Love or being blessed by God in any way merely due to the nature of who I am, and how I now know that I was created.
As a result, my subconscious mind set up what many psychologists (as well as the therapist who helped me through some difficult times) refer to as the “Punitive Superego”; the best way I can describe it is to relate it to a shadow of the negative ideas about God I once held due to programming from more legalistic Christian environments. It took many years of therapy, prayer, and struggle to get through that, but until I was able to fully reconcile the fact that God had no judgments about my sexuality, sexual orientation, and the fact that although I very much believe in and Love God I do not subscribe to a literal understanding of the Bible, I was unable to reach a point where I could fully open up and accept the Love God had for me all along, and therefore was also unable to share that with others. Once I fully understood that this Punitive Superego which fear had created in my mind was NOT God, and those shadows of fear had gone, and I had a full awareness of the fact that my feelings of unworthiness were merely illusions which I had allowed fear to create, then the floodgates opened and I found not only a wealth of abundant blessings in my own life, but more than enough to share with others over and over again, in a necessary expression of my gratitude.
While I feel that the Bible contains timeless Spiritual principles in the teachings of Christ and the wisdom of others they discovered in their search to better know and understand God, it is also rather limited in its scope as the precepts are reflective of the limited understanding known during the time in which it was written. But there is also an abundance of Wisdom which can be applied to the process of realizing and embracing our worthiness of God’s abundant Grace. Here are a few instances in the Bible that stand out in my mind as ways to overcome toxic thinking about God and perhaps to assist in the process of overcoming the resistance that we ourselves may subconsciously put up as barriers that prevent God’s Abundant Love from fully flowing into our own lives and subsequently into the lives of others:
Matthew 7:7:”Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”
Notice that Jesus does not give any specifications on whom this applies to; it is similar to “Whosoever believes” in John 3:16; verse 8 goes on to say that for all who ask will receive, all that seek will find, and for all that knock, the door will be opened. It is not specific to any one person or group of people; anyone is eligible, and that includes LGBT people as well.
One barrier that I had to allowing myself to feel worthy of God’s Abundant Blessings was the illusion and perception that I was unacceptable to God and therefore had no right to ask God for anything. I was afraid that there was no possible way that God could love me as I am. I was terrified that I would have to choose between being who I am and being loved by God; and then once I had come to terms with being bisexual, I was afraid that I had to choose to be with either my female partner or my male partner, regardless of the fact that I love them equally and everyone in the relationship is a part of it honestly and equally. I knew deep down that the judgments that were being made upon me by others were made by society and differing opinions on sexual orientation, sexuality, and relationships and that in all that I did I strived to maintain ethics, honesty, and integrity as well as assuming a sense of responsibility for my actions and always doing the best I could to do as Christ had taught and treat others with the same type of compassion that I wanted to be treated, to Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself. But when one is suffering from the illusion that they are unloved by God, it can be challenging to show love to others. I decided to hold on to my faith and trust that somehow I would find a greater sense of peace with God and acceptance so that I could share it with others.
And it was a glimmer of hope that came to me in prayer to dare to think differently that turned all of this around. What if, I thought, perhaps all of the guilt I have been made to feel by others is merely their opinion and not really what God intended? What if rather than listening to what others tell me that God thinks of me I listen to what I feel that God is telling me in my heart instead?
It was through that and other soul searching and for the first time honestly seeking that I was able to approach God with a new understanding. Rather than attempt to conform to the ideas of others about what type of person is or is not acceptable to God, I asked God instead for one thing: To help me to be able to live the truth of who I am in a way which is hurtful to no others and helpful to as many as I can. And then things really began to happen: I found an open and affirming Church and other Christians who cemented what I had always felt deep in my heart that God was not concerned with literal adherence to the Bible but to being a loving and caring human being, no matter who we are. I was able to fully reconcile my spirituality and sexuality, found acceptance not only as a bisexual Christian but as one in a caring and honest relationship with both a female and a male partner, and finally came to the understanding that no matter how different from others I am, I am still loved and accepted by God and can feel peace in knowing that. Finally, I was able to find ways to share the things which helped me with others in need of hope.
Remember, it is merely the opinions of others-many of whom deep down may hold fearful ideas about God themselves-which can sometimes assist in creating the illusion that we are somehow “unworthy” of God’s Blessings. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” For those times when we subconsciously allow it, that is the time to take a deep breath, focus and go back to the core of our faith in God and remember that there is no one out of God’s Reach or that is not a child of God with a unique place and purpose, including ourselves.
