My journey of becoming a Christian LGBT ally and supporter

Humbled

How can any faith conversion happen other than taking a hard fall off a high horse and being blinded for a period of time? It doesn’t. The hard truth is, this is also grace. Amazing grace. And this is where it all started for me. My story regarding LGBT inclusion is really a journey of discovering the love, grace and goodness of God.

In the fall of 2012, I had a complete spiritual and emotional breakdown. Until this point, all of my “Good Christian” behavior had served me well in the religious circles I ran in. What started as me opening up to a good friend at the time, turned into a full blown misunderstanding of being shamed by an entire family and losing my church and friend community. For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to be an outsider.

This was devastating. Words don’t seem to adequately express the anguish I felt over the loss. I had been accused of being malicious, and in moments, lost my reputation and good character to people who, at the time, I considered to be family. I spent almost a year trying to get back in good graces, incessantly apologizing and asking forgiveness without any success. My soul and spirits were crushed, and I had sunken into a period of deep depression. I can remember not being able to sit through dinner or a movie with without feeling some variety of shame.

I prayed more during this time than I ever remember, but nothing seemed to be resolved. Looking back now, I realized God had other plans for us, but at the time I was feeling forsaken and lost. When I finally came to the realization that it was time to move on, I stumbled upon a podcast series about women in the Gospels called Seen (Oh, the irony in God whispering that he saw me in those dark days). As I listened to these sermons, it was a healing balm for all the hurt I had been feeling. Amazingly, this podcast series that I had discovered from an internet blogger happened to be from a local Charlotte church that I had not heard about before.

When we landed at that church, I felt like I was learning about God’s love for the first time in my life. If God is love, this church meant business. I have never experienced so much grace and healing during any season in my life. My eyes were being opened to a whole new compassionate, kind and gentle side to God that was rarely talked about before. I learned that God was reconciling us to himself and that he desired to restore ALL of creation to its original purpose. Things like social justice were important because that was the central heart of God and his kingdom — it was no longer about a legal contract to get into heaven or any moral superiority that I may have falsely held before that point. Also, racial and gender inequalities were considered grievances to God as well as not loving our immigrant neighbors or serving the poor. Heaven was breaking into Earth, and I was beginning to see all scripture through the lens of Jesus — the true Word of God.

Compassion

This was when God began to prick our hearts regarding LGBT inclusion and acceptance in the church. I had to be included in the margins before I could empathize (I realize the loss I felt is nominal compared to the pain and rejection members of the LGBT community have felt, particularly from the church). Simultaneously, I had been dealing with chronic hip pain for a couple of years and it was beginning to be debilitating. It was even impeding my mobility. I called my Mom sobbing the day we were supposed to fly home for Christmas that year because I wasn’t able to walk, and I didn’t know how I would make it through the airport (I had to use a wheelchair the entire time). Surgery was imminent, and I saw a spiritual significance with my hip deformity. In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestles with God and is blessed because of it. God even changes his name to Israel after that encounter, but blessing always comes with a beautiful brokenness. Jacob inherited a limp due to a hip injury from that encounter. Like Jacob, I was discovering God, and also limping along in the process. It was during these two years, I intimately knew suffering and excruciating physical pain. I had lost dear friends and now my body was failing me.

Pain brings suffering; suffering brings humility; and humility births compassion.

After my surgery, I was not allowed to put any weight on my right leg for nearly 8 weeks. I was confined to the bed almost all hours of the day. There is a quote from the MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail where he says, “…what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers.” It was during my confinement after surgery that I really sought and spent much time in prayer and contemplation over many issues, including LGBT rights. I was beginning to be grieved by the way the church had handled LGBT issues and felt that God’s heart for justice was leading his church to full acceptance, including marriage in that community. It bothered me to hear that most homeless youth under 25 are actually members of the LGBT community because their parents kick them out of the house when they disclose their sexual orientation. This did not settle well with the heart of the compassionate, Jesus I knew. Jesus consistently prayed for our eyes and ears to be opened, and I felt like scales were falling off.

Transformation

Because I had always held a traditional view of scripture and marriage, it was hard to reconcile what I felt God was saying to my heart. I firmly believe that we were led collectively to many resources that revealed God’s heart around LGBT members within the church. I read books and articles and watched documentaries regarding the matter. I read commentaries about Scripture that explained homosexuality references in the context of culture and language of the day. I came to regard monogamous, same-sex marriage unions just as God honoring as my own marriage. The church once used scripture to argue the case for slavery, racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. I believe we need to humbly ask whether or not we are wrong again with regards to the LGBT community.

Just as I believe you cannot experience salvation or God through knowledge alone, I don’t believe that anyone will change their mind about LGBT issues just from educational materials or a few theological points. This is a heart matter above all else which requires the Spirit of God to work. More importantly, these are people made in the image of our Creator — not just an issue to be debated.

