Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’

Well, it’s time to start going “public” a bit more.  I’ve started a YouTube channel because I really feel a calling to get my story out and to speak to the damage that ex-gay ministries cause.  Please subscribe to my YouTube channel…more great things to come!

Those of you who are around my age will probably remember the film, “Free to Be, You and Me”.  It was a film designed to help kids in the early 70’s to feel good about themselves and to be understanding of others.  It was truly “evil, left-wing propaganda” designed to break down stereotypes.  🙂

I’ve been thinking a lot about that song this week.  The reason is that for the last year, I’m finally beginning to understand what it is like to be free to be me.

Gosh…I spent so many years trying NOT to be me.  All through junior high, high school, and college, I worked hard to make sure that nobody knew I was gay.  After all, being gay was a fate worse than death back then!  Being gay was my little secret…kept in my head and not talked about with anyone.  I was too ashamed about the fact that I wasn’t “normal”.  And of course, Christianity told me I wasn’t normal so that made it worse.  If God didn’t like me this way, then I was in trouble!  I had to do my best to change.  Years of counseling ensued with all sorts of techniques aimed at learning how not to be me.  Then I got married and I spent 19 years in a marriage, trying to deny who I was so that I could be a good straight husband and pastor.

I spent so much energy for so many years trying NOT to be myself so that I could be somebody else.  And ultimately, that didn’t work.

And so now, I have learned that it is ok to be me…and with that has come a great deal of freedom…

I am free to notice attractive men.  I am free to act in ways that are natural, rather than trying to cover up any gay tendencies.  I am free to love the man in my life.  I am free not to worry about what others think.  I am free to be open about who I am without having to hide.  I am free to be in church and have my arm around my partner.  I am free to minister out of who I am, rather than trying to minister out of a caricature that I have created.  I am free to be me…and that feels really good.

I love the freedom I have to be me.  I love that I don’t have to waste energy being someone I’m not.  I love that I can put the voices of nay-sayers behind me and not worry about them.  And I love living in a city where being gay is not looked down upon.  I am a normal part of this city and I don’t have to hide.

My prayer is that everyone who is reading this would find the courage to be themselves.  You don’t have to change.  You don’t have to be anyone else.  Do whatever it takes to be ok with who you are…and then live it!

You and I are free to be you and me.

 

 

I received a comment recently from someone wanting to hear how my faith has been impacted by my journey.  That is a fantastic question, but I’m not sure that I have much of a definitive answer.  I guess the reason for that is because I am still in process.  My faith is still figuring out where to land and is still dealing with the negative side-affects of all I’ve gone through.  So all I can do is tell you where I’m at today.

Here’s what I know:

1.  My old faith is dead.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it means that my new faith doesn’t look like what my old faith looked like.  I literally cannot move in conservative Evangelical circles anymore.  I just can’t do it.  I can’t go to those churches.  I can’t listen to those messages.  I can’t agree with that narrow theology.  It just doesn’t fit me anymore.  Now don’t get me wrong…I haven’t thrown all of those beliefs out.  I’ve just only held on to the core beliefs of Christianity and really don’t even want to get into a discussion about all of those “extra add-ons” that so many churches adhere to.  And most of all, I can’t subscribe to a moralistic philosophy of ministry anymore that is all about trying to make you a better person by doing all the right things and not doing all the wrong things.  I can’t do it.  I don’t believe in that.

2.  My new faith is not “solid as a rock”.  It’s in flux…and I’m perfectly happy with it being “in flux”.  I know more of what I don’t believe now than what I do believe.  I’m OK with things being up in the air…with things not being resolved…with not having all the answers…and with my pursuit of God being more relational and less theological.  I don’t need to be right and I am SO okay with that!

3.  My new faith has a lot more room for people.  There was a time when I pigeon-holed people and put them in categories based on what they believed and how they lived their lives.  Not so anymore!  I now believe in a much-wider Kingdom of God!  I’m not running around deciding who’s “in” and who’s “out”.  Instead, I have become open to seeing how God works in people in so many different ways.  I am ashamed for how much I used to put God in a box.