Matthew 7: 25-34: “Do not worry”
This verse is key to me, and in the Bible I read from, this verse is subtitled, “Do Not Worry.” To me this is Jesus reassuring us all that God knows our needs, both those which we are consciously aware of and those that we have not yet even discovered ourselves; and it is not a question of “if” God will provide for our needs, but “when”; and that we should not concern ourselves with the specifics and miss all of the wonderful things which we have already been given. What I feel He is also saying is that rather than worry about how and when God will provide for our needs, but rather to remain faithful that they are already taken care of; remain open and know that they are on their way; and faithfully give our ourselves and live a life that seeks to do good to others, knowing that God will provide for all of our needs. He is also reassuring us that God already knows what our needs are, and I have come to find out that often God knows before we do sometimes as well. It’s funny how things work out that way, but that is part of the Divine mystery of God.
The way I apply this to my own life are the times when I may experience challenges or difficulties that at one time in my life I would have incorrectly perceived as God denying me things; but over time and most importantly of all, in Trust and Faith in God, I have learned that no matter how much I might worry about something, the majority of the times I have been worried have all been for nothing. When I was going through times of doubt and fear in life-whether it was being worried whether or not God really did love me as I am, or being worried whether I would have enough to be able to give of myself, or even being worried about things like whether I would be able to pay the rent, it was only through these verses that I could find the courage to make it through, only to find out later I was worried for no reason and through trusting God and using the gifts God has given me everything came out just fine. Trust me, I know that simply saying, “Don’t worry about anything, it will all turn out okay” is many times a task far easier said than done. Sometimes it can take all of your faith to accomplish that alone!
If ever in doubt about God’s ability, during rough times, consider this: Look at all that God has already given us! God has not only gifted us with timeless Spiritual teachings and everything that we know, but also the potential for so much more. God has created the inspiration for amazing advancements in life. Some may credit Science for the amazing medical and scientific and technological discoveries and accomplishments that humankind has made over the centuries which have improved the quality of our life and fostered a better understanding of life itself over time, and those who have worked for those things should be commended, but ultimately, I credit God for their ability to do so in the first place.
God has granted us a world full of possibility and potential, and it is our free will to choose how to best use those gifts; whether to use the knowledge we have to create guns that can end lives or medicines that cure diseases; whether we use the spiritual wisdom that can be found in the Bible to inspire hope or fear in others; whether we use the ability to be creative to warm hearts or to hurt feelings. It is only through approaching God with a Loving Heart that we are able to discern which is the best use of the Wisdom God has granted humankind. God provides everything we could ever need; the main concern should be to seek the best way in which to use these resources to help make Creation even better. God has gifted us with both the tools and the medium to assist in making the masterpiece of Creation, even more majestic, if we merely seek the guidance to use them wisely and with love.
While I do not see things as black and white or gray in life, but in a multitude of colors, God, as I understand God through what Jesus taught, remains my anchor and foundation in this sea of colors. God is, to me as well as many others, too vast and mysterious to be fully comprehendible, and one thing I feel very certain of is that God is not a God of scarcity. Whatever possible needs anyone at all could have, it is in within reach with faith and using the gifts God has given us to achieve them. No matter what imagined fears we might have which create the illusion that we are “asking for too much” about life, or that things are so good that they are “too good to be true,” God is infinitely bigger than all of our finite fears or worries. And God seeks to guide us in the most loving ways to use what we are given to spread Love to all others.
John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
This to me is very clear in meaning; Jesus was not here to deny us anything nor to warn us about a God who was watching us and either waiting for us to “slip up” so that we could be punished, or denied our needs. He was not here to teach us to deny our basic human needs, or ourselves. He was here to teach us how to open up our eyes, hearts and minds and come to a full realization of the multitude of blessings that God has already blessed us with, to encourage us to be vessels of God’s Love to one another, and to use the gifts we were given in the most effective manner to do God’s Work – Love, Mercy, and Compassion in the world. Part of that work includes allowing the blessings in our own life to then overflow into the lives of others. When we embrace the teachings of Christ about God, and realize that God is an overflowing Source of abundant, never-ending and unconditional Love to all of us, and most importantly, that we are deserving of that Love, we then somehow naturally feel compelled to allow that to overflow into the lives of others; it becomes a never ending cycle.
