Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Bethany has asked to remain anonymous, and I am honoring her request by using a different name.

A while back I wrote a blog post called, Let Me Help You With Your Luggage or Coming Out of the Church Closetin which I asked you this:

I want to hear your stories; Stories of the beautiful and the hurtful; Stories of the pain you couldn’t bear and those who helped you bear it . I need to share your journey from where you have been to where you are going. I want, no, I need to help you carry your luggage and lighten your load. I am anxious to hear the stories of your travels and see the pictures of where you have stopped along the way. I want to know the life lessons you have learned and the ones you are still struggling with. I believe it is through the telling and retelling of the stories of what God is doing and how he is traveling with us, that change people. Through stories our eyes are opened and we understand things that were just abstract to us before. And you, you my lovelies, are not abstract. You are very very real aren’t you? You are people. You are children of God. You are loved and valued beyond what you can imagine. First by God and then by me. So I would like to ask you, would you share yourself with me?

Saturday I very unexpectedly received this email from Bethany M.

hi michelle, found your blog while digging deep into the “i’m gay and a christian” debate. because i am. both gay and a christian. raised in the church (in a loving home with loving/supportive/still-married parents) – i decided to be honest about my sexuality at 24 years-old… and it has absolutely destroyed my family. from shock to anger, denial, harassment and condemnation, their reaction and behavior has been baffling and painful. more painful than anything i’ve ever dealt with to this point.

it all comes down to scripture for them. the “gay” verses in the bible that specifically “assign hell” to “same-sex behavior.” they’ve been used against me, for nearly a year, in every conversation and argument we have.your “pray away the gay” post brought me to tears. i just (this weekend) received a stack of “pray away the gay” books and pamphlets and emails (from extended family too). the cherry on top of my family’s “intervention,” where i was given an ultimatum: “choose us and our familial happiness or choose your alternative lifestyle. you cannot have both. and if you choose to continue in your sin, we refuse to be a part of your life from this day forward.” as someone who’s always been close to my family, it’s the most critical decision i’ve ever been presented. as a child, you expect your parents’ love to be unconditional. and it was my entire life… until i told them i was in love with a woman. and now, i am a dirty, shameful, sexually-perverse sinner in their eyes. to seek truth, i’ve turned to my bible, to scientific studies, to books, to prayer, to everything… because even if i choose my family over my relationship, it would be entirely sacrificial… because they’ve pleaded and begged me to. not because i want to. not because my heart or mind has changed about being in love with a woman. “that’s okay,” they say. “sometimes we have to deny ourselves, our happiness, our selfish desires for the greater good.” and sometimes i wonder if they’re right. maybe they are. maybe i cannot possibly be a christian and be gay. but why don’t i feel condemned? why does this loving, caring relationship with a woman feel healthy, happy and right? if god was displeased with my choice, wouldn’t my spiritual conscience clue me in? “you’re blinded by satan. you’re being deceived. you cannot possibly believe that god accepts your choice.” if they only knew, their responses push me further from the church and further from the fundamentalist principles on which i was raised. because the god i know and serve is a god of love. one in whose image i was created. one who sees my heart and already knows what my future holds. this comes as no shock to him. your series confirms that. at a time when i question my ability to be loved by god – not because i don’t feel worthy, but because my christian family says i’m not – i’ve found answers, backed up by scripture. and above all, a confirmation that i am saved by grace through faith regardless of who i love. so thank you and bless you.
Bethany
As I said in my response to Bethany I wrote that I was both honored and horrified to read her honest and compelling email. I also shared with her something from another former post, When Did I Become Such a Dangerous Woman?
The Scriptures say, as much as it depends on me that I should live at peace with everyone. And I do. But sometimes it does not depend on me. Sometimes the peace comes undone because people do not want to live at peace with me when what I see when I read the scriptures does not match up to what they see. They say I will have to answer to Jesus for every word I have written and spoken. I am ready. I am prepared to stand before the lover of my soul and say that I have tried everything in my power to move people to love God and love each other with no unless. I have not been perfect. I guarantee you I am wrong about some things (as are we all). But I KNOW that what Jesus did is enough to fill the gaps and erase my sin and cover my errors. It is enough for yours too. It is enough for all of ours. As my good friend Sarah said,

I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room!There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.

I like to think Jesus stands out in the field with Sarah and I banging his own pots and pans, singing and yelling and whispering…There is room for Bethany and There is room for you!
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13 thoughts on “Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

  1. Wow, wow, and wow. This breaks my heart. There IS room! How difficult to be asked to make this choice. I am convinced more and more that it is NOT God who asks us to make this choice. Bethany…I stand with you. I know I am a stranger. But I too have been rejected and even shunned for not believing the “right” doctrine and questioning absolutes and interpretations. I come back again and again to the feeling you expressed in this statement:
    “but why don’t i feel condemned? why does this loving, caring relationship with a woman feel healthy, happy and right? if god was displeased with my choice, wouldn’t my spiritual conscience clue me in? “you’re blinded by satan. you’re being deceived. you cannot possibly believe that god accepts your choice.” if they only knew, their responses push me further from the church and further from the fundamentalist principles on which i was raised. because the god i know and serve is a god of love. one in whose image i was created. one who sees my heart and already knows what my future holds. this comes as no shock to him.”

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