If someone comes out to you today…

There are a lot of things coming out means. Here are a few things it should not mean.

That you will be told God hates you.

That you will be bullied at school.

That you will be called ugly names.

That you must live in fear of violence.

That you forfeit your rights as a human being.

That you are less equal.

That you are less loved.

That if you are a teenager you will be thrown out and become homeless. (This happens to 26% of LGBT teens who come out to their parents)

Today I call on everyone to let love rule the day.

If someone comes out to you today, instead of reacting with judgement or disappointment or anger why not try this…

Ask them about their journey. Listen. Try to understand.

Love them. Right. Where. They. Are.

That is what Jesus would do.

More resources:

Human Rights Campaign: Growing up LGBT

Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Pray Away the Gay

Who Can Withhold the Water?

The True Magic Kingdom

Homosexuality and God: Conclusion

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Who Can Withhold the Water?

This week I had lunch with a good friend. She has been following the blog and wanted to know how my beliefs had evolved on the issue of homosexuals and homosexual marriage. As we talked and I heard her story I felt compelled to share it with you and she has graciously agreed to allow me to share it here. This story and the many many others like it reaffirm my strong conviction that I can no longer remain silent nor does God expect me to. In fact, I strongly suspect that he expects me to speak and that it is the holy spirit within me that  is egging me on.
I listened with intensity and as my friend told me how she came to believe that “God has gay children” over 20 years ago. She read and researched and visited local gay affirming churches. She asked questions that one of the pastors said she would normally refuse to even entertain. But you see, that pastor could see my friend’s heart and that she was truly asking because she desired to understand. In the end, she came to believe that indeed, God has gay  children and that he loves them. So far so good I am thinking, but it was then that the story turns ugly. When she began to talk about what she was learning she found herself face down on the floor, 8 grown men on top of her holding her down, 2000 people looking on while they attempted to cast the demons of homosexuality out of her. Every time she tried to work herself free they assumed it was the evil spirits in her and pushed her down harder. Thank God she was not crushed or suffocated as been the fate of some others in that situation. It did not stop there. Even though my friend is straight, they refused to believe her, she was after all a single woman with no boyfriend. She said they would not be convinced and she wondered if they would believe her even if she had sex with a man in front of witnesses.

(It is interesting to note here that this week I was having a discussion on Facebook about President Obama coming out in support of gay marriage, when the gentleman on the other side of the discussion asked me if I was a lesbian. Why is it my lovelies that some folks automatically go there?)

Back to the story, my friend went on to tell me how she had been so damaged by her community that she has difficulty looking at herself in the mirror to this day. They told her she should die. They told her she should kill herself. By now my friend has tears streaming down her face. And she looks at me and says, “that is why I keep silent” about this issue now.

How sad is that?

We wondered together how many people there were in churches like us. Who knew deep in their hearts that “God has gay children.” How many of us are there that are afraid to speak out because they fear the backlash they might receive or in the case of my friend, the backlash they have already experienced?

My friend is one of the most loving, caring, giving people you will ever meet. The people in her current community value her advice and seek her out to pray for them. They trust her with their children. The sad part is she feels like all that would be negated and ignored if they knew her stance on gay marriage. As of now that is not a trade she is willing to make. I do not condemn her. With her past experiences I don’t know if I could do it either.

This week Rachel Held Evans wrote an amazingly powerful post called, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” It is a quote from Huckleberry Finn by the great Mark Twain. Huck faces a moral dilemma over his friend Jim who is a runaway slave. Huck’s neighbors have Jim locked in a shed and are going to return him to his owners for the $200 reward.

Huck has been taught in church that Ephesians says, “Slaves obey your earthly masters”. and has been convinced that by being a friend to Jim he is going to go to “everlasting fire.”

This is the scene Evans quotes,

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”– and tore it up.

