I was baptized a few weeks before my 19th birthday because of the Book of Romans and its assurance that once you come to Christ, your mind is renewed and you are set free from the bondage of sin.
After my baptism, I walked around with my Bible. I told my whole family and strangers about my conversion from atheism. I know I seemed crazy, but I was floored by the concept of God’s promises and his unfathomable, boundless grace. I could not understand how anyone could deny such good news.
I could not understand how there was ever a time I did not believe.
My newly acquired faith hit me at a time when I did not know which way was up. I was on the verge of dropping out of community college, I could not find a fit socially, I was fighting constantly with my parents, and I had no concept of the future. I believed Christ was the only way to sort out my post-adolescent messes.
I was zealous about reading the Bible, going to church, and praying. I was relentless. And yet, I had not brought to God my biggest obstacle—my sexuality. It was not until I came out to a friend at the church by recklessly confessing my love for him that my sexuality came into the mix.
Poor guy, I came out of left field with my declaration and he had to ask church leadership for help. News of my sexuality spread like wildfire. My friend avoided me like the plague, and I was a mess. I had to be a fool not to notice the eyes on me at church the following Sunday.
It was impossible to not hear the chatter of the congregation.
By the next week, I had been “let go” from the church. I got a call from my deacon saying I had to change my “lifestyle,” and that there was not any room for deviant behavior in church. I told him I felt like I’ve lost everything. He told me to read the Book of Job.
I felt judged and gross. I felt alone. My deepest fear was to have my homosexuality “ruin it for me,” and now it showed up, ruining everything. I was steadily riding high on the glory train until my truth showed up and got everybody mad.
I knew some Christians had a problem with being gay—“it’s in the Bible,” they would say. My pastor spoke out against it. My family spoke against it. I came to Christ thinking I could show him a neutered part of me, and I would still reap the benefits—that I would be celibate and he would fix the gay part, somehow.
But homosexuality was as much a part of me as any.
I was faced with feeling wronged by the God that had invigorated me. I was given the opportunity to plant seeds of bitterness. I cried a lot in those months after having to leave the church. This was heartbreaking enough, but to make matters worse, I could not even tell my parents because that meant I would have had to come out to them.
As I write this, twelve years later, I get a chill thinking about how frightening this time was for me. I read a lot of scripture back then. I had a lot of talks with family members and Christians about whether God would ever turn a person away. They all said no, as if the concept were so foreign. The bottom line is, there isn’t anything that will make God turn away.
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him. He hears their cry and saves them,” says Psalm 145:18-19.
So I took it all to God.
I cried out. I prayed about it. I told God ALL of my truth. I “let” God see the gay side of me, later realizing God sees all sides of me at all times anyway. The parts my former church saw and rejected, God had already seen. Despite all the shame, I felt for not being good enough, man enough, straight enough, etc., God loved me. And that was some unfathomable grace.
So why did God let me get kicked out of church? Why did he let me spend so much time in my room regretting my baptism and hating myself? Why did he let me be so conflicted? So that years later, I could share my story with you.
I got kicked out of the church, and I felt horrible. But I took it to God, and he loved and nurtured me.
It took a while, but after months of reflection, I decided to love and pursue Christ regardless of whether or not I have a place to worship him, regardless of whether others think I deserve to. I decided to accept myself and not be ashamed.
So I advocate for myself and other LGBTQ people in my prayers. I lift up people who are ostracized for being LGBTQ.
I tell others it’s ok, you’re not alone.
Photo via flickr user Guy Donges