when joyful news is anything but

Dear Mom,

Blog photo 1I know it seems pretty odd to receive a letter from me, especially as we not so very long ago had the shared habit of talking on the phone at least twice a week. I miss those times, and I am sure you are somewhat perplexed as to why they have gone by the wayside. The purpose of this letter is, in part, to explain that to you.

I know you have often said that we shouldn’t write things down, since to do so is to make a permanent record. But what I have here to say is so important that I don’t want it to be lost in the distractions of an oral context. I hope this is something you will maybe read more than once, if that is needed.

The foremost thing I need you to know is that I love you. I love you so much, I cannot ever imagine, nor do I ever want to consider, life without you.

But I am scared of losing you. And I have avoided telling you what is going on in my life because I am quite afraid of you disowning me. And I can’t bear even the possibility of that happening. So I guess I opted to push myself away, minimizing our relationship, instead of risking an irrevocable loss. But I can’t do this any longer, both because I miss you so much, and because I can’t continue to hide what’s going with me. I want you to be a part of my life. And since my silence has made a de facto barrier between us, it is up to me to give you the opportunity either to finalize the break or to show me how unwarranted my fears have been.

As you know, I’m moving to Canada. Yes, there is ministry opportunity there, and yes I have been interviewed to be a lay minister at SP in —–, and perhaps to enter seminary towards a pastoral role in the [denomination]. And it is true that northern [Canada] is beautiful. But the reason I am moving, of all places, to a farm outside of a small town farther north than I’d ever considered even visiting before now, is because I have fallen in love. And I’m getting married in June.

I have been for some months now an active part of this family, which includes two kids: A (who is 15) and B (who is 12). I will be marrying a wonderful Christian woman named E, whom I have known for quite some time now. She is in leadership at SP’s, involved in developing Christian ed curricula and sundry outreaches. We spend hours every night on the phone, studying theology, reading our Bibles, praying, or learning about the history of Christianity. A calls me daily, just to hang out on the phone, or to get homework help. B calls or sends me Instant Messages (internet chat) daily. Over the months, I’ve taken on a more parental role. I’ve been up there a couple times (as you know), and E has come down here. We know each other very well, and I really think you’d like E and the kids very much.

I know your position on same-sex relationships, and I vividly remember your words to me the day you picked me up from the train station, some 21 years ago. I don’t expect you to come to my wedding or to endorse the “acceptability” of our relationship. I respect your boundaries. But I want you to have the opportunity to know a new daughter-in-law and two new grandkids. Because they are such a huge part of my life, I cannot hide them from you any longer.

I’m still the same me I have always been, only a lot less inauthentic. I have always been gay. You know how very hard I tried not to be. Every day I would put on the acceptable face, and every night, I would have dreams of being married (to a woman) and having a happy family. And I would wake up to the sadness of loneliness. For twenty years. For twenty years, mom, I’ve done all in my power to “rebuke” and shove aside as wicked—the worst thing in the world—whom God created me to be. I’ve called God’s creation evil, demon-possession, abominable. I considered myself a disease, a plague that couldn’t “properly” relate to either men or women.

It was back when R invited me to stay with her for my 40th birthday present that I had a transformative experience with God. It wasn’t anything spectacular or even all that noteworthy, so far as flash and bang goes, but she asked me how many more years I was willing to live this way, in the closet, unhappy, self-loathing, and doing my very best to keep busy so people wouldn’t notice the deep-inside me. Putting on the happy Christian-with-no-weaknesses face. Or dealing only with acceptable problems. How many more years was I willing to self-impose isolation? And she wisely noted that I would never actually be happy until I lived congruently with who I am. Until I chose to be authentic, honest, with myself, with God, with others.

When I returned home to [Indiana], I spent a very long night in prayer. You have often told me that if we have something in our life that we don’t know the origin of—whether it be of God or not—to offer it up to God as a sacrifice. If it is his, he’ll bless it, and if not, he will remove it. For the first time in my life I got truly honest with God about my orientation. And I told God that if this was his doing, I was very sorry for calling it wicked and hating on it.

Mom, I never felt so free. Never.

