Do I Belong? Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of Jimmy’s story, you can check it out Here.

In the summer of 2008, I loved the church, felt connected to the Body of Christ, homosexuality was clearly a sin, and I was eager to move 600+ miles away from home to begin my graduate studies in conducting. By August of 2010, I had returned home with my masters degree, a deep skepticism of the Church, alienation from Christ’s Body, and a lack of certainty that God condemned homosexuality. What happened?

When I moved from Tennessee to North Carolina for graduate school, my sexual orientation was the number one barrier that kept me from enjoying Christian fellowship. Some Christian leaders intentionally kept their distance from me because I was gay – one individual told me as much. Another Christian leader conveniently forgot my name after I shared with him my testimony at his request. Another, more progressive Christian minister told me that it was a blessing to be gay, and I should also let go of any Christian with a traditional view on the Bible and homosexuality because they cannot love me. That would mean letting go of 99% of my friends from home. Another pastor in North Carolina won my trust, but he broke my trust a few months into our friendship when he tried to get in bed with me after we both had one too many beers. And that was only the first of my two years in North Carolina. All these events made me think that I had no place in God’s church in the Tar Heel State.

Pastors were using me for their own selfish gain, and on top of that pain, my Dad died suddenly in the weeks before I left for graduate school. I was hurt, lonely, and confused. I had no genuine friends around me in Carolina, and all of my friends from home were strangely silent. I received hardly a phone call or e-mail from my brothers and sisters from my home church. Perhaps the progressive pastor was right; maybe a Christian with a traditional world view could not ever love a gay guy like me. A deep bitterness towards God’s people, God’s Church, and even towards Jesus Christ Himself rooted itself deep within my heart. I had felt a call to move to North Carolina for school, and I obeyed that call only to find that my obedience was costly on my pocketbook, my heart, and my faith. I blamed God for every bit of it, and I rebelled against Him with a heavy amount of sex and alcohol.

I was an angry young man when I returned to Tennessee. Though I had two jobs in my chosen career field – a rare luxury for musicians – and a home in my former neighborhood with old friends, I felt that I did not have a place in God’s church. I could not trust anyone claimed to be a Christian because of the hell I endured out east. I felt that the Christians whom I called friends were silent and absent during my most difficult season. Even worse, I felt that God was also missing, and through bitter prayers, I angrily told God that I did not want Him in my life any more. It would seem that God had a completely different desire for my life.

In the two years since I have returned to Tennessee, I have had many difficult conversations. I have had to say “I forgive you” and “I”m sorry” more often in the last two years than in my entire life. I have had to tell friends that I no longer believe with absolute conviction that homosexuality is a sin. I’ve even had to tell friends that I’m not so sure that I always believe in Jesus Christ anymore, or at least, that I am more often doubtful than not. Rarely do my friends, who are mostly straight, know how to respond to me, but this does not bother me. They are present in my life. They give me space to ask deep questions, and they respond in earnest with whatever wisdom they have to offer. I’m most content when my friends simply want to sit on my porch with me with no pretense of a solution or agenda.

Currently, I still have my questions and doubts, and not the least of which is that life-long question: Do I, a gay man, have a place in God’s Church? Does this broken man with a history of sex and porn addiction, a bitter heart, and wounded soul actually belong in God’s church? If the witness of the Scriptures is any indication, I do. If Rahab can belong, I can belong. If Saul-turned-Paul has a place,  I have a place. If Jesus counted tax collectors and fisherman as friends and disciples, then I also can be counted among them. Jesus loved the doubters and the broken, the marginalized and abandoned. And he loves to restore souls of individuals and communities alike, and I have the painful joy of experiencing that work in my life every day.

Much love.

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  • Daniel S. Ferguson

    I don’t know if this means much to you, since we’ve never met, but you are always and categorically welcome to my fellowship. I am a Southern Baptist from Nashville, though I currently live in Maryland. I have struggled for years with the church’s treatment of homosexuals, and I would gladly welcome you into my home and church. I know that’s probably a meaningless gesture eleven hours away, but I say it to give you hope. There is a place in God’s church for you. There are people who will accept you. There are people who will love you. It’s not just homosexuality the traditional church struggles with; it’s really everything (I’ve been shunned for being a liberal Democrat, for example), but there are rare gems of people who will love you no matter what. Seek them out and fellowship with them, and plaster Christ’s grace on your face for everyone else.

  • JLynne

    Daniel has it right, there are so many people and churches that would absolutely welcome you. At no time in history, have there been more churches out there who openly welcome gays and lesbians—openly–as a part of their church policy statement. Look to “Open and Affirming” congregations, Metropolitan Community Churches, and of course the many books written by deeply devout gay and lesbian Christians, pastors, rabbis etc. Read, reach out, pray. Rev. Malcolm Boyd is a great place to start. No one has to “settle” for anything they grew up with. We don’t ride tricylces as adults, we change the kinds of foods we eat, we might not have jobs that we wanted as kids… firefighter, carpenter, politician, police officer…. we don’t play with the toys of childhood but leave them behind to become full Christian adults or just plain old adults.

    No matter what you were taught as a child or young adult, it is not about the future, or it could be. Some things we treasure from childhood… Christmas carols, lights, even favorite Bible verses, but if we are to be full adults, we grow, we study, we find things that really affirm us. We don’t stay in mean or limiting places, and we find out about the larger world.

    When I lived abroad for many years, I realized that America was just a tiny bit of the world, and that other cultures were thriving and offering things that don’t exist here. It was a time of great freedom to be in a country with almost no Christianity at all, and yet the people seemed so much better, nicer, more non-violent than Americans.

    To my gay brothers who came from conservative Christian backgrounds, do what it takes to find liberation… in a sane way of course 🙂 I find a lot of times it is men who get caught up in this obsessive legalism, because you get seduced by patriarchal power. Women having none of it in these conservative places don’t feel all that attached to it…. lesbians being a completely different group entirely. So read lesbian liberation theology too, get out of the mold or mould as the case may be.

    Whatever the childhood upbringing, it is still heterosexual, and not really about YOU. YOU are a special beloved minority worldwide, with special gifts, and even Jesus had a beloved disciple. It won’t be easy, but thousands of gay men just like you made this journey, and you can too!

  • Beth Schweitz

    The common thread on these topics that I read is “I,” “me,” “affirm myself” and more of the same self-centered thoughts. I don’t see any room for God to transform those who don’t completely submit themselves to Him. We all suffer from self-centered behavior, but unless we die to ourselves, we are the biggest roadblock to our transformation through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. And He loves us enough to let us make choices and suffer the delusions and live with the consequences of our choices even unto death, if need be.

  • Mike

    Powerful sharing. Thanks.

  • Wanda Wilkinson

    I truely believe that God is about love and love for one another. I struggle to see the difference between hetrosexuals and homosexuals under that heading. Please do not let some one elses feeling and thoughts, even the church, stop you from feeling and living this way. You are blessed and how you use that blessing is up to you.