Perhaps its best to start with the kicked-shut door.
The rejection, the rage of that Mother’s Day morning was the first time in years that I wished I felt numb. I ran out but I wanted to race up. I wanted to take the stage and take the mike, I wanted to say Stop, for the Love of God, Stop.
And for the life of me, I don’t know if it’s cowardice or ignorance or both that made him cut us out of his life. I don’t know how he thought it best to use his secretary as an intermediary to a mother feeling maimed, covering her wings over her boy. I don’t what kind of gall it takes to tell her to buy a book from his store like a salesman would do. I don’t know how you become a pastor to thousands- the biggest church in the State, and be the kind that slams the door on those you singled out and shamed. I don’t understand any of it.
I’ve been reading up on reconciliation and here’s what I’ve found. One of the most important parts of healing is to face the offender- pull out the arrows one splitting tear at a time and put them back in their hands. Let them put a pressured finger on the tip of the spike; let them imagine ten years of these hurling down on you.
And ideally, you find forgiveness. Your waters wave into one another and you feel what the other side feels like. He would feel my wounds and I would feel the spotlight heat on a megachurch stage. But even that is getting ahead of ourselves.
What we can do, pragmatically, right now, is find some closure. He can give me that by hearing me out. By letting me sit in his office and speak and cry and tell him what it felt to run out of church on Mother’s day. To let my mom puff up and protect me, claim back the thousands they gave to his ministry.
But he won’t.
His door stays shut.
And if you can’t have that, its not like you can just throw this all away. These wounds haunt you like phantoms, like a deep impression you can never fill. In many ways they become one more thing to overcome. One more thing to block out. One more invasive blot to the Gospel story. One more screen in the space between you and God.
And it’s not like this silencing is anything new. We’ve read and wept over the stories coming out of Sovereign Grace Ministries. And I know that my story is not just different, it is several degrees less. But it still matters. The standing outside in the kicked shut silence is where those fluttering feelings peck you apart and the only way I think I can rid myself of them is to speak to he who hurt me.
But his door stays shut.
The funny thing about silence is how loud and ugly it can sound.
It says your pain is petty, inconsiderable, not worthy of five minutes time. It says that there is an admission to this office, you take what I said and go get fixed into something else, because this place isn’t for those like you. It says you can come and hear my word, but don’t you dare disagree. Don’t you dare believe you know God like I do.
And it shoots a thousand inexpressible insults, a thousand sharp cuts. A thousand ways that say your words, your story, your pain, don’t matter at all.
How I wish he could’ve been different. I wish he was like another pastor I once grabbed coffee with. By the time the two of us had crossed paths, I had been beaten to a pulp. I had flirted with ex-gay and even though it was a one-time thing, the nausea of it stayed in my stomach. I came to the café with my journal torn pages, scrawled out lists of religious wrongs.
And he Listened. He made me feel heard. He leaned in and said I am so sorry. He fell back and bloomed open his arms, smiling when he said, your story needs to be shared! Your story is going to change things- change people.
A few months later I cried as he led the congregation in a prayer of repentance for the collective homophobia of the Church and I remember how healing glowed and trickled its way through me. I remembered feeling like I belonged.
Because they told me I mattered to them. My pain mattered. My story, my value as a human being mattered to them. He could’ve closed the door and dismissed me as inconvenient, but he responded to that email within a couple of days. He told me that I was making a difference in his life. And that matters more than he knows.
So the church will never be one broad, sour-shaded stroke. Pastors come with hearts of different shapes and sizes. The key is to know, through every cell in your being, that they do not name you. They do not define you.
But they can lift you up. They can surrender shoulders to runny houses and spends hours with your coffee-incensed rant. They can remind you of the truth of your worth.
There is one perfect love out there and once upon a time he pieced you together part by part. Polished you with his warmth. He breathed a deep eager breath into your lungs. Held you closer than you can hold yourself.
So know this- you are lovely, you do matter, you are heard, because He says you are.
When the world, when the church, say you aren’t, He says you are.
And nothing matters more than that.
Whether you are LGBT or straight, have you ever felt cut out from your church? Have you ever felt a pastor’s silence like this? Please share your story here- it matters.