I loathe talking a lot about myself. I don’t mind doing it in the sense of a friendship, but the idea of writing a lot about myself has always seemed a bit
The reason why such self-disclosure can be uncomfortable is that we wear masks. We all wear masks, to one degree or another. Sometimes we are doing so manipulatively, sometimes we are doing so innocently, sometimes we are doing so without awareness, but we all wear our masks. No one is a totally open book, if even for the reason that we do not fully understand ourselves. To that end, it is often others who help us to unmask, whether by force, by providing a space to do
There are two masks that I have worn in
The first mask is the masking of my pain that has been unmasked in recent months. I have had a lot of pain and suffering in my life. Not so much that I can say my life has been as bad as possible, there have been blessing intermixed within it as I have parents who care about me and financially support me in my studies, a mind when is functioning as it can be is really sharp, and some great opportunities like my present one at the University of St. Andrews. But at the same time, a life of having being bullied, losing a brother to suicide, being forced into sex at one point and then at a later point of life being sexually harassed, and the various struggles with loneliness and isolation of various forms these events have occurred is a lot to carry. And I masked not because I want to project this image of being super strong, but I masked because I did not want other people to be burdened by my burdens; I am all too aware of the pernicious effects of secondary trauma and I much prefer to be careful not to put that onto others.
However, there is another mask I wear. It is the mask I wear about the reason for the journey and direction I have taken in my life. I have masked my calling, and when I say calling, I mean the actually calling and not the thing towards which I am striving towards. While up to this point, various people know bits of my story, no one knows every bit of the story as I have always masked away parts of it. This blog post is my act to unmask this and to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and let whoever does read this do with it what they will.
My whole life I have always felt different, even in grade school and middle school, I felt different. I acted
I was not supposed to be born. I was my mom’s third pregnancy. Her first was my brother Evan. Her second, however, was miscarried. As my mom was reaching later in her 30s, it looked like she would only have one child. But then I came along. I was, in her words, her “miracle baby.” Then, as she told me, she was trying to figure out boy and girl names for her baby, and then one night she had a dream where a lady handed to her a baby and said “His name is Owen.”
But, there were complications late in the pregnancy. My mom had felt me stop moving around for a couple weeks and she was beginning to get worried. She expressed her concern to her doctor, and initially he told her there was nothing to worry about. But then, apparently, he called back later and asked if she wanted to come in and she did. They discovered that I had managed to get my umbilical cord stuck under my arm and I was not getting the oxygen that I had needed. They induced labor, and I was born on May 30, 1984, the day of the last full solar eclipse in North America of the 20th century.
When I was pretty young, around 3 or 4 years old, my parents, my brother, and I went to the Smokey mountains. One day, we happened upon one spot for my dad to take pictures. My mom was not feeling well that day, so she decided to stay in the car and as my dad, my brother, and I went out to explore. While my dad was taking pictures, I had managed to sneak away and was exploring a fast moving water trench that flowed down a bit into a water mill. My being the adventurous explorer I was, I began to peer into the water in the trench. Meanwhile, back in the car, my mom got a real uneasy feeling and she decided to come out to check on us. As she was approaching she saw me peering over and thought that she needed to hurry over to me. But it was not too much later that I had slipped and fallen into the water trench. As chance would have it, I had on overalls and the strap on my shoulder had gotten caught on a limb hanging over the trench so that I did not get rushed off into the wheel of
Then, fast foward to my freshman year of college. I had overcome a lot of problems in my life in my primary and secondary education, but I had made it to college and was going looking to trek into the beginnings of adult life. That spring, I went on a leadership retreat with the campus ministry I was going to at the time and while there I had a mental vision that I was going to be a leader of people. (Imagine that! Going to a leadership retreat and thinking you would lead) While I had gone to church since my freshman year of high school and I had a semblance of what I would call repentance and faith during my time in the youth group, it was at that point that I was deeply moved to what I would call a fullest sense of repentance and I first understood what faith as trust in God was about. It was after this point that I, without trying to specifically stop specific behaviors, saw a dramatic change in my life as a lot of the pain and anger that stemmed from my past went away. Additionally, many feelings of same-sex attraction had begun to develop from my senior year of high school (though I never identified as gay or bisexual) and from that point, I only experienced any real attraction for women. It was a profound change that I didn’t anticipate or seek, but it just happened.
