I guess you'd say the closest I've come to having a complete meltdown happened in a Kroger parking lot in Nashville around September 2014. One of the only two friends who (both of which being from elsewhere) knew I was gay was visiting and although we were supposed to see each other that night, I couldn't track her down. This resulted in me driving all over the place and ending up in a parking lot hoping for a phone call because I was in the midst of feeling more alone/conflicted/paranoid than ever and all I wanted was to see them. In the end, it all worked out but the point is that was the moment I thought, "Things have to change." My situation's different now, but externally things still need to change.
I grew up as a super church kid. I was there all of the time even as a teenager and eventually I was playing in the worship band every Sunday until early this year. Being so involved positively shaped who I am now, but I also struggled intensively with the fact I was gay and I'd known it since before I even understood what it meant. Looking back I'm pretty sure I was really trying to cover it up by being extra involved in church. If I was that involved and that "good" maybe no one would suspect.
Then something would happen. I'd hear a family member make a comment about gay people or it'd be referenced at church in a message. My heart would drop and I'd be reminded I had reason to fear. You see, there's this saying "sin is sin" I'd hear people throw around, but by the actions and words I heard, I felt like an exception to the rule. That may be the case for God, but it sure felt like everyone was always ready to get the pitchforks out when homosexuality came up. My only theory is that it's easy to single it out when it's something you know you 100% don't fall under.
I don't think it's a sin, but that's not the point of this whole thing. Whether it is or it isn't, I feel it's time for the attitude to change when it comes to confronting it. For the longest time, it was the most difficult thing to reconcile my beliefs with my orientation. The general assumption is the two can't coexist, but they do. It isn't nearly as uncommon as most would probably think. It's a fight sometimes to stay in the game when it comes to believing in God. Believing in God isn't the struggle, but being bitter about how you're perceived and talked about by other believers (knowing the truth about you or not) sure is.
I just wish for a change in approach when it comes to this issue in the church. It's pretty simple: Love. This doesn't mean just saying the cliche, "You're no different than who you were before. I still love you the same." Honestly, the word "love" in our society seems to have lost it's meaning. We say we love people and just stuff all the time when we don't really mean it. The word won't, but the action of love can knock the breath right out of you. The action has to follow. I can't say words mean a whole lot at this point. You have to prove it. Make me not have to second guess it. Make me believe you. The truth is, if you can't make me believe you and I still have to sit there listening to things that doom me as a person for something I know I can't change, you can't expect me to stick around for what else you have to say. I've already witnessed a majority of silence from the church community when the Pulse shooting in Orlando occurred. I've already seen how World Vision had 10,000 children lose sponsorships in a matter of a few days when they announced they'd hire gay married couples. I see you fighting for "religious liberty" laws that use my own religion against me because you somehow fear my existence/influence. I've worked for a company (Lifeway) who would've fired me for being gay had they known. A hole has been dug. People in my position are falling through the cracks and I cringe knowing a 13 year old version of me is out there somewhere in the same place I was wondering what's wrong with her. I want her to encounter love in a way I didn't that shows it's safe to talk. I want it to actually be safe to talk and safe to not hide because mentally it's not something I wish for anyone. The environment has to change so this can happen. I don't want them to turn into me in that parking lot.
The truth is love wins, regardless of what side of the argument you fall on. If I'm honest, I don't think I fully felt the love of anyone until I was able to let people in and see they truly loved me back regardless. Until I let them see me at the most vulnerable point, I couldn't feel it. It may seem hard to grasp but I swear I didn't even encounter God's love until I fell into that place because I felt him through people I was telling. Jamie Tworkowski once said "God's not invisible when we come alive." He was right because I felt and saw him through some family members' responses or through the night one of my best friends sat with me until 6 AM in a literal intersection so I could talk it out because I was scared to fly home and face the music after the truth came out. I felt it when the same friend's mom kept telling me, "You're worth it," after I'd came out to her and expressed fear of telling anyone else. I felt it every time I still felt included despite any differences that now existed. I felt it every time I was absolutely horrified to tell someone and was met with pure love. However, the current tone suggests it's risky to open up and be vulnerable about it. As long as that's a problem and it keeps you from being open, it also distances you from love itself.
So I call for a change in the church and personally. It's not worth it to single out this issue anymore on the grounds of religious beliefs. It's pushing me away. I've spent a long time thinking silence was a better route because I feared making people uncomfortable but that's not going to incite any kind of change when the cost is too much. The younger versions of me can't afford silence. So I'm here to say I believe in your God. I'm also gay. I'm far from alone in this. I'm still worth it. We exist. I exist.