When I was in the closet, I was friends with a guy named Chad. Chad lived in Canada, and he was struggling with whether it was God’s will that he come out of the closet or stay in it. Of course, we didn’t refer to the issue in those rash terms: to Chad and I, the issue was about whether God was approving of us living a gay lifestyle or not.
Both of us had experience in churches where being gay was on par with any other sin of the flesh (envy, stealing, alcoholism, murder)—or worse. We were tied to these places of worship and bigotry by the music that moved us so deeply, and the eloquent (and often manipulative) words in the teachings we heard, particularly about homosexuality. But “being moved” doesn’t even begin to describe what we felt. We felt transformed and spiritually filled in these places. How could those who were so surely connected to God be teaching us the wrong songs or the wrong ideas about God’s view on homosexuality?
If either of us ever had doubts, the other would call on a sermon backed up with misinterpreted scripture, or remind the other of powerful times of worship in these places that saw being gay as a “sin”. For us, that meant something was wrong with us—deeply wrong. Chad had been molested by his father and thrown out to the streets as a young man. He later had the misfortune of being coerced into an affair with an ex-gay minister (so much for “praying the gay away”). Chad had gotten to a point that I wasn’t at: he’d had enough. He saw the manipulation and the coercion of the ministries he had been part of and shut it all down.
Chad chose to stop listening to his Christian music, to stop going to church, and removed himself from all “ex-gay” influences. He explained that he wanted to hear God’s voice for himself in the silence. I was very concerned that Chad was shutting himself away from what I considered important avenues for God to speak through.
It’s virtually unheard of to get a recommendation from a pastor to stop going to church or to stop listening to spiritual music. Nevertheless, that is exactly what Chad did.
This is something far more foreign to us today, in our 24 hour access to friends, news, music and more to stay “connected”. Cell phones, tablets, facebook, twitter…oh my! The list is endless. It is harder for us to pull away now more than ever, and yet this was a common practice for Jesus. One of the most famous stories in Scripture is that of Jesus walking out to the disciples on water , when Peter makes a brave attempt to join him (Matt 14: 22-34). However, before Jesus ever got to such a spiritual centeredness to walk across water, the scripture says he did something very important first: “and after he (Jesus) dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (v.23).
It is interesting to note that while Jesus was away, the disciples on the boat were wrestling with a wind storm. Isn’t that like our fear? If we disconnect from the world, and even the ministries that support us, to spend time alone with God, won’t things fall apart? Yet, while those men were out on the boat wrestling with the winds in their own strength, Jesus was stealing himself away to get into God’s power which ultimately saved them all from the storm.
The result for Chad stealing himself away was this: he came out of the closet and went on to find the life he was meant to live. Sadly, he felt that in order to do this he also had to separate himself from me. That hurt, but now I understand it. The right road for Chad—coming out—was a road I was warning him against. It would take me nearly 15 years more to do the same. It is sometimes the people, places, and things in our lives most precious to us that we need to disconnect from to hear God’s voice. The good news is it isn’t forever. It is only for the time necessary for you to know you have heard God’s voice. If the separation seems permanent, it will only be because God is telling you to change that radio dial. God may show you that you have been listening to wrong voices. Regardless, by going to the still and silent places, we become even more deeply connected and rooted with God so that we can filter out the things that aren’t good for our lives. Who doesn’t want that?
The Bible talks about wolves in sheep’s clothing and false prophets. We know, as gay Christians, that any person or church who condemns homosexuals as hell-bound is one of those two things. Why? Because God is love and not condemnation, the scriptures often quoted to condemn us are always taken out of context, and we live under a New Covenant that doesn’t bind us to every single idea about every law ever written. Jesus said the two most important laws were: “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-32). When I quoted this verse to Chad one day, he replied, “Thank you. You have no idea what that does for me.” I think I do now. It set him free to see God was more concerned about love than about who you love.
15 years later, it was my turn. I hate to even confess it, but I was out of church and away from all the Christian music I’d listened to for far longer than my friend Chad. It took me a long time to trust again, to want to hear worship music again, and to accept my new self. Then, on top of that, finding a place of worship that was gay-friendly was another task altogether.
I never heard from Chad again so I don’t know what the end results of coming out for him were. I do know that for me, coming out has been a great experience of finding not only freedom within me, but also enabled me to find a truly loving, accepting church here in the Metro Detroit area. A good deal of my hang ups are gone—or at least decreasing to a great degree. I can listen to Christian music again without feeling hurt or manipulated, and I am not only attending church but I’m a part of a Bible study group as well. I am happier now than I ever been in my life.
So, if you are ever unsure what God is really telling you—especially, about who you are—or you are confused or stressed out by the messages you are hearing in the world or even through a ministry, do what Jesus did. Don’t wait till you need 7 years to recover from false messages, seeking God’s stamp of approval delivered by the hand of imperfect man. Steal yourself away for some quiet time with God. It may be for a few moments, a few hours, or a few days. When you come back, you will not only be walking on the waters of life but you may help others in steering their boats back to safety.
LARRY JAMISON holds a Bachelors degree in Secondary Education from Eastern Michigan University. He has been freelance writing for many years. His blog, movie and book reviews, and more are available at www.gotword.webs.com.