These Hallowed Grounds: Matt’s Story

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Before Matt was Matt he was gaysubtlety, at least to me. He blogged behind anonymity (like I’ve been doing) and then courageously came out, creating a new blog under his name and filling it with a wealth of story and humor and a life lived in grace. I have had the privilege of getting to know him in bits through social media and his blog and I can tell your right now, he’s a far better writer than me and many other writers I know. So excited to share his story with you here today. 

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I’m not sure I’ve ever “come out” the same way twice.

 

The first time, four years ago in a small discipleship group, was prefaced by a slurred, twenty-minute preamble that feverishly bounced between references to a distant father and a lack of male friends and a blistering self-loathing and a fear of the future and a desperate hope for change and a terrible sense of guilt about it all.

 

The most recent time, last week at church, was a nonchalant, “Um, no?” when a particularly nosy teenager asked me if I liked girls.

 

In between the two I’ve used many different forms and phrases, addressing large groups or just one person, sometimes looking for help and sometimes offering it.

 

I used to think coming out was primarily about a declaration, a statement, a transfer of knowledge; I was letting people know who I was, nothing more. In a way I was right, coming out involves all those things. But now that I’m totally out, writing publicly about my faith and sexuality, I’m starting to realize that the decision to “be out” is so much more than simply making personal information generally available:

 

It’s a promise I have made with myself to live each day with honesty and grace, to never again hide behind a tenuous wall of fear.

 

Coming out is not a one-time thing, nor is it even really a “thousand-time” thing; it is a constant process of rejecting hypocrisy and self-deception, a lifelong journey toward integrity.

 

Time for some kind of embarrassing real-talk, everybody. It took me two years after my first step into the open to come to terms with the fact that God didn’t need to make me straight in order for him to be very, very good. I still wanted to be straight, mind you, but I had to admit that it probably wasn’t gonna happen. (The only dream that has been harder to give up is of getting a letter from Hogwarts – maybe it’s just twelve years late, you know?)

 

One year after that, I had to admit I no longer even desired to be straight. This confused a ton of people, including myself, because I have a pretty conservative sexual ethic and therefore am committed to celibacy. All I knew is that I had finally found contentment and peace in life, and being gay wasn’t the problem I used to think it was.

 

One year after that, only a few weeks ago, I realized I was now terrified of possibly finding a woman attractive. There have been moments, rare moments, in which I’ve casually noted that, say, the female barista who just made my latté was cute. An innocuous, meaningless observation to be sure, but in the split second it moves from subconscious impression to conscious awareness it undergoes an insane transformation, and within minutes becomes nothing less than a berserk thought-Godzilla rocket-punching the skyscrapers of my equanimity.

 

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Pictured: sanity?

 

I was terrified by the possibility of becoming a stranger to myself, just like before, and I was terrified of being used as some twisted example for “People Can Change” sloganeering that would be wielded to harass vulnerable kids and promote the harmful idea that they needed to, or even could, become “straight.”

 

This can’t be happening!” I thought, “I’m gay! I just won’t tell anyone and things will be fine. Just gotta get these thoughts out of my head.”

 

And suddenly I was struck with a deep sense of conviction: I was moving back to square one. Despite being healthier, happier, and more in love with life, I was rapidly sliding into that closeted frame of mind in which I was ashamed of my sexuality, even afraid of it.

 

I was confronted by the reality that even though I’m out of the closet I haven’t been able to shake all of its sicknesses, in this case an addiction to control. Somehow that first desperate act of vulnerability had, over the years, contorted into a grasping attempt to become invulnerable. It appears that openness can be its own kind of mask.

 

Sexuality is a crazy, bewildering, wonderful thing that constantly defies easy understanding. And, if I’m being honest (which is the whole point of this post, anyway), that scares me.

 

I’ve become used to admitting that I’m a gay man, but I guess I’m still struggling to admit that I’m a sexual human being, that I’m still discovering who I am, growing up, learning and struggling and screwing up. If I can’t be honest about that, about simply being human, then I haven’t done justice to the bravery of that trembling sophomore who sat in a tight circle and forced the truth out through stammering lips and into the open.

 

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes.