Rachel goes on to discuss her own feelings of trepidation about going against “what the Bible clearly says” in the interest of obeying her own conscience. Then she says something that should shake us awake from our slumber,

But another part of me worries that a religious culture that asks its followers to silence their conscience is just the kind of religious culture that produces $200 rewards for runaway slaves. The Bible has been “clear” before, after all—in support of a flat and stationary earth, in support of wiping out infidels, in support of  manifest destiny, in support of Indian removal, in support of anti-Semitism, in support of slavery, in support of “separate but equal,” in support of constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage.

In hindsight, it all seems so foolish, such an obvious abuse of Scripture.

…But at the time?

Sometimes true faithfulness requires something of a betrayal.

She then relays a story about a recent trip she took which found her serving communion in a church that accepts gay people. And as she shared communion with one man in particular  the disapproving words of her own sunday school teacher came to mind and she couldn’t help but remember Huck’s words, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. Thankfully she and I both believe that won’t be necessary.

I have been continually amazed by serendipity lately. As I was sitting down beginning this post yesterday I received an email from my husband with a link to a stunning article on the  belief blog called My Take: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage by Mark Osler.

Mr. Osler uses the example of Peter extending the sacrament of Baptism to uncircumcised, unclean Gentiles. Osler poses the idea and Peter asserts by his question, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” that we have “no moral authority to deny baptism to to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit which fell over the entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.”

He also uses the example of Christ who at the last supper offers the bread and the wine not just to the disciple who would take care of his mother but also to the one who would deny him three times, the ones who would desert him and even the one who would betray him to be killed.

Osler issues powerful challenges to the prevailing wisdom. He states,

It is not our place, it seems to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind we find through baptism, communion and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not . The water is for all of us…

Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of God’s love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out to stingily!

Sadly my friend’s current community as well as her former community are still trying to withhold the water. Sadly too many beautiful hearts like that of my friend have been silenced by people who say they follow  Jesus.

I received a beautiful note from my friend this week thanking me for lunch. It was the first time she felt safe to be able to express the fullness of the love that was in her heart. She compared our conversation to, “breathing my first breath of fresh air”. It is my prayer that now that the waters of love shut up in her for so long have been released that the dam that has held back the water in her community would break apart and she could lead the way in offering the love of Christ through Communion, Baptism and Marriage to all, not just the ones we think are worthy.

Jesus, Peter, Osler, Evans and my friend are the reasons why I will no longer be silent. I cannot betray the voice of the Holy Spirit that cries out in my heart, “who can withhold the water?”. You may try to dam the river, but the living water of the “Holy Spirit is relentless, as Osler says, “making us all into something better and new.”

Your Existence Gives me Hope

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So I woke up today with a strange feeling of hope; hope that the tide is shifting; hope that the conversation is taking a new shape. Hope in the face of setbacks like a female attorney who bows to the will of her client,  by wearing a burqa; a client, who if he had his way, would have prevented her from becoming an attorney in the first place and who would strip her of her freedom to practice law and even from leaving her home unaccompanied if given the opportunity. Setbacks like the state of North Carolina passing an amendment that robs fellow Americans/humans of enjoying the same privilege to marry their beloveds and not to be alone, that is why God designed marriage, remember? It is not good for us to be alone, we need someone who is a perfect fit for us.

But like I said, I am feeling hopeful today. Why?

1. The existence of Kent Krabill; Proof that God loves me.

2. The existence of my children who live and breathe and change the world with their love.

3. The existence of Novitas (aka the island of misfit toys) who continually challenge me to love more and judge less.

4. The existence of the countless new friends I am discovering daily.

5. The existence of inspiration. I finally feel like I am learning who I always was.

6. The existence of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead me into the truth and to change me.

7. The existence of the amazing Rachel Held Evans (who inspires me over and over) and her new article.

8. The existence of Justin Lee and his 30 confessions.

9. The existence of magical moments. I mean did you see Josh Hamilton hit 4 home runs in one game? Have you been to Disney World?

