He was the last on my list, but certainly not least.
I was leaving for DC in only a few short days and time was percussing through my head as I panicked over thirty different things I still hadn’t done. And yet, this was the most important. The most terrifying. I was as intent on doing it as I was intent on putting it off.
When I asked him for coffee I picked a place in uptown, a safe distance from my suburban surroundings where an overheard word could catch wind and wave out to the edge of my world. Taking all control right out of my hands. That wouldn’t be happening, especially right before I flew away.
So we went to this small indie cafe, one that I had never been to and neither had he. After a few moments of chit chat while we waited for our coffee, we took two black chairs and sat, waiting for me to begin.
I was all business and couldn’t fill the air with more bullshit. My heart couldn’t support the pressing weight of this secret for a minute more. There would be no small talk, the breeze would not be shot. We were in survival mode here and I wanted to bring him into the circle that he did not know he was standing outside of. And this is the kind of friend you want in your corner. This is the kind of person that shows up when all else fails.
“I am gay” I said, staring calm and serious into his eyes. It was the first time I said it and I didn’t twitch or feel uncomfortable as the words passed my lips. My tongue didn’t turn to rock, it flipped easily, and might I add, proudly. There was certainly a tension leading up to this very moment, but.. I don’t know. Maybe gone through this a dozen times before had made this place familiar, safe in the structure of the conversation. Safe in talking to this friend.
He nodded, smiled and said, “When you began with ‘there is something I have to tell you’, I wondered if this was it. Not that I suspected before, but just in that beginning, the thought shot up my mind.” and then he laughed and I laughed back and I began the painful process of letting him all the way in. I told him the whole story, the warm days where God felt as close as my breath and the cold ones when I was so broken by shame that I could barely get out of bed. He wept when I told him that I known since I was in sixth grade, that I walked through this world convinced I was something foul, unloved by a God that loved everyone else.
“You’ve already changed my heart, man. You have. I love you brother” He said after awhile.
The lighter side of my story I told with great excitement; my spiritual close encounters in the wake of coming out. I’d share the stories and then let the colors unfold all around us. My cold night beneath the stars when He told me He wasn’t like them. The intimate conversations when I broke through my own fear and the courage awoke in someone else to share their story, their kind of different. The way my coming out seemed to bring others into the light. And how warm it felt to stand there with them in all their authenticity.
These are my stories and they matter to me. I hang them down my memory like bright chandeliers, a constant presence upon my darker ones. I think about the time God snatched up my heart from the ditch I had left it in; He held it close to his and warmed it with whispered love. Or the repeated instances where He shook my shoulders, reminded me of the beautiful painful reality that sometimes, the Least of These that I am to love, is me.
I once thought of coming out as a confession of something seedy. A sin-infested lesion on my life that needed the attention, the antidote, of real Christians with their intentional prayers of change. That since I was sin and unable to go to God, they could on my behalf, make me holy so I could bring glory to his name.
But that’s not it at all. Coming out is quite the opposite. It is like sharing light.
It is saying this is how I have felt perceived by the world. Ugly. Rebellious. A gutter-blooded mistake. This is how I have hurt myself: By my hiding, by the bottle, by the coldness of stare in the bathroom mirror. I was wounded by others and by myself, but I am healing now, thriving forward, because I accepted that I was loved.
I accepted than I am acceptable. Adored. Fawned Over. By the God of Big Things. And once I did that, at the pit bottom of my heart, my flame sparked. My light burned brighter and brighter up through the dark places of my soul. I was confident in his love, I could hear Him in the words, I felt him with me in both the valley and the peak, and I felt how his presence in me allowed me to cast a glow on others. Make them believe they can love themselves too. Acceptance is contagious like that.
When we accept that we are accepted, we are like lanterns floating through a darkening world. Casting a light into the deep darkness in others. Sparking a flame. Spreading a wildfire.
What would happen if we posted up, radiated out waves of grace into this world that has grown so cold within? What if we glowed from each new morning, into every honest word, through holy conversations over coffee? Would it roll out wide and all encompassing? Could Kingdom come at last?