 

So this is my hope for you, beautiful and beloved person that you are: that you would know the freedom of not having to hide, not having to crawl into bed each night replaying all the small deceptions that let you keep “it” a secret for one more day. My hope is that you will be surrounded by people who, when you reveal the truth that you’re a lesbian woman or trans* or just completely confused, will remind you of the truth that you are, and always have been and always will be, worthy to be loved.

 

And don’t forget, at the end of the day coming out isn’t about the transfer of information or the assumption of this or that “identity,” it’s about giving those around you the blessing of fully knowing you, in all your complex and inspiring individuality, and allowing yourself the grace to finally be honest, to never again be enslaved by the pressure to be anyone other than who you really are. I am so excited for you!

 

Coming out doesn’t mean you have all the answers, as if such a thing were possible – it just means that you’re willing to start asking the hard questions in community with others, beginning that long, thrilling adventure toward reconciliation and joy.

 

Blessings on the journey, friends, and may the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding be with you always.

 

With love,

 

Matt

For the Closeted Ones

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I’m writing this for the closet LGBTQs, but in a way, I’m writing this for myself. When I was where you are, alone in agony, I wish someone would’ve written to me. Just a word from a world where there were others. A red flare far out in the dark.

 

And maybe your story is a lot like mine. Maybe you need these words more than I need to write them…

 

Maybe you heard it first at age nine from the front row pew. Your pastor said it in ten seconds and it felt like hell and hate hurling down upon you. Maybe you heard it in the car with James Dobson declaring to the nation, to your family, that perverts like you don’t get to have God. Maybe you heard it in everything that went unsaid.

 

Maybe you opened the Book and saw six or so verses with their crushing words, leaving your soul cracked wide open. Maybe you read them with a lump in your throat and tears down your face and trembling hands. Maybe a part of you died.

 

And the message was received, loud and clear. You cannot be known, because you cannot be loved. You will not be welcomed. You will not be saved. You will lose everyone you care about. You will be thrown away.

 

So you ran backwards. You receded down deep, laid thick bricks all around you to keep everyone out. You believed it all was true and you believed that hiding was protection.

 

For me, for a long time, I believed them too. I believed God could care less. I believed that the only way I would be loved and get my pardon from Hell was to be straight. I believed that sometime, long before memory, maybe as a toddler, I chose to be gay, because that’s what the Church folk said. This is merely a matter of choice.

 

I believed it fully in my decaying heart, until late one night, at my lowest point, He told me something different.

 

It was 1 am and I was below the stars wrapped up in the backyard hammock. I was hyperventilating- violently. Cries were choked out and breath was cut short and I was all past hope.

 

I asked Him how His people, His followers, His body, could be so cruel and tough and severe. Why are you like that? I spat. Why do they say You’re on their side? Why am I even here? Why can’t I be your child? Why won’t you take me?

 

I threw wild swings in the dark, imagining His face was right in front of me. I knew He was there, I believed it, but I was completely convinced that He didn’t care a bit about me.

 

He hated me and I was all past hope.

 

But in the middle of the madness, in the swinging and the cursing, a sudden seam was stitched. A bridge built between my before and my after. A moment that changed everything forever.

 

It came quietly, like the first drops of rain, gentle and cool. It was five words and they were the sweetest ones ever spoken to me.

 

“I am not like them.”

 

I was struck and lulled and captivated all at once. I lost my breath and my arms fell limp to the grass below. I placed my hand over my heart. I squeezed my eyes shut. I listened to it echo through my soul. Reverberating. Over and over, again and again, until it matched the rhythm of my returning heartbeat. I am not like them. I am not like them. I am not like them.

 

The great I Am heard me. Saw me. Spoke to me. Came to me.

The great I Am is not like them.

 

The cries and moans didn’t cease, but they came from a different place. A source of pure joy and adoration and peace and I hang onto this memory with all that I have because it is all that I need. I am His love, I am His joy, He likes me and He loves me and He saved me.

 

He reached out and wrapped His big arms around me and it was like He had waited forever for this.


 

He Loves me… and He loves you too whether you believe or not.

It’s true.


 

I know how that word sounds. Love. Every time someone said it to you, it never felt real because they didn’t know that part of you. If they did, they would have never said it.

 

Listen, if you’re going to hear anything from me, hear this.

 

That’s the monster in the closet talking. The enemy will tell you anything and everything to keep you there. To keep you ashamed. To keep you afraid. Away.

 

But God loves you. He loves you. He loves you. Say it. Out loud. He loves you. He loves me.

