Truly, a very large number of people have supported and encouraged me since coming out. Former Exodus leaders, even some who are still in that type of ministry, have been a big (and sometimes surprising) blessing. Of course my close friends at Grace Church have been fantastic. They truly are safe people who have proven once again they are trustworthy and some of the most loving people I have ever met. Plus, there has been a large outpouring of love and forgiveness from the gay community. I am deeply grateful.
It’s been overwhelming (in a good way) and I plan to blog more about that in time. There have been plenty of really good experiences to process.Today however, I want to discuss some of the negative messages I have gotten the past couple of weeks. These messages repeatedly remind me of “the closet” that is a metaphor for the oppression and stigma that gay people have suffered for far too long.
For, me to be “in the closet” means (among other things) to literally not be allowed to communicate honestly with others or even ourselves; being silenced. The “closet” is made from nails of shame/manipulation and wood from the tree of condemnation. It is sealed tight with fear.
These messages have come from a number of people (religious and gay) who want me to go back into a form of the closet fashioned by the messages in the bullet points below. These are actual messages I have heard or received in the past couple of weeks:
- The nails of shame/manipulation include: “You have disgraced the word of God.” “Satan has deceived you.” “You obviously didn’t consult the Holy Spirit throughout your ‘process.'” “You are narcissistic, a media whore, and desperate for relevance.” “You drove your friend to suicide so maybe you should consider that option for yourself.” “Don’t blame us for your neurosis not being healed.”
- The wood of condemnation includes: “It would be better for you to have a millstone tied around your neck and dropped in the sea.” “God’s love is conditional in that He will not tolerate your sin and you justthrew your relationship with Him away.” “God will not tolerate competing lovers. It’s either Him or your sin.” “You were among us but never part of us (the Body of Christ, Exodus).” “You’ve done irreparable damage to the Body of Christ.”
- “You are destroying families and killing children.” <– that exact message, verbatim, has come from both sides.
- This type of closet is sealed tight with fear: “You are leading people with unwanted homosexuality tototal destruction here on earth and in the afterlife.” “To protectmy own heart, I can no longer be connected with you…” “to protect my own interests Ican’t be seen supporting you.”
- “You have betrayed us and will never have a place among us again.” “You should stay quiet and go away.” Again, these last two sentences (in this bullet point) have come verbatim from both sides.
Everywhere I truly deserve the nails of shame and condemnation, Jesus’ hands and feet were pierced on my behalf. I am certainly not Jesus, but everywhere my life feels encased by condemnation, I can remember that Jesus was surrounded and tortured with words of mockery and scorn coming from His own people, on every side. Plus, you can’t tell me He doesn’t understand fear when at one point He cried out from the cross, “My God My God! Why have You forsaken me?”
He sees us, He knows us, He empathizes with us, He loves us.
He understands us not only from His perspective as God but also from having become one of us. Even with all that understanding of our frailties and sin, He runs to us. He never gives up on, or forsakes, us.
Again, I am a just a middle-aged guy with a kind of bizarre history. What I have gone through is nothing compared to what Jesus went through. Yet, I have meditated on the fact that even as Jesus was tortured and murdered, He used His Voice to speak life. He did not waste time and opportunity with words of death, defensiveness, or accusation. He was not manipulated by shame. His purpose/mission was not thwarted by condemnation or silenced by fear.
And when our Heavenly Father whispered into His Son’s ear to awaken from death, it was His love for us … for all of us … that opened His Eyes.
I don’t be believe Jesus rose from the dead for us to build new church closets from bloodstained nails and recycled wood from an empty cross. His Love destroyed every kind of “closet” …forever.
We no longer have to live in tombs built by our own, or other’s, hands.
I am content with resting in Christ’s love. I am secure in who I am in Him. Add to that the love and support of friends and my spiritual family, I will never see the inside of a “the closet” again.