I’ve told my story fairly frequently…how, although I’ve always known that I was gay, I didn’t come out until I was in my late thirties. For many years I tried not to be gay, because the world that I lived in (the world of conservative Christianity) just didn’t have any room for gay and lesbian people and their “sinful lifestyle choice.”
I want to be clear, though… this blog post is not about making anyone wrong. I’m not going to rail against faith of any stripe, the church, organized religion or its leaders. Even now, when I look back upon this earlier chapter of my life, I am deeply grateful for all it meant to me. This was the path I took to get me to today, and I’m really thankful for having come this way.
Over the past couple of weeks Lynn has been talking about the experience of “falling from grace.” In my own life, I’ve experienced one or two of these, and as an adult I find that the greatest negative reaction hasn’t been from the people around me… but, rather, from the chorus of voices inside my own head.
I came to the church in my late teens. It was a place of warmth and welcoming… I was embraced, and loved, and accepted (at least the part of me that I would allow people to see). The people there were truly wonderful to me. In terms of the five genetic needs, it met my own need for love and belonging in a way I’d never experienced before.
Over the years which followed, I grew in my faith and understanding of what the expectations were of someone who desired to be an ardent follower of Christ. My “quality world pictures” of what a christian man was were forming and being honed and reinforced on a daily basis. In the years which followed I was married, became a father, completed ministerial training, and entered full-time pastoral ministry. My “picture” of the man I was supposed to be were deeply ingrained in my mind and heart. I knew who I was expected to be… who I WANTED to be; the faithful, devout christian… the husband… the father… the minister. But I was also painfully aware that I was hiding something…something that seemed in those days to stand in direct opposition to every other part of my life which I held so dear.
Over the course of time, I had created quality world pictures of who I thought I needed to be. Finally the breaking point came, and I couldn’t continue to hide who I really was. After more than 20 years of trying to live up to the pictures, I came out and my “world” came crashing down around my feet.
Yes, certainly there was fallout from those around me. I do not in anyway intend to minimize the impact coming out had on my family. At the same time, however, it would be less than honest to ignore that the greatest critic…the loudest voice of condemnation…was my own and was heard by no one but myself.
By admitting to my world, I was also admitting to myself that I wasn’t really the man that I had seen in my quality world. My secret was out; I had crossed the threshold, and I could never unsay those words or close the door which I’d opened.
Over the course of the next few years, I found myself in the business of deconstructing those pictures. Looking at them, and trying to figure out who I really was, and how I was supposed to relate to the world around me — and more importantly — to the God I loved, but as a gay man. The year which followed was the most difficult year of my life up to that point, and was most likely the catalyst which resulted in years of clinical depression. I was confused, conflicted, and torn in ways I thought would never heal. It was unbelievably hard for me.
This was my “fall from grace.”
Did I recover? I not only recovered, but grew immeasurably. And that part of the story will come very soon. Stay tuned. 🙂