If only… then things would have been different.
Sometimes we can get trapped in the “if only’s” of life. We shouldn’t. But nor should we ignore the wisdom and insight we gain from looking at them as well.
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about the “if only’s” for me. For me, to understand where things could have gone differently for me in the past is an important key to moving forward in a healthy way, avoiding the same pitfalls and destructive behavior of the past.
Sometimes it is complicated to figure out… other times not so much. In my case, I don’t think it is complicated at all.
For me, THE SECRECY KILLED ME.
There are a whole bunch of reasons why this is true and a whole bunch of reasons I kept things secret. Maybe I will explore both those issues in future posts.
But here is what I believe to be true: if I had been open about being gay to my church and community, none of this would have happened.
If I had been open, I would have had outlets for support when temptation became too strong.
If I had been open, I would have had stronger and more appropriate accountability.
If I had been open, I would have been able to confess my failings before they became so destructive.
If I had been open, people would have known to ask questions and challenge me.
If I had been open, there would have been little power and shame and secrecy in my struggle.
* * * * *
I regret deeply that I was not more open about this a long time ago. There are many reasons I wasn’t.
I was counseled not to by people I trusted. Also, within the evangelical world I was in, it was not clear to me that simply acknowledging the issue and past struggles wouldn’t have cost me my job. (It had happened before to me). Within evangelicalism, particularly for leaders and pastors, just being gay is tantamount to sin and morally suspect — irregardless of behavior. And at the time, disclosure was not a risk I was willing or able to take.
I regret that decision because I honestly believe that if I had just stood up in the early days of the church and said “this is who I am… good, bad, ugly” that I would never have gotten into the things I got into. I also think a lot of people would have left the church or not joined… and maybe I would have lost my job anyway just for the disclosure.
I don’t know. There is no way to go back and test the hypothesis.
As a pastor, I heard on a regular basis discussion around the issue of homosexuality and the church. I heard people talk about others, talk about theology, talk about their fears of their children being gay, talk about the evil gay agenda, etc. This issue also has become a litmus test within much of evangelicalism as to whether you are a real Bible-believing Christian or not. I knew that to share publicly would be to invite judgement, ridicule, and anger. I also knew it was possible it would cost me my ministry and calling… not that I had done anything, just the issue itself.
I don’t know what would have happened… but I feared the worst. This is the culture of evangelicalism today. And I know this, whatever your theology is in terms of homosexuality, creating this kind of culture of shame and hiding fundamentally contradicts and undermines the Gospel of Jesus Christ.,
I know this also… moving forward, I will always be open about the issue. Moving forward I will counsel others to be open about the issue. And moving forward, I pray that evangelical churches will be proactive in creating environments where people can be open and transparent — about this issue as well as others.