This past weekend I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at the Canadian Youth Workers Convention – an annual conference for youth workers both in the church, and outside the church. But primarily, this is mostly attended by youth pastors, and those who work with youth at church. This year it was held in downtown Vancouver.
Now, let me preface this with saying that after many years of turmoil in my soul, and finally receiving the gift of complete peace regarding my sexuality and faith fitting together — and truly coming “out” in 2010 — I did feel a sense of responsibility. I have said this before, but I know I fall into a minority of a minority. While we hear a lot more from the gay community these days… we don’t hear too much from the gay CHRISTIAN community. Let’s face it, in most people’s eyes, those two communities are at odds.
I have felt strongly within, that God has asked me to 1 – be authentic, and 2 – give grace, grace and more grace. And if that means telling my story when asked, then do it. If that means just living my life and not being ashamed to bring up “my wife” to other Christians, then do it. Or conversely, if it means bringing up “my faith” to my gay friends, then do that as well. In the last few months, God has opened some doors for me to speak a bit more about my experience growing up in the church, and struggling with my sexuality.
And sometimes, that’s pretty stinking scary. If I am being totally honest – the scariest crowd for me to speak to is Christians. Sadly in my experience – they have been the most hurtful. But I have so much compassion for that – because I know where it is coming from. That’s where I used to be. What a gift that is, actually. I can not judge, because I was once there. And God has grace, patience and forgiveness for every step along this journey – so how can I not also extend the same? That is literally the least I can do.
I am so thankful for Iona Snair and Carmen Rempel who extended the invitation for me to lend my voice to a panel talking about marginalized youth. I was representing the struggles our LGBT youth can have, especially growing up in the church. I knew, looking out into that crowd, that most likely they would fall into the Conservative category. That perhaps the issue of LGBT in the church was still quite black and white to them. That’s why we made the decision that I wouldn’t reveal my own sexuality until the end of the panel. We didn’t want them to discredit everything I had to say before they could hear it. I know many people who wouldn’t listen after the word “gay” is hanging in the air. After all, it’s not about me – it’s about loving the struggling youth in our churches better.
I stood up there and realized that in minutes I would come out to this entire room of strangers. After so many years of hiding in these exact settings, this was both a very terrifying and liberating feeling. But I knew God would walk me through this, as He always has this whole time.
Afterwards, I had quite a few people come up to me, that had some great feedback. They had youth in their youth group that had just come out, and they wanted to know what NOT to say, or how to support them better. That is awesome. You know, even if we don’t all agree on this, I think we can agree that we all need to love each other better.
I did have one person afterwards, and what she did say, well it hurt. She asked me if I was still gay today, and how I got to that conclusion. She said that she felt very strongly that God has told her there is no grey on this issue – that God is against it. And we should not be “preaching” to support it. She was very nice about it, I could tell she was very sincere, but she told me that she needed to caution me. She said that if I keep speaking, I will be building a gay army, and one day God will judge me harshly for that.
Now, while I had maybe 5 or 6 very positive people giving me feedback, of course this was the one that stuck in my heart. I spent so many years asking God about this, is this wrong, I want to do the right thing. And the thought of me building an army basically against God… there’s is nothing much more terrifying than that.
But after talking with close friends, my wife, and praying about this, I realized something. None of us know for sure if what we are doing is right. And we can all feel strongly that God is telling us something. My only responsibility in this is 1 – love others better and 2 – speak the truth I feel in my soul. And so I cannot fault this girl for doing that either.
I just don’t feel that God will judge me harshly for my life today. He sees my heart, and He knows my intentions. There is a tension and a struggle in putting myself out there, and putting a face to the gay Christian community. I know I may be putting myself in the cross-hairs. But someone needs to be a face for it, if even so the church doesn’t say “we don’t agree with that” but “Oh, that’s the girl we don’t agree with – let’s talk to her.”
I hope I can help build an army. An army of people who want to love better. Who want to use their talents for others and not just for themselves. Who extend grace, compassion and patience to those who don’t deserve it. Who are not made up of gay or straight, but just PEOPLE. We are all in this together, you guys.
Let’s keep the conversation going – but above all – at the end of the day, let’s make sure we are loving better.
I clearly remember sitting in my room at 18, writing in a journal and sobbing. I was the worst of sinners. And no amount of prayer was changing that. How could I be attracted to women? I grew up with all the right people, environment, schooling around me to guide me. I was so involved at church and I loved it. I loved my family fiercely, and now I felt as though they couldn’t love me if I embraced that part of me. Some of them literally said that to me. Hope was surely dwindling.
How incredibly thankful I am for the 12 years that followed that night. It was filled with some of the most severe lows, and intoxicating highs. My faith was truly tested in every possible way. My relationships with family and friends went through extreme ups and downs, and I made some bad choices motivated by hurt and loneliness. But at 30 years old, after coming to the end of my rope, I was faced with a choice. I spent a week alone with God, and through my vulnerable weeping I asked the unthinkable. Can You still love me if I love the gay part of myself? Can you continue to bless me if I take the hand of the one I love, and walk forward in this life with her? Will I ever possibly feel peace?
The answers were not was I was expecting — and they were not what everyone was telling me they would be. I felt deep inside my soul, a resonating YES.
YES, a thousand times over, YES. And more than that – nothing will be wasted.
Now I sit here at 33, married to my soul mate, wholly loving myself in true contentment, and embracing this life I have been given.
There are still people in my life who do not agree. And vehemently so. That is ok. We can disagree. But this is my truth, and I will embrace it proudly. I believe I have been called to share it, to live authentically, and to leave the rest to God.
And some day when I am no longer here, these words might still be. Which is why I wanted to write this down, as much as allowing such vulnerable and raw thoughts online is terrifying. But I feel like this is a good concluding chapter to the one I wrote when I was 18. What I have learned these past years can be summed up below. We hear a lot from the very conservative Christians, and the very liberal gay people…..I think there is room for my voice too.
So here goes. My (gay) agenda.
- Love as much as I possibly can, wherever I am, whoever I am with. UNconditionally. And not only if it is returned.
- Be present with who I am with at that moment. I won’t get another day like today.
- Extend compassion and grace, even when it doesn’t make sense. And when it doesn’t make sense, ask God for more.
- Use the gifts I believe I have been given, to the best of my ability, and to serve others wherever possible.
- Be thankful, for each breath. For each moment. For each walk in the woods and smell of fresh coffee.
- Encourage those around me. You never know how much that one sentence might mean to that person.
- Learn what it means to be truly, completely grateful, in word and deed. And see how that transforms my everyday life, because it does.
- Be authentic. Not arrogant or self-indulgent, but just genuine. People will know the difference.
- Challenge myself to truly get to know people and listen to their story. It is much harder to judge them that way.
- Cherish the beauty and fragility of humanity. “Help people discover that they are more beautiful than they dare believe.” – Jean Vanier
If I spend my days trying to accomplish this list, I think my life just might mean something.
Thanks for reading. 🙂