to my people In Real Life

390514284_7b2e125467

Image credit

 

We might’ve gone to high school together. I was in your close group of friends, but then graduation and college came and, gradually, we drifted apart toward new places and different lives. You might not get this blog, my whole story, but that’s because you only ever saw the half of it. You remember me as sarcastic, as self-deprecating, the guy always going for a good laugh. But there was also another part of me living in the shadow of myself. This page, the one you’re reading, this is where I let that side breathe. An open place to be honest and alive and complete.

 

We might’ve been missions trip partners, digging shovels into the dirt of that wasted Honduran mountain. We helped those that couldn’t understand a single word we said, hugged them, built alongside them an irrigation system drawing in clean, beautiful water. You told your story and I told mine, before each other and the entire village and I bet every single one of us on that team held back a little, kept some cards close. Yet I also know we had never lived into a more honest and true gospel than we did that trip. A gospel of hands and feet, tears and laughs, international soccer and rushing streams of holy water. To this day, those are still some of the greatest days of my life.

 

We might’ve been in the same freshman year dorm, you might’ve been my Resident Director. The first night of Welcome Week orientation, you laid out the lists of rules through a skit with your fellow RAs and there was this thing you said. Even now, when I think about it, I still get all choked up. You were talking about kindness, about how cursing wasn’t okay and then you said, “Also, gay doesn’t mean stupid, okay? It doesn’t mean bad or dumb or ugly. If I hear it intentionally thrown around as an insult, we’ll be talking. I really, really hope I’ve made myself clear.” And for the very first time in an evangelical setting, I felt safe.

 

We might’ve studied together for Christianity in Western Culture, the class everyone loved to hate, and when we we reached our mental capacity to learn in those late night cram sessions, we flipped those flashcards in the air and ran up to Seminary Hill to sled stolen canoes into icy snowbanks. A couple times, we grabbed coffee in the campus cafe and you told me how you didn’t feel safe in the evangelical bubble of our college. Like it was Wonder Bread and you were made of a different morsel. I want you to know what a gift that was to me.

 

You might’ve been my youth leader, my counselor, my pastor or my teacher, and you might be wondering now whether there was something you did wrong. Whether you contributed to this shame corroding me from within. I want you to know that, yes, some of you absolutely did. But I also want you to know that I love you and I forgive you. I understand that you were working within a world where that kind of talk was understood as Hard Truth. The Truth in Love. And while we are certainly in control of our decisions, we are, also, much more importantly, standing before that indescribable grace, gusting in and around and through us.

 

You might be a friend, a relative, a coworker, a professor, or some person I sat next to on a plane once. You might barely know me. You might think you know me more than most. And I want you to know this side of me, but I also want you to know that I am, in fact, still me

 

I’ve been writing this blog anonymously for over a year and I didn’t expect it to be what it is. I expected it to be like free therapy. A documented account of my life, my best and worst moments, my deepest truths. I thought that if I recorded it publicly, but anonymously, it would safely make my story significant. I expected it to make my story matter.

 

I didn’t think this place would become an inseparable part of my faith journey. A part of my life now. And it all started after a small trickle of messages made their way into my inbox. These tragic stories of closeted teens afraid that once they let their parents in, they’d be kicked out. Many mothers messaged me expressing thanks for a place where they could feel safe, hopeful for kids that walked away long ago. I have heard from people of every persuasion, theology, gender identity, sexuality, and to my surprise, I became deeply connected to them. A part of a fragile community strung together by satellites and laptops. A community that felt as close as my breath.

 

And I balanced my life between here and there. But at a certain point, that wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t keep writing for young kids to be brave when I was still speaking from behind the veil. I couldn’t keep telling parents to stand up for their kids, hold them close and never them let go, while I myself remained nameless. It was an integrity issue for me to come out. And maybe a faith one too.

 

You might be reading this and thinking Gay and Christian are incompatible identities, you need to pick one. First of all, I’d point out, there is a hierarchy for me. I will always be God’s child first and foremost. He saved my life and I live for Him. Secondly, being gay has actually been the biggest catalyst to my faith since baptism or first communion or even that very first prayer. Accepting that I am accepted, warts and all, has allowed for Christ’s love to flow down the lowest places. It has brought me into divine intimacy in ways we never could be if I was rejecting myself. If I was rejecting myself, I was rejecting his love.

 

And you might be worried. You might be concerned because you genuinely love or like me, even now, but you’re afraid that your particular belief or theology will hurt me and effectively end our relationship, so maybe it’s best to stay at a distance. I want you to know, that is far from true.

 

Even most recently, I had one of the best conversations about this with one of my closest friends. I told him I was gay and he said, perhaps ten times over, that he loves me. Later into the conversation he asked for grace moving forward as he would need to learn more and he might not even change his theology. And some might say that he’s not affirming my humanity, but I’d tell you that his tear-streaked face attests to the contrary. His questions, his search,  his friendship, as well as those of other friends, have proven that love is possible in spite of such personal disagreement. Love is amazingly resilient.

 

There isn’t always an easy answer. There is no book that solves it for you. This is a long road and many, many good and Godly people arrive at different places, and who knows why. But while we stare through this glass darkly, hold that wild sea of scripture in our hands, I think we can all still love one another well.

 

And this might be no big deal to you at all. You might be shrugging your shoulders right now, thinking Oookay?? To you I say, Cool. Let’s move forward in whatever relationship we’re in as we always have.

 

To others, this might be the biggest deal. You might have a thousand thoughts, questions, feelings ping-ponging through your mind, and you are helpless in grabbing a single one. I want you to know that that is okay. Something friends and family have consistently drilled into my head is that while this was my lifetime secret, this was their first few days, weeks, months, and they needed time. I just might be the very first person you know that is gay. And you might need awhile, I get that.

 

Still, if you’d like, I invite you to email me or call me or text me. I would love to talk to you more, because you matter to me.

 

All I ask in return is that you be kind, good, and honoring of such sacred conversation. All I ask is that you be a friend.

 

With love to you, always,

 

Ben

  • Pingback: These Hallowed Grounds: Our Story » The Registered Runaway()

  • Ben! For that is who you are…Ben!

    I was a reader and subscriber on your old site and somehow lost you when you transitioned to this new place. Found your post thanks to Rachel Held Evans and felt such joy to come here and find your face, know it was a Ben I was seeing. As a mother, I can only imagine the pride your parents feel–to remember the boy they raised and see what a brave and true man he has become. Jesus came to set the captives free and now that is our work. How well you are doing it.

    So glad to find you again.

    Kate

  • Bravo my friend! Unfortunately, I have not been a faithful follower…not just of you, but anything in life lately that doesn’t involve my kids. 🙂 This is one of the best, most authentic, most loving blog post I have ever read!!! You will change hearts of the world to be more empathetic and to love unconditionally. So proud of you, your journey and your courage to share your experience with ALL people. I hope you always feel the awesome love of God, your fabulous family and loyal friends. You are blessed and a blessing!
    With love!
    Lisa

  • Pingback: A Round-Up and my New Facebook Page |()