No Longer Strangers
Belonging has never come easy to me.
Growing up, there was my mutated national identity to deal with—my not-quite-American, not-quite-Indonesian soul, restless in both countries. Later, when I came out as a celibate gay Christian, I found I didn't fit into the church as easily as I used to. I've often wondered what it means to belong to others even when I can't manage to blend in with them.
The way Jesus tells it, if we give up on belonging in order to follow him, we'll find ourselves belonging anyway. We might not belong the way other people do, with normal homes and normal families and normal ways of fitting in. But we'll belong in a way that's a hundred times better. We'll be fully in place because we know we are out of place. We'll belong like aliens.
Maybe you're caught in the same tension as me, wanting to fit somewhere even as you're permanently out of place. Maybe you feel like an alien.
If so, let's be aliens together.
"Greg Coles has become one of the most important voices in the church. I can't express how grateful I am for him and for this book. No Longer Strangers is another home run—showing us a creative, bold, and intrepid way forward in following Jesus in a gray world. I commend him to you. And his melodic book."
"Equal parts delightful and sobering, Greg Coles relates his experience of being a third-culture kid to the alienness of the Christian life. Self-deprecating without victimizing himself for all the ways he's felt different or out of place, he levels the ground for all of us who have always felt a little extra or a lot not enough. Come for the stories, and leave with a bit more hope for the future church and all the different ways Christ draws us in and sends us out."
"When I finished reading No Longer Strangers I thought that all of my friends should read this book, because in its pages they will find a friend in Greg, hope for the church, and true belonging with Friend and Lover, Jesus Christ."
"Greg’s book is most 'delightful,' to use one of his often-used expressions. I enjoyed reading about his quest for belonging through various friendships, among his peers, families, with his God, or his church community. His skills in adjusting to his environment, a third-culture-kid characteristic, is key in his crossing various cultural bridges. Like most TCKs, Greg is a gem of a friend. His writings reveal his pursuit of being authentic and vulnerable while honoring his Indonesian roots, celibate gay Christian core, and wonderful sense of humor. What a delightful book!"
"Simply superb. Theologically excellent. Deeply personal. Brutally honest. Intensely engaging. Coles's writing is simply exquisite. He moves from vivid description of personal experience to profound theological reflection with the ease of an exceptionally gifted writer. A must-read."
"Structured around compelling narrative, No Longer Strangers is a story of the human quest for acceptance and belonging. Greg Coles, in his winsome and honest way, takes all of us on a journey to discover the places, the people, and the God in whom and to whom we all belong."
"Greg Coles is one of the most talented Christian writers I know. His writing is remarkably vivid, whimsical, and poignant all at the same time. I believe that God has raised up Greg Coles as a unique voice to speak with excellence and grace to a number of challenges that the church faces today. I want to read everything he writes!"
"I have a group of writers I call my 'print pastors'—people who help to shepherd me along the Christian way through their books. Greg Coles is in that group. His insightful meditations on the Bible, lively stories, humble and humorous self-disclosures, and timely invitations to a more faithful, missional life are some of the things God has used to convict and comfort me. Read this book slowly and reflectively, and let Greg pastor you too."
"In No Longer Strangers, Gregory Coles offers a heartfelt and compelling exploration of what it means to belong to Jesus and to others, especially when we feel the ache of being an outsider. With engaging storytelling and incisive theological reflection, Coles invites us into the journey of finding our home, not only in Christ but in the beloved community where aliens become brothers and sisters."
"In his new book, No Longer Strangers, Greg Coles explores belonging in a deeply personal panorama of his life. It's a book about real connection. The engaging stories are layered through multiple aspects of his crosscultural and mobile life, creating a very Christian, very human experience. Read it."
"In this profound book, Greg Coles revisits a familiar but essential theme of the Christian life—being an alien pilgrim. The exploration he takes the reader on echoes voices of the past like Paul or Augustine of Hippo, only with the added vibrancy and poignancy of his experience as a celibate gay Christian. Sharing a similar journey myself, this book wonderfully captures what it's like to be totally alien in a culture and church that has compromised by making its home here. This is a riveting and deeply personal memoir of living in the now-but-not-yet tension of being a disciple of Christ in a world that doesn't always understand the search to live for the greater good of God's presence. Coles provides a rare and rich opportunity to gain insight into the reality of following Christ in the ultimacy of its beauty, difficulty, and hope. This book is for those who refuse to compromise and instead live for the deeper joy of finding their 'haven sweet of rest' in Jesus Christ."
"Greg Coles has done it again! He's managed to produce a book that is just as beautiful as it is meaningful. With wit and charm, Greg invites you into his journey of belonging—a journey you never want to end. Greg helps us see that the twists and turns in our own journeys are what make them significant. This book is a real page-turner!"
Foreword by Jen Pollock Michel
Tentacles: An Introduction
Part One: Belonging In
1. Womb Nostalgia
2. Home Sweet Airport
3. Poohsticks in an Open Sewer
4. The Man Who Coughed Blood on Me
5. Hide and Seek
6. Dengue Days
7. How to Deal Drugs
Interlude: A Glorious Dark
Part Two: Belonging With
8. A Jedi's Training
9. Santai Sundays
10. Friendship Costs Twenty-Five Dollars an Hour
11. The Origami Artists
13. Ghosts of Friendship Past
14. Thank You for Making Me Hurt
Part Three: Belonging To
16. That Guy Who Cleaned My Microwave
17. The Art of Neighboring
18. Table for One
20. Memento Mori
21. Rivers Cannot Sweep It Away