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My story for Dark Glass Theatre’s “Trespass”

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Instructions for a life:


Pay attention. 

Be astonished. 

Tell someone. 

I grew up in a large Pentecostal church, baptized days after being born. God and Jesus were always a huge part of my life.

My youth was full of Christian conventions, church summer camps and Friday night youth groups. I always believed the church was my family, and they would love me no matter what, because that’s what I was taught. I loved every aspect of growing up in the church…

Until I realized in my late teens that I may be gay.

From the age of 17 to 29, I encountered hurt, neglect, shame, loneliness and guilt from my church family. Sadly not an uncommon story, what had been my refuge since birth, became a dark place that made me question everything.

I began to hate myself and my futile prayers. Without ever having to say it, they made me believe I had to choose: embrace God, or be damned, and embrace this capital Sin.

I clearly remember sitting in my room at 18 years old, writing in my prayer journal and sobbing. After dodging this struggle as long as I could, I finally turned my head to look it square in the face.

Everyone was right. I was the worst of sinners. And no amount of prayer was changing that.

How could I be attracted to women? I grew up around all the right people, in the perfect Christian environment, with a loving mother and father to guide me. I was so involved at church and I loved it. I loved Jesus genuinely, and my family fiercely – and now I felt as though they couldn’t love me if I embraced being gay.

Hope began to dwindle.

Hope continued to dwindle for 13 years, where I had some of the most severe lows, and intoxicating highs, as I trudged along the messy path of my faith and sexuality. My faith was truly tested in every possible way. I was forced to ask myself  – and God – questions that I never would have, if I was straight.
What a gift, actually, that turned out to be.

Pay attention. 

Be astonished. 

Tell someone.

My relationships with family and friends went through some extreme ups and downs, and I made some bad choices motivated by hurt and loneliness.

Yet through it all, I felt God softly standing beside me, gently pursuing me, and not allowing despair to take a full hold. Deep down I always knew He created me for more than this chaos I was feeling.

A few weeks before my 30th birthday, I was coming very close to the end of my rope, and I knew I had to make a choice.

I had been dating this amazing woman named Tammy for seven years, yet so much of my life was in the closet, and up in the air. I lived with constant chaos rolling around in my soul, and I didn’t see how I could ever be okay with being both gay and a Christian — never mind be gay-married. It wasn’t fair to her any longer, and I had to make a decision to either end things or move forward.

A friend asked me to housesit, and I knew this was my chance to spend a week alone with God.

As I peeled back the layers of hurt, chaos and confusion of the last 13 years, I wept, and I asked God the impossible one last time.

Can You truly still love me if I love the gay part of myself?

Will you turn Your back, or will You be in the middle of our relationship, if I take the hand of the one I love, and walk forward in this life with her?

Will I ever possibly feel peace?

The answers were not was I was expecting — and they were not what everyone was telling me they would be. It was in that moment that I realized something vital. I had been listening to God’s people for 13 years – but what did God Himself have to say to me?

I waited, and I listened… and I sat there in the stillness.

I felt inside my soul, bubbling to the surface, a deep, resounding YES.

YES, I LOVE ALL THAT I MADE YOU TO BE.

YES, a thousand times over, YES.

And more than that – none of your struggle will be wasted.

I

Felt

Peace.

A peace that began to wash over me like waves, consuming the shores of chaos and washing them away, layer by layer.

I didn’t get written answers, or theological clarity — but I got peace. A peace that has not wavered since that day.

One year later, Tams and I got married. Our wedding day was not at all as I imagined it as a young girl. For one, I wasn’t marrying a shaggy-haired youth pastor, I was marrying a woman.

Secondly – my parents chose not to be there. I never thought I could look back on my wedding day with the profound void of my parents absence, and be truly happy.

But let me tell you my friends, God was there. And He filled that void so completely. I remember turning the corner to walk down the aisle, and I saw Tams waiting there for me – my heart burst, because I truly felt God saying to me – this is who I have made for you. I never believed that could have been possible. I am astonished. When I think back on that day, I just feel love.

I stand before you now, seven years later, at 37 years old, married to my beautiful Tams since 2011. We have a 19 month old daughter named Robson, who is our consistent beam of light, and we are pregnant with our second – a boy, due in just a few short days.

Profound gratefulness fuels my life. 

I can say today that I am wholly myself, in true contentment, and embracing this life God has given me.

It hasn’t been easy since that peace flooded my soul – but it is a continual well in which I draw from, to make it through the tough times.

