Last week here in the USA we had National Coming Out Day and I can say from a personal perspective it was much easier to come out as a gay woman than as a fully devoted follower of Christ. You know, one of those people . . . a “Christian.” As you can imagine, my newfound faith in Jesus Christ was filled with angst and inner conflict. When I thought of going to a church and engaging with Christians, images of the Saturday Night Live “Church Lady” and Westboro Baptist protesters constantly entered my mind.
Let’s just say I had my own set of biases to overcome about God, Christians and the Church. My belief was that God had rejected me and was unjust for creating me gay, and unfair for condemning me to hell for simply being born that way. In addition, I had a mindset that all Christians were biased, intolerant and hateful. Because of my newfound faith, I was not welcomed in the LGBT community and was labeled a betrayer by my former partner, close friends and associates who were gay-identified. Some went so far as to state that I had lost my mind or joined some cult. My ex and two close friends staged an intervention of sorts. It was messy and uncomfortable. Because of the very negative experiences I’d had for over 30 years with a few churches, a Christian organization, and so-called Christians like Westboro Baptist, I was not about to just plant myself in a pew and sing hymns with other church goers. That pretty much left me in no man’s land for a period of time.
On the other hand, from the beginning of this journey God has kindly placed good, healthy people in my life to help me slowly navigate my new life in Christ. One friend met with me several times a week for coffee or lunch and built some trust with me. This friend, in turn, introduced me to another friend who led a faith-based recovery program called Celebrate Recovery (CR). I remember with fear and trepidation walking through the doors into my first CR meeting. I sat as an observer for several weeks and kept to myself. Here I found people who welcomed me regardless of my angry lesbian presence. I soon experienced people much like myself who were pursuing peace. They were honest and transparent. What struck me is they knew that their hurts, habits and hang-ups were robbing them of peace. My CR friends knew that where peace was found was in God alone.
God used my time with CR to show me another side of Christians—people who knew they were broken and messed up and couldn’t change without God. They also modeled what acceptance looked like for me. My involvement with CR gave me the courage to walk through the doors of a church and enter into the Body of Christ. God graciously hand-picked a church body that welcomed me in and encouraged me to grow in my relationship with Christ. I soon found myself volunteering for their Food Pantry and eventually worked in their offices for a season. Talk about irony, a gay woman becomes a Christian and lands a job working in a church in East Texas. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
God gently placed me into a safe environment and helped me to stay connected to a Church as I entered the stormy season of resolving my faith and sexuality. My first church family was willing to allow me into their community just as I was. They patiently walked with me, extending grace, and allowed me the time to discover who I was as a child of God. After giving Christians a second chance, my biggest takeaways were:
- They valued me as a person and welcomed me into their lives and community
- I was accepted as I was and encouraged to discover more about my new life in Christ
- They allowed me grace and space as I began to wrestle with my faith and sexuality
- Not all Christians are hateful, intolerant, biased and uneducated
- True followers of Jesus Christ have reached the end of themselves and know their need for God
These actions spoke volumes to me. I didn’t have people cramming the Bible down my throat and pressuring me to go from gay to straight. What I did have were real and honest people who consistently directed me to turn to Jesus and seek what the Bible had to say about my issues. In almost eight years on this journey to resolve my faith and sexuality I have been surrounded by people who have consistently pointed me to a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. They have given me the gift of healthy relationships. In addition, they have allowed me the time to discover for myself what the Bible has to say about faith and sexuality.
In all honesty, my attractions have not changed, but my heart has and so has my motivation for living. Jesus has become more than enough to satisfy my deepest longings and greatest needs. However, in the process, I discovered that my greatest need was not to be completed by another woman or be fulfilled sexually. My greatest need was to be restored to a right relationship with God. My experience with Christians I have engaged with is that they are people who live in transparency, and they authentically pursue a life that honors God with their own sin struggles. I have locked arms with people who are running the race of faith and are fully devoted to Christ.
The relationships I have today with the Church and other Christians have dispelled my long-held belief that all Christians are hateful, intolerant, biased and uneducated. The God of the Bible is not unjust and unfair, but rather good and faithful. He can be trusted above my own feelings.
So let me be the first to out myself in very public way. Hi, my name is Hope and I have a new life in Christ. I struggle with same-sex attractions, identity, trust and pride. I am unashamed to follow Jesus!
Thanks for following my journey