I remember physically shaking as I sat behind the steering wheel of my truck. I kept telling myself to breathe. Simply to take deep breathes and relax. Verbally I kept telling myself that everything was going to be alright. Yet, the fear would come crashing back. I found myself rambling about what if these folks wouldn’t even let me through the front door? How in the world did I land back in church? What if they had Holy Communion, would I be denied here like I had been elsewhere? It wouldn’t be the first time Christians had shun me for being one of the town faggots. In truth, I had come to expect Christians to be nothing like Jesus. Yet here I was in a near panic attack about to walk into a church. I remember asking myself how did this happen.
I remember having to force myself from the seat of my truck. The earth, at least to me, felt like it shook when my feet finally hit the ground. It was either that or the quizeness of my stomach as I was trying not to vomit. Eventually I made it out of my truck and walked through the front doors. I felt sick. And yes, I am surprised I didn’t throw up. I remember reiterating to myself as I was walking to breathe, don’t puke and don’t make eye contact. I kept glancing around to see if they were looking at me.
A few years back I swore to myself that I would never set foot into church again. Too much had transpired. There was too much to forgive. Yet, here I was uninvited and showing up. The only reason I was even here was because I was trying to be true to Jesus. For so long and from so many different people, I heard the lie that people like me, you know those of us who experience same-sex attractions, simply could not be Christian if the desires were present. I should of known better. I did know better. I had experienced the love of Jesus. This lie I knew deep down was from the pits of hell. Yet, even in spite of attending both bible college and seminary, I found myself believing this lie. When enough time transpires with enough people speaking lies over you, it becomes easy believe what they say, even when you know its not true.
In time, after accepting the lie, I came to a point where I couldn’t help but to confess that I still loved Jesus even if he would not have me. The lie still haunted me. As I continued to doubt the grace of my salvation, I continued to grow in love for him. My heart continued to become warm by him. Even with a warming heart, I still yet doubted. I came to a point where half-jokingly telling myself in the evenings that even if the fires of hell where to claim me, I would still declare the goodness of Jesus. During this period of isolation, Jesus became even more the fervent desire of my heart.
In time I felt conviction and a need to love the people of God. Why? Simply because Jesus loves them. If I was to love Jesus, I must learn to love what he loves. After much prayer, I came to a point of a willingness but fear of stepping out in this love. I had no clue how this was going to work. You see I live in a mall town where being a stranger is not really an option. You simply can not visit a church anonymously if you are a local. For the last few years I had been very open about my sexuality. There was no hiding and going back into the closet.Where ever I went, I was and still am that faggot to them. To go back into the closet was simply not going to work. So yes, I was afraid. Still the conviction settled that I must love what Jesus loves and Jesus loves the Church. So here I was walking into church trying not to bend over and puke.
One of the most fertile missionary ground for Christians is among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the United States. They are 67% more open to return to the faith than the general population. 86% of the LGBT population in the United States were raised in a faith community. Out of the 86%, 76% of these individuals are open to return. Out of these 76%, what is interesting is that 92% would not require a church to change their theology. What are LGBT people looking for? They are looking to be loved and to love, to be given time, not to have their sexual orientation changed, authenticity and support of family and/or friends.[i] Having to go in to church alone as a gay man was hell enough, even as one who held even then to a traditional sexual ethic. My story is one where I found love, redemption and healing in a Christian community that welcomed me with open arms. Not everyone has enough courage to go by themselves. What is stopping you from inviting your LGBT neighbor, co-worker, friend or family member to church? Having someone to walk beside you can make a world of difference.
[i] All of these statistics were pulled from Andrew Marin’s Us versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community. NavPress. An infograph of some of the findings can be found here: http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/files/2016/05/UsVersusUs_Infographic-1.jpghttp://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/files/2016/05/UsVersusUs_Infographic-1.jpg