There are still people close to me, including my parents, who do not agree, and that is hard… but it is okay. We can disagree. I know some people see my gift of peace as the moment when I gave into my sin. But this moment when people believe I walked away from God, is in fact the moment that I ran towards Him.

This is God’s story, and I am just trying to live it out. I believe that He will redeem it all one day; and I just need to leave that up to Him.

Pay attention. 

Be astonished. 

Tell someone.

This poem by Mary Oliver resonates deeply as I reflect on my life journey so far.

Pay attention. Because of the turmoil that God has brought me through, I am forced to pay attention to the gifts in my life that I will no longer take for granted. My daughter’s embrace is that much sweeter. Holding my wife’s hand in public is that much more profound.

Be astonished. When I have tough encounters with the ones I love, and they do not cheer my relationship or family on – I am grieved. But God gives me such a quiet and beautiful peace to be still, and trust Him. My heart remains soft. And that makes me truly astonished.

Tell someone. When God gave me this peace, I promised Him I would share His story. That is why I embrace it proudly. I believe I have been called to share my truth, to live authentically – and to leave the rest to Him.

What a true gift it is to be heard.

Thank you for listening.

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A third way. Being interviewed for a message at “The Meeting House”.

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“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

– The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 4:2-3

 

[In case it doesn’t work, link to the video here, click on Video button.]

It so happens lately – I believe through a lot of prayer and our attempt at living authentically – that opportunities have been cropping up for Tams and I to share a bit of our thoughts on faith and being gay. Or being a gay married couple, and still clinging to our faith. For many, that still does not compute.

And that’s okay.

I spent many years wrestling with that, and I will be the first to understand that any sort of conclusion doesn’t get reached lightly. My goal in sharing my truth is not to convince people that being gay is right, but that there is love for all, in all stages of this journey. Love is the first and foremost. Do I still wrestle with tension in my conservative family and background on this? Yes. Does God give me peace that that’s ok? Absolutely. But let’s dialog, let’s talk, let’s communicate – in love – that we don’t all have to agree. We are all equal at the foot of the cross, and there is room to disagree. Let’s pour our energies into figuring out how to love each other well, instead of trying to be “right” in our own interpretation of Scripture.

Through these many years of journeying this issue, I have made friends on all ends of the spectrum. And some we agree and cheer each other on, and some we disagree – and still manage to cheer each other on – and THAT’S the beauty of God in the midst of it. One of those dear friends is Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor at The Meeting House church in Ontario. He is also author of an amazing book, “The End of Religion”. The stance at The Meeting House is quite clear on not affirming same-sex marriage. But Brux is able to celebrate Tams and I in our relationship with each other and with him. What a beautiful picture that is to me! It’s not “I love you BUT…”, it’s “I love you.” And that we are trying to embody that verse from Ephesians is so incredibly encouraging to me.

Sort of out of the blue, Brux asked if he could interview us for a current series they are working through entitled Modern Family. We were going to be seeing him in the Vancouver area for a concert anyway, so a few weeks ago we did a mini video shoot and taped some thoughts on this topic that they edited for a short clip in his message. This can be seen in the embedded video – our interview is about 30 minutes in – Bruxy leads up to it around 25 minutes in, but the whole message is worth listening to. [The whole series is definitely worth listening to, btw!] This is obviously a drop in the bucket in terms of how much this issue will need continuing dialog on, but how amazing is it that there are many out there willing to at least sit down and have that dialog! So thankful am I.

Also wanted to mention, another dear friend of ours, Wendy Gritter, was also interviewed in this message briefly, and she is a true champion for the sexual minorities in the church. Her ministry New Direction has been focusing on what is called Generous Spaciousness within the church –  to allow for people of faith to have room to work out these incredibly hard issues of sexual identity. Wendy is a personal hero of mine, and has just been such a  great friend and encourager to Tams and I throughout our long journey.

This is an exciting [and scary] time to be a gay Christian. And I feel it’s also an incredibly huge privilege AND responsibility. Those are two massive labels that carry with them their own baggage; nevermind combining them into a new package of chaos and confusion. But, hopefully, with love at the forefront – and as Apostle Paul says – trying desperately to be humble, gentle and patient, we can make a difference. We can learn from each other and admit we don’t have all the answers. But surely we can love each other better.

Bottom line – don’t be afraid to love too much. I know on my death bed it will be the one thing I will be so incredibly proud to say I did recklessly.