Too Dark in the Closet
For the last several months I have fought the knowledge I am supposed to write about a controversial topic that is to me, very personal. God has been sitting here with me, sometimes not so quietly, with a pen stretched out towards me. I have looked askance at God, fearful of sharing so openly in such a public forum for as a spiritual director, author, and speaker, there are things I am perfectly willing to share and things that are kept private. But as time has gone on, I’ve realized that though I may lose readers and potential clients, my ministry is for those on the edges asking questions, who may not feel welcome in a spiritual community and if they don’t realize there are people like me they can talk to, they will feel alone with no one to walk with or hear them. So it is chiefly for them and for my own mental health I have finally grasped that proverbial pen and put it to paper. It would be a bonus for me if people who don’t agree hear my heart.
In the early fall of 2015, I had just finished describing my new book and talking about the upcoming release event to a local spiritual community when a woman approached me to talk about writing and publishing. We decided to talk further over lunch at a nearby festival and enjoyed each other’s company so much that over the next few weeks, our new friendship turned into romance. We started dating and have been together since. It has been the source of immense joy and growth to love another and be loved in return.
As I have dated very little in my life and never a woman, telling friends and family about my girlfriend not only included coming out to them, but also included coming out to myself. Already suspecting I wasn’t entirely “straight,” I had to grapple with a new part of myself on multiple levels while, at the same time, for the first time, truly feeling like me. It has been both a fun and hard growth spurt right on the heels of an exhausting book publishing year. All those things I wrote about love were being put into practice in a new way.
As my friends and family have a wide variety of opinions and beliefs, I knew there would be some people happier about my relationship than others. Some surprised me with just how supportive and happy they were, others surprised me with how horrible they thought it all was.
The Hard Stuff
Some of my friends and family have told me it is the worst sin before God, that I was lying when I said I loved God (for how could someone love God and date someone of the same sex at the same time), and another person simply cried. I’ve sat through meetings where people called those such as me “poison,” am still part of a church that’s dividing over kicking out individual meetings for welcoming anyone who is LGBTQ, and have been told by some to pretend we’re “just friends.” (Not happening.)
I can’t tell you in words how much this has hurt. I can’t tell you how hard this has been on the both of us or list all the times I myself have cried over the pain people inflict on me and each other. I am royally angry over the hurt running rampant in our world and how people can’t seem to see outside their theological boxes to a God who set us the example on how to love each other.
If this pain was all I was surrounded by as many in my situation are, I can certainly understand the struggle many people deal with as all they know are people who reject them. My heart breaks for such as these.
I, however, have been gifted with a loving community of people who celebrate love with me and see the deeper truths beyond the cultural lines. They recognize the gift love is and how happy it’s made me. As much as some people’s words have hurt, they are still few in number compared to those whose words and actions have been a source of great joy.
The first person I told I’d met someone special rejoiced with me without even asking if the person I had met was a man or a woman. It was the reaction I most needed from the first one to hear the news and she will always have a special place in my heart for her joyful reaction. Others have welcomed my girlfriend into their hearts and homes, have consciously made the effort to include her in multiple ways and have gotten to know her for herself. It makes me so happy when I see people doing this and loving us as a couple.
Some of the people I told were surprised, others knew about my inclination long before I did, for some it didn’t matter at all, and some people were just downright thrilled and eager to welcome her simply because she is the one I love. But they all rejoiced with me. These are the people we choose to spend time with as a couple. These are the people we want around us to help us grow in our relationship.
One might assume the more welcoming crowd are made up of my younger friends and family but this is not the case. Some closer to my age are dead-set against it and others who could easily be my grandparents welcome us as a couple with love and open arms. Age has been no indicator of where their opinions lie or what their reactions will be.
In between the people who speak hurtful words and the ones who choose life-giving words are those who don’t agree with my opinions but either never mention her (this can still be hard) or just let it be. There are friends and relatives I know who share a different perspective whom I don’t see very often anyway and so many of them don’t know about my girlfriend – at least not from me unless it’s through Facebook or, incidentally, this blog post. How I have chosen to continue these relationships has varied greatly depending on multiple other factors but they all include a loss in that a huge source of my joy is not welcome in our conversation.
The Bottom Line
Though I know this is just the beginning of what I want to write about this part of my life and this topic, for now I want to leave you with this: through all of the conversations, heartache, and celebrations, remains the truth that there is a very special person in my life who loves me dearly and whom I love in return. Anything she or I go through in relation to this pales in comparison to the gift of each other and the relationship we share. God, who is my life, has enriched that life beyond anything I could have imagined and though it’s painful when other people don’t see the beauty in us, that’s a price I am more than willing to pay to have such a treasure.
For more on the division I’ve experienced around this, see “Why Do We Tear Ourselves Apart?”