On May 11, 2015, my friend wrote a post on my blog entitled: Living in Fear as a Gay Christian. The blog got a lot of attention, so I asked my friend if he would follow up with another blog to let use know how his last 6 months have been. Here's a personal update.
April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday was the first time in 23 years I stepped foot in a church. Having struggled with Same Sex Attraction, the Evangelical Church severely damaged me and wiped out my faith by treating people with SSA with hate, rejection, and disgust. Many in the Church considered us the worst of the worst, that God hated us and would never forgive us. Many with SSA have killed themselves. I was very close myself.
While not going into detail (you can read my previous blog above) I was severely depressed and suicidal. I was desperate to be loved. I felt God calling me back to the Church, but where? Who could I talk to? So many priests, pastors, ministers, etc. seemed so cold, arrogant, and self-righteous that I couldn’t possibly approach them and discuss my struggle with SSA. Yet, in my desperation, having cried out to the Lord for help, He lead me to an incredible young Anglican priest, Fr. Ryan of Trinity Anglican Church in Newberry, S.C., someone who had a background that lead him to be humble, who was approachable, who exuded kindness and sympathy. Finally, someone from the Evangelical Church I could talk to, bare my soul to, and reveal my deepest, darkest secret-that I struggled with Same Sex Attraction and could not reconcile my SSA with being a Bible believing Christian. The moment Fr. Ryan looked me in the eyes and told me he loved me unconditionally for who I was and no matter what I did in the past, the first person to ever say this to me, was the beginning of a long road of recovery.
I hated myself, hated who I was, what I was. I didn’t believe anyone loved me or could love me. I felt God still hated me and would never forgive me. Though Fr. Ryan constantly showed me Scripture where God loved me unconditionally and forgave me, anyone, who repents, it took months to sink in. Though he would constantly hug me and tell me he loved me it took months for me to finally believe he did and wouldn’t hurt me. So great was the damage the Evangelical Church did to me that I trusted no one, allowed no one to love me, hated the Church, distrusted Church authority, except for Fr. Ryan, and was so isolated and lonely. He introduced me to other evangelical Christians who made it clear they too loved me and cared about me and my SSA didn’t matter to them. He spent a good bit of time with me, and included me in his family so I finally had one.
It was then I began to understand the transforming love of Jesus Christ. I began to understand His grace by experiencing the love and grace of a few people from my new church, Trinity Anglican. As they included me in their lives I began understanding Paul’s epistles to the churches on how Christians should interact with one another, love on another, encourage one another, and how when one falls, the others pick him up and encourage him. One would spend time teaching me Scripture, one would help me to understand God’s grace and to let others love me, another would encourage me to believe in God’s forgiveness, and they would all spend time with me so I wasn’t alone and would pray for me. Fr. Ryan would begin discipleship with me, helping me see God’s plan for His people. When I messed up, I did that a lot—and still do—he was very loving and gentle in his correction. As I came across Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” ESV) I finally submitted to his authority in all areas of my life.
My recovery is not complete—I still have a long ways to go. But thanks to the Lord’s grace in leading me to Trinity Anglican and Fr. Ryan Streett, I am discovering and learning about Jesus’ transforming love, His Word, His message of love and grace. I’ve experienced Jesus’s love, grace, compassion, and mercy from Fr. Ryan and others He’s put in my life. It saddens me to think of those with SSA that took their own life because of how the Evangelical Church treated them. It saddens me that there are still those who are experiencing rejection, hate, and scorn and being made to feel that God doesn’t love them. I’m beyond blessed that the Lord has allowed me to experience His love in these people now in my life.
“…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 ESV