The story I would tell you over coffee (coming out)
I have spent the last two years in coffee shops and restaurants, in my home & at friend's homes, very carefully & intentionally coming out. I did this cautiously because I wanted to do it well & also, I was so afraid. The first person I told, as I have told him now many times, had to be 150% safe. 100% safe was not safe enough, I needed him to be so so so safe and thankfully he was just that.
I believed, and still believe, that the best way to come out & use your story to create change in community, is one person at a time. So one by one, I slowly, systematically, intentionally & timorously told my story. And every time I told it I learned something about myself. The first few times I was so tentative, so hesitant, I didn't use 'the words', they were so hard to say, but soon I could & would use those words... 'lesbian', 'gay', 'queer'. Every time I told my story, my head would bow less, my eyes would begin making contact with the person I was speaking to, my cheeks would flush a little less. Eventually, the story became less about 'the words' & more about what God was doing in me. The truth of my story began to rise above the shame of my story. And increasingly I discovered, in the telling of it, that I was loved & that I did not need to be afraid.
And now I am telling my story here, to you. And oh, what a story! So, grab some coffee or tea & sit with me to listen.
Two years ago my marriage was ending, it had been such a painful marriage and as it neared it's last breath I think I wanted to exit the marriage having learned something. Mostly, I just didn't want to be in pain any longer and I could see that it was possible to exit this marriage only to create another similar painful narrative. I began taking responsibility for my part of what had been, I began looking at the stories I was telling myself that meant I 'had to' control, hide, shame, manage, fix & be in pain. I started seeing that I had a line in my heart, a line I had always blamed my husband for. He was mean so I 'had to protect', I 'couldn't' let him past this line. I started seeing that this line actually predated my husband, it was carefully constructed by me to self protect. And this line kept my husband out, but it also kept out everyone else.
This line, was designed to even keep God out. This line kept love out.
I started asking myself a question. "What could be so 'horrible', so awful inside this part of your heart, that you are keeping everyone including God, out?" And so, gently, God asked me to hold His/Her hand & He/She told me we would peek past this line, into the dark place of my heart, together. So as I timidly peeked in, looking only for the briefest of moments because that is all I could handle, what I saw there in the hidden darkness, was my sexuality.
I was hiding a whole part of myself. And as God & I looked at this part of myself, He/She told me I was beautiful & loved, even & especially in this place.
Once I saw this & made the bold step to tell one other soul, I would peek in a little longer each time, daringly, starting brave and beautiful work. I began the process of trying to understand this part of myself and integrate it into the rest of my identity. I started reconciling myself to myself, reconciling my sexuality with the rest of me. Merging my sexual self with my spiritual self. I started the work of becoming a whole person, loved by God.
The second person I told was my husband. I had been feeling God asking me to 'be sheep like'. At this time, our marriage was so volatile & our interactions so tempestuous, I had been doing so much difficult heart work yet God was asking me to be more vulnerable?! To be vulnerable & open myself up to the one person I did not even want to be in a room with. But it was in the most intimate of ways, while I was taking a bath, that I told my husband everything I was feeling & seeing. Strangely enough, as I told him; there was more grace, intimacy, love & trust in the room than had ever been present in our marriage. There was also truth in the room & it was clear to me that this had been 'in the room' of our marriage for a long time.
Reconciliation for my marriage, which is something I had prayed so diligently for, was looking differently than I thought.
The next person I told was my pastor, who was also my boss. I had worked 10 years in & for a church community which I deeply loved. While I found my work very meaningful, I now see that in many ways I was working to earn love & acceptance, because I did not know that I was intrinsically loved. I was hiding an entire part of my identity, my sexuality, in order to gain that acceptance. Deep down inside, I felt I was 'passing' in the community I was seeking to find love in. I felt like an outsider, creating a community for other people to participate in.
As I've walked through the process of coming out, including divorce, my entire false persona which I had crafted to fit in, like a wedge, lifted and flipped over my life. What I found as I've excavated this false life is a Jesus that I had never seen before. I had faked being a 'good person', I had done all the right things because they were the 'right things'. Now the Jesus who butted up against the status quo and flipped everything upside down made sense. Quite painfully, this new found Jesus, did not fit into my church work. It became clear that the church I loved & I were on divergent paths.
Through all of this, God and I have been having some intense daily conversations surrounding sexuality, sin, identity, biblical marriage & gender. All of which, as you might imagine, I have so much more to say about in future posts. I believe that the work of integration with myself is work that everyone can connect with, we all have hidden parts of ourselves from Him/Her, we all have our own dark places. It is the sin of hiding and it taps into our deeply shared painful narrative. And my story, of reconciling my heart with His/Hers, is a story for all of us. I believe God is using the LGBTQ community to reconcile with the heart of his/her people, and I believe that the church should begin to listen to their stories. I believe God is actively at work in me & in us.