 

When God formed you, he named you Masterpiece. Did you know that? Not just another work of art, but the very best thing he ever did. When He came to dwell, he made his bed in the margins. In the closet.

The very ones despised by the religious order were the ones He identified with most. Those were His brothers and sisters. Those were His friends. Those were the ones that got Him. He is with the beaten beside the road. He is with the hurting. He is with the accused. He is with the LGBT soul drowning behind the closet door.

He has carved your name in His palms. He has counted the number of hairs on your head. He thought of you first. He loved you first. He made you on purpose. He gave you a heart and a soul and a mind and breathed life into all that you are.

 

You are the best thing He has done. He has so much pride in you that it borders on embarrassing affection. He is fond of you. He fawns over you. He loves and He likes you.

 

And I believe, more than anything, he wants you to know that..

 

God is not straight and God is not gay,

He is above all the labels, He is only Love.

 

The head over heels, can’t shut up about it kind of love. He feels this for me. He feels this for you. He’s waiting, desperate and still, for you to grasp that, and then maybe, to grasp Him.

 

RR

Authenticity in Anonymity: Why I Choose to be a Ghost

I figured this would be a good time to address the 800-pound gorilla on this page.

My anonymity.

For those that find the ghost blog approach to be a form of cowardice, I kind of agree with you. If I publish a post that the reader in any way finds offensive or misleading, they can throw out a comment, put their point out there, but it’s very hard to have a serious debate with a ghost. There is no response you can write that will result in any public repercussions on my end. It doesn’t seem fair to those that actually take the time to read.

And it’s not as if I didn’t ask for the attention the blog has been getting lately. I started revealing several personal stories within this site that friends and family resonated with and felt needed to be heard by more families of lgbt children. So, I passed along my blog to Rachel Held Evans, who felt that the story about my dad needed to be brought into the light even if I remained in the shadows.

So, the question is: why do I blog in the first place? The answer- I have to.

My walk is much like that of soldier through a minefield. With each step I take, I can never know if the person I confide in will accept and love me, or reject and expose me. Being in the closet beneath the shadow of our faith can bankrupt a person of the ability to trust. To those within my inner circle, I have expressed my desire to finally be free of the shame that shackles me down, to be open and get the gossip over with. The response I have received has been one of full support coupled with a cautionary warning: once those words are said, they cannot be taken back.

I hate to say it, but they’re right.

And it is nothing short of sad. Sad because I am still slim on courage, but also sad, and perhaps worse, that I must have courage at all. While others may be more than happy to probe the issues that I face, most won’t ever be open about their own. Transparency is hardly existent or prioritized within the faith community today. And we understand why. Transparency is a threatening thing.

While secular culture continues to speak out on my behalf and make it clear, in a very personal way, that they love me, the faith community has been more nuanced. It’s hard to feel love when someone says, “love the person, hate the sin.” It’s hard to feel warmth when someone says, “we welcome you, but we don’t affirm that part of you.” Why a disclaimer is superior to a simple declaration of radical love is completely lost on me. And judging from many of the response I have gotten, its lost on others too.

These are the reasons I blog. I have so many scars that I cannot show in the light of day, and I have so much energy to engage in gorgeous dialogues about the gospel. I have a desire to one day enter a worship service without folks whispering.

Luckily, I have had the pleasure of already engaging in a deep and profound dialogue with a fellow blogger. The author of www.incitefaith.com , Julie,  reached out to me via email and asked to know more of my story, without requiring me to reveal my identity. We have discussed how important it is within the context of community for transparency to flourish. This is ironic, since I am not being fully transparent with all of you. But Julie has encouraged me to continue sharing my story because it does come from an authentic place. I have been moved by her words and her concern for me, while at the same time, in awe of her complete transparency on her own blog. She has a bravery that’s tough to rival. Her story, mine and yours need to continue to be shared because that is what Kingdom Come looks like.

So for now (hopefully not forever), I hope you will accept the “flavor” of my writing without requiring the “recipe.”

Additionally, I’d like to allow you to get to know me in a more personal way. The way I see it, you shouldn’t have to only share your story with me via a comment or a “like”, but more directly and privately.

Here is my email: registeredrunaway1@gmail.com

Shoot me a question or criticism.

 

Or even your own story.

No ID needed.

RR

 

*Photo Credit