You might know that from about 2002 to that January almost two years ago, I had great difficulties attending church. I couldn’t handle the intellectual dishonesty and total lack of love for neighbor I saw when I went. And I couldn’t figure out where I could go that wouldn’t be a place so proud of preaching condemnation instead of hope, violence instead of the peace that passes understanding, hate instead of agape. A place that didn’t thrill at the thought of a final holocaust that destroyed everyone we don’t agree with but chose rather to occupy until Christ returns—by actively loving those poor, hungry, naked, imprisoned, and sick among us.

I would get physically sick whenever I heard some sermon so obsessed with End Times signs and wonders that the core message of Jesus—the Great Commandment that we love God and love our neighbors (not just those we agree with) as ourselves—was utterly abandoned in all but obligatory words. What I saw was a focus on getting people to agree with us rather than loving them as image-bearers of God. So I drifted away from fellowship.

But when I risked offering this huge, subterranean aspect of me to God, it was as if a dam burst. And the surge of water that erupted through the new pathway carried me back into fellowship and ministry. Amazing what honesty does. God directed me to T (my church home here), where I found a church focused on loving the dirty, unkempt, unloved as fiercely as the well-churched, well-dressed and socially-acceptable.

When I finally accepted God’s work in my life, I was finally able to hear his direction as to where he wanted me, what sort of church would be my immediate spiritual family. It wasn’t until I came out to God and found this orientation to be a gift that I found myself capable of continuing in my walk. Yes, I said ‘gift.’ I believe it is no coincidence that 10% of the population is gay. I believe this is a yoke of sorts, a calling, to relate to the socially outcast, to love, to stick out in the church and community as a voice for the marginalized.

I can’t begin to explain how it feels to be hated by one’s (spiritual, physical) family. How it feels to pretend you’re something you aren’t, for fear of being scorned and abandoned. In my 20s, I was kicked out of children’s ministry at C [my old home church of 16 years] because I am gay, and people were terrified I’d rape or brainwash the girls on my drama team. In my 30s, I was forbidden to enter any ministerial training because I wasn’t married, even though there were a large number of other single women in that selfsame ministry program. And now that I have (carefully, quietly) come out, I have been utterly rejected by everyone at C (but J and S, bless them), everyone I loved so very much.

I’ve been demoted from sister in Christ to lost soul to abomination and reprobate enemy of God. But I’ve not changed. I’m still me. In fact, my walk with God is profoundly deeper and more challenging now that I’m being honest. And ministry doors that I always knew were there somewhere, but seemed ever elusive, have begun opening for me. I just can’t see how it would be that if something was of Satan, it would drive me closer to God, deeper into faith, and more powerfully into ministry.

I remember the Jack Chick tracts in the coffee table drawer. I read “The Gay Blade” countless times. I have it memorized. And I remember how it portrayed gays as bestial lowlifes, with some agenda to recruit, defile, and pervert innocents. I have vivid images in my head of Chick’s illustrations of gays, always garish, ragged faces. Always filled with cruelty and bitterness. Always wicked. Always subhuman.

I remember Falwell’s words about the “homosexual agenda” and the “homosexual lifestyle.” You know M and M [mom’s neighbors, a lesbian couple]. What agenda do they have, other than make a decent living, have a good home, and live peacefully—what agenda that is different than any other person living? Perhaps things seem more “agenda”-like because we’d like to be freed from the “abomination before the living God” label. And what is the “homosexual lifestyle”? I know, Dobson has offered videos and some opportunistic writers have presented hair-raising and titillating stories of the outlandish and extreme antics of some people. But to label them the norm for gays is just as absurd as taking note of Mardi Gras excesses and drunken New Year’s Eve revelries and waving them around as an example of the evils of the “heterosexual lifestyle.” People can twist anything, even scripture, to justify hatred and fear, to spread misinformation.

You know how it is when certain liberal groups attack Christianity, by using extremely negative emotional language and by twisting the facts. Truth is, that this is what certain groups have been doing to gays. There are the scary ones out there, for sure, but that doesn’t come from being gay. There are scary people out there—regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, creed, or orientation.

I haven’t got some wicked agenda or bizarre lifestyle. I haven’t gone apostate. I haven’t lost my mind. I haven’t sold my soul to Satan or become demonized. I don’t recruit children or troll the internet for anonymous hook-ups. I am not antichrist or intent on destroying the foundation of civilization. I’m still me, trying to finish my dissertation, getting ready to be married, preparing coursework for three intense classes, and trying to figure out how to budget for the much-needed home improvements on the farm.