I recently watched the pastor of Eastlake church in Seattle publicly affirm LGBT relationships and leadership in his church. The comparison he made was to Peter’s vision about Gentile inclusion into the kingdom of God and lack of scripture to reference in that situation. This is a clear example of the New Testament pointing us into the way of justice and God’s perfect kingdom — that the church has taken incremental steps on that path and continues to make progress. This discussion was a beautiful, humble picture of a church publicly affirming full LGBT inclusion and asking forgiveness for past exclusion. I cried almost throughout the entire sermon.

Once our hearts had changed and fully embraced full LGBT inclusion, it was like an angelic army from heaven was sending members of the LGBT community our way. There is no way you can convince myself and Justin that the deluge of LGBT friends and coworkers we have encountered this last year is just coincidental. I could share story after story after story.

Though, it wasn’t until we had a gay roommate this last year that we became public with our support. After living with someone who became like a brother, I can’t imagine not standing in complete solidarity with him. I want him to have the same rights that I do, and I want him to have access to the same faith communities and sacraments that I do — because he is a chosen and beloved child of God.

This support all started privately though because we knew the majority of the church’s stance on LGBT issues, and were not ready to be public with our support. I’m a little ashamed to say that I was scared to share with even my closest friend. However, when I did, she met me with such grace and eagerness to hear what God was laying on our hearts. This makes me hopeful for open dialogue and respectful discussion of challenging traditional positions.

Call to Action

We strongly feel that God is calling the church to shift on LGBT issues. This has been a journey for us that started almost 3 years ago, and I never expected to change my mind. I was not looking to be an ally or get involved in anyway, but the Spirit moves us all at will. My hope in sharing this story is that God will begin to melt hearts. I also pray that Christians who may be silent or fearful about speaking up will share their voice. There is a community of believers that is growing in support and numbers, and we welcome you in this search for truth and justice. I also understand and respect my brothers and sisters that see this as a matter of staying faithful to Scripture and maintain a traditional view of marriage. I hope that this divide narrows, but I understand some convictions may never change.

I respectfully implore each of you to reconsider your beliefs regarding LGBT issues and marriage equality. Regardless of your view on marriage however, I encourage you to serve and engage with the LGBT community. They have been historically a marginalized community that is worthy of God’s love and care, and we have come to know many of them as the loveliest people in our lives.

Humbled

How can any faith conversion happen other than taking a hard fall off a high horse and being blinded for a period of time? It doesn’t. The hard truth is, this is also grace. Amazing grace. And this is where it all started for me. My story regarding LGBT inclusion is really a journey of discovering the love, grace and goodness of God.

In the fall of 2012, I had a complete spiritual and emotional breakdown. Until this point, all of my “Good Christian” behavior had served me well in the religious circles I ran in. What started as me opening up to a good friend at the time, turned into a full blown misunderstanding of being shamed by an entire family and losing my church and friend community. For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to be an outsider.

This was devastating. Words don’t seem to adequately express the anguish I felt over the loss. I had been accused of being malicious, and in moments, lost my reputation and good character to people who, at the time, I considered to be family. I spent almost a year trying to get back in good graces, incessantly apologizing and asking forgiveness without any success. My soul and spirits were crushed, and I had sunken into a period of deep depression. I can remember not being able to sit through dinner or a movie with without feeling some variety of shame.

I prayed more during this time than I ever remember, but nothing seemed to be resolved. Looking back now, I realized God had other plans for us, but at the time I was feeling forsaken and lost. When I finally came to the realization that it was time to move on, I stumbled upon a podcast series about women in the Gospels called Seen (Oh, the irony in God whispering that he saw me in those dark days). As I listened to these sermons, it was a healing balm for all the hurt I had been feeling. Amazingly, this podcast series that I had discovered from an internet blogger happened to be from a local Charlotte church that I had not heard about before.

When we landed at that church, I felt like I was learning about God’s love for the first time in my life. If God is love, this church meant business. I have never experienced so much grace and healing during any season in my life. My eyes were being opened to a whole new compassionate, kind and gentle side to God that was rarely talked about before. I learned that God was reconciling us to himself and that he desired to restore ALL of creation to its original purpose. Things like social justice were important because that was the central heart of God and his kingdom — it was no longer about a legal contract to get into heaven or any moral superiority that I may have falsely held before that point. Also, racial and gender inequalities were considered grievances to God as well as not loving our immigrant neighbors or serving the poor. Heaven was breaking into Earth, and I was beginning to see all scripture through the lens of Jesus — the true Word of God.