The abundant life that we can attain by embracing the teachings of Christ is threefold: in my opinion, it assures us that God is ever present and that we can locate God within as well as in all around us and realize that with faith and trust in God that all things are possible; it enables us to see God in all people and all things and feel a sense of Oneness with our Creator, and it also enables us to share that love with all others people which in turn enables them to feel closer to God. Embracing the Way He taught, one of kindness and compassion, one of forgiveness and mercy, and one of peace and love can definitely result in an abundant life; not necessarily one of material abundance but of abundant love.
John 3:44 “God gives the Spirit without measure”
This can be interpreted several ways, but what it comes down to for me is one thing. There is no limit to God or God’s Love, and nowhere that God is not. And what flows from God in the most abundance are not material treasures but spiritual ones.
I have encountered people who have opted to interpret Biblical thoughts on abundance as material abundance. I have seen many articles and books referring to “abundant blessings from God” as financial success; the majority of the material I have seen referring to God as a giver of material riches have come from the very same school of Christian faith which insists upon legalistic Christianity and the idea that God only blesses a “chosen few” who are the “correct” Christians of being worthy of such. But when I think of God providing for us or God as Source, I don’t think about expensive cars, or homes, or jewelry. I think of the things that no amount of money would ever begin to be able to purchase: spiritual treasures, gems of Wisdom, the miracle of life, the blessings of forgiveness, a feeling of oneness with God and all the rest of Creation, and all of the little things in life money cannot buy that we sometimes take for granted. It would take an entire lifetime to list all of the non material treasures that I am grateful to God for.
I am not saying that it is wrong to love and enjoy having material things or financial abundance as well so long as that love does not override being a loving, giving and caring person to others. I am merely saying that I think that of the abundance I have been blessed with, the things that are of the most value are the things which a material value cannot be placed on. And every time I think of these things, God is the Source, regardless of how these things come to me, be it through the love, compassion and support of someone whom God has brought into my life, the peace of mind I feel when I can see God shining through in the caring actions of another person, or the mere joy I am able to find in everyday life and the world around me that God made. Matthew 19:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” – and it is the things that bring me the greatest joy in my heart, things that cannot be bought, which truly are of value.
Those are verses which have been a blessing to me in my own life as far as feeling more worthy and deserving of God’s Love and overcoming the barriers that I once allowed to make me feel resistant to a life of abundance. But there is one story in the Bible that is always encouraging to me whenever it comes to sharing that abundance with others, and it is perhaps one of my favorite stories in the Gospels, where Jesus miraculously feeds five thousand with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. I am speaking of the story of the loaves and fishes which can be found in all four Gospels: for those not familiar, it can be found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-14. Whether or not one chooses to interpret this as a literal miracle or as metaphor, there is a spiritual gem of Wisdom I have seen in this story and seen to be true in life through experience.
It says to me that no matter what we have to give, even when it seems that we have nothing to give or are under the impression that what we might have to give of ourselves will be of little or no significance, God can take that and transform it into something truly miraculous. Everything that we can give of ourselves, the overflowing contents of the blessings God has given us that we can pass on to others really do matter in the big picture.
Times are not easy for us financially these days, and aside from the small tithe I am able to give my church I find myself unable to give much financially, but I do the best I can to make time where there seems to be little to none to give of myself as a token of the gratitude for what God has given me, be that writing something or donating my time to helping others or just taking a few minutes to talk to a friend in need in an attempt to give them a little more hope than they had before. And every time that I do, oddly enough, it seems as if somehow things work out and where I thought I had so little time I end up having a surplus of it in the end. And although as I mentioned earlier that monetary wealth and material things are not a priority in my life, the times that I have spent extra money to give to a charity or a good cause has somehow always returned to me.
Each and every one of us is a child of God and all equally worthy of all of the abundance God has blessed us with; it is a Grace and a Love that is given freely without limits and unconditionally and there is no shortage of it but a never ending surplus. Once we are able to fully embrace that reality, and learn to not place limitations upon it created by our own fears or by the fearful ideas of others that we might have internalized in the past I feel that one of the best ways that we can demonstrate our gratitude to God for the overflowing cup of abundance we have been given is to allow it to flow from God, through us, and into the lives of others. We can then embrace them, share the Good News of God’s Love with them and the fact that no one is more or less deserving of that Love but that it is given equally. I believe that all of us are deserving in God’s Eyes.
There is more than enough of God’s Abundant Love for each of us to drink more than our fill and continue to share that love with others as we allow ourselves to be vessels for it to all the rest of God’s Children…..enough to last forever. Whether we see it fully at this time or not, all of our cups runneth over and the well of God’s Grace and Love will never run dry.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.