4.  My current faith isn’t concerned about “getting close to God”.  I used to believe that I was closer to God the more I prayed and read the Bible.  If that is the true definition of being close to God, then I’m failing!  But I no longer believe that is true.  I now see God as being a part of everything, rather than being relegated to a “quiet time”.  I know I am close to God all the time because He’s always with me!  I’m still not really sure how I feel about prayer anymore.  And I’m still not really sure how I feel about reading the Bible anymore.  But you know what?  I’m ok with that.  I know that this is a season…and God is 100% in the midst of this season with me.  So I feel very content hearing a reading of Scripture and reciting written prayers at church services.  Those readings and prayers give voice where I currently have no voice.  I hope that makes sense.

5.  My new faith is just fine…and I can minister from exactly where I stand today.  A conservative Evangelical person reading what I’ve written here might consider me a “back-slidden” Christian, unfit for pastoral ministry.  I beg to differ.  I think I actually have more to offer now than I did 3 years ago.  In fact, I’m able to speak to the millions of people who have been wounded by conservative Christianity and yet who still want to seek God.  So many of us have walked away from the faith.  But I refuse to do that.  God is way bigger than all of that church crap we all put up with.  I have faith, and in many ways, it is bigger than before.

So no, I haven’t lost my faith.  It’s just different.  And I’m very happy with my new faith.  If you want to “correct” me and help me to regain my old faith…don’t waste your time…I’m never going back.  Jesus talked about “new wineskins” and I am definitely into the new wine!

I’ve been doing a whole lot of reflecting in the past year.  How could I not after all that has transpired?  I’ve thought about the things I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made, the ways I would have done things differently, and the reactions I’ve gotten from everyone around me.  To say the least, I have chosen a very difficult path in life.  One never knows when they start down a path exactly where it will end up.  I never knew when I started seminary that I would go through ex-gay therapy, get married and have kids, struggle with my identity for years, have a rough marriage, get divorced, fall in love with a man, become estranged from my kids, and struggle to have a good-paying job afterwards.  All of that causes one to think and reflect.

So today I start a series of posts on my reflections on this journey thus far.

One of the things that I’ve thought a lot about is “What if I had just come out when I was younger instead of putting so many people through so much pain?”  (((sigh)))  This is a biggie for me.  I have thought about it a lot.  Here are some things I’ve come up with…both positive and negative.

If I had come out when I was younger I would have…

…come out right when the AIDS crisis was hitting.  I was saved from that!
…had a lot more sex with men
…felt better about myself at a younger age
…possibly not had children
…had more disposable income
…not met many of the wonderful friends that I have in life
…possibly still be living in California
…not gained the emotional healing that I received from my former in-laws
…learned earlier that fundamentalism kills
…saved a lot of dollars on therapy, let alone the emotional wear and tear
…probably been happier for the last 20 years
…missed out on so much of life that I never would have experienced any other way
…not deeply hurt the people closest to me

Those are just a few of the things I came up with.  There are good and bad things on that list.  How can I even say, “I should have come out sooner”?  In some ways I would love to say that but in other ways I can never say that.  My painful, twisted journey has brought joy and sadness, difficultly and safety, and an understanding of life that I could not have had any other way.  There are times I think, “I should have…” or “If only…” and there are other times that I just have to be present to my reality and say, “It is what it is.”

So I live with the tension.  Even now as I write this, I am both content and disconent…happy and sad.  It’s not dualistic.  It’s not black or white.  It’s not good or bad.  It just is.  I have a feeling I will probably always live with such a tension in my life.  That tension comes when you make peace with your life and when you have a deeper knowing.  It’s reality.  It’s what I know.

It has definitely been a while since I posted.  Life has been very crazy, to say the least.  I will have to take a couple of posts to get updated.  The big things are that I have a new job and have moved out of my former home.  But today’s post will focus on the backlash that I have experienced in coming out over the past month.

The end of December and beginning of January was a roller coaster of negative backlash in my life.  For a while, it seemed like every day brought a new negative response from people in my life.  It was a VERY emotional time for me as I dealt with the pain of tons of anger and rejection.

The backlash began with a friend stabbing me in the back.  I won’t go into the details here but suffice it to say, this friend was upset with some of the decisions I was making with my life.  The ensuing fallout with the friend got very ugly and even spilled over into the new church I am leading.  The wounds of a friend cut deep, to be sure.

Additionally, my former boss (senior pastor) found out about the truth of my new life much faster than I had planned.  His response was typical of conservative Evangelicalism and I am pretty sure by my phone call with him that I am now considered to be the spawn of Satan.  While I would love to repeat some of the things said to me for shock value, I will choose not to do so in this forum.  I will say, though, that I am very glad to be out of conservative Evangelicalism and will never look back after what I have experienced in the past couple of months!