10. The existence of Sixty Percent and people who write such things.

11. The existence of Kathy Escobar and The Refuge, Alise Wright, Amanda Miller Garber and RISE church and Pam Hogeweide and all the other UNladylike women of the church.

12. The existence of Brian McLaren, Wade Burleson, Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, my husband and every other men who supports the UNladylike women of the church.

13. The existence of Bert & Evelyn Waggoner and the influence he had on my life and the seeds of change planted in Kent and I at the Sugarland Vineyard.

14. The existence of Derek Watson  who set in motion the tectonic plates of our lives.

15. The existence of Laurie Watson and the work she does as a sex therapist who happens to be a follower of Christ.

16. The existence of the parents I know who are trying to teach their kids to love people, all people.

17. The existence of a shift that has begun in our country and the church toward freedom, equality and acceptance.

18. The existence of people who fight for these things every day.

19. The existence of groups like Christians for Biblical Equality.

20. The existence of the Marin Foundation.

21. The existence of common ground: President Obama and Vice President Chaney both support gay marriage.

22. The existence of Matthew Vines.

23. The existence of people who refuse to stop loving or believing better of people; even the ones who disagree with them.

24. The existence of my parents and grandparents and all the people who have helped to make me who I am.

25. The existence of art, music and poetry.

26. The existence of my God who never stops loving, never stops pursuing, who will one day make EVERYTHING right, who loves all and gives everything to bring his children home to him.

27. The existence of…YOU. YOUR EXISTENCE GIVES ME HOPE

Let Me Help You With Your Luggage or Coming Out of the Church Closet.

Let me help you with your luggage. I want to hear all about your trip.

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?

I would like to start a weekly feature where I share more stories like the one in my recent post, Pray Away the Gay?  I would love to hear your “Coming Out of the Church Closet” story if you are part of the GLBT community or have a family member who is gay then I would like to share it with our friends here.  You may share your stories with or without real names (please make sure you have people’s permission if you use their names). Your choice. I hope you will decide to do this. The church needs to hear your stories because they are our own stories. You are a part of us after all, whether people want to admit it or not. Jesus died for us all and he came to save the world not to condemn it (John 3:17). You can send me your stories for review at Michelle@novitaschurch.com.

Thank you for sharing yourselves with me.

m

Pray Away the Gay?

Today’s post is dedicated to every boy, girl, man or woman who has ever attempted to “pray away the gay.” I am sorry. I am sorry that anyone ever made you think that God didn’t love you JUST. LIKE. YOU. ARE.
This post has been coming all week. I apologize in advance for its length.
First I saw a picture on Facebook that was posted by a friend…

The caption said: A Christian group shows up to a Chicago Gay Pride parade holding apologetic signs including “I’m sorry for how the church treated you”.

This is a beautiful thing.

As the week progressed, I came across an amazing blog post in Rachel Held Evans‘ Sunday Superlatives called, A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On by Glennon Melton.” (You can read the whole post here.)

Part of the post was about how kids model what adults say and do and that we as adults and parents have to do better if we ever expect bullying to stop. But the second half was a letter to her son who is still just a little guy. It reads:

Dear Chase,

Whoever you are, whoever you become. You are loved. You are a miracle. You are our dream come true.

Chase, here is what would happen in our home if one day you tell your father and I that you are gay.

Our eyes would open wide.

And we would grab you and hold you tighter than you would be able to bear. And while we were holding you we would say a silent prayer that as little time as possible passed between the moment you knew you were gay and the moment you told us. And that you were never once afraid to tell us. And we would love you and ask you one million questions and then we would love you some more and finally, I would likely rush out to buy some rainbow t-shirts, honey, because you know mama likes to have an appropriate outfit for every occasion.

And I don’t mean, Chase, that we would be tolerant of you and your sexuality. If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, Chase, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated. People, every person, Is Divine. And so there would be celebrating. Celebrating that you would be one step closer to matching your outsides with your insides, to being who you are. And there would be a teeny part of my heart that would leap at the realization that I would forever be the most important woman in your life. And then we would tell everyone. We would not concern ourselves too much with their reactions. There will always be party poopers, baby.

