Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Called into Fullness
Last month I participated in a one day conference on gender, where I spoke on the stages of development regarding same-gender attraction. In preparing for the topic, I read numerous books and articles and found many interesting facts on the subject. I made notes, interjecting my own story within the often-dry facts, and created a powerpoint for the visual learners.
Every time I am invited to share my journey out of a gay identity, I am honoured and take it very seriously. I consider it pure joy to have walked this path, even through the hardships, struggles, temptations and battles that have taken place. I see a much bigger God because of it. So this invitation was no different than the rest. But it ended up being something of a first for me. As we entered the church, there seemed to be a buzz of anticipation regarding this topic. The room was packed. Usually, events like this draw a handful of people, but this one was larger and people seemed keen to understand the issue. This impacted me at an emotional level that I had not experienced in a long time. On more than one occasion, I had to swallow to hold back the emotions so I could get through the topic.
The day progressed — participants eagerly asked questions and sharing in group discussions. The hum of understanding swelled among the congregation. It was beautiful to see understanding and compassion meld together in unison.
Then, at the very end of the event, when one of the speakers was winding down the conference, a middle-aged man stood up. He wanted to make a statement. (Even as I write this, tears well up inside me). Silence filled the room as he stood before us. He cleared his throat and then began. He wanted to apologize on behalf of the church for not loving those who struggle with this issue. He asked for forgiveness for remaining silent when he could have shown love. He repented for not learning about the issues of same gender, instead remaining ignorant and uncaring. It was a highly emotional response and I am not sure there was a dry eye in the room. The last speaker who had remained on stage openly wept as this man repented and asked for forgiveness. When he was finished speaking, the speaker (still weeping) accepted the apology and thanked him for his vulnerability and loving response, and then the two men embraced.
What repentance triggers
The leader went on to say that he has been speaking on the topic of same gender attraction for nearly 20 years and this was the first time anyone had ever done that. It deeply impacted him, as — more often than not — the church community has turned a blind eye to those who struggle with homosexuality, hoping that the issue goes away or someone else deals with it rather than stepping up to become a healing community that loves and embraces. For myself, I saw a community eager to learn and understand, rather than remain closed off in ignorance regarding the complex issue of gender attraction. Deep healing happened within me as I witnessed this embrace between these two men.
My prayer is that this begins to happen in the whole body of Christ. That we become a healing community that loves and embraces all people. That we become a body that doesn't just turn a blind eye at one part, but looks at the whole body and comes to realize that we all need each other. Those who are struggling with same-gender attraction need the body of Christ to call them forth into the fullness of who God has designed them to be, restored and whole. Heck, we all need that. None of us are exempt in our need of others to speak life to us. A lot of us continue to walk in distorted views of ourselves and that's why we need others. Maybe that begins with the posture of the repentant man, who initiated something at that conference. He confessed his own lack, his own apathy and asked for forgiveness. Maybe as we do that, we will attract more people to the body of Christ rather than repel people away from what they desperately need — each other. May we become the healing communities that Christ is calling us to be.
Published in the Christian Courier