Compassion

This was when God began to prick our hearts regarding LGBT inclusion and acceptance in the church. I had to be included in the margins before I could empathize (I realize the loss I felt is nominal compared to the pain and rejection members of the LGBT community have felt, particularly from the church). Simultaneously, I had been dealing with chronic hip pain for a couple of years and it was beginning to be debilitating. It was even impeding my mobility. I called my Mom sobbing the day we were supposed to fly home for Christmas that year because I wasn’t able to walk, and I didn’t know how I would make it through the airport (I had to use a wheelchair the entire time). Surgery was imminent, and I saw a spiritual significance with my hip deformity. In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestles with God and is blessed because of it. God even changes his name to Israel after that encounter, but blessing always comes with a beautiful brokenness. Jacob inherited a limp due to a hip injury from that encounter. Like Jacob, I was discovering God, and also limping along in the process. It was during these two years, I intimately knew suffering and excruciating physical pain. I had lost dear friends and now my body was failing me.

Pain brings suffering; suffering brings humility; and humility births compassion.

After my surgery, I was not allowed to put any weight on my right leg for nearly 8 weeks. I was confined to the bed almost all hours of the day. There is a quote from the MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail where he says, “…what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers.” It was during my confinement after surgery that I really sought and spent much time in prayer and contemplation over many issues, including LGBT rights. I was beginning to be grieved by the way the church had handled LGBT issues and felt that God’s heart for justice was leading his church to full acceptance, including marriage in that community. It bothered me to hear that most homeless youth under 25 are actually members of the LGBT community because their parents kick them out of the house when they disclose their sexual orientation. This did not settle well with the heart of the compassionate, Jesus I knew. Jesus consistently prayed for our eyes and ears to be opened, and I felt like scales were falling off.

Transformation

Because I had always held a traditional view of scripture and marriage, it was hard to reconcile what I felt God was saying to my heart. I firmly believe that we were led collectively to many resources that revealed God’s heart around LGBT members within the church. I read books and articles and watched documentaries regarding the matter. I read commentaries about Scripture that explained homosexuality references in the context of culture and language of the day. I came to regard monogamous, same-sex marriage unions just as God honoring as my own marriage. The church once used scripture to argue the case for slavery, racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. I believe we need to humbly ask whether or not we are wrong again with regards to the LGBT community.

Just as I believe you cannot experience salvation or God through knowledge alone, I don’t believe that anyone will change their mind about LGBT issues just from educational materials or a few theological points. This is a heart matter above all else which requires the Spirit of God to work. More importantly, these are people made in the image of our Creator — not just an issue to be debated.

I recently watched the pastor of Eastlake church in Seattle publicly affirm LGBT relationships and leadership in his church. The comparison he made was to Peter’s vision about Gentile inclusion into the kingdom of God and lack of scripture to reference in that situation. This is a clear example of the New Testament pointing us into the way of justice and God’s perfect kingdom — that the church has taken incremental steps on that path and continues to make progress. This discussion was a beautiful, humble picture of a church publicly affirming full LGBT inclusion and asking forgiveness for past exclusion. I cried almost throughout the entire sermon.

Once our hearts had changed and fully embraced full LGBT inclusion, it was like an angelic army from heaven was sending members of the LGBT community our way. There is no way you can convince myself and Justin that the deluge of LGBT friends and coworkers we have encountered this last year is just coincidental. I could share story after story after story.

Though, it wasn’t until we had a gay roommate this last year that we became public with our support. After living with someone who became like a brother, I can’t imagine not standing in complete solidarity with him. I want him to have the same rights that I do, and I want him to have access to the same faith communities and sacraments that I do — because he is a chosen and beloved child of God.

This support all started privately though because we knew the majority of the church’s stance on LGBT issues, and were not ready to be public with our support. I’m a little ashamed to say that I was scared to share with even my closest friend. However, when I did, she met me with such grace and eagerness to hear what God was laying on our hearts. This makes me hopeful for open dialogue and respectful discussion of challenging traditional positions.

Call to Action

We strongly feel that God is calling the church to shift on LGBT issues. This has been a journey for us that started almost 3 years ago, and I never expected to change my mind. I was not looking to be an ally or get involved in anyway, but the Spirit moves us all at will. My hope in sharing this story is that God will begin to melt hearts. I also pray that Christians who may be silent or fearful about speaking up will share their voice. There is a community of believers that is growing in support and numbers, and we welcome you in this search for truth and justice. I also understand and respect my brothers and sisters that see this as a matter of staying faithful to Scripture and maintain a traditional view of marriage. I hope that this divide narrows, but I understand some convictions may never change.

I respectfully implore each of you to reconsider your beliefs regarding LGBT issues and marriage equality. Regardless of your view on marriage however, I encourage you to serve and engage with the LGBT community. They have been historically a marginalized community that is worthy of God’s love and care, and we have come to know many of them as the loveliest people in our lives.

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