Here is Part 1 of Mike’s story. Part 2 continues here:
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I soon learned there was a tension there. On the way to my high school youth group every week, my dad and I listened to James Dobson and other conservative evangelicals on the radio as they discussed things like homosexuality’s threat to Christendom and the family in America. Apparently they thought it was a sin, too. I had never heard any of this before; I didn’t even know what Evangelical Christianity or the Religious Right were, but I learned quickly. Although I was young and impressionable, my life experience had made me quite convinced that Jesus had the power to find and save people in broken families just like mine, and that how we voted probably wouldn’t change that. So I didn’t listen to them much; they seemed too old and crusty to actually know the people they seemed so opposed to.
But I ran up against a lot of their thinking in the church. At one point, a friend’s mom even looked me straight in the eye and pronounced that I had been straying from the Lord because I was living in a den of evil. That was the sort of environment I had suddenly found myself in. Regardless, these were the most loving and accepting people I’d ever known, and they quickly became family. As a result, I felt free to share my story with them. Some had opinions, others didn’t. But they all loved me. And I became accustomed to the fact that the people around me were comfortable with my faith, but quite uncomfortable with my upbringing. I sort of assumed the role of informant/mediator on the issue, but I tried not to give it much attention. I was far more interested in knowing these people who seemed to care about me even though I had done nothing to earn it from them.
I eventually went to college at the University of Michigan and found myself on a campus that was in many ways the polar opposite of Conservative Christianville. These people seemed very comfortable with my upbringing but quite uncomfortable with my faith. Then, to my surprise, I found a church community that felt like a new level of home to me. This group of Christians loved me every bit as much as the last, but they weren’t nearly as surprised or uncomfortable with my upbringing. They were absolutely devoted to their beloved Jesus, but came from all kinds of broken and unusual backgrounds, just like mine. So they were no strangers to all of the issues I had known or brought in. But even more so, they were committed to seeing each other grow in the love and grace of Christ, and quickly knit me in as one of their own; that I might experience the same freedom they had. They were not content to leave me in a place where I had comfortably shut out all the pain in my life. They knew Jesus wanted to flip the emotional switch back, that I might fully know his love and grace for me. And they were committed to seeing that happen in my life.
Through re-connecting with my heart and growing more and more into the man God had created me to be, I soon realized that nothing this world over moves me or breaks my heart like this world’s need for the saving grace of Jesus Christ that brought me into ultimate and Divine Truth those nine years ago. I became convinced that the local church is the hope of the world, and I wanted to be the one leading the charge to bring her to the neediest places in the world. So I made the decision to go on staff with New Life Church in Ann Arbor; that community of believers who showed me what it means to be broken before your God and allow his grace to penetrate into the deepest corners of your heart. My dream is to see church communities like New Life’s planted on college campuses around the nation, because I realize that college students are still young enough to believe the world can change, yet mature and able enough to see it through. And I want to be there when they change the world.
Since New Life is committed to serving the campus community, the staff positions are all support-based. In other words, the people we serve don’t have the means to support us financially, so we’re all missionaries. It quickly became apparent that my mom had some trepidation regarding this dream of mine. It was well-founded. She had actually wanted to be a missionary when she was younger, but attended a conservative Bible college that told her that because she was a woman, she could not be one; she could only be married to one. Heap on top of this all the ostracism she felt from the church because of her sexual orientation, and she began to grow some fears that I would become the sort of person who perpetuated all the hurt and exclusion she had experienced growing up. It took incredible humility and patience to walk her through what I had experienced and what God was doing in my heart, and that I’m not disappointed in who she is or how she raised me. I think she’s finally coming to believe that I will not be that church leader who told her there was something horribly wrong with her for being a lesbian.
This summer, God has taken me deeper than I could have ever imagined into engaging the issue of homosexuality. Some of the closest people in my life have come out to me with their histories of same-sex attraction, and the ways that it has secretly caused pain and division in our relationship. Through it all, God is undeniably beckoning me toward an otherworldly forgiveness and love that makes me fearful and uncomfortable in all sorts of ways. He is orchestrating the most masterful of redemption stories with my life, so that he may speak truth and love into all the pain this particular issue has caused me throughout my life, for the sake of His glory and my healing. May my life accomplish just that.”
If you know of anyone growing up straight with gay parents and they don’t know of any safe places to be able to talk or ask questions to, Mike is here to serve. Thanks Mike, for being so bold as to put your life out there for all of us to learn from!