We just wanted you to know this, honey. We’ve worried that since we are Christians, and since we love The Bible so much, that there might come a day when you feel unclear about our feelings about this. Because there are a few parts in The Bible that discuss homosexuality as a sin. So let us be clear about how we feel, because we have spent years of research and prayer and discussion deciding.

Chase, we don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. Your parents are Christians who carefully choose what we believe and follow in the Bible. Some will tell you that this approach to Christianity is scandalous and blasphemous. But the thing is, honey, that the only thing that’s scandalous about this approach is admitting it out loud. The truth is that every Christian is a Christian who picks and chooses what to follow in the Bible.

Several years ago I was in a Bible study at church, and there was some talk about homosexuality being sinful, and I spoke up. I quoted Mother Teresa and said “When we judge people we have no time to love them.” And I was immediately reprimanded for my blasphemy by a woman who reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. But I was very confused because this woman was speaking. In church. And she was also wearing a necklace. And I could see her hair, baby. She had no head covering. All of which are things that are sooooo totally against the Bible Rules. * And so I just assumed that she had decided not to follow the parts of the Bible that limited her particular freedoms, but to go ahead and hold fast to the parts that limited other people’s freedoms. I didn’t point this out at the time baby, because she wasn’t a bad person. People are doing the best they can, mostly. It’s best not to embarrass people.

What I’m trying to say is that each Christian uses different criteria to decide what parts of the Bible to prioritize and demonstrate in their lives. Our criteria is that if it doesn’t bring us closer to seeing humanity as one, as connected, if it turns our judgment outward instead of inward, if it doesn’t help us become better lovers of God and others, if it distracts us from remembering what we are really supposed to be doing down here, which is finding God in every human being, serving each other before ourselves, feeding hungry people, comforting the sick and sad, giving up everything we have for others, laying down our lives for our friends . . . then we just assume we don’t understand it yet, we put it on a shelf, and we move on. Because all I need to know is that I am reborn. And here’s what I believe it means to be reborn:

The first time you’re born, you identify the people in the room as your family. The second time you’re born, you identify the whole world as your family. Christianity is not about joining a particular club, it’s about waking up to the fact that we are all in the same club. Every last one of us. So avoid discussions about who’s in and who’s out at all costs. Everybody’s in, baby. That’s what makes it beautiful. And hard. If working out your faith is not beautiful and hard, find a new one to work out. And if spiritual teachers are encouraging you to fear anyone, watch them closely, honey. Raise your eyebrow and then your hand. Because the phrase repeated most often in that Bible they are quoting is Do Not Be Afraid. So when they tell you that gay people are a threat to marriage, honey, think hard.

I can only speak from my personal experience, but I’ve been married for eight years and barely any gay people have tried to break up my marriage. I say barely any because that Nate Berkus is a little shady. I am defenseless against his cuteness and eye for accessories and so he is always convincing me to buy beautiful trinkets with our grocery money. This drives your sweet father a bit nuts. So you might want to keep your eye on Berkus. But with the exception of him, I’m fairly certain that the only threats to my marriage are my pride and anger and plain old human wanderlust. Do not be afraid of people who seem different than you, baby. Different always turns out to be an illusion. Look hard.

Chase, God gave you the Bible, and He also gave you your heart and your mind and I believe He’d like you to use all three. It’s a good system of checks and balances He designed. Prioritizing can still be hard, though. Jesus predicted that. So he gave us this story. A man approached Jesus and said that he was very confused by all of God’s laws and directions and asked Jesus to break it down for him. He said, “What are the most important laws?” And Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love others as yourself.” ** When in doubt, Chase, measure all your decisions and beliefs against that. Make damn sure that you are offering others the same rights, courtesies, and respect that you expect for yourself. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.

