I have a regular walking route around the city where I live. I particularly like taking a stroll in autumn when the trees are at their peak.
A few years ago, the trees lining the street were especially beautiful—that stunning gold, yellow that steals the breath. During one walk, however, I turned a corner to witness a scene even more arresting than the trees around me: a young man stepped up on the curb to embrace a young woman in the most tender of ways. He reached out slowly, gently and she leaned into him in trust. It was a snapshot of love and beauty that has remained with me. I remember thinking at the time that I shouldn’t have seen it. That the moment wasn’t meant for me. Yet, that is where my eyes fell—at the precise instance of their embrace.
And then a strange thing happened: I felt feelings. As a gay kid growing up on the church, I have worked hard to not feel anything—to keep everything at the level of my intellect. This, of course, was a coping mechanism to deal with too many feelings most of which seemed to run counter to my growing faith. I just couldn’t figure out how to sync my desire for other guys with what I was learning about Jesus.
A few years ago, I attended a dinner party with a group of LGBT Christians. As we delicately sliced our warm brioche and broiled sole, we began to share our coming-out stories. Each person told how, over Thanksgiving dinner or in a letter or in a YouTube video, they opened the door to others allowing them into a hidden part of their lives. I found these offerings remarkable and brave as are all such instances when we open ourselves. I also sensed these coming out experiences were, for most folks present, a declaration of membership in a new tribe—the LGBT community.
As I drove home later that evening, I reflected on what transpired during our meal and was struck by the similarity between these coming-out tales and the salvation stories I had been hearing in my church small group. How interesting that the experience of publicly accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior also serves to declare membership in a new family—the Christian church.
In the fifth grade, I weighed 150 lbs. The reason I know this is because my mother took me to the doctor to inquire about my weight problem. That it was a “problem” was evident to me well before I stepped on the doctor’s scale for my classmates diligently reminded me every day on the playground, in the hallways, and on the bus. In that eleventh year of my life, I started to understand that bodies have meaning and that some bodies were bad. As luck or fate or God would have it, I got one of the bad ones (or so I thought).