“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, so I chose to tell myself a different story.” – Cheryl Strayed
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a fair share of fears. And if you happen to be a gay Christian, a number of those fears surface when you’re open about your sexuality in the context of a Christian community. While I might not base my theology on the words of Cheryl Strayed, I resonate with her desire to tell a different story than the one my fears impose.
At one point I had fears that others would discover I was gay. Then they discovered it, and I had fears that if it didn’t change they would think I wasn’t “doing Christianity” good enough to shift my orientation. Then my orientation didn’t shift, and I had fears that if I didn’t express that reality in terms that made others comfortable, they would rebuke me (and they do), or reject me altogether. I had fears that straight girls would be self-conscious when they hugged me, or that parents would guard their kids around me, or that people would think I was secretly having sex with strangers in parks.
As absurd as some of my fears might sound, I’ve had them because Christians often do respond to gay people with suspicion. And more often than not, it’s because they’ve been uninformed or misinformed. In order for the church to grow beyond these misconceptions, they need to hear a different story about gay people. They need to hear my story; they need to hear your story. So if you’re someone who’s listened far too long to the fears, then consider another story:
If you’re listening to the fears that say no one would love you if they really knew you, know that many will love you even more. People are drawn to authenticity, despite the discomfort it might initially create. For one, they’ll be invited into a deeper part of you, and the more they know about you the more fully they can love you as you rather than the version you’ve projected. Further, they’ve got something they’d like to hide or lose as well. I’ve ceased to be surprised when people find out I’m gay, then pull me aside to gush confessions involving gallons of Ben and Jerry’s or watching porn on their iPhones. When you have the courage to speak up about something that’s often perceived to be socially unacceptable, you’re seen as a safe person who will cherish the vulnerable stories of others.
If you’re listening to the fears that say some will reject you or reconsider whether or not they’d like to bring you on staff, then remind yourself it’s better to be judged for who you are than valued for who you’re not. I’ve been in circles where I only put forward the face they wanted to see, and the relationships were ultimately nauseating: I felt like I was reliving middle school. If people are going to reject someone who loves Christ, strives to honor Him in every area of their lives, and happens to have an orientation they didn’t choose, then you probably don’t want to be deeply connected to them in the first place. That “deep connection” is a mirage; they’re only connected to the person they wish you were, not you. You’re too valuable to be sold a lie that you’re only worthy of love if you earn it with a facade. As difficult as the rejection might be (and this will occur less frequently than you fear), know it’s their loss in the end.
If you’re listening to the fears saying you’re a subpar Christian because you’re gay, know you’re an example of true Christian courage. The Scriptures don’t share a story of deliverance from our circumstances; they share a story of sanctification in the midst of them. When you grapple with the questions, strive to live in accordance with the Scriptures, and daily choose to honor the Lord in the midst of countless voices vying for your affections, you tell a story about redemption with your actions. Your ongoing choice to say “no” to your immediate desires in order to follow Christ is a testament to the beauty of the Gospel—the beauty of the one you’re saying “yes” to with every breath. Far from being a sign of spiritual deficiency, your honest process is a living image of the call to all Christians: the call to follow Christ with the whole of our lives. You’re living a richer story than the casual engagement with neat Christian concepts that make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside, and you’re to be commended.
If you’ve allowed yourself to be silenced by your fears, then listen to this story instead: You’re a gift to your community. Christ moves through honest confessions about His power in the midst of our shortcomings and insecurities—He moves through real human beings. And the very misconceptions that drive your fears will be silenced when you step out in courage to tell a different story.