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7 Takeaways From My Story

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…

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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Power of the Cross to Transform Your Story

ImageToday is Good Friday. It s the day that we remember and enter into the death of Jesus, longing for the power and hope of the paschal mystery which culminates Easter morn with an empty tomb.

As a follower of Jesus, I cling to the cross and the hope of the empty tomb.

This week, Jeff Chu’s book “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” came out.  It includes a chapter about me and my story — including my sin, my failure, my fall from ministry.

It has been an ongoing journey for me since all that happened.  To be honest, it doesn’t seem like 4 years ago… it seems just like yesterday.  If I am not careful, I can still allow those events to define me.  To be clear, they don’t.  But remembering that is something else.

Jeff interviewed me for the book over two years ago.  At that point, I was two years removed from what had happened.  What Jeff gets is a snapshot of where I was at that time.

I was in a good place two years ago.  The crisis had past, I had connected with a great church in Hartford, I was clear about my identity in Christ and how my sexual orientation impacted that.  I had moved on from counseling and was now regularly seeing a spiritual director.  My relationship with Christ was strong, intimate, growing, vibrant.  But the wounds were still very raw. I still wrestled with what it meant to be gay and Christian.  Very few relationships from the church had been repaired.  I was healing, but the wounds were just beginning to scab over — still raw, still sensitive, and still painful when they got bumped.

Two years later… and four years after what happened… I am in a very different — and better — place.  I honestly feel that many relationships have been restored. While I have not been back to the church for a service, I have been back in the building, seen some of the changes, etc.  I have been able to help them with some things and, have to say, there is no one more excited and optimistic about what God is doing in that community of faith than I am.  

I am also increasingly comfortable with who I am — and increasingly uncomfortable with my own sin.  This is a good thing.  As I mature in Christ, I am increasingly aware of how my sins of omission so often are greater than my sins of commission.  I struggle to love my enemies.  I talk a good game about loving the poor, the least, the lost — but struggle to translate that into practical acts of service.  I am still more comfortable serving on a Board, raising money and writing polices to help the homeless and under-resourced, than I am sitting over a meal and sharing fellowship together.  I am quick to judge and rarely extend the same grace to others that I desire for myself. My thoughts tend towards the useless and the profane too often.

Some would say that these are no big deal.  Maybe.  But as Ignatius teaches in his spiritual exercises, as we follow Jesus as His disciples, we should become both more aware and disturbed by our sin, brokenness.  An examination of conscience.

But, I also feel more free, joyful, centered and in love with Jesus every day.  I have learned that hiding and pretending leads to spiritual death. As does indulging every desire, longing, lust or whim. The Way of Life — the Way of Jesus — is found on neither path.  Abundant life is found in intimacy with our Savior.  And that intimacy sets us free to be real, authentic, transparent.

So not only have I experienced great reconciliation with people, and with Christ — but also, and perhaps as importantly, with self.  

Jesus loves me, this I know.  But now I also love myself and can see myself through the eyes of my creator.

And all of this is (only) possible by the power of the cross of Jesus.

Friday is Good Indeed! And we know, on this side of history, that while it is Friday, Sunday is coming… and has already come… for HE IS RISEN AND ALIVE!

Happy Easter everyone!

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Bit Weird

My copy of Jeff Chu’s new book arrived yesterday and I just had a chance to read the chapter that tells my story.  I have to tell you, it is a bit weird to read your story in a book like that.

Jeff did a great job telling the story. It is accurate, and he demonstrates a lot of insight in how he tells the story.

Reading it was hard. Much of it covers a part of my life that I am not proud of.  It really looks at one of the lowest times in my life.  This is no hero story.  Not by a long shot.

But it is my story.  It is a real story.

I am also glad that my chapter is in the book. I lived for 17 years with a very big lie.  Hiding was a soul-killing experience.  So much so that I ended up in a total train wreck.  I survived… and today I would say I have thrived — relationally, spiritually, and just about every way that you could.  But 17 years is a long time to live with a lie.  That is why I have embraced a discipline of transparency.

This chapter is a very open, raw, real look inside a very private window.  Having it out there makes me feel vulnerable.  It means I can’t side-step what happened or try and spin it away.

And that is a good thing.

A lot has changed in the two years since Jeff interviewed me.  And a lot has changed over the past four years as well.

I will blog more about how things have changed and where I am at today over the next few weeks — but for now, I hope you read the (whole) book… and let me know what you think.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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