Chase, you are okay. You are a child of God. As is everyone else. There is nothing that you can become or do that will make God love you any more or any less. Nothing that you already are or will become is a surprise to God. Tomorrow has already been approved.

And so baby, your father and I have only one specific expectation of you. And that is that you celebrate others the way we celebrate you. That you remember, every day, every minute, that there is no one on God’s Green Earth who deserves more or less respect than you do, My Love.

“He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ***

 Love, Mama

PS. We thought we should mention, honey, that if you’re straight, that’s okay too. I mean, it’d be a little anti-climactic now, honestly. But your father and I will deal.

PPS. All of the above holds true if you are overweight or Muslim too. No problem on either count.

PPPS. As daddy read this essay, I watched his gorgeous face intensify. He teared up a little. Then he slammed the letter down on the kitchen table and said emphatically and without a touch of irony, “DAMN STRAIGHT.”

Which, when you think about it honey, is really the funniest possible thing daddy could have said.

Love you Forever.

It made me cry. It made me cry for people I know from my past like Chase Hutchison from A list Dallas who grew up in a church I used to attend, friends from high school like Seth, Scott & Eddie, people from my church like Cathy & Crystal, people in my extended family like Tracey & Liz and today it helped me learn about my husband’s friend. She saw his post of the previous article on facebook which started a conversation. He knew a little bit of her story so he sent her a private message and asked her if she would be willing to share her experiences. With her permission I share her story here in her own words. I pray you will find it as powerful as I did.

I have been a Christian my whole life. Some of my first memories are of going to church with my family, and the church has remained a frequent source of joy and compassion throughout my life. I have accepted Christ three separate and distinct times, which may sound funny. The first was as a child,probably before I knew much about what it meant. The second was as a 12-year old, when I knew more about what it meant. And the third was as a 28-year old lesbian, when I knew exactly what it meant.

Growing up in a small Texas town that had more churches than gas stations, I frequently sat through sermons about right and wrong. That same town had only one gay person: the junior high P.E. coach (enter cliché here), so homosexuality was a frequent – and easy – topic on which to preach. From the pulpit I heard about “them” being Other…Unacceptable…Fallen. History teaches us little more than that having a common enemy unites. Cheaply, but unites nonetheless. We all want to feel like someone is worse than us. I have done that myself many times…judged others in order to feel less judged myself. It is bullying, and I am ashamed of that.

I was 13 years old when I realized that I was attracted to girls (not all of them, of course). It was not a choice that I made. The biology of the body doesn’t lie (to dispense with the abusive/absentee mother theory: I come from a nonabusive, stable, loving home of two parents (married for 43 years this July) and four children, of whom I am the third). Having been deeply engrained with the idea that homosexuals were unacceptable, I felt absolute and total panic. As I think of it, I can still feel my heart race. But the “I think I’m gay” conversation doesn’t have a place in the Christian world of a young girl, or boy for that matter. Not with my church. Not with my family. Not with my friends.

So I turned immediately to God – a practice that I’m still quite fond of. I started a prayer journal, which I would continue for the next ten years. I would ask God to “take it away from me,” and to “fix me.” I even asked God to let me live until I was straight, so that I wouldn’t go to hell. I was too afraid of someone reading the journal to actually write down the issue, but it permeates my prayers. As I read back through those hundreds of pages now, I cry for that girl who felt so alone, so ashamed, so unworthy, and so separated from the Love of God. My sexual orientation consumed my prayer life for years after.

I also immersed myself in the practice of my faith: Bible studies, worship groups, Young Life, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sunday School, everything. If I get close enough to God, I can’t still like girls, right? I also lived the life I sought after so desperately. I dated boys, kissed boys, and ultimately married one. My mantra was some version of “fake it ‘til you make it.” And I believed that would work. I was taught that it would.

