The following post comes from the anonymous blogger behind The Registered Runaway, a gay man navigating his way through faith, sexuality and inner peace.
I should start at the beginning and stop short there. It’s important to look at those small squares throughout the tape of memory. Those short significant moments in their every detail. True healing, I have found, has to come through something of a slow visitation. A breaking apart of the past, picking up small shards of where things went terribly wrong. Facing them. Saying them. Saying them out loud.
I need to use a magnifying glass and see the short breaths where big things happened. In this case, I want to talk about ten seconds.
The story where Jesus cuddles with kids is where he first walked off with my heart.
“13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10: 13-16, NIV)
I watched the scene play out in church productions and heard it read aloud in Sunday School. It felt like love and favor, not only because I was a child myself, but because I was God’s child. His boy. No one could step in between us. And often, I would drift into a daydream, one where I am a kid on that day.
Timid, I’d stagger towards this hooded traveler, his hushed companions circling him, circling me, like a pest to be squashed. And then like light breaking darkness, he’d hunker down to a crouch, meeting my eyes at my level. Smiling. Extending one long arm out, he’d wave me in. When I’d get close enough, he’d cradle my head in his palms, and I would get lost in the auburn of his eyes and a feeling of complete freedom from harm.
This story of scripture enchanted me, and I knew I would forever and ever be his beloved.
Until everything changed…
Almost the entire Sunday Morning in my memory is out of focus, in opaque. Almost everything, except ten seconds in the middle of the sermon. It is crystal clear and enhanced, so much so that I can hear his voice and I can see the screen. I will never know what the message was that Sunday. But in the middle of it, a dark cloud emerged out of nothing. My pastor spoke uncomfortably:
“Folks, there’s a whole lot of people in this world that will try to tell you things that just aren’t true. Like homosexuality. You’ve seen in it the news, but you know, This Is Sin. Right there in God’s word.”
With clicker in hand, he directed our attention to the overhead Power Point. We read the blunt and rooted words, ones I couldn’t believe, but wouldn’t dare deny.
From Romans: “… so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”
It came at me quietly. Small whispers within small chambers. God gave them over, gave them away. Their mind, my depraved mind. Echoing, growing, ripping then crippling, refusing to go away. Burrowing. Poisoning my dream. I stand once again in the circle, cowering. I get up to run to him, his arm shoots up to stop me, he is growling at me, “just go. Leave. I don’t want you.” His face is harder now and his eyes are so severe. And all I can do is return to my seat in the pew and stay more still and quiet and desperate than I have ever been. I never felt so dirty, so discarded, so utterly alone. I realized that I was irredeemable. I was Hellbound. I was junk.
This is the day I became a Church orphan. That is what sent me wandering off, so far away. It was in a church, it took ten seconds, and it haunted me for the next ten years of my life.
The voices left as slow and shrill as they came. Since I came out its been one long breath after another. Inhale you are loved exhale you are foul, inhale Abba loves you exhale God damns you. The way faith truly works. Distilling truth from trick, returning the soul to love. After many hours of prayer I’ve seen the Holiness of God and I’ve watched that warm dream gradually return. It’s been a broken, but restoring, walk back to Jesus.
The pastor that spoke those words, I still dearly love. Not in the I have to love my enemies way, but because I know in my gut that he never intended to hurt me. He knew me, he baptized me and he loved me. He was articulating a mainstream Christian perspective. But he didn’t know the weight of his words on the little ones. He didn’t see Hell hurtling down upon me, raiding me. And therein lies the problem.
We are reckless with our words, each and every one of us. Even more serious, we are reckless with the words of scripture, the words that we are told are breathed out by God himself. We never know what toxins we unwittingly shower others with when we talk about God, at least, not until the damage is done.
My ten seconds have to be seen for what they are- the first hit. The moment I knew that the church, the faith, wasn’t a safe place for me to be. The moment many of my LGBT sisters and brothers first felt the Bible cut them to the bone.
This is why we need to take out all those sharp chips, one at a time, and speak. We need to address the first hit. Remind them of what they said, what it meant, what it did and how to be better next Sunday. Begin the ebb and flow of confession and forgiveness bringing us closer to a community bridged and redeemed.
This is the only way I see a true reconciliation happening. We have to sit and tell our stories, hit by hit, broken and bitter as they are. We have to learn how to be different, how to be better. We have to nip that first hit in the bud or else, its going to keep breaking us apart. If we can do this, if we can start now, we can change everything.