How To Accept Yourself as an LGBTQ Christian
This blog was originally published 12/04/2015.
I got an email from a reader a few days ago. She's not LGBT herself, but she has many gay friends and is learning how to engage properly. (Way to go ally!) Her question was about how to accept yourself as a gay Christian. I wanted to share our conversation* with you:
Something I often ponder is why there are a lot of testimonies out there where people say they have "come out of the gay lifestyle" due to conviction that their same sex relationship was wrong and not God-glorifying. Does this ever bother/affect you? Are you afraid you'll feel this conviction one day? And if not, what advice do you have for others in helping them achieve the same level of confidence and assurance? --Erin R.M.
Does it bother or affect me? Eh... Sort of. I've met and read stories of individuals who say that God "healed them" or brought them a spouse of the opposite sex, and they fell in love and had babies and yaddah yaddah yaddah. Do I believe them? Sure! Why not. Who am I to tell someone that their stories are invalid. Part of me thinks that their orientation wasn't exclusively homosexual or perhaps they experienced some sexual fluidity, thus allowing them to engage successfully in a heterosexual relationship.
That is their story. I will honor that.
But that is not the story of most people who struggle with sexual orientation and gender identity.
The majority of people who struggle with their sexual orientation or gender identity who attempted to change it, to leave it behind, ignore it, etc, failed to change because... well, frankly, we can't.
I often had these moments on my journey to accept myself as a gay Christian where I was out the closet and then I ran back in again because I thought, "Maybe if I just try again, maybe if I pray harder or fast more..." It was a cycle of shame. I couldn't imagine a life outside of the tiny box of white, heteronormative theology which was "correct." It was the only way to look at it. I felt shame just for even thinking that there could be a different way to look at scriptures.
[bctt tweet="That shame that is heaped on LGBT people is not of God."]
That shame is a product bad teaching, a longing to stay in good community, and a fear of rejection that churches are perpetuating from the pulpit.
Many LGBT people have been taught there is something inherently wrong or broken with their sexual orientation, that it is displeasing to God and that it can be changed. Or they have been told that the ONLY redemptive purpose for their life and sexuality is to forego romantic relationships, give up any chance at deep human connectedness and choose celibacy.
I tried that. I tried going down that path, and what it brewed in me was nothing but sadness, depression, and thoughts of suicide that prevailed for most of the 11 years I was struggling with my faith and sexuality. These teachings are so deeply embedded in our psyches, it takes time to unlearn old patterns of behavior, and time to unlearn bad theology.
These are the first steps to accepting yourself as an LGBT Christian:
Find your tribe.
What I mean by 'tribe' is people around you, in your life regularly, who can support, affirm, build you up, and challenge you to be the person you were made to be. People who will speak truth against lies, who will listen to your fears, validate your story, and who are with you through thick and thin.
[bctt tweet="Be around people who will love you for who you are, not in spite of who you are."]
Meet other LGBT Christians.
Seriously, meeting other LGBT+ Christians who have been liberated and are finally living full lives as openly LGBT is life changing. Because when you see the Holy Spirit working, living, and active in the lives of LGBT people, I think it begins a shift. Because I met people who had been set free, I was in turn set free. And because I am set free, I get to set others free. And that's pretty much how discipleship and evangelism works!
Get your identity in Christ settled.
Do I ever feel like I might want to "leave the gay lifestyle" out of personal conviction? A year ago, I would have said I was totally unsure of everything. But today, I can say with full confidence that no, I will never ever go back to the old way of thinking, the self condemning, self loathing, and truly self-obsessed way of doing life.
I think the best way for others to gain that confidence step into a place of self-acceptance is really to realize the truth about one's identity. You are already loved by God. God already approves of you, loves you, welcomes you into this family. Regardless of circumstance or life choices, what you have done or have not done, you are a Child of God. Our identity is daughter, son, child of God. Period. No questions. That's the truth.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
When we can just accept that we are loved, everything changes. And that is the place that we operate from.
We work FROM approval, not FOR approval.
We work FROM God's love, not FOR God's love.
We work FROM a place of overflow of Grace, not FOR a modicum of Grace.
My self-assurance and confidence doesn't come from me, it comes from what my Heavenly Father says I am and who He created me to be. I am not broken. I am not in need of more healing. I am not needing to overcome. I am already whole. I am already healed. I have already overcome. I am loved. I am worthy. I am valued.
I sit in the assurance that God loves me, because He loves me, because He loves me, because He loves me, because He loves me, because THAT'S JUST WHO HE IS! And that is where I live and breathe and have my being. And that's what I believe truly needs to be settled before we even begin to talk about anything else.
(*This email conversation was edited a bit from the original for length and certain uses of language. Just FYI. )