So I'm not even really sure how I'm supposed to categorize today's post/reflection. It's a weird jumble of feelings that are currently swirling around in my head, mostly related to some of the interactions that I've had with people the last few weeks, and those interactions have been extremely positive. So, I'm conflicted. Also minor confession: I wrote this post a few weeks ago and forgot to post it. So…I don’t know why I just told you that. Okay, none of that probably made any sense. That's just sort of how my brain works, so apologies in advance (...retrospect?). These are some of the things that have been churning around in my head the past few days: since coming out, I've gotten basically only positive responses from the people in my life. People have been so supportive, and I'm so thankful for that. Even with the things that I've written on here and in the real talk conversations I've had with people the responses have been so encouraging. And the weird thing is that I've been surprised by all of it.
Obviously, I definitely prefer pleasant surprises to unexpected rejections, but sometimes I wonder if that's not the way it should be all the time. And I don't mean for this to sound insensitive to anyone who has had a difficult coming out story, because I know that’s real and that it hurts and that it’s soul crushing. I’ve heard the stories of people getting kicked out of their houses after coming out. I’ve heard of people whose parents disowned them after they came out. And all of those stories honestly break my heart. That’s not right, and I hope that I don’t sound ungrateful for the way that people have responded to me, but I also long for a world where it doesn't really matter whether you're gay or straight and where neither of those things have any implications about your faith, because that's not the way that it's supposed to be. Why should people finding out something new about you change the way that they see you?
In my opinion, people shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not their parents will kick them out of the house if they come out. People shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not their friends will leave them if they come out. People shouldn’t have to worry about being asked to step down from ministry or leadership in the church or youth group if they come out. People shouldn’t have to worry about getting expelled from their Christian schools if they come out. People shouldn’t have to worry about other Christians taking their faith less seriously if they come out. People shouldn’t have to worry about not being loved if they come out.
All of that being said, I also don’t think that we should expect everyone in our lives to automatically agree and be on the same exact page as us. For one thing, other people definitely need time to process things sometimes. Yes, you’re not any different of a person just because you told someone, but sometimes people need to be able to reconcile the stereotypes that they’ve been socialized with and the reality of the person that they know. And I definitely think that we need to show grace there as well, because it is an adjustment for some of our friends and loved ones.
And I think this is sometimes where we see what the essence of Christians is supposed to be, when people purpose not to change the way they treat you or the way that they view you just because of a new fact that they’ve learned about you. They might not necessarily agree with every viewpoint that you have, but it shouldn’t change the fundamental way that they perceive you or the way that they treat you.
And sometimes I’m more thankful for that being said than for the people who just “go with it,” because I think it shows that Christians really can disagree without hating someone and that disagreeing doesn’t automatically entail condemning. I’ve had at least a couple people now tell me that they’re not sure exactly what they think, but that it doesn’t change the way that they see me and it won’t change the way they treat me. And I’m thankful for that, if not a little surprised.
Like I said, sometimes Christians surprise me…and I am one.
I’m surprised that I can have real conversations about sexuality with other Christians. I’m surprised that people legitimately want to understand what it’s like to be gay and be a Christian. I’m surprised that people haven’t thrown the Bible in my face. I’m surprised that people agree with what I’ve written here; I’m surprised that it makes sense to them. I’m surprised that people don’t question my faith. I’m surprised that people have been encouraging me to tell more people my story. I’m surprised that people are sympathetic to the fact that I’ve been praying and asking the Lord for a person. I’m surprised that they don’t condemn that, and I’m surprised that they also don’t try to quiz me about what kind of boundaries I’m going to have and how that’s going to work. I’m sort of surprised that people trust me. I’m sort of surprised that people don’t try to brush away what God has spoken to me by saying that I’m just believing what I want to believe. I’m surprised that…Christians have been acting like Christians.
Yeah, I caught myself thinking that the other day. It was honestly really weird, because I’ve never even been close to being anti-Christian in my life, but I definitely did have this subconscious defense that went up whenever I was around certain Christians, you know, the more “judgy,” media-stereotypically ones. In fact, there are still some of those in my life, the ones that I’m afraid to open up to, and the ones that I don’t tell things because I’m afraid they’ll judge me for the things that I’m feeling and the things that I’m going through. Isn’t that strange?
And then it hit me. This is what it feels like to be someone on the outside. This is how people see the church. This is how people see all Christians, as judgmental people who only criticize. And that hurts me on their behalf, because it’s hard for me to be around those people. It’s hard to listen to people who you don’t feel safe around. It’s hard to realize that you’re a Christian and sometimes you’re scared of talking to other Christians for fear of what they’ll say or what they’ll think. It almost makes you not want to be associated with the word “Christian.” Almost.
But at the same time, I’m thankful for the people who I’ve encountered in my own life. I’m thankful that they’re going to be the Christians that people comment on and say are different from the rest. They’re the people through whom others see Jesus. And that’s what I’m hoping for in all Christianity, that we reach a place where people don’t feel judged by us, but rather feel loved and able to open up with the things that are hard and the things that they’re struggling with.
Because we need more people who are willing and able to say, “I’m not totally sure what I think about that yet, but it’s not going to change the way I see you,” or “I don’t think I agree with that, but it’s not going to the change the way I treat you.”
How much different would our world be if that was all Christians? How much more Jesus would the world see?
These are my Wednesday reflections for the week.