For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
This past summer I had the pleasure to stand in a thin place with some amazing people at Wild Goose. For me, the holiest moments of the entire festival occurred gathered with neighbors under a campsite tarp sharing our stories, bread and wine. One of my neighbors was young man named Cody. With his bandanna wrapped around his head, long hair framing his fresh face and bare feet tromping around the muddy campground, he looked like a flashback from Woodstock. His energy was boundless and joy radiated from his very core. Kind, gentle and exuberant, he was a welcome site popping over to my campsite to chat or when I would saunter over to mooch supplies from Tim and Jan. He was a treasured companion, and I am grateful he welcomed me into his experience of Wild Goose.
Cody and I have stayed in touch since Wild Goose via Facebook and Skype and I’ve been privileged to hear more of his story, share in his journey.
Today I have the immense and profound honor to share his written coming out story. The story he just had his mother read for the first time yesterday.
Dear friends, meet Cody.
This has been a long time coming, but it’s time to tell the truth. I can’t really hide it anymore. Some of you know this already and some of you don’t, but it’s something I feel I need to say. I’m gay.
For anyone who reads my blog this will come as no surprise because it’s something I’ve mentioned before. However, many people in my personal life do not know and since I’ve never officially made a coming out post, I thought this would be a good time to share my story. I first knew I was gay when I was 14 or 15. Being that I went to a very conservative Christian school, and I’d been told that being gay was wrong, I suppressed the idea the best I could. This charade worked fairly well until my junior year when I had to admit to to myself that I was in fact gay, and no amount of prayer was going to change that. For some reason though it still bothered me. Being at a very conservative Christian high school it was pretty much understood that gay people weren’t allowed much less accepted or welcomed. So I hid it, even though no one knew my big secret I still felt a crushing weight of disapproval from the people I was surrounded by. This only magnified my insecurities. Because of this I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about what I was going through. Maybe I was wrong about being gay. Maybe it really is just a phase, or maybe God screwed up on me. These ideas buzzed in the back of my head as a constant reminder of what I was going through. These thoughts were only amplified by my Bible Belt conservative surroundings. I fell into a depression that lasted the better half of my junior year. The thought of being God’s mistake all but consumed me during this time and grew from a buzzing in the background of my consciousness until it took center stage. I tried to hide my growing depression the best I could but my close friends and my parents knew something was up. The more they pushed to try to figure out what was wrong the more I felt I had to bury it. Could it really be that God had screwed up? I don’t exactly remember how I stumbled across it, but it was during this time when I found The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne although the book isn’t about anything to do with homosexuality. There was one line in the book that will most likely stick with me for the rest if my life. It read:
“after speaking at a church conference I met a kid who became a close friend of mine and he’s gay, and he told me he wanted to kill himself because he thought he was a mistake, and that God had made a mistake. If people like him can’t find a home in the church, than what have we become?”
It’s almost a passing comment within the scope of the book, but it instantly caught my attention. The boy in the story isn’t even given a name but it was comforting to have someone else I felt I could identify with. It also gave me hope. If this boy could find a home in the church maybe I could find a home in the church to. At the time I didn’t even know there were any gay Christians. I began reading other contemporary scholars and theologians, and was encouraged by what I found in others like Tony Campolo, Brian McLauren, and Justin Lee. Slowly I began to accept myself realizing that I had been lied to. God didn’t hate gay people, and God didn’t hate me.
I truly was Redeemed.
Being that I still went to the same conservative Christian high school I couldn’t come out quite yet, but coming back from the spring break of my junior year the weight on my shoulders had been replaced with the sting of a fresh colorful tattoo that read REDEEMED in bold capital letters across my shoulders commemorating the whole ordeal. God hadn’t screwed up! That I knew for sure, and just like the now permanent addition that stretched the span between my shoulder blades I knew I was a permanent addition into the body regardless of what I had been told.
Slowly since graduating I’ve been coming out of the closet to my friends one by one, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support I’ve received from even my most theologically conservative friends. To all of you who’ve supported me I’d like to say thank you. I wouldn’t be where I am without you, and I love you. To anyone who may be reading this and struggling with their own sexuality I hope my story is an encouragement to you, and my email is at the bottom of the page if you’d like to get in touch with me. I love to hear from you. I’d like to post with something I say as often as I can find reason to say it, and something I’ve often taken great encouragement from myself.
God loves you exactly as you are there is nothing you can say, or do, or be that can separate you from the love of Christ. There is no except, no if, no unless, no but, and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you.
God bless, Cody