Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
I received a personal letter from a man in his middle forties. He described that he was recently coming out to himself and a few others. He grew up in a strongly legalistic church background. He said his church considered Liberty University and Jerry Fallwell, its founder as being a liberal institution.
The main issue he said he was struggling with was deep-seated shame and guilt. He believed that God would definitely send him to hell if he ever chose to live with a man and have a sexual relationship with him. Mind you, this man is sexually a virgin. His pain was obvious as was his fear.
I wanted to share with you what I wrote him in response to his desires for someone to share his struggles with. He said he could only communicate through physical letters or possibly a phone call.
January 6, 2015
Thank you so much for writing me. I am also thankful you had a friend who pointed you in my direction. I hope my words will be encouraging.
When I read your letter I’m drawn back 25 years when I first began my journey with gay men seeking help. My words today would be far different than they were all those many years ago. But at the same time, my heart wouldn’t be much different in my desire for you to find liberty and peace within your personal life.
I’ve heard of church affiliations like you have described. I grieve thinking of the many who have been underneath the heavy loads they have tied on the heads of folks like you. I grieve even more thinking of those who have remained without question and continue to miss out on the amazing grace of life and love through God.
Four years ago, I discovered grace at the deepest level I have ever known. It was through this amazing awareness that God is love, and love hears, validates, eases, brings peace, and always accepts us right where we are. I began to find the liberty I had always desired.
When I found God’s unrelenting love and his unconditional acceptance, I began to give myself freedom. I began to receive freedom to ask, to seek, and to discover life as is mine to live. I realized that nothing I would ever do would separate me from God’s love. I began to accept God’s love so deeply that I walked into some very scary waters as I began to accept myself as a gay man. I’ve done this before, but it was before I began to include my faith in the equation.
I’m drawn to many questions as I read your letter. Are you still involved in any sort of organized religion, church, or faith group? What would you say your belief is today about your spiritual fate? What do you believe about God at the deepest level? What is your deepest heart’s desire regarding your personal spiritual journey?
Being a man, who is primarily gay, not bi or any other middle ground, is something I’ve known about myself all of my life. I’ve always felt this way and have struggled with it for all of my years. Before I knew how to describe it, or what words to use, I just felt so different from all of the others I knew. Then from that feeling of being the odd man out, so to speak, I got married when I was just 19. I believed this would isolate me from my internal pain.
After several years, the pain continued, only in different forms. My marriage ended by my announcement that I was finally accepting the word gay as part of my life and that I wanted to live my life within that authenticity. I walked away from my family which included two small children.
After several broken relationships and the pain that goes with that, the religious people around me assured me that I could find peace through God and that God could free me from my struggle with homosexuality. I took them at their word and began to seek freedom from what I believed to be a plague of my misappropriated sexuality.
Desiring connection at a personal level, and to live some sort of normalcy, I found someone I deeply respected and got married again. This time, I was determined I would not fail and this marriage / relationship would work – of course through the power and grace of God.
Year after year I did my best to be as obedient to God’s standards as I knew how. I availed myself to therapy, counsel, books, teaching, church, conferences and of course much self discipline. My sexuality diminished and I believed God’s grace had given me the power to be faithful to my wife of 24 years. But as my sexuality drained, so did my heart. I was lonely, discouraged, full of shame. While our marriage continued and I had remained faithful, I was a miserable failure as a husband. I couldn’t love my wife as I believed I should and as I believed she deserved.
Finally, God’s grace, true unmerited grace, entered my life. At this point, I opened my heart once again to trust. I began to act upon that grace. “I’m gay” I finally uttered. Well, the earth didn’t shatter. Then I said, I don’t know the answers; I don’t know what is right or what is wrong. Still the moon didn’t swing out of orbit. I was disfellowshipped from a small group of “believers” for being “unrepentant, a false teacher, and rebellious.” Well, this turned out to be a gift of freedom. I could no longer fit in a community that was so focused on actions and behavior rather than grace and redemption.
Finally, I went to my wife and said I was finished with trying to live out a dual existence. I told I was no longer willing to work on the marriage as I’d spent 24 years trying to make it work. She asked if I was willing to pray about it, I said no. I responded with, “What do you think I’ve been doing for 25 years?
I left the marriage, still trusting in the grace of God to walk with me. I met a man and discovered a connection like I’ve never known in my life. He is a good man who is from a good family. He is a man of faith. We fell deeply for one another. I once again had to trust in the grace of God to walk alongside me.
I’ve grown, torn down walls and finally for the first time in my life I no longer feel broken, nor do I feel like a misfit. I finally found my place. I’ve found a place that is congruent with whom I have always been. I’m no longer trying to be something I’m not. I no longer am trying to fit in places that aren’t going to work for me.
I don’t know what to say, my friend. I’m open to any dialogue you want to enter into. What I can say is that no matter what you do, where you go, or how you live, nothing, absolutely nothing can separate you from God’s unmerited favor and love. It’s our world’s human development in religious form that has concocted the fear and hatred model of religion. I’m not bitter, but I am cautious of any doctrines that preach that anything can separate us from God’s restoring love.