It’s National Coming Out Day, and I have been doing a lot of thinking about my identity. For many, many years I tried to deny a central part of myself, and when I finally came out publicly in 2016, it was really important to me to “live in congruence with reality.” Despite the insistence of conservative Christians, who urged me to “find my identity in Christ alone,” I had realized how important it was for me to tell the truth about my sexual orientation. Jesus himself said that the truth sets us free. Being gay to me is as central to my identity as being right-handed or extroverted. It’s just something that is true about me.
But of course when I came out, I lost so much of the community I had worked most of my life to build. I had to resign from my worship pastor position and surrender my credentials in the evangelical denomination I had called home for sixteen years. Sometimes living in freedom and truth has a steep price.
Along with the massive transitions in my personal life, living situation and employment, I was going through a pretty significant deconstruction of my faith. I was still in church every Sunday, usually leading worship, but sometimes it was difficult to figure out exactly how my faith fit into my new life. I found myself minimizing it sometimes, especially in queer circles, and especially when dating. So many gay men have been deeply harmed by religion. It’s no wonder many of them are simply not interested in dating a Christian. And with an already-small dating pool, adding “Christian” to my desired qualities in a partner seemed like the perfect way to ensure I would remain single forever. How important was my faith to me?
It turns out, very. Slowly but surely, God kept reminding me that I belong. I am loved, I am held, I am his. From my childhood until now, I have been surrounded by the love and the grace of Jesus. Like being right-handed, extroverted or gay, being a Christian is just something that is true about me.
Where can I go from your Spirit?Psalm 139:7-12
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
And it’s so fascinating to me: As I embrace my Christian identity along with my gay identity, I find more and more people who want to talk about it. I find Christians who really want to understand how they can affirm and bless their LGBTQ+ friends and loved ones. And I find queer people who really want to embrace a spiritual path. I am, slowly but surely, finding my people. I am, slowly but surely, finding my home.
It’s only in embracing the totality of my identity that I feel truly complete. I am deeply Christian and profoundly gay. I can’t deny either of these truths, and I don’t want to anymore. The more I relax and embrace reality, the more I am able to live the abundant life that Jesus said he came to bring us.
It’s not easy to walk this road sometimes, but it leads to life. All my love and prayers for those of you choosing to come out today. May you embrace and reclaim all the beautiful parts of your true identity. And may you feel the presence and pleasure of the Divine One all the days of your life. Amen.