In 2006, three years into my marriage, I got sick. Quite sick. I was having panic attacks several times a week, was depressed, and was working 17-hour days to keep myself from being at home. All still while praying and attending church constantly. It was as though the secret I had been keeping for all those years became too much to keep down. It was like a poison. I finally decided to tell my husband that I was attracted to women. Around the same time, I told my family. I should have told them earlier, but I was afraid. And that is my fault, not theirs.

My husband and I prayed and cried and turned to our church for help. We believed that prayer and support would provide a way out of it. But our church’s solution was some version of “pray away the gay,” and I was confident that was not going to work (see prayer journal for the prior 13 years, though we nonetheless continued to pray that I would be “healed”). Committed to staying together, we experimented with unconventional marital arrangements, none of which worked. After three years of hope, my husband and I divorced in 2009. He has forgiven me for it all, and he remains the most Godly man I have ever known. His love, support, and compassion are a constant reflection of God’s love for me, and – while he has had his own struggles with the situation – he remains one of the two great earthly loves of my life. And God has forgiven me as well.

While my marriage came undone, something else happened. With every honest word I spoke about myself, I got better. And not only did I get better, my faith transformed from a judgmental expression of failed expectations into one of compassion, love, hope, and grace. And through that I have realized that the separation from God I felt for all those years was my fault, because I let something come between me and Christ’s Love. Now I know that nothing…nothing…nothing can come between me and the Love of Christ. I only wish that fewer churches taught that something could…that some things do.

From the scriptural perspective, my best answer is that a condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible is a reflection of the time in which it was written, and that it needs to be interpreted with some acknowledgement of human rights progress. It’s also worth noting that Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, was far more concerned with sins of the heart than sins of the flesh. But the reality is that if homosexuality is a sin, then I am a sinner. And even if homosexuality is not a sin, I am still a sinner. I cannot change who I am attracted to. Believe me, I tried. I wept and prayed and tried and wept and prayed and tried. So far, God has seen it fit to leave me and love me just as I am. And so I am not afraid of it anymore…not ashamed of it…and it is no longer a secret. I am gay, and God loves me. I have Christ to thank for that.

Now I am in a committed relationship with my partner of several years. We pray together, worship together at a wonderful church in which we can hold hands during communion and not be judged, and ask God together to bless and guide our family. God hears our prayers, and we feel His peace in our hearts.

I listen frequently to the Church v. Gays battle that goes on in cities and churches all over the country. I feel like screaming “I am gay AND a Christian AND conservative!” But what I find is that’s too much for people to understand, which I completely appreciate because it was too much for me to understand for
28 years of my life.

The response from many of my life-long friends was difficult. Soon after word got out that I was gay, I started to receive emails from people urging me to “repent,” to “seek the Church,” and to “turn back to Christ.” Most of them were replete with scripture and ended with “I’m praying for you.” The obvious assumption was that I had given up my faith in favor of my sexual orientation, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have done my best to respond with love even when I’ve felt judged and rejected. During a moment of wanting to be understood, I asked a friend: “What would you do if you had a physical reaction to another man?” His response: “I would kill myself.” That was the church talking. Not God. And I realized things were even worse than I had thought. Only one person has ever asked me how my faith relates to my sexuality. Everyone else assumed it didn’t.

I share my story because I think of that boy or girl who, sitting in church this Sunday loving God, is attracted to the same gender and feels ashamed…scared…separated from God. Though surrounded by Christians who are the best in the world at loving, he or she will probably not find acceptance or compassion. It is more likely that he or she will find at atmosphere of rejection, unacceptability, and a “let’s pray that you change” attitude. And that makes my heart ache, having spent 28 years wondering how God could love me if I am gay. We can do better. We all need the grace of Christ to be acceptable in God’s sight. If you’re ever looking for that grace, you can find it under my feet, in my arms, and stamped across my heart. I pray that every person has a moment in his or her life at which it is realized that all of us sin and fall short of the Glory of God. That’s not just a line; we really do.

In the words of Ms. Melton, I want every gay person to know that “They are loved as they are. Without a single unless.” By me and by God.