I didn’t expect E to sweep me off my feet. She has a similar background, being the eldest child of an itinerant Pentecostal preacher. Our friendship began over Bible study and prayer. It wasn’t until many months later that we realized that we’d actually created something much deeper than study buddy friendship between us. I don’t want you to think that she entered my life and then “corrupted” me into “reverting” into “the homosexual lifestyle.” I didn’t know anything of E when God set me on this path towards honesty.

But we have been dating now for almost a year, and we are getting married next June, at SP’s in [Canada]. And we will have a reception later, at T in [Indiana]. Both X (her pastor) and Y (my pastor) have blessed this relationship, and we will be using a marriage liturgy that was common in Europe during late Roman and throughout Medieval times—a Christian ceremony for same-sex unions. Yeah, it was a surprise to me, too, that Christians didn’t always condemn same-sex relationships. Our marriage will be legal, too, protected by the Canadian charter and, just like any other marriage, by international law.

I suppose you can now see, maybe understand, why I’ve been reluctant to share my life with you. I haven’t wanted to cause you any pain. I haven’t wanted to force on you more difficulties to deal with—you’ve had more than your share. And, to be blunt, I haven’t wanted to inflict on me any more pain than what is impossible to avoid. But since our engagement has become official, the pain of not telling you has far outweighed the fear of the consequences when I do tell you.

I’ve tried to wait until a good time, but there’s no such thing. And I’ve agonized over how to tell you. I wanted to tell you face to face, but I can’t afford to fly to [Washington], and I didn’t want you to feel ambushed. And I worried that the emotions of the encounter would bury my meaning. I briefly considered calling you, but I felt that would be more the ambush and possibly cruel (certainly gauche). I don’t like writing a letter, but my hope is that this will give you time to absorb, time to consider, time to pray.

I am not asking (nor expecting) you to change what you believe. I just wanted you to know what is going on, and maybe to understand a little bit how I have come to where I am. Of course, I have been in the process of coming out and being authentic before God for over a decade, so this short letter doesn’t begin to express it adequately. But I hope it expresses enough.

I love you, mom. And I want you in my life, if you will have me. But I now come with a family. And I hope you will not only someday acknowledge and accept them, but maybe even come to love them. I think I have a pretty good idea how hard this is going to be for you, and for this I am truly very sorry. But I don’t want to hide the majority of my life and limit my relationship with you to small talk about cats, gardens, and local places of interest any longer, if I don’t have to. I hope I won’t have to. “Safe” topics are depressing to me. I would like to be able to be real with you, too. But ultimately, I want you to know that I will respect your wishes, whatever they be.

 [flayed Hypatia]

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7 thoughts on “when joyful news is anything but

  1. chefhoag

    Oh, my.
    I know how hard that must’ve been for you. I think you’re quite brave to share it. I wish you the best of luck in the interim of waiting for a reply. Waiting has always been the hardest part for me.

    Reply
  2. Joe Carter

    Love ya sista… thank you for sharing. We love you so much and will continue to pray for you and yours (and your mama).

    J

    Reply
  3. Ripley

    Bon, my heart is with you my friend as you will sit in wait for a response. I am not the least bit surprised at what an awesome job you did with writing this. You amaze me with your loving heart and your ability to express yourself so poised and elegantly even in the most serious and heartfelt of subjects. I pray for a peace on your heart and spirit until you hear from her. Love you

    Reply
  4. Turtle

    Wow. yeah. wow. So much of what you say resounds deep deep within me. I am praying for you and am standing with you. I love you and so do all your sisters, you are an awesome child of God.
    Peace.

    Reply
  5. Teri

    I’m not ashamed to say . . . I cried. I hope your Mom can see the love you have for her and accept your new family. At least that will be my prayer. By the way, congratulations. Although the letter is gut wrenching, I can tell you are very happy and at peace.

    Reply
  6. bridgeout

    Transparency, courage… indeed. I have not been that brave with my parents yet. This letter would be everything I would like to write to people who I would like to love me and my own family for exactly who I am.
    HUGS and peace to you Bon!

    Reply

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