My outiversary is coming up. (Is that a thing?) On April 17th (Maundy Thursday) last year, I ended up coming out to the first person in my entire life sharing a secret that I thought I would take to the grave with me. Since then, I have come out to twelve more people each time easier than the last. It’s interesting to see how I’ve grown so much since that first blubbering garbled conversation with my sister that took me forty-five minutes to say that I wasn’t attracted to women to my last conversation with a friend where I simply said “Oh, I’m gay.”
By the time I was ready to talk to my sister about my struggles, I had just recently (within the previous six months) found out about the community known as Gay Celibates, Side B Christians or whatever and that there was in fact a third way to live that didn’t involve lying about your sexuality or living into some illusive gay lifestyle. In the future, I’ll talk more about my story regarding this “third way”, but first, I’d like to talk about the process leading me to come out.
A Real Openness
I became a Christian in my late teens after identifying as an atheist and having no faith. On the issue of homosexuality, I never felt a condemnation from the Lord, never felt as though He hated me, despised me or thought that I was disgusting. I did, however, feel a strong pull toward holiness. I felt Him call out to me in my sin (when I was watching pornography daily and lusting after the men in my life all while claiming to be a Christian) and tell me to be celibate. My struggles with God were largely my just not wanting to do what He was commanding me to do.
I ended up getting to this point in my journey with God. I told Him that I was open to Him and accountable to Him but never behaved like it. I had known what to do for so long, had in some ways accepted that I was called to be celibate, but all the while, I was living with this deep secret that was eating me up inside. Satan was using it to keep me isolated preventing me from having deep meaningful relationships.
When homosexuals live in the closet, they are susceptible to the darkest of sins including despair, self-righteousness, and bitterness. They tend to view every problem as caused by their homosexuality. They tend to self-comfort with more sin. The feeling of being misunderstood and unloved often leads us to not reach out in our relationships, to not be honest about ourselves, and to loathe ourselves. We might claim that we’re open to God, but without being open to others, it’s just wishful thinking.
I was challenged to come out from two sources. One, I watched this video of Joey Prever (over at stevegershom.com).
I recommend watching the whole thing, but this line really spoke to me in my own life.
The whole culture of silence that surrounds homosexuality or has surrounded it, maybe historically, sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the sense that if you are gay, and you have this image of gay people lurking on street corners and just being weird and creepy, it’s going to lend itself to you not opening up to people in every area of your life. You’ll just become closeted in every sense…in the sense that…when you grow up having a secret that is of the caliber of being gay…when you’re used to keeping a secret of that level from every one of your life, it affects the way you relate to everybody.
Was I someone who lamented the superficiality of my culture but did nothing to change it? Were some of my social, interpersonal issues a fault of my own? Was I perpetuating my own loneliness? What path was I on and where was I ultimately headed?
Secondly, I had gotten to 1 John 1:5-8 in my devotional Bible readings.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Was I truly walking in the light? I said that I was walking in the light, but I remained closed off to those around me. I self-comforted with pornography. I feared more the judgement of humans than the holiness of the Lord God Almighty.
I could not expect to have fellowship with brothers and sisters and be closed off about the darkest parts of our hearts. I could not expect to love and be loved by Christ’s Church and yet lie about my condition. I could not expect to be covered by the blood, and live in darkness.
The Puritan John Owen has this to say about sin, “Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins.” Sin doesn’t just stay where it is at. It is an all consuming virus that is ever trying to kill us.
The being of homosexuality wasn’t my sin. The idolatry of humanity was. I cared far more about the opinions of my peers which caused me to lie to them and care less about offending a Holy God than actually coming out and talking candidly about my struggles. The interview of Prever caused me to fear what would happen to me ultimately if I didn’t open to someone, anyone on this subject and the Scripture verse solidified it.
One restless, sleepless night was when God ultimately gave me His ultimatum. In my wailing and crying out, He said to me “I have taken you as far as I can at this point in your walk with me. You have two options. You can open up to someone (and consequently, open up to me) and I will heal you. I will be with you every step of the way and bring you far more healing than you can imagine, and we will continue our fellowship. Or, you can remain closed off and steeped in your shame. You can hide from the world and live in darkness. I will let you make this decision, but come judgment day, I will tell you depart from me for I never knew you.”
I texted my sister that night (three weeks before Maundy Thursday) and told her that we needed to talk.
Well, the world didn’t end when I told her. For the record, she thought I had cancer because I was so stone-faced with her in the weeks prior to my coming out. It was a blubbery mess that we needed several more days of conversations to sort out, but ultimately, she still loved me.
Joey Prever describes coming out like this, “Having nobody know that you’re gay is terrible. It’s so terrible I don’t know how anybody stands it without dying of asphyxiation. Having a couple people know you’re gay is really great. It’s like opening up a window in that stifling midsummer room, sticking your head out, and gulping the cool breeze.”
I am so grateful for God pushing me to come out. Since my sister, I’ve come out to several more people each time easier than the last. I have found such love and support from my community around me (even those whom I shamefully thought wouldn’t understand and would react negatively).
The biggest change is that I have found that I don’t think about my homosexuality that much. It’s not constantly on my mind alienating me from my friends. When it does come up in conversation, it’s treated like no big deal. My friends love me for who I am, not for some fake image that they have of me. They also challenge me in sins that I thought I had just because of my homosexuality. It’s not a special category of sin. It’s just sin.
This is not to say that I don’t still struggle with feeling like I don’t belong, that I have had no conflict with these people over homosexuality, or that I haven’t had my fair share of correcting stereotypes, misunderstandings, or hurtful remarks. It is to say though that in many ways we tend to believe that our sin is the worst sin or that our pain is too much for people to handle, and that’s simply not true.
I haven’t reached a point yet where I am absolutely open with everyone that I meet, but as I continue to walk in the light and remain accountable and open to a few of my closest Christian friends, I know that the Lord will prepare me for that time should it come sooner rather than later.