Finally, I have experienced a great deal of backlash from my kids.  At the moment, none of my kids want to see me nor are any of them speaking to me.  This, by far, has been the most painful thing that has happened in the past month.  Though my marriage has really been over for a year, the fact that I am already in a relationship even though my divorce is not final has not gone over well with my kids.  Ultimately, I understand their feelings and know that there is no way that they can walk even for a minute in my shoes.  So I just have to be patient with their process.  I miss them like crazy and hope that they will be able to forgive me someday.

It feels like I have lost a lot in this process.  I know there are probably still some relationships that will be lost as the news of my coming out touches more and more people.  Though there has been a lot of backlash and pain in the loss, I am positive that I have done the right thing by being honest about who I am.  Change couldn’t possibly happen without backlash and pain.  But on the other side of things, I am now happy and content.  Hopefully over the next year, things will calm down and I will be able to rebuild the trust and love that I once had with my kids.  And I imagine that I will find out who my real friends are in this process.  But in the process, I am boldly taking one step forward at a time…knowing that my happiness and destiny are now beginning to come to fruition.

I have to be honest with you…I have really been up and down lately.  My emotions are up one day and down the next.  I don’t know what to do with it all.  I guess it is to be expected.  I mean, really…I’m kinda going through a lot right now!  It feels like I am riding a seesaw of emotions!

You may have guessed from my “Niche” post that I was feeling pretty good earlier this week.  Sunday’s service with my new church was extremely fulfilling and I felt the blessing of God in a huge way.  I was feeling energized and exited about the future.  I felt freedom in being myself and connecting with the people of our church in a very authentic way.  It just felt so good!

But things came crashing down as I got into this week.  My evenings this week have been very discouraging at home.  It’s hard not feeling welcome in your own home!  There has been a deep silence between my wife and I and that just compounded the alienation I have already been feeling with my kids.  Yesterday was a particularly “down” day for me emotionally.  I can’t begin to communicate the despair I was feeling.  The hurt and rejection I feel from my family runs deeps.  I was starting to question whether there would ever be healing in my relationship with my kids.  I wondered why they feel so hurt so as to feel the need to completely distance themselves from me.  I was feeling discouraged about job opportunities.  And all this week I have been feeling like I can’t do this “double life” thing much longer.

I think that is what is really getting to me.  I have wonderful glimpses of my future life from time to time.  But then I get forced back into the closet…back into conservatism…back into hiding…back into dishonesty…back into having to fit into a mold of constantly proving my value at my old church…and all of that crushes me.  I am getting to the point that I just want to scream, “I’m done!  I can’t do this anymore!  The box you are all trying to fit me into is squeezing the life out of me!”

I know that all of this points to the fact that the end of this period in my life is quickly coming to an end.  I will have to take the next step soon, one way or another, or I will literally go mad.  I cannot keep my world together as it is much longer.  I will be forced out of the closet and into my new life because I will be unable to keep up the charade.

Up and down.

The pressure is building.

Relief MUST happen soon.

 

I have to tell you, I have really found my niche.  It feels really good and it is very energizing!  I am excited to see where this all leads.  For me, being a pastor of an evangelical church that is open and affirming is the niche I really believe I was created for!

Several years ago, I felt “called” to reach out to the gay community and to minister in the gay community.  But because of where my life was at that time, as well as my belief at that time that homosexuality was a sin, I never acted on that call.  I knew it was something God had put on my heart but I didn’t know how to step out and do it.  Now…I am doing it.

My new church is still small.  Because I have not officially come out yet, I can’t really do any advertising other than word of mouth.  But our church is growing, slowly but surely.  And it feels so right and so natural to be a pastor to the people God has brought.  I get to be my 100% authentic self and don’t have to hide or put on a mask.  I get to minister out of what God has done in my life and who He has created me to be.  I am finding that it is SO NATURAL to love the people God has brought to this church!  We have nothing to hide from each other so there is a freedom to be ourselves and to love each other just for who we are.  I appreciate them and they appreciate me.  We support each other.  We laugh and have fun.  And most importantly, we pursue God together.  No one is telling me how to do my job because I don’t get a paycheck (yet) from the church.  So I can just do my thing…honestly and authentically…out of the love that God has poured into my heart for these people.

Regardless of anything else going on in my life right now, I love my new church…and I love that I have found my niche!