Now that (part of) my story is recorded for all history in a book, I have been wondering, what are the takeaways from my story? What is it I hope people walk away with from my story? To be honest, my story is no more interesting than anyone elses. So why share it so publicly? To what end? What are the takeaways?
Well, after much thought and reflection, here are a few takeaways:
1. HIDDENNESS KILLS.
This might be the #1 lesson. Regardless of what your own theological position on sexual orientation — and whether you are gay or straight — know that hiding is a soul-killing experience. The advice to keep my sexual orientation a secret (advice that I received from mentors in my life from high school through church planting) was a predictable and inevitable disaster. When we hide, we lie. And when we lie, we get used to it — and it becomes easier to live a lie. And when you hide, it means that you don’t have any real accountability and that you create a secret life. In many respects, my fall was inevitable once I made the decision to hide. It was just a matter of time. Now, if I had shared with people the truth, is it possible that I would have lost my ministry? Yes, very possible. But that is a cost one must pay to be free, to live in truth. You cannot be healthy relationally or spiritually while pretending to be something you are not. It is that simple.
2. THE END IS NOT THE END.
When my life blew up, I lost everything instantaneously. My job, ministry, income, friends, faith community, church, home, status, reputation. All of it. In a heart beat.
It honestly felt like my life was over and there was no recovery.
I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I had no hope, no vision, no ability to move forward. Luckily, I had people like JR and Tom & Nancy and Kit and Paul and Bart and Beth S. and a few others who literally carried me.
Four years later, I can testify that the end is not the end. “Life gets better.” It is true.
I would have never scripted it this way, but my story is not over. What seems like the end, was really just a (major) chapter in a long novel which is my life.
3. YOU CAN CHANGE THINGS.
By “you”, I mean those of you out there who read this blog, are gay or straight, who love Jesus and love the church and love His people. To my LGBT brothers and sisters, by coming out and being honest about who we are, we will change the culture of the church. And to my straight brothers and sisters — regardless of your theology on this issue — have an obligation to create safe spaces and places within the church for LGBT folks to encounter Christ. Allies, speak up. Don’t be silenced. Don’t allow the church to become a place of fear and condemnation for gay people. And for those who hold a traditionalist view, you too have an obligation to make the church a safe place for the lost, least and lonely. And that means making the church a safe place for LGBT folks to love and be loved, serve and be served, celebrate and celebrated — and to encounter Jesus within the community of faith.
Will it be uncomfortable for you sometimes? Yes. Do it anyways.
Will it be messy sometimes? Yes. Do it anyways.
Will the result always be what you want? Nope. But do it anyways.
Because it is what Jesus would do.
4. JESUS IS GREATER.
The last sermon series I gave at the church I was leading was a series called “WIKI: What I Know About Jesus Is…” The messages in the series were: (1) Jesus is greater than our biggest fears; (2) Jesus is greater than are deepest doubts; and (3) Jesus is greater than our worst failure.
I have learned that these are fundamental truths. And I hope, if nothing else, my story would point people towards these truths. Jesus is greater. His grace is greater. His ways are greater. His love is greater. He never will leave nor abandon us. Nor give up on us. He can’t stop loving us, and He will never lose his passion for us.
Jesus is greater. Remember that.
5. GOD NEVER WASTES A HURT.
While it has taken some time, God has used my story, my pain, my healing and restoration, to minister to others in powerful ways. I have had the privilege to hear the stories of other LGBT folks who have been living hidden lives… and my fall and outing gave them permission to share their stories with me. Teens and college students and adults. Singles and some who are in mixed orientation marriages. People in all stages of this issue.
But it hasn’t just been about sexual orientation. I think God has used my brokenness to minister to other people’s brokenness in many ways — and that is how God always works. He never wastes a hurt, as Rick Warren says. This is now part of my unique shape and how I minister to others.
6. INTEGRITY WINS.
I have always believed this truism. On my best days, I live by it. Obviously, on my worst days I fail at it. But God keeps affirming this truth: INTEGRITY ALWAYS WINS.
Seeking reconciliation, being open and transparent, seeking forgiveness… integrity always wins.
7. GRACE IS AMAZING.
Oh yes, it is indeed amazing! I was saved by grace, but I am also sustained by it. I was rescued by grace, but am also being sanctified by that same grace. Without grace, I have nothing.
Therefore, having received unmerited favor and grace, I am compelled to extend unmerited favor and grace to those around me.
And it is not just me… it is you too.
Those are some takeaways I hope people get. What do you think? What are your takeaways? Have I missed some?
Let me know your thoughts…