photo by Krist Adams at creationswap
My name is Seth. And I have no idea how to begin this introduction.
I have lived my entire life in a war ravaged country. I didn’t grow up in the chaos of the Middle East or Africa, but in the state of Alabama in the heart of the Bible belt and SEC football. I was born into the sub-subculture of a Christian denomination with an incredibly unfortunate name (fingers crossed, but that’s probably not changing in my lifetime…). I viewed the world around me from a sheltered lens. My parents home schooled me from first grade to my high school graduation. We went to a small church filled with mostly older members–I didn’t really have a friend beside my four younger siblings until I was in my late teens. I lived in a bubble. But eventually puberty hit and changed everything I knew.
I suddenly felt attraction toward other guys. I had never heard this narrative. I never knew it was possible for a guy to feels things for another guy. I had never comprehended words like homosexuality or gay.
God wove through the first threads of my memories, a relationship as real as my parents. I came to know Him through Bible stories, A capella hymns, and sovereign grace sermons-my head lying against soft, but firm upholstered pews as the preacher spoke about words that glided over my comprehension. Or I would draw with Crayons, listening and imagining. I would sometimes pretend to preach sermons about Noah and Jesus to my stuffed animals, all lined up in their invisible pews. I publicly became a Christian when I was six years old. I walked down the aisle at the preacher’s invitation with my four year old sister. We told the church we believed in Jesus and wanted to become members of the church. I was so innocent and oblivious. That six-year-old little boy had no clue the struggle he would experience years later. He would come to learn about shame, secrets, and isolation. He would come to know the monsters of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
I have now lived more years post-puberty than before my experience with same-sex attraction. The journey has been long and painful. But there have been moments of beauty revealing God’s faithfulness and unfailing, tender compassion. I am often asked why I am still a Christian through everything I have endured. I often feel like Peter when Jesus asked the apostles if they too would leave Him like the multitudes who couldn’t bear his difficult teachings. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). My experience with God and the church has been tumultuous, broken, and bitter. I have been hurt and hurt others. And while scripture often feels like a bazooka that preachers wield to intimidate and shame, there are many times I’m reminded that this ancient text is God’s love letter to me.
So yes, I am a gay man. I am also a devout Christian. When I place these two identity labels side-by-side, I feel defensive. I feel the need to prove my faith as if this were a courtroom. Some will say I lost faith in God’s miraculous abilities. Others who have heard about ex-gay or reparative therapy may think I gave up too soon. I’m not saying either are necessarily wrong, but my attempt through this blog is to be open about my faith journey. This is where I’m at. This is an invitation for you to walk with me through the questions, through the loneliness, through the grief, but also through incandescent joy and persevering hope.
I don’t know where this will lead. This may be a major flop. But I have lived so much of my life invisible and silent. It’s time to be brave. It’s time to take a risk, to dream. If I fail, I fail a stronger man than I was before.
I stand in a battlefield that has been raging long before I was born. I’m building bridges. I’m indebted to Andrew Marin for this imagery. He refers to it a lot in his work at the Marin Foundation, a peace-making organization that works with LGBTs and the conservative church. If you asked him, I know he would agree that when you build in the middle of a vehement ideological war, you will get shot sometimes. I anticipate tough criticism. I expect people will doubt my faith. But if I can help a gay teenager find hope in her despair, if I can help a straight Christian learn how to love his buddy who has just shook his paradigm, it will all be worth it.
So regardless where you stand, I’ll close with this thought from Sarah Bessey:
“Let’s sit here in hard truth and easy beauty, in the tensions of the Now and Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, and let us discover how we can disagree beautifully.”¹
¹Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women (New York: Howard Books, 2013), 2.