Then, the summer after my freshman year, I had two events occur with a little over a week that radically shaped me, even though I never really came to comprehend it. One night, I was alone at my college apartment asleep. Then, at one point, I suddenly jerked up and I heard the words “Follow me.” I look back and I wasn’t quite sure if those words came from my mouth or if they were from somewhere else, as it was all such a rush. Then, a little over a week later, I was at my home with parents. It was a little after midnight, and I was upstairs and on the opposite side of my house where my parents were asleep (I didn’t know they were asleep at the time). I was walking around and I suddenly heard a voice speak “Owen” in a clear tone. Initially thinking it was my dad calling out to me, I called out “Dad.” No response. Frustrated, I walked downstairs and to the other side of the house to my parent’s bedroom, as I walked in, I discovered that my dad was sound asleep and not making any noise, besides his usual snoring.
I present this is in a more ‘objective’ manner, but when I look over the events of my life, I have a profound sense of God’s hand and guidance on my life, although it is something I don’t comprehend or understanding. On the one hand, I have often wondered if I was hallucinating and all the coincidences and happenstances of my life were just the dice randomly rolling that way in my life. And yet, there seems to be a pattern and trend to all the events that give them a greater coherence than just the luck of the draw.
But the part of me that accepted what had happened was from God, which grew more and more over the course of time, felt even more isolated and separated as a result of these experiences. I was familiar with the stories of the Bible of people having such similar events, and I am familiar with many of the parallels, but these were people of the Bible. Who was I? And why was I of all people have
Meanwhile, the only stories I ever heard of anything remotely similar disturbed me. I was a young child when I remember the story of the siege in Waco in 1993. The leader of the cult of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh had reported some sort of vision during his time in Israel, although I forget the details of it now. When I learned about that during college, I looked at everything that had happened with fear, wanting nothing to do with that life even if I felt called to be a minister. Then, I recalled a preacher who came to my college campus that berated and spoke of God’s hatred and judgment towards many people, and I recounted him feeling some sort of calling experience himself (though again, I don’t remember the details). I saw the cultish and controlling way he treated others, including how he tried to wrap me in it, and I wanted nothing to do with that sort of stuff. My experiences scared me of my calling. I wanted to make nothing of it. And yet, it was still something to it I felt. But the more I held onto it without talking about it, the more alone I felt.
I have had many experiences in the years that followed that I can only point to the leading and direction of God. There are things I don’t understand. And even now, I don’t even understand it as I approach 16 years since that summer. I am confident I wasn’t just “hallucinating” in the clinical sense and that there is something that God is doing, but I haven’t the foggiest clue. I don’t feel like I have any real special “gifts” that seems to match the “gravity” of such events, although I do recognize that I have a blend of creativity and intelligence, for whatever that is worth.
But I have hidden it because I thought in sharing, I would be even more isolated and separated than I would be in masking it. Not to mention, it is safer to keep it hidden. Plus, I never wanted to try to pull any sort of “spiritual rank” to say “you should listen to me because of what happened.” All I ever wanted after being faithful to God was to simply no longer feel alone and so different. But, life is not about what we want; I have learned that over my years of pain that it is best to accept that not everything you want will come to pass.
So, I share this with no expectations. I am not asking you to do anything or think anything of me. I am open to questions from anyone curious but do respect that I don’t want to just share anything and everything for any reason. And please, if someone happens upon this at any point in the future, please don’t think I have some great secret to give you or that I am someone who you need to treat as some vaunted authority. But if there is something you see in me, then listen to this one thing and act one accordingly to it: one of the places where I have learned to have faith and I do take great comfort in is that God enables many people by His Spirit for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and even if I do have some rather profound and unique experiences, I am simply one of the many of the Body of Christ and I am no way in a superior or elevated position to anyone else. To that end, it is my appreciation of the giftings of the Spirit that alleviate my anxieties, even if I still feel like I am somehow way different.
And no, this is not an Aprils Fools joke. I felt lead to write about it today, for whatever reason.